What is one thing you just can’t live without? That little indulgence that helps you 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 fail to think about, is these little escapes can be a drain on our wallets. Here are some ways you can cut those costs.
The mid-morning slump, the mid-afternoon slump, and the post-mid-afternoon slump. The idea is that 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, while some crack open an energy drink in the hopes of pushing through the rest of the day. What neither often considers, is that these sources of liquid energy can really add up. The average price of a cup of regular (non-latte) coffee from Starbucks is $1.89, and that’s only the average – some areas will be much higher. That may not seem like much, but consider this: an American who drinks coffee at home will save approximately $427 per year over those who regularly visit coffee shops. When we look at energy drinks, on average they cost anywhere between $2-$4. They 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 snacks to pet toys, a new wardrobe, and everything in between, there is a subscription service for it all these days. Many in fact, sometimes forget what they have subscribed to, leading to a big bill each month. Arguably the most common subscription is Netflix, which will cost you around $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 you 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 all 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 too.
Do you look at a recipe and instantly get woozy? Cooking isn’t for everyone, and take out can taste great and you barely have to lift a finger to get it nowadays. Before you pull up DoorDash or GrubHub, consider that the average household spends $3,000 a year dining out. That’s no small amount. On 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 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 inexpensive and tasty. 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 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 double. 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 you see a constant flood of targeted ads. It’s like they know exactly what you’re looking for. When an online retailer meets your wants and needs (and at such a deal), it becomes hard to pass it up. And free shipping? It can more than likely be a trap to get you to continue to spend. Sure, you are getting good deals on your online purchases, but this can also make you feel like you can buy just one more thing. Soon, your 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 and Amazon. Secondly, set strict limits for 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 get take out ever again. Set realistic goals for yourself and hold yourself accountable, you’ll be amazed at the savings. At First Financial, we are here to help you reach your goals and attain financial stability. To get started, check out our handy budgeting guide.