How Do You Afford That? (3)

The last two days I wrote about how the way we make sure we have enough money for things that are important to us (like vacations) by not spending money on things that aren’t important to us. Particularly, we don’t spend money on what I call convenience spending. Like: (1) Buying coffee at Starbucks when you could have made it at home, and (2) Buying a soda at a gas station when you could have brought one from home, and (3) Eating lunch out when you could have brought lunch to work, and (4) Going out to eat for dinner just because you don’t have anything at home to make, or don’t feel like cooking, and (5) Going through a drive-thru on your way to or from church or the kid’s soccer game – when you could have eaten at home.

How much does that save? Let’s do some math. Let’s say there’s a family of four. And between the four of you: (1) You go to Starbucks 3x a week at $4 a shot, and (2) Buy 2 sodas a week at convenience stores at $1.50 each, and (3) Eat lunch out 3x a week at $8.33 each, and (4) Go out for dinner with family once a week (not because it’s planned and fun, but just because it’s easier) at $50, and (5) Grab a fast-food lunch on the way to or from church or a game at $20.  The total for one year: $5,720!!!

And, honestly, I think some of those numbers are conservative. I know lots of families that buy way more than 3 Starbucks a week, or where both spouses buy lunch everyday, or who also add in buying breakfasts on the way to work, and more.

And sure, if you don’t spend money eating out or buying Starbucks, you’re going to spend money on the food you eat, or the coffee you make, at home — but it won’t even compare. The $4 Starbucks is a 10 cent cup of homemade coffee. The $50 dinner is a $10 dinner at home. So maybe you wouldn’t actually save $5,720, but you’d save at least $4,000. And for $4,000, a family of four can go on two great vacations a year. (Especially if you work hard to find great deals. Last year the four of us went on a cruise for $400 per person.)

So … strategic spending. Decide what’s important to you. For us, one is an annual vacation. Decide what’s not. For us, it’s buying food or drinks at restaurants and stores when it’s not special, and with a little work we could get it at or bring it from home. Then discipline yourself not to spend money on what’s not important, so you have money to spend on what is.