There used to be shame in talking about money problems. If a neighbor or friend was struggling financially, it was somewhat of a secret. The financially burdened party didn’t want their financial toils to get out to the rest of the neighborhood, any more than they’d want their neighbors to know they had an embarrassing medical condition, like halitosis.
Now, things have changed a bit. When you talk to a family member of friend, it’s fairly common to hear about how their cousin’s friend is going through a foreclosure, or their sister’s coworker just lost their job — all things that used to be private family (and close inner-circle) matters.
Maybe the entire nation’s financial problems during the recession had something to do with it, or maybe it has something to do with social media making the world seem a bit smaller. Whatever the reason, people seem more comfortable talking about money problems and therefore, we know that a lot of folks are facing such dilemmas.
For anyone, making a living is tough. We all have limited resources and have to balance what we need and what we want. Sometimes, your mind tells you one thing and your heart another. We often have to say no to ourselves and others and refrain from going out and buying a new outfit or gadget and instead, save money.
There are, of course, those times when we slip up and buy something we probably shouldn’t, even when history has shown we’re going to need the money for something else. Just about everyone blows money at least on occasional. Here are a just a few of the items we really seem to enjoy buying. These are items we waste way too much money on, and for the sake of our wallets, we should really stop buying these items.
1. Caffeinated Drinks
The average consumer intakes around 300 mg of caffeine per day, according to historical estimates from the FDA. We drink coffee, energy drinks, sodas, and teas. Almost everyone blows money on caffeine, from the college student who hangs out at the campus coffee shop, to the worker who drinks a few cups to get through their busy day. The average American worker spends nearly $1,100 per year on coffee. If these workers began placing that money into a retirement plan at age 25, this coffee money will grow into more than $200,000 at age 65.
Those who drink energy drinks are also looking at astronomically high costs. With the price of one drink ringing in at between $2 and $4, a two-drink per day habit can add up to nearly a $3,000 per year cost.
2. Lottery Tickets
The lottery offers so many choices: Power Ball, Mega Millions, Cash 5, Pick 3, Pick 4, and Scratch Offs, just to name a few. All of them are designed to entice us into spending money. Have you ever waited in line behind someone buying lottery tickets? Some people are really serious about the lottery. They have dozens of filled-out tickets in a neat and orderly pile, and they hand them to the cashier. When you hear the cashier say “your total comes to $55,” to the person in front of you and that money is all for lottery tickets, it may come as a bit of a shock.
Some of the lower income groups have been known to spend a significant percentage of their income on the lottery (around 9 or 10% in 2010) and thus the term “the lottery is a poor person’s tax” was coined. The 43 states where lotteries were legal in 2012 made more than $19 billion in profits, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. This is money that came out of the pockets of lottery players.
3. Bottled Water
More than 90% of the U.S. water system meets all of the EPA’s regulations, according to a Today publication. However, in spite of the potability of the vast majority of the tap water here in the U.S., we still buy bottled water and the mere thought of drinking tap water is completely out of the question for some of us. If your tap water is safe in perfectly fine to drink, why pay for water in a bottle? Plus, with all of the advanced technology that filtration device-makers have on the market these days, you can virtually have a water treatment plant in the palm of your hand.
Bottled water is a multi-million dollar industry. Tap water costs pennies (or even a penny) per gallon. Think about how much we pay for a 16 ounce bottle of water. Maybe $1? Even in bulk, 20 bottles at a cost of $5, that’s still 25 cents per bottle, and $2 per gallon. Therefore, at best you are paying $2 for something you could get for a few pennies.
We blow hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars each year buying the latest technology. Going out and buying the newest model phone or tablet, when our device works perfectly fine is one area where we spend money, when we really and truly don’t need to. What does that higher storage capacity, larger screen, or new feature really going to do for us? Does it better our quality of life that much? Can we go along fine without it?
Pew Research reports that 50% of cell phone users download apps. Sure, there are those apps that help us budget, lose weight, or provide some sort of practical benefit. But games with in-app purchases, like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, or Boom Beach hook us in. Then, in efforts to get past a level, we spend a few dollars here and there until after a while, those little bits of money add up to a serious cost.
5. Too many sugary and processed foods
Wondering why you just can’t lose that 10 pounds even though you try to “eat right?” Take a look in your pantry and see just how much junk (like sugar and sodium) some of those boxed good contain. The same thing goes for your freezer: Check out the nutrition facts on the back of that TV dinner. Sure, some easy-to-prepare foods aren’t all that bad. But, many processed foods are loaded up to the max with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients that will give you quick energy, followed by a crash and burn feeling.
According to a PBS NewsHour report, as much as 70% of the American diet is made up of these types of foods. “In the U.S., Americans are consuming double the fat, 3.5 times more sodium, 60 percent more sugar and infinitely more corn and soybeans than in the year 1909,” says Hari Sreenivasan in the report.
It’s much better for your health to take the time to prepare something from “scratch.” The potential savings come in the form of increased productivity and savings on healthcare costs. Prevention Institute reports,
By 2030, healthcare costs attributable to poor diet and inactivity could range from $860 billion to $956 billion, which would account for 15.8 to 17.6 percent of total healthcare costs, or one in every six dollars spent on healthcare.
Being a junk-food junky can hurt your wallet — and your waste line — over the long term.