Budgeting, Personal Finance, Saving Money

The Money-Wasting Days of Our Lives

In the days when I worked at an office, I would often get up late, rush to work and hit the coffee place on my break. I’d head to the corner shop for a snack in the afternoon, and then run to get more groceries on the way home since I had no idea what to cook for dinner. Money flowed from my account. Perhaps I was taking a break from my frugal upbringing, but I never seemed to have any money to add to my savings.

Since then, dear husband has introduced some common sense into our financial lives, a.k.a. “budget,” which required us to take a close look at how we spend our money to maintain our lifestyle. I, particularly, had to cut out many of the habits that wasted our money.

From the moment we wake up, we make choices that either save us money or could cost us what we should spend on our bills, retirement or put into savings. When you need to clamp down and save, it’s time to be conscious of everyday habits. Here are some habits to limit:

The morning routine

  • I woke up late and can’t eat breakfast at home: I’ll grab something on the way to the office. A typical coffee shop breakfast of can cost almost $6. Drop by the grocery store instead and choose fruit, yogurt and bagels. Buy some extra for the rest of the week, if you find you are regularly eating breakfast at work.
  • I didn’t make the kids’ lunches: I’ll let them eat hot lunch at school. Lunches at my child’s school cost $2.10 per day. Yes, it is a great deal, but it also adds up to $10.50 in additional food costs each week.
  • I don’t have time to make coffee to take with me: I’ll grab some on the way. The fanciness of the coffee dictates the price, so for instance, my favorite brew costs $3.50 per 16 oz. cup. Over five days, that adds up to more than $17.
  • I forgot to fill up the car with gas: I’ll head to the closest gas station. The closest station might also be the most expensive. The closest to our house typically costs four cents more per gallon than my regular station.
  • I forgot to turn down the heat when I left the house: Why heat what you’re not using? You’ll notice a difference in your bill if you remember.
  • I’m late to work: I’ll drive quickly to get there. Smooth driving can increase your car’s gas mileage, and those speeding tickets cost a lot. Traffic tickets in our area are now more than $100 for speeders.

The daily grind

  • I’m late to the office: I’ll park my car close and pay. There are a lot of places in my city where you pay to park during the week. The daily fee is $10. A monthly pass to the cheapest lot is $40.
  • I forgot to bring my lunch: Let’s go to the restaurant. Bring your lunch and put what you save to your car payment.
  • I want to go shopping on my lunch hour: Unplanned purchases can break a budget. Use the time to take a walk, read a book, or do something else that is free.
  • I’ll treat myself at the vending machines: You could end up spending twice as much for a soda from the machine as one you bring one from home.
  • I only drink bottled water: A bottle of water can be $1 or more, making a one-a-day habit at least $5 a week. If you can’t tolerate your tap water, invest in a filter to make it taste better, then take your own water with you.
  • I’m too tired to go to the gym: If you find you’re not going often enough to make the cost of membership worthwhile, cancel the membership and invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Your dog will thank you.
  • I’ll put off the oil change for one more month: Yes, it’s a pain to take the car in for maintenance, however, it’s so much better than paying the hundreds of dollars for a big repair job.
  • I need a couple of items at the store and bought some other things too: A list is your ally. It can help you avoid the tempting items you don’t need.

The evening rush

  • I’ll go for a drink with friends: Try to limit it to one drink. If you have another, you could have paid for the ingredients to enjoy your drink at home.
  • I’m too tired to make dinner: I’ll drop by the pizza place. A good pizza in our town costs more than $25 for a large. During your next grocery-shopping trip, get a few inexpensive convenience items that can be pulled together quickly into a meal.
  • I want to wear my favorite shirt tomorrow, so I’ll throw it by itself into the wash: It takes as much energy to wash a small load as a full load. Wait until you have a full load before you run your large appliances.
  • I forget to turn off the lights when I leave a room: Turn off unneeded lights and save a bundle!
  • I’ll just look around eBay: Who hasn’t found their heart’s desire on eBay? If you’re trying to save money, avoid the websites that tempt.
  • I need to relax: I’ll take a long, hot shower. Heating water is expensive. A low-flow showerhead will reduce the amount of water used during a shower.
  • I like to fall asleep in front of the television: The energy use for all the television you slept through can add up. While it doesn’t use as much energy as a fridge or furnace, some of the newer televisions can add upwards of $40 to the bill.

6 thoughts on “The Money-Wasting Days of Our Lives

  1. Your old typical work day sounds a little like mine (minus all the car stuff). I did breakfast at work, mid-morning coffee, out for lunch, afternoon snack and I’d even buy my evening meal.

    I have saved heaps of money since I only now ever buy food from the supermarket and eat at home instead. Occasionally I eat out at lunch to be a little social, otherwise I enjoy my walk home and sitting on my back porch whilst chilling for just a few minutes.

  2. You’re preaching to the choir with this post, Jennifer. I’m tracking my spending this week and man … it’s kind of painful. But hey – I’ll be better because of it, right?

  3. Re: forgetting to turn up/down the heat/ac when you leave the house – buy a programmable thermostat and don’t worry about it.

  4. Working at home has cut a lot of these expenses for us!

    When we were in an office we ate lunch out or picked up lunch regularly, even though we had a full kitchen and could bring or prepare food easily.

    We did always make good coffee at the office, rather than buying it at a coffee shop.

    We save on auto gas, due to reduced traveling. We usually drive twice a week to the PO Box for mail pick up and make 1-2 trips to the bank, depending on deposits, etc.

    We cook at home every weekday, since we can start dinner between calls, so no ordering pizza during the week due to lack of time.

    We do have additional electric expense, since someone is always home and the heat/ac, lights are always on, but overall we save just from lack of opportunity to spend.

    Our former office was next door to a Super Wal-Mart! Convenient for quick stops, but always a temptation to spend… Need I say more?

  5. A lot of these money wasters can be solved with a little technological intervention.

    The programmable thermostat is a great idea. You can use the timer on your coffeemaker to ensure that your coffee is brewed at exactly the right time each morning. And if you, like me, like to fall asleep to the television, use the timer so that is shuts off. 20 minutes should be enough.

  6. One huge money saver is getting into good habits. Once you are into a habit then it is ‘uncomfortable’ to change what you are doing.

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