The Carroll News

Column: 5 Things You’re Spending Too Much Money On

Andre Alamina, Business & Finance Columnist

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If you want to get more serious about saving money in 2019, one of the best places to start finding those extra dollars is actually your own bank account.

I know, it sounds crazy, but you could potentially have thousands of dollars in extra cash waiting for you at the end of every year, if you cut back your spending on these five simple things.

Coffee

Coffee is something you might not think will ever have a significant impact on your savings potential, but all those morning and mid-afternoon coffee runs certainly do add up.

The average American spends around $3 a day on coffee, which might not sound like a lot, but amounts to over $1,000 a year.

If you’re guilty of making a daily Starbucks run or two, it might be wise to consider cutting back.

Despite what you believe, you don’t NEED coffee to get you going in the morning. If the problem is that you’re tired when you wake up, then try to either get more sleep or improve the quality of your sleep.

If you need to be up late in order to get work done, instead of going for a cup of joe, do something active late at night (if even a couple push-ups or jumping jacks) to keep yourself energized.

Things on sale (because they’re on sale)

How many times have you gotten emailed a discount code to one of your favorite stores and then immediately ordered something you probably had no intention of buying before they gave you that “awesome coupon”? How many times have you gone shopping on “big sale weekends” just because it’s a big sale weekend?

I’m sure you probably felt pretty good about the “deals” you got on all the stuff too!

This is something I like to call the “bargain hunter fallacy.”

You think you’re being financially responsible by shopping for things on sale, but in most of these cases, you’re probably spending money you simply do not need to spend, on things you simply do not need to buy.

Buying needless things doesn’t all of a sudden become responsible just because you bought those needless things on sale. In fact, shopping without a purpose is one of the most financially destructive habits you can have.

It’s best only to go out shopping when you have something specific you want to buy. If the price isn’t right and you don’t need it right away, wait till that SPECIFIC item goes on sale before purchasing.

Dining Out

As fun as it is go to a nice restaurant, connect with friends, and share a mouthwatering boomerang of our perfectly plated meal, the fact is, our generation is doing this way too often.

Studies have shown that people between ages 21 and 37 are not only dining out more often than our parents and our grandparents, but we are spending more per meal (on average) than they ever did.

What are the reasons for this?

It could be that the rise of fast casual provides us with dining options that are that quicker than those at traditional restaurants, more wholesome than fastfood, but don’t necessarily break the bank. Consequently, the everyday, non-experience oriented meals that people traditionally cooked themselves are being replaced with Chipotle runs that are invariably more expensive.

It could be that we are the children of a generation who worked harder and longer hours than the generation before them – meaning they had less time to cook meals and even less time to teach us how to cook.

It could be that social media really do motivate people to indulge in “sharable experiences” (like dining out) so we can show our followers that we’re out and about eating cool meals and doing cool sh*t.

Or it could be that we are all just “lazy entitled millennials” who want our avocado toast delivered to us via UberEats drone so we don’t even have to leave the house to get take out.

Whatever the reason(s), dining out is almost always a more expensive alternative to cooking.

Not only can it save you thousands in meal costs, but you can certainly prep more nutritious and (if you get good at it) tastier meals than you can buy.

If time is the issue, designate two hours once a week to prep your lunches for a few days.

Rideshare (Uber/Lyft)

As helpful and convenient as Uber and Lyft are, they are mind-numbingly expensive.

A study by the Depart of Transportation found that Americans who regular use Uber for at least three rides a week spend between $2,200 and $3,100 a year on average, depending on where you live.

Sound crazy? Tally up how much you’ve spent in Uber or Lyft over the past six months and see for yourself how much using these services is costing you. If the number scares you, it might be worth rethinking how you get around whenever you go out.

I personally always saw Uber as a necessary expense of me going out and having a good time. It wasn’t until I got tired of waiting for Ubers in the cold and instead chose to drive one night, that I realized how much money I could be saving by avoiding Ubers.

The big elephant in the room comes with acknowledging that choosing to drive instead of Ubering when you go out means not drinking. I have to be realistic with this advice and recognize that some people don’t feel they can have fun without alcohol – and drinking and driving is something you never want to risk doing.

Still, the cost of using Uber and Lyft is something you should be aware of and try to limit as best as you can. The classic rotating DD duty never fails.

Alcohol, Cigs and Juuls

Aside from obviously being destructive to your physical health, drug and alcohol use are also destructive to your financial health.

Take cigarettes, for example.

People who smoke a pack a day spend around $2,300 a year on cigarettes. Juul users (who unfortunately are usually much younger) spend around $1,500 a year on an equivalent number of pods.

But alcohol negatively impacts your finances in two distinct ways.

First, there are the direct costs.

A typical night out with around  five drinks will cost you anywhere from $30-$75 depending on what and where you’re drinking. This is of course aside from taxis or Ubers that you will likely have to pay for because you’re drinking and not able to drive yourself.

What is far costlier, and one of the main reasons I’ve significant cut back drinking, is the lost productivity caused by hangovers.

We all know the feeling of waking up after a long night drinking. You aren’t exactly in the mood to set the world on fire.

The Center of Disease Control estimates that hangovers cost the U.S. $250 billion a year in lost productivity.

For you, a day lost to a hangover is a day where you’re not bettering yourself. You’re not working on a craft, you aren’t building a new business, you aren’t learning a new skill.

Not worth it.

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Column: 5 Things You’re Spending Too Much Money On