Small Expenditures That Can Bust Your Budget

July 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Budgeting, Spending

It is amazing to me how people who are strapped for cash or just plain broke continue to purchase products and services that can cumulatively play a significant role in busting their budget.  Somehow, people have mentally morphed  these items from the “things I want” category to the “necessary” category.  Here are some budget buster examples that really bother me when I see them in a broke person’s financial breakdown: 

1.   Bottled water.  There is nothing wrong with drinking water – in fact it’s a healthy thing to do.  But to pay for stacks of plastic bottles filled with water having a fancy name, or to pay each month to have a large bottles delivered to your house, is ridiculous when you are paying the minimums each month on your credit card balances.  Do what my wife does – refill your plastic bottles from the tap – over and over again.  (Thanks, honey!)  No one will know the difference except your bank balance.  Potential savings:  $30-$40/month.

2.   The daily Starbucks latte (or whatever.)  I know some people who spend $200/month at Starbucks.  That is crazy money behavior.  Its a luxury you rent for a few hours, like beer only a lot more expensive and without the buzz.    I am not a coffee drinker but I hear that McDonald’s and Sonic now serve excellent latte at 1/3 the price.  Or, you can wait until you get to the office and have a cup on the boss.  Potential savings:  $90-$200/month.

3.  Pedicure/manicure. Ladies, your toes look just fine.  As for your nails, by an emery board and get busy.  Lots of people do their own nails (including some very good looking women in my family).   Debt free is a lot more attractive than acrylic nails.    Potential savings:  $15-$35/month.

4.  Cell phone.  OK, if you don’t have a landline you get some credit.  But some families start handing out cell phones to 9 year olds.  I’ve seen budgets for families in extreme debt with $200 in monthly cell charges.  I’m going to speculate that a future scientific study will reveal that children who start texting at an early age can’t spell.  Don’t let that happen to your children and save some bucks in the process.  Potential savings:  $40-$60/month per line.

5.   Lawn service.  We are debt free with positive cash flow and I still can’t stand to pay someone else to cut my grass.   I know we in the U.S. have lots of – shall we way recent immigrants – to keep busy but not at the expense of your financial well being.   If you have able-bodied children, put them to work and everyone benefits.  Potential savings:  $50-$100/month.

6.   Cable television.  Even I will concede that subscribing to basic cable has become the norm and is not considered a luxury except in the most extreme cases.  This does not apply, however, to all of the luxury add-ons, such as DVR, HD, premium packages, multiple cable boxes, and the like.  If you are broke and struggling, you should be spending less time watching TV, not more.  One of the smartest things we did when we built our house is not put cable outlets in the kids bedrooms.  Potential savings:  $15-$100/month.

7.  Hair coloring.  I don’t want to pick on the ladies here (and I am not suggesting that you cut your own hair) but guys rarely spend money at a salon for hair coloring.  Women do.  My wife (who knows about these things) assures me that there are some very good products that are easy to use at home.  (They certainly look good on her.)  If hair coloring is your thing, don’t let the salon do it.  We can’t tell – I promise.  Potential savings:  $50-$60/month.

I am sure there are other examples but they will have to wait for another day.  Meanwhile, show some tough love on these non-essential expenses and bring some love to your budget.

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One Response to “Small Expenditures That Can Bust Your Budget”
  1. Mneiae says:

    2.The daily Starbucks latte that you deride is an addiction. Much like kicking the smoking habit, kicking the Starbucks habit will reap benefits. It’s not that easy not to do it, though.

    3. I’m sure that many people do their own nails, but it never turns out the same way at home. Most women will agree with this.

    4. On the contrary, texting teaching some spelling skills. This may sound absurd, but bear with me here. Many of the kids who text today use T9. It’s the fastest way to text and it requires that you know how to spell a word. For example: when you spell available, you would hit 282458859. If you though available was spelled avalible, you would attempt to spell this word by keying in 28254253. The resulting word would be Buckike. I have absolutely no idea what that word means, but it is not the intended word, available.

    7. The results of hair coloring gone wrong are too horrible to contemplate. Also, home hair coloring products damage hair more severely than salon products the majority of the time. Not many women will willingly submit their hair to such abuse. If your wife is happy with the results of her home products, then more power to her.

    Everything that I didn’t comment upon I sincerely agree with.

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