Does this list reflect your life’s goals or priorities? If not, you need to start an overhaul, or spring cleaning, of life’s worst time-suckers and money-wasters.
Here’s an example of things that I have spent or still do spend money on many times a week. Upon reflection, my life (and yours) could be far better without.
- Web surfing on a smartphone. Do you have an iPhone, Android, or other smartphone that has web capabilities? Do you realize how much battery life this sucks out? Not to mention the additional monthly fee you spend just because you couldn’t wait to search on Google or watch a video on Youtube. Is your mobile web really worth missing out on the real social interactions you get from being outside of your home? It seriously pisses me off when I see people’s heads down at a club or a party, constantly looking on Facebook or texting other people. There’s real people to talk to right here!
- Daily ice cream treat. I love ice cream, seriously. I love it so much that I have cravings for it everyday. Which is exactly why I need to quit this habit. A small treat here and there is totally fine, but if you’re constantly filling a huge bowl, grabbing seconds, or ordering the large cones, it’s time to quit cold turkey. A bad habit could turn into an addiction very quickly, especially if it’s delicious, creamy, and on sale 2/$5 at Stop & Shop.
- Ordering french fries and soda. Eating out is something that should be on the quit list entirely, but mostly the real killer is not the main meal – they are a) the side and b) what you drink. French fries are nothing but processed, fat-laden garbage that also tastes pretty decent. When you really pay attention to the taste, fry by fry, however, you’ll discover that it is more the tongue-numbing salt that is doing its job of making you shovel those faux potatos in your mouth. Ever take a bite out of an unsalted fry, and thought, this is pretty bland? That is because they are — and should be completely eliminated. Especially because all of that salt (in addition to your sandwich or burger) makes you thirsty like hell. The absolute worst thing to drink when you’re thirsty is caffeine, because it just makes you more dehydrated. Soda contains caffeine and sugar. So not only are you making yourself bloated, dehydrated, and fat, you’re also adding in completely empty calories, which is the nutrition equivalent of throwing money out the window.
- Redbox. I like this movie renting box so much, I usually never pass an opportunity to go take a look at what’s inside, but it operates on the same principle of dollar stores and Ebay. They all lure you in with really cheap prices (usually a $1) so you’re only thinking, “Wow, only one dollar! I can’t pass this up!” But while you’re ordering more and more stuff, you’re brain is still excited about the sticker shock (in this case, the shock of a great deal), so it’s not mentally keeping track of how much stuff you’re buying. And pretty soon that $1 movie ends up being three $1 movies that you don’t return until Friday, which ends up being about $9 for three nights. I’ve seen a couple very good movies from Redbox, but compared to how many I’ve rented, that’s a very small percentage (maybe 5%). Most of them I end up getting mad at, so it’s still a dollar that I wasted (and 1-2 hours). And usually every time I go bring a movie back I will look for more, so pretty soon I’m steadily buying at least one $1 movie every night. Do this for a month, and that’s $30 spent on mostly crappy movies. Small amounts really do add up fast (what would you do with over $300 extra a year? Definitely not rent bad movies).
- Obsessive Facebook and email checking. Ever been so bored online that you constantly keep going back to your inbox or Facebook (or other social networking site) every like, 10 minutes? It rips you out of whatever else you were doing, or should have been doing (college students, I’m talking about you. I know, I do it too). And once you change gears, it takes a while to re-focus and bring yourself back to what you were doing. If you find your motivation waning that much, it is best to take a real break – get off the computer and eat a snack, or go to bed, depending on the time. Take a quick stretch break if you’re in the midst of studying, and get some real social interaction for a couple of minutes (maybe you can even get new ideas). Next time you find yourself absentmindedly surfing, it’s best to catch yourself as soon as you can and just close the laptop and reserve doing these things once a day or even once a week, if you can allow yourself to do that.
- Spontaneous bar outings. These are serious money-wasters. It’s fine to have fun every now and then, and to take advantage of specials like free ladies night or $2 tuesdays. But going out more than once or twice a week (or month), can burn a serious hole into your wallet. On an especially fun night, I’ll end up spending about $50. On a single night. Every week, that amounts to an extra $200 that I could better spend on paring down my recurring credit card balances or put into my savings for emergencies. I know many people that go out as much as 4 times per week, and can’t imagine the money they waste on drinks and cover prices, not to mention gas. Going out that frequently also takes a toll on your health (sugary alcoholic drinks, hangovers, and usually inhaling greasy bar or diner food at odd hours, is not healthy). It is best to reserve club nights and bar nights to maybe once or twice a month, and/or have a strict budget in mind, like only bringing $20 in cash and leaving your card at home. Also, do most of your drinking during the pregame (it’s cheaper), and choose venues that offer specials or discounts.
- Casual mall-going or retail shopping. I’m a girl, so I’m no stranger to the magic powers of retail therapy. It’s how most girls spend their free time and communicate serious topics with their friends. Plus, buying stuff brings about a certain power, like, “I can afford to buy this,” especially if it’s well-desired (like an iPhone) or expensive (like an iPhone). Unfortunately, this is where most of my money seems to disappear. If I don’t have a concrete need to buy something, like an urgent need to buy a new shirt because my favorite one hit the dust, then it’s best not to go at all. Or at least leave your cash and cards at home. Charging is even worse, because you forget all about having to pay for it until well after shopper’s regret comes and goes, plus you have to pay interest, which is like throwing money away.