The Case of the Disappearing Money

My very first apartment was on the same street that I live today. That was a long time ago. In two decades, this street and this neighbourhood has changed a lot.

So have I. And my spending habits too.

My local grocery store was a Food City back then. It was not fancy, I tell ya. I spent somewhere in the neighbourhood of a few hundred a month on pasta, lettuce, bread and eggs, and paid a lot more attention to the flyers and coupons.

I bought clothes rarely and recall spending $80 on a pair of pants and thinking I’d really gone too far. Once or twice a year, in horrible weather, I’d splurge on a cab.

Then the years passed, as my student days ended and my working years began, I started spending more.

I discovered things like feta cheese at the grocery store. Pasta sauces that came from a nice jar and tasted great. Fresh fish, baguettes. My boyfriend became my husband and somewhere along the way he got hooked on good quality whole bean coffee.

Food is just the most obvious place where spending habits change over the years. What we considered just fine in our student days suddenly just seems way below basic now.

As we put more of our time into our careers and we see those paycheques come in, week after week, we can’t help but think ourselves worthy of reward. “I worked hard today. I deserve this very nice glass of pinot at this expensive bar,” we tell ourselves.

It’s not just about rewards. When you work at a good job, you’re expected to show up in decent clothes. Torn jeans and secondhand store jackets were great in school, but don’t wash at a meeting.

Combine your own expectations with that of the adult world around you and you’re looking at spending habits that fritter away your money.

You can find yourself doing your taxes and seeing what you made, what you spent, and wondering where it all went.

How do you make your cash not disappear?

If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take of themselves, right? Wouldn’t it be smart  to zip back in time and live like we did in student days?

Most of us aren’t ready to go too far back. Here’s some ways to hold onto the comforts of adult life while turning back the clock on your old spendthrift ways.

Travel smart

Whether you’re taking a taxi or driving your car, going places costs money, particularly with the raising cost of gas. So look at ways of trimming that expense on potentially pricey outings. Take public transit when you go out for a nice evening and just take a cab home. Carpool on an outing with several friends. Take airport transit to the airport and just fork over for a taxi on the when home (when you are too tired to wait for a shuttle).

Eat what you buy

No need to curb the purchases of steak, fancy cheese and fresh herbs. But eat the food you purchase — both the cheap and the pricey stuff. One US study estimates that as much as 27 per cent of edible food gets tossed out. Save your money by either menu planning or shopping frequently and emptying your fridge before you buy more.

Borrow sometimes

For a big night out or a dinner party, resist the urge to buy a new handbag or platter. That’s what friends are for! Just like you did as a student years ago, see what you can conjure up from pals and neighbours instead of purchasing something you’ll hardly ever use. (And loan out your own possessions when others need things.)

Shop at home

How many times have you dashed out to the hardware store for nails and then later found a box of the same size in the basement? Purchased a turkey for a festive meal and discovered months later there’s one at the bottom of the freezer? I’m forever buying Neo Citron only to discover I have an almost full box hidden somewhere odd. When we get more stuff, we lose track of it. Purge your possessions to get rid of what you don’t use but also get a good grip on what you do have.

Reward yourself differently

After a busy week at work, don’t always turn to an expensive bottle of wine, high-end meal or great new pair of boots to reward yourself. Explore those old pleasures of a nice long walk, an evening with a book (from the library, sometimes) or a home-cooked meal you take more time with.

It’s difficult to not just let it go when it comes to money. If, like me, you spent many years having to watch every dime, you’d like to think you’re finally at a place where you don’t have to worry. But unless you’re really well off, you may never get to that place. (And extremely wealthy celebrities that go bankrupt prove that you can never be too wealthy to fritter all your money away.)

Know what you spend and why, and push for thrift as much as possible on little purchases and big ones too. That allows you to save for the future and not worry so much about money. It really is true: watch those pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

 

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Personal Finance / Your Budget

One thought on “The Case of the Disappearing Money

  1. I love the whole concept of, “shopping at home”….I’m totally guilty of buying items that I already have “somewhere” at home. PLUS it’s a great incentive to organize my closets. :)

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