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How the “little things” can impact your budget

Are you really good at not going overboard on the big stuff, and making outrageous purchases when not needed? Or did you hunt around trying to find the cheapest rent and have to forgo on some of the other luxuries maybe another apartment complex was offering to save on the bottom line? What about your car? Are you driving a used car with low monthly payments? Or maybe you already have it paid off?

If you can answer yes to any or all of these, that’s great. You are focusing on the big picture, and how big expensive items can alter your overall budget.

Now answer me these questions, do you go out once or more a week for lunch and or dinner? Do you have daily coffee runs and purchase a coffee that could range from $3-$8 dollars? What about your impulse buys? Do you find yourself saying you “need” that shirt you saw online because you saw it was on sale? Or did you go down too many aisles at Target and now have a cart full of things you have no idea how they got there now that you are at the register?

If you can answer yes to any or all of these, it’s time to take a pause and reevaluate your spending habits. Because maybe you are doing really good at the BIG things, but maybe you are doing REALLY BAD at the little things. And even though they are little, they are the things that could be impacting your budget the most without you even knowing it.

Can the little things really be impacting you that much?

100% yes.

If you truly start putting numbers to these small items, you can watch them gradually build upon each other over time. Because $5 here doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you over spend $5 here, and $5 there, eventually you will start to end up with things like $50 over your budget in just one week. And if this becomes an unnoticed habit, within a months’ time span, $5 here and $5 there, could potentially be upwards to $200 over budget, again, without you even knowing it.

Without putting real numbers to things, I understand how it can all seem like speculation. So that is why we suggest start tracking your spending to see really how much you are spending on these “little things” here and there.

Let’s do some loose math, with some hypothetical situations…

You get a coffee to treat yourself every Friday. Not just a black, gas station coffee. A nice, fancy coffee with syrups and a fancy name coffee that on average costs you $5.00.

Then you go out and grab fast food once a week for lunch for your “cheat day”. On average this could range you from $7-13 depending on what you get. Let’s split the difference and say $10.00.

So, in a week’s time span, those two items could be costing your roughly $15.00. On average there’s 4 weeks in a month, meaning you’ve now spent $60 in those “quick treats” for the month. You do that every month for the whole year, and you are looking at $720 in just coffee and lunch once a week.

Depending on what you drive or where you live, that could easily be a monthly car payment, or half of a monthly mortgage payment.

Not all “little things” add up to be bad things…. sometimes they can be good things

Ever head the saying “every little bit helps”? Well that applies to right here.

The inverse to spending $5-15 weekly on frivolous things, and saving that money weekly can increase your budget over time.

For example, I was talking to a co-worker a few weeks ago, and she mentioned how she is coming to the end of her Invisalign treatment. This was an $83 amount monthly cost. She and her husband are trying to pay off their mortgage and decided to throw that $83 a month onto the monthly mortgage payment. She said, “it’s not like we are accounting for it in our monthly budget to go to food, gas, or other expenses. And it’s not like we feel like we are missing out on something each month by not having it in our budget, so why not?!”

Now, I know upfront, $83 doesn’t seem like a huge deal (I’m not saying it’s not something to forget about either), but if you add up the $83 over a year’s time span, that equals out to be $996. Basically $1,000 extra for the year they are now able to put towards their mortgage by not even having to change their lifestyle or budget.

It’s all about Opportunity Costs

I talk about this a lot in my coaching meetings. Asking yourself, do I want to spend, or put my money towards this item, or do I put it towards this expense or savings? You have to weigh the pros and cons for each expense to what your end goal is. If you’re on Baby Step 2 – your end goal is getting out of debt so that weekly $5 coffee may not feel worth it when it comes time to pay the bills.

As a previous supervisor once told me, “You can have one cookie now, or two cookies later”. It’s all how you look at things and how your want to prioritize your outcomes.

Being aware is being responsible

I’m not saying you can’t treat yourself once in a while, and have the expensive coffee or grab a lunch out, because we all need to live a little and enjoy life. But just be aware of how easily these items can stack up to decrease your cash if you are not being diligent with keeping track. By being aware, you can make smarter impulse purchases.


July 15, 2022

Lindsey Curry

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