Personal finance seems like it should be a simple thing. All you have to do is spend less than you earn, save the difference, and then invest it — right?
Well, actually, that’s pretty much it. But anyone who has tried to make a budget or stick to it can tell you that the simple things can get complicated fast. That’s partly because we aren’t that good at figuring out where our money is actually going! Don’t believe it? Then take a look at this list of common expenses that could be avoided. You might be surprised to learn just how much of your hard-earned money you’re throwing away.
Everyone needs clothes, so we might not spend too much time thinking about our clothes spending. It’s an essential, so we have to buy it, right?
Clothing is essential, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be spending quite so much on it The typical American household spends a shocking $1,700 annually on clothes. While that might be an acceptable number for larger families, smaller ones should be trying hard to cut back.
So how can you stop spending so much on clothes? The best ways to do so, experts say, are to invest in quality clothes at the right price. That sounds simple, but think about it: how often do you opt for cheap “fast-fashion” clothes that fall apart fast? Try to buy quality clothes on sale or or invest in well made clothes that you know you can wear season after season.
Look for outfitters and dress boutiques online to save money. Hip boutiques and smaller online shops will still feature the high quality and attention to detail that you’d expect from their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but they’ll also have lower online prices.
Take-out and restaurants
Quick: what did you have for dinner last night? How about the night before?
If you’re like many Americans, you’re spending too much on food that you don’t cook yourself. The impulse is understandable — after a hard day at work, you don’t want to cook! But you need to fight the habit. Take-out food and restaurant charges can add up fast. A single take-out order of fifteen or twenty dollars isn’t the biggest deal, but that number can really add up if you’re ordering takeout once or twice a week. And home-cooked meals are much, much more affordable on average.
Try to make time to go shopping at the grocery store or a local market. Keep a supply of spices and nonperishable cooking supplies, and grab a vegetable or a bit of meat a few times a week to toss in for a quick meal. Start small and build up! Your savings will build up, too.
Convenience stores are just that: convenient. But they also offer some very inconvenient consequences to your personal finances. Experts say that convenience stores are major drains on our wealth.
Why? Because they are inefficient shopping experiences. When we run around the corner for a jug of milk, we’re probably paying more than we’d pay at a supermarket. When we buy a single roll of paper towels or toilet paper, we’re almost certainly spending much more than we would to buy in bulk from an e-retailer like Amazon. It’s nice to support local businesses, of course, but try to buy in bulk and save on basics whenever you can.
Coffee may seem cheap when we buy it at the coffee shop — and it is, in an absolute sense. A few bucks on a coffee won’t make or break your financial situation.
But what if you buy that same coffee again tomorrow? And what if you buy it again after that? The expense will add up fast and, over the course of a year, can run in the thousands of dollars.
Compare that to the price of brewing your own coffee at home. At a few cents per cup, home-brewed coffee gives you a way to keep drinking your beloved cup of joe without ending up in the poor house. It pays to learn how to brew coffee in your own home!
And brewing your own coffee doesn’t have to be inconvenient or less enjoyable than your traditional coffee shop run. You can sign up for a coffee subscription to ensure that you always have fresh coffee in the house, and you can set up your coffee machine the evening before you’ll need it — or get fancy and start cold-brewing overnight!