You’re going to spend money, but you don’t have to be stupid about it. Yet if you’re like a lot of guys, there’s a good chance you’re wasting some of your hard-earned dollars on thoughtless purchases when you could easily be getting the same thing (or nearly the same thing) for way less money.
These sneaky budget leaks are easy enough to plug, but you need to be motivated to do so — and that’s the hard part. Conventional financial advice tells you to skip the fancy coffee and brew your morning caffeine jolt at home, but you’re not going to want to do that if your tired old Mr. Coffee spits out a watery, unappetizing cup. Ditching cable can save you hundreds of dollars, but how will you catch up on must-see television? In these situations, the trade-offs you need to make to economize just don’t seem worth it.
Here’s the trick: Sometimes, you need to spend money to save money. By investing some cash upfront (say, in a coffee maker that actually makes decent coffee), you’ll do your budget a favor in the long run. And you won’t be depriving yourself in the process, which means you’ll be more likely to stick with your financially responsible habits in the long run. In other cases, you just need to put in a small amount of extra effort to get an equivalent things for less.
Not sure how you can change your spending habits to shop smarter? Here are three common ways guys waste money, plus our suggestions for how to swap out those purchases and see some big savings.
Single-origin pour over coffee is the rage at trendy coffee shops cross the country, but at upwards of $3 a cup, this fancy brew isn’t so budget friendly. Even if you only indulge twice a week, you’re still spending roughly $25 a month on something you could easily make yourself.
A stylish, 3-cup Chemex coffee maker can be had for about $37 from Williams-Sonoma. A box of 100 filters will run you roughly $10. To really replicate the coffee shop experience, you’ll also want a kettle with a signature curved spout, which you can find for about $28 on Amazon. So your start-up costs are about $75, or the amount you’d spend at the coffee shop over three months. (You’ll spend a little more if you need to invest in a grinder.)
You’ll also need to buy beans, of course. A 12-ounce bag (about 340 grams) of a single-origin Rwandan coffee from Intelligentsia costs $18, and you’ll need about 6 tablespoons (or 42 grams) to make two cups of coffee, according to the coffee experts at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. That translates into a little more than $1 per cup — much cheaper than the $3-plus you’d pay at your local coffee shop.
The average cable and internet bundle costs $132 per month, but there’s a cheaper way to get your TV fix. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars every year for dozens of channels you never watch, switch to streaming to get the shows you want. The right “package” for you will depend on your viewing habits, but might end up looking something like this:
- Sling TV for ESPN and other popular cable channels like HGTV: $20/month
- Netflix: $9.99/month
- HBO Now: $14.99/month
- Total cost: $44.98/month.
The beauty of the self-designed package is its flexibility. All caught up on Game of Thrones? Then drop the HBO Now until the new season starts. Want to watch the latest season of Fargo? Buy individual episodes to stream on Amazon. Want to watch broadcast TV? Invest in a digital antenna.
Adjusting your monthly costs — and getting exactly what you want — is much easier than if you were locked into a high-priced cable contract. The only catch is you’ll still need to pay for internet (Time Warner’s average monthly price just for internet is around $47). Still, you come out roughly $40 ahead in this scenario, saving yourself a cool $480 per year.
Once upon a time, if you wanted a cellphone, you needed to sign up for a two-year contract. Those plans, which locked you into high monthly fees in exchange for a “free” phone are becoming less common, but they’ve been replaced by a dizzying array of payment options, from early upgrade plans to installment financing to leasing. That doesn’t even get into varying costs depending on the number of lines you need and the amount of data you use, pricing practices which Consumer Reports has described as “convoluted” and “shell-game-like.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to play. The average customer of Big Four carrier (Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T) paid $90 per month for service in 2014 (the number swelled to $111 for iPhone owners), but switching from a contract to a monthly plan can save you big bucks. For $45 a month, you can get unlimited talk and text, plus 3GB of data, from Virgin Mobile. Carriers like Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless offer similar deals. The former even has a new plan where you can save $5 per month by agreeing to watch ads on your phone.
You’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the phone with these plans, but even if you spring for the latest iPhone, you’ll still come out hundreds of dollars ahead in the long run if you choose prepaid, according to Money. Plus, you’ll own your phone outright, which makes it easier to switch to another carrier if you’re not happy with the one you chose.