It’s the Small Things Too

Posted by Mrs Money on December 22nd, 2009

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Many frugal minded, simple living people talk about how it’s the small things in life that matter the most.
I completely agree that we should take time to cherish moments spent with friends, enjoy that little chocolate truffle that your child gave you, or the dollar that you found in the laundry. I also have realized lately that I’ve made a huge mistake when it comes to our finances. I really haven’t been following one of the biggest frugal tips there is: the Latte Factor.

Basically the latte factor is this: if you’re spending $3 a day on a latte, that adds up to $1095 a year that you could save. Ultimately; don’t discount all the small things that you do that cost you money each day.

My problem is not with lattes; it’s with the Little Things. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been lazy and not packing a lunch every day. I will spend around $5 a day for lunch. And every day that I go out, I kick myself for not packing a lunch! I feel that I just don’t have options that I’d like to take for lunch. Lazy!

Then I realize that I “need” a Gatorade or a pack of gum or some Tylenol so I stop by Walgreens and pick that up. Not only is it stupid to spend that money on the crap in the first place, but now I’m paying more than if I had budgeted it into my groceries! How frustrating.

I really need to sit down with good personal finance software and get a budget figured out.  I need some professional help!

The other day I was trying to figure out how I could cut back on our monthly expenses. When I thought about cutting our cable and living without a cell phone, I started to realize that both of our cell phones cost around $70 a month, which is not too bad. If I stop purchasing my Little Things, think of how much money I’ll save each month! That’s when I realized that it’s pretty dumb of me to blog about personal finance yet spend money on stupid crap like eating lunch out every day. I’m going to tighten down after the beginning of the year, stop being lazy, and really work at cutting back on the Little Things.

Am I the only one that’s bad about spending money because it’s small amounts?

image from Live Solutions

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18 Responses to “It’s the Small Things Too”


  1. Nicole says:

    I have the same sort of issue.
    I work at a grocery store, and at a mall with a large food court.
    I have a habit of buying lunch or a snack every time I work. There are quite a few reasons for this, the main one being, I don’t have a place at either job to keep my food refrigerated. The second reason being “Why should I bring food back to the place I bought it from?”
    For the grocery store, I bought a large box of granola bars, and a case of juice and I keep them both in my locker. Sure, the juice isn’t cold, and I might get bored of the same thing over and over again, but really, many of my shifts shouldn’t require that I purchase a meal during that time.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    I bought a few boxes of granola bars so I’ll stop doing what I’m doing. Now I just need to get my water bottle filled at night and make my lunch at night too.

    Funny story- when my hubby took your package to the post office, they questioned him what was in it and he had to call me at work. :)

    [Reply]

  2. 2 Cents says:

    I find it’s easy to lose track of the little things, especially if they are engrained habits. This is a good time to do a detailed budget audit and look for places to reallocate dollars.

    P.S. Don’t forget to look at the big things too! You get more bang for your buck there. Maybe you are paying too much for insurance or something else. Maybe you could go out for lunch once a week with some of those savings and pocket the rest!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    That’s an awesome tip about doing a detailed budget audit and reallocating the dollars. I think if I have a purpose for them that will be a lot better.

    I’m looking at some more of the big things, but we switched car insurance a few months ago and now I’m looking at the cable. We’ve cut back a lot lately! :)

    Thanks for your comment!

    [Reply]

  3. Catherine says:

    I do have a tip for you: Don’t carry cash, or carry a minimal amount of cash (say, a $20). Then, don’t use your credit/debit card unless it is a planned purchase. And think hard when breaking that $20 for a pack of gum! Sometimes buying things becomes a reaction and I think if you put some road blocks up to stop those knee-jerk purchases, it helps you to become a conscious shopper again. Good luck!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    I am soooooo bad when I have cash! It is silly. I know that a lot of Dave Ramsey people like the cash only system but it doesn’t work for me. It’s like, if I see it post to my checking account, it’s real. If it’s cash, no big deal. That’s not traceable. :)

    [Reply]

  4. Having my husband do all the grocery shopping helps immensely in cutting down my impulse shopping. It’s funny, I will go for days and days, carrying the same few dollars and change in my pocket and never spend it. Then for whatever reason (haven’t really figured out why) I’ll go on little spending sprees. Oh dear, I just remembered… today I have to go to Walgreens to pick up my son’s prescription and those caramels are going to be there, tempting me. LOL. I vow to not take them home with me!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    That L Frances caramel? I know you’ve talked about it a lot. I’ve never tried it. I hate when I do stupid stuff like this with money though!

    [Reply]

  5. vm says:

    I bet if you actually carried a small notebook and wrote down every single item you purchase AS YOU PURCHASE IT (or right before you purchase it), you’d buy less. It would be a real act of reflection–just the kind of pause that may stop you from spontaneously buying the gum or the coffee etc etc etc. Even better than a detailed budget.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    That is a great idea! I love that. Now I’ll have to rummage for a small notebook!

    [Reply]

  6. I find that “small” item spending is harder to control that the big ticket spending. It’s budget death by 1000 cuts.

    On a smaller scale, consider if you carry a 20 in your pocket. I’ll sometimes forgo a purchase because I don’t want to break the 20. I’d never buy a pack of gum with a twenty, but I’ll buy a pack every day with change or a buck.

    Once I break the 20, it’s as good as gone.

    So knowing that requires a different kind of diligence. It’s easy to hold myself accountable to not impulsing a new car. But one at a time it’s tough to not impulse 20,000 soft drinks, candy bars, latte’s, donuts, smokes, or whatever over the next 3-4 years.

    Unfortunately, I can’t claim a full proof answer but knowing the risk and my weaknesses can help me to lessen the individual occurances.

    Thanks for sharing the idea.

    Dave

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    I know! I’m glad I’m not the only one. I think I’ll keep a $20 in my wallet for emergencies but that’s it. :)

    [Reply]

  7. Chris says:

    I keep a $50 bill in my wallet. Not too many convenience stores will break it, but it’s not impossible to find one that will if worse comes to worse. Using a credit card does make it easier to track the small purchases but also makes it easy to make the small purchases in the first place. I guess one could do the old credit card frozen in ice trick but modify it for your water bottle! Hahaha! Just imagine…dropping your credit card into your water bottle, fill halfway with water, place in freezer. At work, you really really need a candy bar fix but the 7-11 down the street won’t break your fifty dollar bill, so you have to suck down your water & chip away the ice to get to your card. By that time craving is gone….Hahaha!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Love that! That is too funny. I am going to try keeping a $20 or $50 in my wallet and not breaking that.

    [Reply]

  8. Hi Mrs. Money. Love your tips. I have the same issue with small things – but that was reduced tremendously when I was laid off. Even when I spent 3 months temping as an attorney (i.e., made enough money to pay for lunches) I kept making and bringing my lunch. I was surprised to see how much of a difference that one step made.

    With respect to the cell phones – have you looked into prepaid plans? You might have seen JD’s post at Get Rich Slowly: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2009/05/05/prepaid-cell-phones-can-save-you-money/
    might be worth checking out. I have talked to DH about looking into prepaids, but his cellphone is a business expense, and he’s worried it would be a pain to track (or else he just doesn’t feel like it and wants me to leave him alone :))

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Thanks so much for your kind comments! I appreciate them! I will definitely check out JD’s post. I am sure it will be fantastic! I need to sit down and just go over it and make a decision. I’m bad at that sometimes!

    [Reply]


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