Saving money is hard at the best of times, but it is virtually impossible when you indulge in expensive habits. Believe it or not, you probably harbor quite a few costly addictions that are preventing you from maintaining a healthy bank account. To take a step toward solvency, you must analyze how you are spending your money — and understand which of these high-priced addictions you truly do not need.
1. Fresh Produce
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones for a healthy diet, but most people just let their produce rot in their fridge while they consume less nutritious processed foods, instead.
A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council states that Americans throw away about $156 billion-worth of food every year, which figures to about 20 pounds of food per person going to waste every month. If you chose to eat that healthful, fresh food instead of tossing it in the trash, you could save about $500 every year.
We could wax poetic about the savings you could accrue from ditching your wheels entirely — besides the initial purchase investment, most Americans pay about $5,000 per year in fuel, maintenance, registration, and insurance; in contrast, even the most expensive public transit systems cost about $1,000 per year — but a more helpful discussion might be the bad driving habits that are costing you money. Aggressive driving practices like speeding and hard stopping put extra stress on your car, causing it to wear out sooner and waste fuel, costing you untold amounts of money at the pump and in the shop.
You have probably heard time and again how much of your savings is regularly eaten up by your morning coffee runs; even a single, 14-ounce cup of black from the neighborhood donut shop costs more than $2 per day, or about $730 per year. In comparison, brewing your own coffee at home costs about $180 per year, and that is using high-quality, name-brand grounds. Of course, you could kick your coffee habit entirely — and miss out on the expected hikes in coffee costs — but then you probably wouldn’t get out of bed.
4. Cocktail Hour
The other end of your workday could be burning a hole in your wallet, too. While it is refreshing to spend an hour or so at your favorite bar with your friends and co-workers, the cheapest drinks you can get — namely, bottled beers — is still marked up at least 300 percent. More likely, you are drinking draft beers (closer to 400 percent mark-up) or, worst of all, cocktails (ranging in mark-up from name-brand liquors at 400 percent mark-up or well drinks at more than 1,200 percent mark-up). By inviting your buddies over and splitting a bottle, you could save thousands of dollars every year.
The costs of cigarettes are nearly incalculable — but that doesn’t stop researchers from trying. Depending on how much you smoke and how much cigarette packs cost in your area, you could spend as much as $1.5 million on tobacco in your lifetime, and that number doesn’t include your personal out-of-pocket health care expenses.
Plus, the American Lung Association claims that American smokers cost the nation more than $333 billion in health care costs, which trickle down to you in the form of higher taxes. To save money, you should try using smokeless e-cigarettes, which will help you save money overall, in the long run.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get healthier by being a gym member — you get healthier by working out. The most popular gym business model is built on attracting and retaining people who don’t go to the gym: They hide serious fitness equipment in the back; they host community nights with fat-building foods and activities; they advertise low annual rates. If you aren’t a born gym rat, you aren’t going to become one by spending $20 every month. Instead, you should look for exercise activities that you will actually do, especially if they let you leave the gym behind.
You can clean your house. You can mow your lawn and trim your trees. You can paint your fingernails. So, why are you paying someone else for services you can easily perform yourself? Of course, there is a handful of reasons paying for such services might be mandatory; you might be in poor health or your time might already be consumed with other jobs. However, with some DIY once a month or so, you could shave thousands off your annual expenditures.