A Day of Consumption

One of my favorite achievements during my early financial recovery was discovering the power of “money free weekends” and, later, “money free weeks.”

Money free weekends are a really powerful way to keep your spending in check – and it’s also a great way to discover free things that you enjoy doing. Here are 100 free things to do during such a weekend if you want to try it out. Just avoid spending any extra money over the course of a weekend.

Of course, there is a catch. There’s always a catch.

In modern life, we consume every single day. In a given day…

You live in your home. This means either a fraction of a rent payment or a fraction of a mortgage payment if you don’t fully own the home. Even if you do own the home, there’s also a fraction of property tax. For example, if you have a $3,500 annual property tax, every single day eats $10. If you have a $1,000 monthly mortgage payment, every single day eats $30.

You use electricity. Even if you turn no lights on and leave the AC and heating off, many devices in your home continue to run, like your refrigerator and your freezer. Many electronic devices eat power on standby mode. You also have the basic cost of maintaining electric service.

You eat food. There is very little food that is genuinely free. Even food you grow yourself has required some cost to produce it. Even the water you drink out of the tap has a small cost.

You pay a fraction of your monthly and annual bills. A $100 cable bill is about $3 per day. A $10 Netflix subscription adds up to about $0.30 per day. A quarterly life insurance premium – let’s say it’s $100 – costs you about a dollar a day. Every bill, every magazine subscription, every gym membership – those costs can easily be divided up into a daily expense.

All of this adds up, big time. It’s not unreasonable to realize that every single day you’re spending more than $100 just to maintain things. Every day. Sure, you might only write those checks once a month or once a quarter, but you’re just paying for a bunch of day’s worth of expenses all at once.

This, right here, gives you a game plan for frugality. If you sat down and made a list of the daily cost of every single bill that you have and every significant expense, you’d have a huge checklist of things to cut back on. The best part? Most of that stuff can easily be reduced by simply shopping around or by cutting back on needless extras. Most of that spending can easily be reduced with just a one-time effort of shopping around or canceling a service, no additional effort required.

Can you trim that cell phone bill from $100 a month to $60 a month? You go from spending $3.20 a day to spending $2 a day on that expense. Every day. Without additional effort. You’re retaining $1.20 more every single day.

What other options do you have for internet access? Did Google Fiber or another provider just come to town? Are they cheaper than what you have? Even if they’re not, does it hurt to call up your internet provider and suggest that you might be switching to another provider to see if they have cheaper options?

Every single penny you can cut in this way makes a difference. If you can find a way to cut just one dime from that daily expense without any additional effort, that’s an extra $36.50 a year. If you can find a way to cut just $1 from your daily expense without any additional effort, that’s $365 a year.

As always, don’t cut the stuff that’s actually important to you. If cutting something reduces your quality of life in a significant way, don’t eliminate it. Look for other things. Look through that big list of bills that slowly eat away at your money and look for what you can cut without real pain.

It doesn’t take much cutting for you to find the space for a monthly Roth IRA contribution or a small extra payment on your debt. It doesn’t take a whole lot of cutting for you to stop feeling like you’re struggling to make it and start feeling in control.

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