Our spending was out-of-control. While we’re not broke, we’re also not building a savings or a funny money fund for
things like travel and, well, fun.
You know what was really killing us? Something I call “wasteful wants.”
A drink at Dunkin Donuts. A snack at the gas station. Meals at restaurants because we don’t feel like cooking. Things that we want in the moment, but ultimately have no real value or don’t benefit anything beyond satisfying an impulse.
And that’s how the wasteful wants trick you… You want them so badly in the moment. They’re so easy to get, and they’re seemingly super inexpensive. It’s $3 here, $4 there. No big deal, right? $5 for a drink never killed anybody, right?
But it is a big deal! These little wasteful wants are deceptively expensive (I spend $5 a drink for Starbucks, but I just bought a whole ham for $6), their benefit is short-term (the drink feeds just me once, the ham feeds our whole family for the week), and they do nothing to help out the household in any real way. Those little charges sneak in and gnaw away at your fiances like a little bug. They steal away money that could be used for things that are meaningful for the whole family over the long haul.
Seriously, if we cut out spending on our wasteful wants, by this time next year we could go on an extra vacation. Or we could pay off our car. Or we could have a 5-digit savings. When we asked ourselves “would we rather designer drinks and dinners out 2-3 times a week or a family trip to Disney?” the answer was easy and our motivation to cut out the wasteful want spending was instantaneous.
I mean, lets take a look at some of our top four wasteful wants and how they’re impacting our finances:
1. Once-a-Week Pizza Night
Every week we have pizza night, which involved ordering a pizza from our local pizza place… And we ate out as much as we picked it up and ate at home.
- Weekly Cost: $14.15 ($30 when we ate at the pizza place)
- Yearly Cost: $735.80 – $941.85 (assuming we ate at the restaurant 25% of the time)
2. Dunkin Donuts
My husband enjoys an iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts 3-4 times a week… Why not? It’s super tasty!
- Weekly Cost: $9.12
- Yearly Cost: $474.24
I have my own instant-drink obsession. Tea at Starbucks. I’d indulge in it more if it was closer… I’m addicted!
- Weekly Cost: $4.09 – $8.18
- Yearly Cost: $212.68 – $425.36
4. Dinners Out
We are totally guilty go going out to eat when we just don’t feel like cooking. Or ordering takeout. Or getting delivery. Or buying lots of snacks.
- Average Weekly Cost: $70 (One $30 breakfast and one $40 dinner, or two $20 takeouts… Not including pizza night)
- Average Yearly Cost: $3,640
Total: $5,062.72 – $5,481.45
Hoooooooooly cow. Right? Did you fall out of your chair? Because I fell out of my chair.
Granted, we indulge more than most in some ways (*ahem* Starbucks), but considering the average American eats out between 4-5 times a week at an average cost of $12.75 a person (an average of $2,652 – $3,315 per person per year), we’re more “normal” in our spending on wasteful wants than one would think.
Now, I’m not sitting here saying “no more Starbucks, no more pizza night!” That’s just not reasonable. But look at how we were able to change our wasteful wants into something constructive:
1. Pizza Night
Instead of ordering pizza, we buy a frozen pizza. We enjoy meat lovers pizza so this was the cheapest option… We could go just cheese and go from scratch and save more, but this is our agreed on family splurge.
- Weekly Cost: $4.16 ($12.49 for a 3 pack at BJ’s Wholesale)
- Yearly Total: $216.32
- Savings: $519.48 – $725.53
2. Dunkin Donuts
Iced coffee at Dunkin 3-4 times a week has turned into iced coffee at home. Again, we could go cheaper here, but we splurge on the Starbucks K-Cup.
- Monthly Cost: $11.99
- Yearly Cost: $143.88
- Savings: $330.36
Did you know you can make tea at home? Who knew! I mean, besides everybody.
- Monthly Cost: $3.29
- Yearly Cost: $39.48
- Savings: $173.20 – $385.88
4. Dinners Out
This is such a huge money suck, but meal plans for cooking at home take away the stress of figuring out what to eat, and we agreed we’d only go out once a month.
- Average Monthly Cost: $70
- Average Yearly Cost: $840
- Savings: $2,800
New total: $1,239.68
Total saved: $3,823.04 – $4,241.77
Making tiny changes equals an extra $4,000 a year?! I don’t know about you guys, but an extra $4k really makes a huge impact on our finances. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to make these little changes… It feels like an investment in a healthy financial future.
I mean, I still like Starbucks, but I like an extra Disney vacation a lot more. About $4,000 more, actually.