When I was a young executive, working downtown at an interactive marketing agency, I would take a couple walks every day from the office. In the mornings, I would walk over to Starbucks and perhaps the St. Louis Bread Company to fortify myself with a triple venti cappuccino and some pastries. At lunch, I might walk to Carlos’s food cart to get two brats, plain. And maybe another walk out to Starbucks in the afternoon as much to break the tedium of the day as to fortify myself with another triple venti cappuccino.
At some point, it occurred to me that I was spending twenty to thirty dollars each day on these excursions. During those days, we were briefly DINK (dual income, no kids) but that ended in short order, and I curtailed the excursions during the brief time I had left at the agency before striking out on my own.
So when I look at my finances and am unsatisfied with the cash flow situation or the accumulated savings, I decide to nibble a bit at the edges and look at the dollars-a-day habits I’ve picked up.
I tend to grab hold of small comforts that I enjoy every day. I justify them by saying that I’m living in the moment, enhancing the enjoyment of every day, and besides, I am earning enough money to cover the small expenditures.
Of course, if I extrapolate out how much I’m actually spending, a couple dollars a day over the course of a year can run into thousands of dollars every year.
For example, take the Duraflame logs. At Sam’s Club, they cost roughly three dollars each (less when they marked down at the end of the season and I end up buying a bunch of them). The new formulation in the brown bags (Make It A Gold Night) burns in about three hours, sometimes less. Contrast this with the old yellow bags (“Tonight’s the night”) that burned for four or five hours but sometimes would fall to a smolder only to reignite some hours later, which I can understand would be a problem for normal people who don’t have iron fireplace inserts and are not around all day. But to get through a full evening from dinner time until bed time, I’ve had to burn more than one of these horizontal fireplace candles which is dollars a day I don’t really need.
A couple years ago, my beautiful wife bought me a K-Cup single cup coffee maker for Christmas, and I started using it instead of brewing a pot of drip coffee. I used it because it was downstairs, where I could make it first thing in the morning without disturbing my sleeping family rather than the convenience of the single cup maker. Although the cost of the K-Cups has come down from about a buck each to fifty or sixty cents each, I was still drinking several dollars a day in the single-use packets. So I’ve wound down my current stock of K-Cups and have moved back to drip coffee. I’ve not gone so far as to buy the giant tubs of Folder’s at Sam’s Club as they tend to go stale before I use them, but it’s still cheaper. And I’ve found that my family sleeps soundly enough that I can drain the remnants of the previous day’s brew from the pot, rinse it, and start a new pot without waking them up, especially on school days where nothing wakes them up.
Sometime in the last two years, I developed a habit of drinking mineral or sparkling water (fizzy bubbly) in the afternoons. I blame the visit to the Mountain Valley Water store in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which we visited on vacation in 2017. A lot of the material on the walls there touted the health benefits for athletes, and I wanted to look like one at the very least. Or perhaps I picked up the habit when we did the Whole 30 diet a couple years back. Regardless, I traversed the San Pellegrino, Mountain Valley, and Perrier brands. Most of these waters is sold in 750 milliliter bottles for a couple bucks each, although I could get one liter bottles for about the same price at Lucky’s Market before it folded. But I was drinking between one and three of these bottles a day for a cost of between three and eight dollars total. You know, the water coming out of our well has minerals, too. So I’ve gone off the fizzy bubbly for the nonce, which is kind of unfortunate–I kept my hydration up because going to the bar and pouring a glass of water into a fancy glass was a ritual, whereas drinking from the tap happens when I am thirsty is not and is less often. And with less gusto.
So I project to save plenty of money restricting these habits LIKE A SPARTAN!
It’s still nibbling at the edges of our expenditures, though. Our top line expense is tithing and other giving, which is more than our mortgage or car payment. I’m not giving up our martial arts school, although some months in sport seasons it’s more of an aspirational goal than something we actually attend (ditto the YMCA membership and the second gym membership somewhere that my beautiful wife often carries). I’m not going to stop spoiling my beautiful wife (my expressive love languages are gifts and acts of service, donchaknow). We still eat out too often and eat well when we eat in.
I don’t think we’re actually seeing much savings overall currently, though, because this cutting back is happening at the same time we’re laying in extra supplies just in case. Things which we will probably not actually eat but will instead donate to the local food pantry in a couple of years.
And, to be honest, this faux austerity is only going to last a little while until I start wanting a little guilty pleasure during the day because I work so hard or something. And then they will creep up and accumulate, and in a couple of years, I will clamp down again. I’m a binge fiscal responsibilitier. If Dave Ramsey were to meet me on the street, it would go something like this:
So you’re probably no better off taking financial advice from me than investment advice.
But if you’re looking to cut back, perhaps you can find some dollars-a-day things in your life.