I Used To Be Just Like Them: Thoughts From A Recovering Spending Addict

I used to be just like them, I think to myself as I watch the line at the coffee shop extend almost out the door. I used to stop there almost every day for a hot chocolate and a bagel with cream cheese in the morning, something to perk me up just a bit before I went to work. Now I drive on past the place, sipping on my mug of homemade hot chocolate and munching on an English muffin from home with some cream cheese on it.

Every single day, millions of people spend at least $5 on their morning coffee run. $5 per day, for 365 days, adds up to $1,825. An extra $1,825 a year into a retirement plan starting at age 25 that earns only 7% a year adds up to $391,662.46 on your sixty fifth birthday.

I used to be just like them, I think to myself as I watch some of my coworkers go out to eat together. Instead, I slip my brown bag of leftovers out and head off to the lounge to catch up on my reading and perhaps chat with that interesting woman who just finished up the latest Pynchon novel.

Every single weekday, millions of people dine out for lunch at a cost of at least $10 a meal. $10 a day, five days a week, fifty two weeks a year, adds up to $2,600 a year. An extra $2,600 a year into a retirement plan starting at age 25 that earns only 7% a year adds up to $557,974.88 on your sixty fifth birthday.

I used to be just like them, I think to myself as I eye a line of people waiting for some take out food to bring home to their families, handing over $25 for some prepared food so they can drive home, plop it on the table, and make their family believe that food magically appears – that it’s not something you make for yourself. I plan to go home, make an inexpensive and delicious meal for my family that costs less than $15, and take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Every single day, millions of people take a meal home with them to their families at night; other nights, everyone dines out. That extra $10 a day, 365 days a year, adds up to $3,650. An extra $3,650 a year into a retirement plan starting at age 25 that earns only 7% a year adds up to $783,324.93.

I used to be just like them, I think to myself as I watch the hordes of people jamming the parking lot at Target. Some of them walk out with huge bags of consumer goods, chatting on their Razr phones, and jump into their SUV.

Every single week, millions of people buy $100 worth of consumer goods that they don’t need – or even necessarily want. They see ads, or they see their neighbors having something, and they must have it now. $100 a week, fifty two weeks a year, adds up to $5,200 a year. An extra $5,200 a year into a retirement plan starting at age 25 that earns only 7% a year adds up to $1,115,969.76 on your sixty fifth birthday.

I used to be just like them, I think to myself as I go to sleep at night. But when I glance up at the ceiling just before I close my eyes, listen to my wife’s breathing next to me and my son’s shallow night-time sigh in the baby monitor, I’m glad that I changed things.

Just a few simple changes can make you sleep a lot better at night.

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  1. Joe says:

    Trent,

    I hope that people take the time to make the right kind of new years resolutions regarding their finances, whether it just be limiting their spending or debt reduction. At some point that overconsumption can catch up with even the best of us.

  2. Great writing Trent. I hope that it gets the point across that saving a few dollars EVERY DAY will pay for your retirement.

    FT
    http://www.milliondollarjourney.com

  3. John M says:

    I really liked the writing and the style, however I think you went into overkill. You seem to have a disdain for other people who you feel overspend, when many of them need compasion.

  4. Eve says:

    Your homemade hot chocolate, English muffin, and lunch are not $0. The $5 coffee run and $10 lunch aren’t entirely superfluous; only the difference between the cost of the frugal, homemade version and the restaurant version.

  5. Matt says:

    When it really comes down to it, it’s a collection of really small things in our lives that can make the huge difference down the road.

  6. Marlo says:

    Thought provoking post. What makes this worse is that many people put all of these purchases onto their credit cards!

  7. Jerry says:

    I only have a problem with one of those – skipping lunches with coworkers. You’ll probably still be eating a brown bag lunch when they make management or get a promotion…

  8. Missy says:

    I have to say it took me a while to figure out how much money I was wasting on sodas from the convenience store, a lunch grabbed at the drive thru, and just buying something becasue it was there and I thought I could not live without it.

    Only after I started keeping track of my spending did i realize how much money I was just throwing away.

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