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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