Tag Archives: frugal living

What you’re spending money on vs. what you could be using it for instead

Do you often find that you’re just not saving as much money as you thought you’d be? You’re sticking to a budget, you’re refraining from large and unnecessary purchases, and yet you still aren’t meeting your savings goals. Sometimes, it’s the little purchases that can add up quickly and really sneak up on you. A dollar here and a couple bucks there may not seem like much, but it’s important to look at the big picture and think about how these spending habits can add up over the course over a few months or a year, and what you could have been using that money for instead:

The expense: Coffee at a local cafe

Average cost: $2.70/single basic coffee

The big picture: If you buy one coffee every morning before work (five days a week), that’s $702 a year!

What you could be using that money for instead: If you don’t have dental insurance, the money you saved from ditching that morning coffee habit can possibly give you what you need to afford it, and then some. With the average cost of dental insurance being about $326 annually, saving this money could give you enough to insure yourself and someone else in your household.

Cheaper alternative: Making your own coffee at home might not be as exciting, but it can certainly save you a lot of money. If you’re bored with the same old thing, give your at-home coffee a little extra pizzazz so you won’t feel like you’re missing out. A little caramel drizzle, some vanilla extract, or a dash of cinnamon—these are just some of the great ways you can flavor your coffee to make it taste like a café favorite.


The expense: Weekday lunches

Average cost: $10/meal

The big picture: Eating out every day for lunch when you’re working five days a week can really eat into your budget (yup, another pun) and cost you about $2600 a year. Even if you ate out just twice a week, you’re still talking $1040 annually in lunches.

What you could be using that money for instead: The nationwide average for rent is $1,231 monthly. How would you like one (or potentially two) months of free rent? Cut out those expensive lunches and the savings can be pretty similar.

Cheaper alternative: Making your own lunches at home and bringing them with you will almost always save you money. Making your lunch every morning might be the last thing on your mind, so be prepared by planning ahead. Make it the night before, or cook some food in one shot that can last the entire week. You can also prepare extras for dinner with the intentions of taking your leftovers for lunch the next day.


The expense: Gym membership

Average cost: $45/month

The big picture: Most gym memberships will lock you into an annual contract, so you’re looking at an approximate cost of $540 a year. However, when you also factor in initiation fees and other costs, it can be as much as $800 a year.

What you could be using that money for instead: If you’re in credit card debt and used to paying just the bare minimum each month, consider putting that extra money that would normally go to your gym membership towards one of your credit cards. Anything extra that you can afford to pay each month will help you to save money overall because you’ll pay more into your principal balance. And because you were already spending that money every month, you won’t notice the difference.

Cheaper alternative: You don’t need a gym membership in order to exercise, so consider canceling it if you want one less bill to pay every month. If you know that the gym is the only way you’ll workout, then it could be worth keeping—after all, your health is very important. But explore your other options that are totally free—running outside, going for hikes, playing sports and streaming free workout videos at home are just some of the many ways you can get in your daily sweat sesh without spending a penny.


The expense: Cable television

Average cost: $80/month

The big picture: Cable television usually isn’t a month-to-month thing, so you’re looking at an average cost of $960 a year.

What you could be using that money for instead: How about a nice cruise every year instead? The average ticket price per person, per day is $168. That means if you nixed the cable television, you could potentially have the money for a five-night cruise with some cash remaining.

Cheaper alternative: Downgrade your cable plan by only paying for the channels you watch frequently. Better yet? Ditch cable altogether in lieu of streaming video options, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video. You’ll still be able to watch a lot of your favorite movies and television shows, but for a fraction of the cost.


The expense: Landline phone

Average cost: $22/month

The big picture: Just like with cable television, landline phone lines are usually something that people continuously pay for, month after month. After a year, you might spend approximately $264 on something you’re not getting much (or any) use out of.

What you could be using that money for instead: Saving just a couple hundred bucks every year can make a big difference, even if you just splurge and use it for something fun, and something you never would have spent money on otherwise. For example, you could spend the night in a luxury resort or you can celebrate a special occasion by going out for a nice dinner.

Cheaper alternative: No need to pay for both a cell phone and a landline, especially if you never even use your landline and the only phone calls you receive are from annoying telemarketers. A cell phone may not necessarily be cheaper, but if you already have one and you’re unwilling to part with it, cutting out that landline phone will save you money overall because you’ll have one less phone bill to worry about.


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4 money lessons we received from our favorite TV shows

From comedic sitcoms to edge-of-your seat thrillers, many people have that one television show that keeps them tuning in each week for more. While there’s no doubt that television can be highly entertaining, it can also provide some terrific life lessons, including financial and money lessons. The following shows have had some powerful messages regarding money and personal finance:

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Breaking Bad

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the hit show’s protagonist, Walter White, is faced with a dilemma: how will he afford his medical care, and how will his family be provided for once he’s gone? Without having a solid financial plan set in place and out of desperation, Walt resorts to a life of crime in order to make some extra cash. Too many people don’t prepare for the unexpected, and if you have a family to provide for, it’s especially crucial to have a plan set in place in case the worst should happen—such as an emergency fund or life insurance policy.

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How I Met Your Mother

Like millions of other Americans, Lily Aldrin has credit card debt—and a lot of it. But instead of dealing with her credit card bills and putting an end to the cycle once and for all, she stuffs them into her “box of shame.” And then, to make matters worse, she turns to retail therapy in an effort to cheer herself up—only adding more to her debt problems. Credit cards can be a great way to build up your credit and help manage your finances, but only when used responsibly. If you find that you’re constantly maxing out your credit cards for things you don’t need and struggle with making the required minimum payments, it may be time to put a plan into action that eliminates credit card use once and for all.

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Monica and Chandler Bing find themselves in a tough financial situation, and each separately asks their pal Joey for a loan. Monica is the first to ask, and requests that Joey keeps the loan a secret. When Chandler asks for a loan that same day, he notices that Joey has already written a check out to Monica. In an ironic attempt to avoid embarrassing Monica, and honoring her wishes to keep the loan request a secret, Joey makes up an absurd story about cosmetic surgery as her reason for asking for the loan. The whole thing snowballs into a convoluted (yet hilarious) storyline that teaches viewers this one important lesson: keep money out of friendship. Avoid lending it, and avoid asking for it—you never know how it could end up affecting your friendship.

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Ask any Seinfeld fan to describe George Costanza in one word, and you’ll often hear the word “cheap.” Unfortunately for George, it was his frugality that caused the death of his fiancé, Susan. In an effort to save money, George opts for the cheapest wedding invitations he can find. Susan prepares all the invitations herself, which includes licking the envelopes, when she eventually collapses and dies later at the hospital. As it turns out, the cheap envelopes for the invitations were made with very toxic glue. Although it’s pretty unlikely that anything in real life would come close to mirroring some of Seinfeld’s far-fetched plotlines, it points out how being too cheap can actually cost you. For certain products and services, don’t cut corners—it might end up costing you more in the end.

Did one of your favorite television shows teach you a memorable money lesson? We’d love to hear more about it!

Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.