Little things matter but those little things are easy to ignore because, well, they’re so . . . little and insignificant. But in today’s slowing economy, we need to insure that we’re reducing our consumption of unneeded items and saving the difference. Nothing is too little. Nothing is insignificant. We have to examine every habit we have, every action we make, and everywhere we spend our money to see if we could make a few changes that would result in plugging that leak in our wallets.
Small leaks sink great ships.
Let’s look at the annual costs of just a few habits.
1. Entertainment: Making sure you stay current on the latest movies for you and your spouse/companion could potentially set you back over $1,000 per year, more if you have children. Suggestion: Wait until the movie comes out on DVD, or better yet, try out a Blockbuster trial offer.
2. Weekday lunches out: $9 to $10 will generally pay for a pretty good lunch. If you buy rather than pack a lunch five days a week for one year, you’ll shell out about $2,350 a year. Suggestion: Pack your own, but make sure you fix things that are good to eat and good for you.
3. Anything from a “convenience” store: A 20-ounce bottle of water costs about $1.49. One bottle of water per day costs $587 per year. A can of soda costs 89 cents. Over the course of a year, that 89 cents per day adds up to $325. Suggestion: Don’t be willing to pay so much for “convenience.” Plan ahead.
4. Interest charges on credit card bills: According to Creditcards.com, the average American is $9,300 deep into credit card debt. Rate tables on Bankrate.com indicate that fixed interest rates on a standard card average 13.42 percent. Making the minimum payment of $115 each month, it will take 208 months (over 17 years) to pay off the debt and cost $14,974 in interest. Suggestion: Get your debt snowball in gear and pay off those cards. Once you have them paid off, resolve to never carry a balance again.
5. Coffee: Forget calculating the cost savings of lattes. According to the National Coffee Association, the average price for plain old brewed coffee is $1.38. Since there are roughly 260 weekdays per year, buying just one coffee every weekday morning costs almost $360 per year. If you’re like me and love those quad grande extra hot dry breve lattes, figure about $5.32 each for a total of $1,383. Yikes! Suggestion: Brew your own coffee. Learn to make your own espresso, too!
6. Car washes: The average cost for a basic car detailing package is $58, according to Costhelper.com. The bill to get your car detailed every two months: $348 per year. If you have a larger vehicle or sn SUV, that number balloons up to $882 per year. Suggestion: Detail your own car and have some fun with friends, your spouse, or your kids. The kids might even be able to make a little side business out of it!
7. Cigarettes: The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that the average price for a pack of cigarettes in the United States is $4.63. Pack-a-day smokers shell out $1,690 a year and two-pack-a-day chain smokers hand over $3,380. Oh, you only smoke a few on the weekends? Buying a pack once a week adds up to $240. Suggestion: Quit. When? The day after yesterday.
8. Vending machines snacks: The average vending machine snack costs $1. Buy a pack of donuts, cookies, or crackers every afternoon at work so you can fend off the munchies and you’ll pay $260 per year. Suggestion: Bring your own snacks to work. I recommend fruit or raw vegetables.
9. Unused gym memberships: Costhelper.com reports that the monthly service fee at gyms averages between $35 and $40. At $40 per month, an unused gym membership runs $480 per year. Suggestion: Either use the membership or cancel it. Canceling isn’t always easy, but if you pay a personal visit to the manager and explain that you’re not using the membership and you simply MUST save the money, you have a pretty good chance of getting it canceled. Follow up with a request in writing to cancel. Send it certified, return receipt requested.
10. Alcohol: Drinking isn’t a cheap habit either and prices vary widely based on the location you’re frequenting. A “hole in the wall” may be a little cheaper, and a very nice establishment may cost quite a bit more. Assuming an average of $5 per beer including the tip, buying two beers per day (who drinks just one?) adds up to $3,650 per year. Figure twice that for two mixed drinks a day at the local bar. That isn’t chump change. Suggestion: Buy full bottles and enjoy your beverages at home with some good friends.
11. Gambling: Placing a few bets in the office pool every now and then can add up as well. Putting down $5 every week during football season and for the NBA and World Series can potentially cost you $100. If you make a few trips to casinos or those “party boats” on the river, you’ll spend a great deal more. Suggestion: Pass on the office pools and stay away from casinos.
12. Dry Cleaning: Before I learned to iron my shirts, my average monthly dry cleaning bill was $25. On an annual basis, I was spending $300. Suggestion: Only use dry cleaning when absolutely necessary.
Minimum cost savings of all these ideas: $25,377 per year. Maybe you don’t drink that much, don’t use credit cards and rarely get your car detailed. Take out the alcohol, the credit cards, and the car washes and you’re still looking at $6,405 per year. Save that much per year over 25 years at 8 percent interest and you’ll amass over $500,000 (compounded monthly).
Who couldn’t use an extra HALF MILLION DOLLARS?