As important as it is to increase your income, it’s always important to keep a watchful eye on your spending. As your income increases, it’s easy to have lifestyle creep, or lifestyle inflation, and buying the nicer purse, the nicer vacation and before you know it the more expensive items like a nicer car and nicer house.
What isn’t talked about as often with lifestyle creep is as your income increases the demands of your time also tend to increase. When you get those salary increases at work it’s usually accompanied by increased responsibilities which tend to increase hours and work travel. Or, maybe you don’t have a salary increase but you have responsibilities that increase at home like having kids.
In either scenario, gone are the days where you have a ton of time to shop around and get the best deal, keep a watchful eye on prices and plan trips months in advance. All of a sudden a commitment (wedding, planned travel, birthday) is right around the corner and you’re forced to spend more money because you’ve waited until the last minute. It’s not that you’re buying more expensive things, it’s that you don’t have time to get the best price for the same things you’ve always purchased.
Here are 5 ways you may be wasting money and how to fix it:
You know you want to take a vacation somewhere, but aren’t sure where and aren’t sure when. Or, you know you have a trip but may not be sure what your schedule is like around that trip (like, if you have to travel for work) so you hold off on buying the ticket. This pivot from planning ahead to waiting until the last minute recently has cost me close to $200 more per domestic roundtrip flight because I waited to purchase the ticket. Prior to this, I was still purchasing in advance but found out I had to travel and then literally had my work trip flight landing an hour before I was supposed to take off for my vacation flight instead of just flying from my work commitment to vacation.
How to fix it: Work with your team at work to understand deadlines and busy periods so you have a better idea of when you’ll definitely be able to travel and exactly when you’ll have to travel for work. For example, if you meet with a customer once every few months, can you schedule the year in advance and have a quarterly schedule on the calendar? Instead of traveling in person to meet with your entire team face to face can you arrange a video conference? Then, once you know when you’ll be traveling, leverage sites like Google Flights and Hopper to find the best prices and set up price alerts so you don’t forget to book early on. Find more travel hacks here.
It is so easy to come home after a long day of work, open the fridge and realize either nothing appeals to you or the things in your fridge together do not make a complete meal. You’re then forced to: A) Go out to eat or B) order in. Especially when you live in a city surrounded by great food it’s hard to convince yourself to eat what you see in front of you. It’s also easy to wake up and grab breakfast or lunch out instead of making breakfast at home and packing a lunch with you to work. Doing this can cost you thousands of dollars extra a year.
How to Fix This: Meal Prep and planning. Start small as if you try to do everything at once you’ll probably go back to your old habits pretty quickly. Maybe it’ll just be bringing lunch twice a week or planning two dinners a week. Even preparing for a few meals a week and creating a list for those meals (with the exact quantities you need) before you go to the grocery store will save you money. Over time, you can expand this to more meals and then get more organized (for example if one recipe calls for only half a can or a pinch of something have another meal that’s able to use that same ingredient). If there are certain recipes you find you like, print them and put them in a binder or pin them in a board on Pinterest. That way, when you don’t have time to think much about what you should make for the week ahead you can go to that one spot and get ideas. See Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time and Money for recipe ideas.
How often do you realize that in a few days you have something coming up and you have *nothing* to wear? Then, you have to race to go shopping and are either stuck with something you don’t love or you pay way more than you wanted to or both. You may have been able to save $50-$150 or more if you had just planned earlier!
How to fix it: Learn more about capsule wardrobes and focus on building one so you always have something to wear no matter what comes up. If you’re always invited to multiple weddings a year, have accessories and shoes that will go with any dress.
Does all the gift buying of your household fall on you? It’ll seem like every other day there is a birthday or holiday that approached must faster than you thought it would and you’re racing to the nearest store to get something. Especially if you’re in the city, you’ll pay a lot more than if you just planned ahead.
How to fix it: Even if you can’t plan far ahead, if you can at least make the Amazon Prime shipping window you should be able to find plenty of good deals. If there are certain event you always have to buy gifts for (for example newborns or 1 year old birthdays) buy a bunch of stuffed animals and bows when a store is having a sale. You know you’ll need it at some point and can then just pick a gift from your stash.
In most cities there are a lot of options available to spend little on transportation. Options like walking, biking, public bus and public train. But, most take longer and when you’re running late or don’t feel like looking up public transportation routes it’s very easy to click a button in an app now and order an Uber / Lyft. Even when a trip is only $10, it can add up very quickly, especially if you’re visiting a city and going to many places the same day.
How to Fix It: Plan your day so you can at least group things together. Know how long alternate transportation like walking or the train will take and make sure to leave your house / hotel on time. Look into the time difference between walking or driving. It’ll be easier to walk or take the train when it doesn’t take much longer. If by car it takes 10 minutes and by train it takes 40 minutes, a better option may be to use Uber Pool and only add a few more minutes to your trip verse 30.
What are tricks you’ve learned to save money on travel, food, clothing, presents and transportation? When you’re running short on time, where do you tend to waste money?