Saving money is hard, especially if you don’t have much to begin with. There are two ways to increase what you have: Either cut down on expenses or increase your income. For millions, either method is seemingly impossible. But most people focus on the former. There are ways you can cut your expenses and save more money. But there are also some purchases that, though somewhat wasteful, are worth it.
You’ve probably heard it before: If you stop buying lattes every day, you could save hundreds or thousands per year. For some, this is true. But what if that latte is worth it to you? What if getting away from work for a brief break and nourishing yourself justifies the cost? In that case, a relatively minor purchase (which adds up over time) shouldn’t be something to stress over.
There are many small purchases we make every day, week, and month that can be filed under the same category. On the surface, they’re wasteful or unneeded. But they make a big difference to us personally. They save us time, or we derive pleasure from them. They’re justified, in other words.
When it comes to these purchases (and any other), it’s important to remember moderation is key. It’s also important to take your entire budget into account. If you’re earning minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet, then these relatively small expenses are more consequential for you than they are for someone earning more. In that case, some of these purchases are a big deal, and you should give something up.
Let’s take a closer look at 10 minor purchases you might not want to stress over so much.
1. Daily coffee
If you’re spending more than $5 at Starbucks every day and earning relatively little, this might be a problem. But if you can afford it, a cup of coffee isn’t going to financially wreck you. In fact, many people use it to get out of the office and take a break. If it keeps you sane, then it’s probably a worthwhile expense. But again, it’s all about moderation and relativity. And if you can find a cheaper or free coffee source, go for it.
The average American spends more than $1,100 per year on coffee, so if your habit becomes a serious financial drawback, it’s an easy way to cut expenses.
2. Your Netflix account
A Netflix account used to seem like a luxury. But these days, it’s about as cost-effective of a method of entertainment as you can find. It’s only around $10 per month — significantly cheaper than a cable subscription. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, a streaming service, such as Netflix or its competitors, might be the best way to go.
Visiting a barber or salon can be expensive. There are plenty of cheap options out there where you can get a haircut for less than $15. But if you’re willing to jump up a little in price, say $30 or so (for a standard short haircut), you’ll find the quality of the work tends to increase dramatically. If want to try spending a little more to look a little better, don’t let the guilt of doubling down on your haircut expenses eat at you.
If you take Uber or Lyft everywhere, the costs are going to add up. And if you have a car already? It can be hard to justify the expense of taking a ride. But sometimes, it might be the best option. Say you’re headed downtown, where parking is difficult and traffic is thick. It might be worth it to grab a ride if the price is right. It’ll likely be cheaper (or roughly equal) than burning through gas, stressing out about traffic, and paying for parking.
5. Laundry services
Laundry is tricky. Many people have washers and dryers in their homes, or at least they have access to them through a friend or family member. Others have to go to a laundromat to clean their clothes, eating up time and quarters. For some, it’s worth it to simply pay someone to do our laundry. It’s usually affordable (often between $1 to $3 per pound), and the time you save might be more valuable to you than the weekly expense of having your clothes cleaned.
6. (Small) app purchases
It’s incredibly easy to spend a lot of money on your smartphone. In-app purchases in games or buying music, movies, or books through the Apple Store or Google Play can quickly add up. But what about apps we use every day? We’re accustomed to getting apps for free, but we can typically find better (or premium versions) for a low cost. In that case, it might be worth spending $1 to $5 on a better app you use all the time.
7. Gym membership
A gym membership is easy to justify — if you actually use it. If you’re broke, it can be difficult to convince yourself it’s worth spending $50 per month on a membership. But if you turn fitness into a hobby? Suddenly, you have an extremely cost-effective way to spend your time. There might be ways to cut the costs, too. Some employers and insurance providers will even subsidize your membership costs.
8. Health care
When you’re struggling financially, it can be easy to forgo proper health care. That means skipping out on dentist appointments and doctors visits. They’re not always cheap, and if you’re young and healthy, it’s easy to justify the savings. But that can come back to bite you — particularly if you let a minor problem fester into something bigger and more serious. Make the investment in yourself, and take care of yourself.
9. The occasional book or video game purchase
It’s easy to think buying a new book or video game is a waste of money. But these are media that provide hours of entertainment. In the case of some video games, they provide hundreds of hours — a total value. A movie can cost $15 and be done in 90 minutes, for comparison. A good, thick book might take you 20 hours to work through and cost $20. So if you need a cost-effective way to keep yourself busy, pull the trigger on that new Call of Duty title.
10. Tax preparation
Yes, it can be worth it to pay a professional to do your taxes. This might not be the case for everyone, as many people who have one job, no investments, and little other tricky financials can easily do it on their own. But if you’re stressed out about it, it’s worth the money to let someone who knows what they’re doing handle it for you.
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