Sometimes in life it is the little things that add up. In personal finance, we all know that it is the thousands of micro-decisions that can result in large amounts of wealth over time. Most millionaires acquire that level of success through literally thousands of small decisions and actions over decades.
I can prove this with a simple example: If a person just saved $100/week, automatically invested in a low cost index portfolio. In 30 years that would be $1 million. That micro decision made every month becomes a big difference in your life at retirement.
In total, big goals can seem overwhelming. We may think, but what if I do it all wrong? What are the right decisions and what are the wrong decisions for building wealth? Remember, you need to basically free up $100/week, or about $12/day. Is there a chance you waste $12/day?
In this list we are providing 10 of what we would call “micro-decisions” that literally add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over long periods of time.
Given this law of finance and investing, each year I like to take stock of any ways I may be mindlessly wasting money. Why be my own worst enemy when it comes to building wealth?I do not mind spending money on things that add value to me and my families lives. But I hate the thought of mindlessly letting dollars slip away that can be efficiently invested for growth.
So I challenge you as the “CEO” of your life to make a personal audit. Here are 10 ways to get the juices flowing in terms of little costs that are a waste of money. I am convinced that getting these 10 things under control could result in hundreds of thousands in savings over 30 years. Let that sink in for a moment. If all these little things are well managed, then a person would have a much higher probability of creating a secure retirement!
1. Expensive smoothies & coffee drinks
One reason Starbucks is so popular in the US is that we tend to lack public gathering spaces. In Europe, many cities have open public gathering place where people go to meet, talk, walk, socialize, etc. In America, many of us have the Starbucks option.
But those drinks at Starbucks or your favorite smoothie joint add up fast. Especially if you make it a habit.
: Opt to make the drinks yourself at home. Or make sure to use Cash App Boosts for coffee for a $1 off each time.
SAVINGS: $25/week on average
2. Home phone line & Cable
If you haven’t cut cable yet, then I am not sure what to tell you. It pretty much makes no sense to $50-80/month for a bunch of cable crap that simply brainwashes you. I have had a $10 pair of “bunny ears” antennae that gives me about 6 channels for free for the last 14 years. That is about $10,000 I have put back into my pocket by not having cable!
For a home phone, I use Google Voice for free. Check out our post on this option: Free Home Phone With Google Voice
3. Unused Gym Membership
I am all for healthy living and working out, it is one of the great pleasures of life. Exercise and healthy eating also keep our medical costs down through the years, which adds to our ability to reach financial independence and retire early FIRE.
But how many people use the membership for 2 months a year and then never again. One statistic I read is that only about 50% of gym members actually use the gym throughout the year. Out of those, only about 18% use it regularly. If you are one of the 50% that use the services, then go for it, you are receiving value for your money. But if you fall into the other category then you are trading your dreams for the dreams of gym owners.
INSTEAD: Build A Home Gym
4. “Funky” investments like crypto?
I understand the jury may still be out on crypto and I am not trying to crush any crypto dreams of driving your gold Lambo. I have dabbled in the crypto world to learn and make a little money. But, take stock to how much money is being placed into these “assets.” No one really knows where all this is going. As I have said in previous posts, crypto currency is worth somewhere between $0 and $250,000 per coin.
Seeking alternative investments can be fun and exciting. But keep the amount under control. We allocate no more than 5% of assets to “fun” alternative investments such as this.
5. Gift Wrap & Some Cards
I remember the Christmas times we had in the 80’s when I was a kid. Wrapping paper everywhere. Now as a frugal adult (hey, I am still fun!), I kind of think all the wrapping paper is a waste. Plus I am a dude, so I suck at wrapping things, I admit it. Therefore, let’s go nuts with the gift bags.
Keep a plastic bin in the garage where you can reuse and recycle all those gift bags. The costs and savings can really add up. Think about the birthday parties, kids events, holidays, Christmas where we are constantly wrapping up gifts. All that thrown away paper adds up. Therefore keep the bags you receive and reuse them.
6. Interest on Credit Cards
Paying huge 15%, 20%, 25% interest on credit card debt is absolute insult to injury! This represents the exact opposite of building wealth, it is a wealth destroyer and puts you in a hole. It is better to be at 0!
I believe, if you can’t pay off the credit cards each month in full, then do not have them. Do we really need all the stuff we put on credit cards. It is like paying an extra 20% on everything you buy. Could you imagine rushing to your local store because they have a sale to pay “20% MORE, MORE, MORE!” on your entire purchase. I think not!
SAVINGS: $50/month or more!
7. Drinks out
I understand the joy of going to a restaurant every once in a while. But, watch out for the drinks. All drinks at restaurants are usually super marked up. $3 for a soda? $10 for a glass of wine? $12 for a fancy mixed drink. All these things constitute about 25 cents worth of ingredients.
8. Your time
I included this in here, because some people waste their time on things, people and issues that do not really matter. We are the human animal, therefore it can be hard to resist, but be cognizant of who you spend your time with, doing what and talking about what. Is it value added? Are you supporting each other? Is it healthy and positive? If not, get out now!
Whatever you smoke, watch the costs. This is another little habit and thing that people do that can be very expensive over the long run. Imagine over 30 years of smoking how much money is spent. A person would probably smoke up the value of a house! Not to mention the extreme health costs associated with such activity.
SAVINGS: $20/week or more
10. Magazines & Books
As an avid reader, it pains me to bring this up, but it is true. Do you really need all those magazine subscriptions? The magazines are available for free at the library.
INSTEAD: Use the Treasure Trove Library
11. BONUS IDEA:
Thermostat and Lights. How many people seem to just leave every light on in the house all the time. Then either crank the HVAC unit either too high or too low. On hot summer days I have walked into houses where it was so cold I needed a jacket. Or I have walked into houses during the winter that were so hot inside I wanted to take off my clothes. You get the idea. Find a nice moderate temperature. My favorite is somewhere around 71-72 degrees. If that is too chilly for whatever reason, where a nice sweater or comfy flannel.
Seriously I believe these moderate adjustments could save people hundreds of dollars a month in utility costs. Therefore that could translate to real money over time.
Potential Savings: $200/month, $2,400/year, Over 30 years earning an average return this could become almost $200,000!
I am all about value. Yes, we have to spend money sometimes and that is a key aspect of life. But are you receiving best value for the price you are paying?
You can see from these small examples, we have freed up the cash to be directly deposited into an investment account and build over time.