Little Things Can Add Up To Big Things

Today’s post is part of the “Family Financial Guidelines” series. Whether you’re going through a financial turnaround or are just wanting to stay on top of things, this series will give you the tools to get and keep your family’s finances on track.

Last week I wrote about how cutting back on your biggest expenses can really improve your monthly budget. However, cutting back on the little things makes a difference too.

Little Things Add Up To Big Things
It’s easy to look at your big expenses and make the connection that they represent a large chunk of your spending. With the little things, it can be a bit more difficult to really realize how much money is being spent. Since the amount being spent is relatively small each time, it’s easy to rationalize such spending as not being a big deal.

Some Examples
Smart Phone Apps & Downloads: If you download four apps, songs, or videos a week you can expect to spend somewhere between $4 and $10 a week. Over the course of a year, that can add up to as much as $500. Try limiting your downloads to the free versions to save a bundle.

Eating Out For Lunch: If you eat out for lunch every day at work at $5 a meal (which is a pretty inexpensive lunch), that adds up to $35 a week and nearly $1,700 a year. Wow! I understand that going to lunch with co-workers is a good opportunity to network and develop relationships, and I’m not saying to cut it out altogether. Even cutting down from every day to three days a week would end up saving $480 a year.

Books and Movies: If you’re an avid reader and read a book every week, you can easily spend over $400 if you buy every book new (either at the store or with an e-Reader). Check out your local library, where you can rent books (both physical books and e-books) for free. You can also sign up for services such as paperback swap to reduce the cost of reading. The same goes for movies. Rather than buying the newest releases, see if your library offers those titles (you may have to wait a little longer for new releases). Or use the nearest RedBox to rent movies for a little more than $1.00. Unless it’s a movie you really love and will watch multiple times, it’s usually more cost-effective to rent than to buy.

Vending Machine Purchases: Most workplaces have a couple vending machines that offer snacks and soft drinks. It’s pretty common to hit that mid-afternoon wall and need a little pick-me-up. But if you spend $1 a day on a candy bar and another $2 a day on a couple cans of pop, that can add up to $1,000 a year. Instead, buy your own snacks and drinks and bring them to work. This can easily save $500 a year. And by bringing your own snacks you aren’t limited to the choices in the vending machines, so you can bring healthier snacks. Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

The Bottom Line
The little things can add up to be almost as large as some of your larger monthly bills. By cutting back here and there, you can really save a lot in your monthly budget. The trick is not to cut out these things completely (you may feel really deprived and miserable), but either scale back or find less expensive alternatives.