What is one thing you just cannot live without? You know, those little indulgences that help us make it through the day? For some of us, it’s a jolt of caffeine. For others, Netflix and Hulu offer a sweet escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. What we sometimes don’t think about is that these things can be a constant drain on our wallets. Here are some things that we could be spending more money on than we intend to and ways you can cut those costs.
The mid-morning slump, the mid-afternoon slump, and the post-mid-afternoon slump. Ok, we made that last one up, but sometimes the day seems to drag on for way longer than seemingly possible. Some people reach for the nearest Starbucks to replenish their energy reserves. Some crack open an energy drink in the hopes of pushing them through the rest of the day. What neither often consider is that these sources of liquid energy can add up. The average price of a cup of regular (non-latte) coffee from Starbucks is $1.89. That may not seem like much but consider this: an American who drinks coffee at home will save approximately $427 over those who regularly visit coffeeshops. When we look at energy drinks, on average, they cost anywhere between $2-$4. It can be almost double the cost of coffee. A cheaper alternative – green tea! If saving money is high on your priority list, put your at-home barista skills to work.
From exotic snacks to pet toys, a new wardrobe, and everything in between, there is a subscription service for everything these days. Many, in fact, sometimes forget how many we have subscribed to, leading to a big bill each month. Arguably the most common subscription is Netflix, which will cost you $12.99 a month (if you only want the standard package). Add in Hulu ($5.99), BarkBox ($22), and StitchFix ($20), and you now have a monthly subscription bill of slightly over $60. See how fast that adds up? Not to mention the ever-popular meal subscription services can run about $200 a month. While these modern conveniences are well…convenient, they are also pricey. Most of us don’t want to give up our Netflix, and that’s fine. Take a hard look at your subscriptions. Are you getting your money’s worth? Do you eat all the meals from the meal kit? Do you keep enough from StitchFix that the $20 a month fee is worth it? Odds are, you’ll find one or two subscriptions you can live without. Your quality of life will stay the same, and you’ll save money.
Do you look at a recipe and instantly get woozy? We get it; cooking isn’t for everyone, and take out can taste so good. Before you pull up DoorDash or GrubHub, consider that the average household spends 3,000 dollars a year dining out. That’s no small amount. On a closer look, a prepared meal at a restaurant costs, on average, $13. Compare that to the average cost of groceries per person for an at-home meal…$4. Yes, that is a $9 savings just from eating at home. The good news is, you don’t have to stop eating out altogether. If you cook at home twice a week, you’ll save a little over $900! More good news is that anyone can cook. All it takes is a little preparation. Plan your meals, choose easy recipes, and don’t expect every meal you prepare to be a Michelin-star experience. Casseroles are an easy meal that is also cheap and tasty, even if they won’t be winning any fancy food contests. If you are completely opposed to cooking, be responsible with your take out. Choose locally-owned businesses and restaurants so that your money is stimulating the local economy. When you use a big delivery service, you aren’t just paying for the food. Your total also includes a service fee, tax, a delivery fee, and a tip. Many times your order total will be doubled. A recent study showed that your meal will cost you 32.8% more when you order food from DoorDash vs ordering directly from a restaurant.
“Add To Cart.” The temptation is always just a click away. Surfing the net can bring some expensive side effects as we see a constant flood of targeted ads. It is like they know exactly what you’re looking for! Uncanny, isn’t it? When someone meets our wants and needs (and at such deal), we have a hard time passing it up. AND free shipping? It can lead to financial death by a thousand cuts. Sure, you are getting good deals on your online purchases, but this can also make us feel like we can buy just one more thing. Soon, our whole budget has been blown on online shopping. There are many ways you can curb this habit. For starters, make sure to delete your payment information from auto-populating in services like PayPal. Secondly, set strict limits on yourself. In your budget, set aside some funds for “Online Shopping.” If you know this is the only money you have to splurge, you might think twice before clicking “complete purchase.”
If you do any of the things above, the first thing to remember is not to get discouraged. A cup of coffee or a new shirt never hurt anyone. With most things in life, our financial vices are all about moderation. We wouldn’t expect you never to visit a Starbucks or eat out again. Set realistic goals for yourself and hold yourself accountable; you’ll be amazed at the savings. At Great Meadow Federal Credit Union, we are here to help you reach your goals and gain financial stability. Give us a call or visit our website to find out how.