By Zhihui Zou 1:30 am PST
SHARE

One dollar in the 1950s equals more than $10 in 2021, and no one can predict where inflation is going in the future. If we cannot predict inflation, then the best choice we have is to prepare ourselves for it. Besides going hastily into investing, we might as well start saving money from spending on our daily habits.

Sometimes we give ourselves some relaxations and upgrades, like going to a fancy restaurant, watching a movie, and refurbishing our bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, we all need these activities once in a while. However, it is important to keep ourselves in check. If we don’t keep a close eye on our bank account history, some of these “relaxations” or “upgrades” can decrease our money without us realizing it. It is always important to save some money, in case of an emergency in the future, such as medical incidents or the Covid pandemic during which many people have lost their jobs. Take a look at the list below and see whether you can save a few bucks so you can prepare yourself for a better future:

Premium Cable TV/Channel Subscription

What’s better than watching a movie in bed on a Friday night? But have you considered the different plans that Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu have listed? A premium Netflix subscription ($17.99/mo.) is more than twice of the basic plan ($8.99/mo.). For other channels, like Prime Video and Hulu, which provide add-ons, you can very well be spending $30 or more each month. It means dropping the premiums can easily save more than $100 a year.

Live TV

Live TV Subscription

If you’ve watched too many movies, you might think watching a football game can bring another type of pleasure. It might be the truth, yet take a look at the price tag first. Live TV can be more expensive than a Premium Channel Subscription. Hulu and Fubo Live TV both cost $64.99/mo., and, for some providers, even more if you wish to watch on different channels. This adds up to a bill of around $800 a year.

If you are not a real sports fan who has to watch a game every afternoon, simply go on Google and search up the match scores or watch replays on Youtube. These do not cost a penny.

Burgers and fried chicken wings at the restaurant down the road often catch the attention of many people’s stomachs… and also bank accounts.(Photo:Chatchai Somwat /Dreamstime.com)

Eating Regularly at Fast Food Restaurants

Burgers and fried chicken wings at the restaurant down the road often catch the attention of many people’s stomachs… and also bank accounts. These days, a simple meal of a burger with fries and a drink with some extra onion rings can cost $10, and $20 or more if you are eating with family.

Say you live alone and pick up a $10 meal for dinner every weekday after work, that is around $2,300 a year. Double it if you have a family, and triple it if you have the meal for lunch. You can save for the down payment on a new car if you drive past that burger place instead of walking in.

Italian luxury fashion shop in Florence.(Photo:Raluca Tudor/ Dreamstime.com)

Clothes

Everyone knows someone who has a closet of unworn new clothes, right? And usually those clothes don’t cost only $5 each with their shiny buckles or designer labels. If you add shoes to the list, the money spent might very well double.

In addition, think about how many clothes in your closet you wear regularly. Sometimes we buy a set of new clothes but it ends up sleeping in a dark corner of our closet for years before we dig it out again. Usually, a set of clothes can be worn for many years without the need of replacing it. You do not only save your money if you develop a habit of accepting old clothes, and you also help to save the environment by not throwing old clothes away. (There are a lot of websites for re-selling used clothes such as Poshmark & ThreadUp)

Ordering Grocery Deliveries

Almost all deliveries have delivery costs and markups from the store prices. Take Instacart’s delivery service for Costco. Its website outrightly says that “item prices are marked up higher than your local warehouse.” A NBC Los Angeles article reports that a $25 price tag might become $31 when ordering Costco delivery through Instacart.

Especially now, when we can almost see the end of the pandemic, go out, stretch your legs, and you might get to reconnect with an old friend that you might run into at the grocery store. Think of it this way: if you reconnect with a friend, and the friend offers you a career opportunity, you are actually making money while bringing another friend back into your life!

Alcohol

At Vons, many price tags for alcohol are double-digit numbers, and many of the associated alcohol containers are less than a liter. In addition, The New York Times, Harvard Health, and many sources have identified that people have been drinking more during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend about one percent of their gross annual income on alcohol. If once in a while you go to a bar with friends and start a party, spending $100 on alcohol one night is not impossible, assuming one drink costs $10. Annually, the cost for alcohol per year can easily rise over $1,000.

Smoking

British American Tobacco, one of the largest tobacco companies, has an annual revenue of around $35 billion. This alone shows the number of people not just in the U.S. but around the world who spend greatly on smoking.

On average, a pack of cigarettes in the U.S. costs $6. In areas like New York City, the price can get to $10 and more. Even if you don’t live in NYC but you have one pack per week, that is over $300 a year spent on smoking. If you inhale one pack per day, that is over $2,000.

With smoking, it is not just the problem of money, it is also a problem of health. Treat your lungs well. Everyone wants to live a healthy life.

Drinking Bottled Water

At a vending machine, bottled water costs at least $1. If you drink 4 bottles a day, that is $28 per week and almost $1,500 a year. You have many other options than drinking bottled water; using reusable water bottles is one. You pay a one-time cost of buying a bottle and you don’t need to worry about spending extra money in the next year or more.

In addition, you will also help to reduce plastic usage and contribute to making our living environment cleaner. Win-win.

Gaming

Ever seen the lavish set up of a serious gamer with neon or blue lights glowing from their computers and a chair that looks like it belongs inside a spaceship? Well, those cost money.

Usually, a gaming PC costs at least $1,500 with gaming chairs around $100. With headphones and other accessories, setting up a “serious” gaming environment in your bedroom takes at least $2,000 from you. And don’t forget the monthly subscription fees that can add up to another $100 per year.

Going to Movie Theaters

Going to watch a newly released Hollywood movie is how many families spend their weekend afternoons. In addition, the atmosphere created by the large screen, dark room, and soundproof walls in a movie theater is not something you can find easily elsewhere. However, on average, a movie ticket is around $10, and even more or double that if you live in NYC or any other big city.. Don’t forget that you might be interested in a large popcorn and soda, which can add at least another $15 to your bill.

Say you go to the movies once per month and get some snacks, that is spending $300 in movie theaters each year. And, you don’t usually go to the movies alone, right? Adding on the tickets for your family, spending more than $500 a year in movie theaters is very possible. One might want to go back to your Netflix basic plan.

Morning Coffee

A cup of coffee in the morning might help drag your sleepy mind from the sweet dream you had last night back into the real world. According to Statista, Starbucks still made almost $20 billion in 2020, during the pandemic. In 2019, Starbucks’s revenue reached $26 billion. What if you don’t go to Starbucks? Then you are probably familiar with Nestlé, the conglomerate that makes millions of dollars each year just out of coffee products.

On average, one coffee at Starbucks costs $2, and $3 in areas like NYC. However, according to Forbes, on average, a person spends $6 each time visiting Starbucks. Let us say you stop by Starbucks before going to work each weekday, you will spend $30 per week, and that is around $1,300 per year.

Uber/Lyft

Once in a while we might be in a situation in which our cars are unavailable to us, or simply we do not want to drive. So we go on Uber or Lyft. On average, Uber and Lyft charge $2 per mile.

Let us say each year your car has 10 “off-days,” and you have to take Uber to and from work (say you live 5 miles from your workplace). In that year, you also travel 2 times and you don’t want to park your car at the airport’s expensive parking lot, so you take an Uber to the airport (say the airport is 20 miles from your home).

You would be spending $360 per year on Uber, not to mention some extra rides needed here and there.

Gambling and Lottery Tickets

Casinos in Las Vegas see millions of people each year entering their gates carrying cash with them. According to Statista, in 2019, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation alone made more than $13 billion, making it the highest earning casino company that year. Another casino giant, MGM Resorts, also made an astonishing $12.9 billion that year. The money, of course, all came from the pockets of gamblers, who might be you and your friends on your way back from a vacation at Vegas.

As for lottery tickets, it should be self-evident: according to Mega Millions, the odds of winning the jackpot is 1 in 302 million. Mega Million tickets cost $2 per play, and the odds of winning back your $2 is still an unlikely 1 in 37. The lottery vending machine at the exit of a grocery store might look alluring, but don’t forget the simple statistics before handing your money over into this bottomless pit.

Massage/Manicure

If you sit long hours in an office and get aches throughout your body, you might be interested in getting a professional massage. Now think twice. The U.S. national average for massage is $100 per session. Say you go for a massage once per week, that takes $5,200 from you a year. Even if you reduce the rate to a massage a month, that is still $1,200 a year.

If you are really having backaches or joint aches, go out for a walk or jog around your neighborhood. Exercise is always free.

As for manicures, according to Statista, the average cost for a basic manicure session is $22. One manicure per week and you’ll be seeing a bill of over $1,100 per year.

Owning a Vacation Home

Now this is a big one. If you are building your own cottage in a forest then it would be another topic of discussion, but if you are considering buying one or simply buying another house only for the purpose of having somewhere to go during vacations, rethink the value.

Remember the anxiety and mental pressure you had when facing that mortgage after buying your first house? You might not be facing as large of a financial burden when getting a vacation home, but the burden is still there. Even excluding the five or sometimes even six digit number for buying a vacation home, there is maintenance, lawn service, property insurance, possible extra tax if your vacation home is in another state, etc. These in total can easily add up to more than $2,500 per month, depending on your vacation home’s location.

Brand Snob

You might think you will look cool when wearing designer brands, but no one is going to carry the financial burden for you. Some clothes and shoes can have astonishing price tags. For example, a Burberry trench coat costs over $1,000. A pair of Nike shoes tends to cost over $100. In comparison, you can get a comfortable jacket for $40 or less at your local Costco.

Brand snob exists elsewhere, too. A Bentley car is usually around $200,000, while a Hyundai often stays under $40,000. A Breitling watch can cost you $4,000 and even more, but don’t forget you have a timer on your phone, computer, microwave, and alarm clock.