Ever look at your bank account at the end of the month and wonder where did all my money go? Have you ever felt like as soon as your paycheck hit your bank account it just as quickly left? I think many people have been there a time or two in life. Even if you haven’t, you could still benefit greatly from periodically evaluating how your funds are being disbursed as more could be going to wasteful spending than you think. Those same funds could be the difference between working another 30 years or only 5 to 10! I don’t know about you, but the potential to obtaining an additional 20 to 25 years of retirement deserves a quick peek to me.
Recently we sat down to evaluate all of our expenditures over the past year and earmarked the highest categories of wasteful spending. We also thought about other pitfalls that could potentially derail our consumer debt annihilation train over time. This produced our list of the Top 8 wasteful expenses we want to avoid in 2016!
We are huge Walking Dead junkies and it’s the one cable show that we are ready to
scream at the screen snuggle up to together on the couch every Sunday to watch. I know you’re probably thinking “ummm…you want Financial Independence and you still have cable?!!! Not to worry friends, we now understand that paying for cable is a horrible money pit as it has cost us up to the tune of $175 a month for so-called bundle premium packages…I guess premium means the best way to take a large chunk of your potential FI money!
After evaluating how much TV our family really watches during the week we realized we only watched about four channels. $175 a month for four channels is just crazy! Towards the end of this year, we called and had all services removed except for internet. I mean we still have to have access to our favorite Financial Independence blogs and communicate with you guys, right?
While we’ve canceled all service outside of the internet, we’ve learned to find pleasure in reading, writing, spending time with our family and overall productive and fun activities outside of the house. We also have free mobile TV apps on our phones and the kids tablets. If worse comes to worse we can always watch a blitz of DVR’d Walking Dead shows at our in-laws houses who live close by and have cable to get our zombie fix for free!
Until last month, we neglected to consolidate our family’s health insurance as we both maintained coverage under our two respective employers. In addition, I (Mrs. TOL) have been paying for yearly vision insurance that I never use. Mr. TOL wears glasses and contacts but chooses to pay for eye exams, glasses and contacts out of pocket, as most places now offer yearly eyes exam and two pairs of glasses for $99 or less. They might not be designer glasses but designers don’t help you see any better! In addition, most places also offer great contact lens deals. After reviewing this category, we realized we had been wasting about $270 per month for duplicate or unused health insurance premiums! For 2016, we will be dropping Mrs. TOL’s vision insurance and covering the family’s health insurance needs through Mr. TOL’s employer to recognize these savings.
Don’t get us wrong we love a good time and one of our favorite things to do for date night is find a place with great atmosphere, good food, all while enjoying a few adult beverages, and listening to some good music. Our kids also love weekends filled with going to arcades and indoor play/sport centers. However, when our good time can total up to over $200 per month, we have to ask ourselves is that kind of good time really worth our future?
We firmly believe that date nights are an important investment in a couple relationship as it affords you time to reconnect and build memories with your significant other one on one. We also believe it is very important to connect with your kids as a family and find fun things to do outside of the home. However, there are many ways to enjoy the things we love at a fraction of the price.
We want to challenge each other to remember what’s really making us happy or satisfied when we receive that restaurant, bar, or activity receipt at the end of the night. Was it the food?…was it the drinks?…flashing lights from the arcade games?… or was it the memories we made with the people we care about?
We plan to reduce expenses in this area by eating at home more before going out, and setting a dollar and frequency threshold for entertainment activities. We also plan to start hosting more BYOB game nights at home with our friends as well as outdoor activities at local parks with our kids.
I usually spend between a $130 and $150 per month on grooming! However, Mr. TOL has always been the frugal one in this department as he refuses to spend more than $5 on a haircut. He has a close friend who has good barber skills and cuts it for him every few weeks or so. We’ve also been pretty successful at being frugal with the TOL kids as well as the younger ones still have their hair done at home and our older one handles his own monthly barber shop visits. Really it’s just me who has some work to do in this category. I plan to reduce my monthly budget down to $45 a month in 2016. I’m working on building confidence in the fact that my own natural appearance is beautiful …at least that’s what Mr. TOL tells me 😉
Mr. TOL has a solid gym membership near his place of employment that charges him only $10 a month with no annual membership fees. However, I am locked into a separate gym membership contract near our home for $37 a month, including daycare, which will not end until November of 2016. A new gym opened near our home that matches Mr. TOL’s rate at only $10 a month. While this gym does charge an annual membership fee of around $30, it’s still a good move for me to converting to this membership as soon as my contract is up as this will save the family up to $294 a year in gym fees.
You really can’t put a price on health but you can certainly put one on gym memberships. While I think that gym memberships are a good investment, you have to actually use it! Part of the benefits of FI is more time to exercise, which leads to better overall health, reduced stress and less trips to the doctor!
Credit Cards Fees & Interest:
Recently I made a $20 charge on an infrequently used credit card and accidentally missed the payment due date. I was promptly sent a letter from the credit card company telling me that they would be applying a $20 late charge to the balance along with raising the interest rate from 15 to 30 friggin percent!
Of course, I quickly called the company and had the late fees removed and the interest rate rescinded as I noted I had been a long time card holder and this was not a typical event in my credit history…but I digress. The point is this was a good lesson and quick reminder about how consumer debt and credit cards can be detrimental to your quest for FI.
Outside of this mishap, I have always paid bills on time and made sure to hold no high or long-term credit card debt. This afforded me a good credit score and the ability to purchase the home we now live in at a good interest rate at an early age in life.
However, let’s say I had not been so responsible and held a higher balance, let’s say around $3,000. The credit card company may not have been so accommodating and let the late fees and interest rate stand. How long would it take me to pay off $3,000 at 30% interest making the minimum payments? Try 73 months and $3,543.72 in interest! That’s a large waste of money that could have been invested to fund early retirement as well as placing us in enslavement to the credit card company for another 6 years of life.
It’s a good reminder to always pay your credit cards on time, make more than the minimum payment whenever you can, and extinguish credit card debt like your hair is on fire as it can rob many years of your financial freedom.
Our highest power bill, sadly, was once $400 during the winter months. To lower our monthly power bill in the winter we have started setting our thermostat lower and relying more on electric heaters to warm the rooms we are actually using rather than using the HVAC system to heat the entire home. During the summertime, we plan to pretty much stay the course as we have always had a pretty high tolerance threshold before feeling like we have to turn on the A/C. We will try to remain mindful of the thermostat as our hearts always sink when we walk into house after a long stint away to find the units running.
We both travel a lot for our jobs so it can be difficult at times to remember to pack or bring lunch when we are out on the road. While it may be convenient to pop into the closest fast food restaurant, it can be detrimental to our pockets, waistline, and FI goals. Over the course of the year, we plan to be more diligent in preparing lunches at the beginning of the week to ensure or FI dollars are not wasted away on lunch and to also improve our overall health. Mr. TOL loves his Zaxby’s for lunch, but he is committed to bringing his lunch and giving up his “guilty pleasure” for the sake of FI. Yay!
While there are other ways families can save, this is what we have found that works for the TOL’s. We feel these moves will free up more funds for debt repayments and investing as we continue to push for FI!