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Deborah Nixon


How to Stop Indulging -- And Save

Posted: 11/09/2012 6:39 pm

Have you ever calculated how much you spend in take-out coffee, lattes, frappucinos, smoothies -- the list goes on. I did it once and couldn't believe it. My daily coffee habit was costing me a minimum of $600/year.

That is a very low estimate because it didn't include the latte after lunch, the coffee on the run while doing weekend errands or the chilled drink in the summer. If I add in all the others, it's probably over $1000/year.

What about the muffins, croissants, bagels, lunches, and snacks. How much is dribbling out of your wallet to pay for those things? If you're like most people I know, you don't want to know. Because if you know one of two things happens -- you feel guilty or you have to change. Both choices are lousy.

What if there is a third choice? One which ensures that you are on top of your spending and still lets you have the treat? I'm not suggesting that I have a magic solution. I'm suggesting that you follow some old-fashioned lessons that my mom taught me years ago.


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  • Lunch

    Forget that sandwich at home? No, you were probably just too lazy to make your own lunch again. Spending at least $10 a day on a tasty lunch will cost you $50 a week and $2,600 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> You can buy a fridge full of food for that price. Scheduling out your weekly lunches will help you prepare in advance. If you just don't like mornings, prepare extra dinner for lunch the night before.

  • Bottled Drinks

    This is for anyone who's on the go and always ends up buying a bottle of water. A bottled drink for at least $2 will cost you $10 a week and $520 a year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Don't be picky. There is nothing wrong with reusable water bottles and tap water. If you're really scared of your city's finest water offering, use a filter at home or leave one at the office.

  • Bets

    Just like our school days, but more expensive. People bet on anything from sports games to outcomes of reality television shows. If you're betting someone at least once a month at $10, it will cost you $120 for the year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Bets are fun, but you have to know your limit. Try "friendly" bets or see if you can pay someone back with a treat or an embarrassing dare.

  • Birthday Cards

    It's always a good thing to remember someone's birthday, but you don't need to spend all that cash on birthday cards (or holiday, thank you and baby shower cards). Buying two cards at $6 a month will cost you $144 a year (and that's on the cheaper end of the scale). <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> You can always get crafty and make your own cards ... or save the planet and send an e-card. See, everyone wins.

  • Gum

    We all want minty fresh breath, but how many times have you overspent money on a pack of gum? Gum that costs $1.50 a week will cost you $70 in a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> In this case, quantity matters. Buy large packages of gum at Costco and the like -- you can save more buying five packs of gum at once as opposed to one at a time.

  • Magazines

    Magazines either give us an unique insight every month -- or sit decoratively on our coffee tables. Buying two magazines a month at $7 will cost you $168 a year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Instead of buying single magazines each month, opt for subscriptions or hit the library.

  • Alcohol

    Most of us have probably been spending mindless dollars on alcohol since we've had our first cooler. And let's face it, when you're partying, the last thing you're doing is thinking about your bank balance. Spending at least $75 a week on alcohol will cost you $3,900 a year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> As tough as it sounds, if you want to save money on alcohol, you have to limit your spending habits. Try a get-together at your house -- this way you can avoid spending money on overpriced drinks and paying tips.

  • Apps

    Apps can be life's little helpers. They can find bus times and provide us with entertainment when we're bored -- but sometimes they're a waste of a dollar. If you buy one app a week for a dollar, it will cost you $52 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Try free apps or demos, depending on your provider.

  • Breakfast

    Things just taste better when other people prepare them. Morning bagels, yogurts, and bacon and egg sandwiches may seem pretty cheap, but it can hurt your pockets in the long run. Spending $2 a day on bagels will cost you $520 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Try eating breakfast at home or store milk and cereal at your office.

  • Cigarettes

    Smoking is different for everyone. It can relieve stress, fall under peer pressure or it's an old habit we can't seem to give up. Buying a $10 pack per week will cost you $520 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Quitting is never easy, but tracking how often you smoke might help you cut down.

  • Coffee

    We all know those people who get cranky when they don't have their morning coffee. Yes, coffee can get addictive but it can also be pricey. If you spend at least $2.75 on a cup of joe a day, it will cost you $715 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Try brewing your own coffee at work -- it will save you a ton of pocket change.

  • Covers

    Concerts, dance clubs and bar nights, what do they all have in common? They love charging us covers just to get in the front doors. Spending $30 a week on covers will cost you $1,560 a year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Again, just track your spending habits -- maybe you don't have to accept every invite you get.

  • Parking

    It's a late night and you really don't feel like walking to the restaurant in your heels. Sound familiar? Paying extra cash for parking can cost you $1,040 a year, if you spend at least $20 a week. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Try finding zones that have free parking hours or just grab a bus.

  • Plastic Bags

    Some cities have started charging five cents for plastic bags, a smart way to make our communities more green. If you spend five cents a day on a bag for clothing items or groceries -- it's costing you $13 a year. Not much, but think about it, $13 on plastic! <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Go green! Buy a reusable bag.

  • Pay-Per-View

    Oh hey, that movie you've always wanted to see but never really wanted to spend the money on is now showing on pay-per-view. This is the kind of thinking that's still costing us tons. Spending $6 a week on movies that you are only somewhat interested in will cost you $312 a year.<br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Renting movies at most video stores is still cheaper, or try finding alternative ways to make family time at home.

  • Transit

    How many times have you paid the full fee for the bus because you didn't expect to have to take it, but then you were utterly late for your appointment? Spending (an average of) $2.50 a day for a bus will cost you $1,300 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong>If you can, bike or walk when you need to get somewhere. If you need to use the bus, figure out if buying a monthly pass is worth it.

  • Vending Machines

    Most offices have them -- they stare at us and tempt us to insert our pocket change. Spending $1.50 (which seems harmless) on chips or candy will cost you $390 a year. <br><strong>TIPS:</strong> Avoid the temptation, bring snacks from home.

Mom told me that before I spent on my treats, make sure I had enough money to pay for my basics. The treat would be more special if I felt I had earned it. How did I earn it? By ensuring that I paid before I played. In that way, there would be no guilt, no feeling badly, no mom's voice in my head telling me I was avoiding facing my obligations. I could have my latte, guilt-free. And with a lighter load. That latte was a legitimate reward for good behaviour.

This attitude also means, though, that the coffee is a treat, not a quick coffee fix because I was too lazy to make it at home. We all have the excuses -- it takes too long, you're too tired to get organized. After all, it's only $2.50 and you work so hard and it's the least you can do for yourself. Blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, it's not that hard. You just have to decide; do you always want to be making up for your financial deficits because you frittered away your money? Or do you want to take charge of your life, challenge your poor choices and make changes.

Frugality has come back in vogue as we realize that the big spending party is over. We are feeling financially pinched. That's not so bad, really. After all, we have too much stuff and we don't know what to do with it.

Some days, I feel like I'm drowning in stuff. Purging your junk is the new favourite weekend activity. You invite a girlfriend over, whose role is to be your conscience. The two of you go through your closets and get rid of stuff. Your friend's job is to make sure you don't pull stuff out of the garbage bags. My friend took all the garbage bags with her when she left to be sure I didn't sneak out some of my treasures. I felt fantastic afterwards, a little lighter. Like a bit of a burden was lifted off my shoulders.

The new frugality liberates you from the mall and from the temptation of being drawn to every new thing. Every time you look at something, you realize you have to find a place for it. Listen to what Marketplace has to say about Frugality -- it's a smart way to live.

We are more than our stuff. Frugality shows you that. Practicing frugality is tough at first; it requires you to change your thinking from reward as spending to reward as saving. There is a big difference, however, in the ultimate outcome. Frugality leaves you with more, spending leaves you empty. Try it. It'll grow on you.


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