Updated on 02.19.07

Cutting Down On Splurges: How I Did It – And You Can Too

Trent Hamm

Back before my financial armageddon, I used to splurge on unnecessary stuff almost every evening after work. I’d enjoy things by the armload that I simply didn’t need. Once I realized that I really needed to do something to get my spending in check, I sat down and took a serious look at my daily habits and found several things I could do to curb my splurges.

Avoid tempting places during the commute. I used to drive by a wonderful little coffee and bagel shop on my way into work that would find me in the parking lot four times a week dropping $5 a stop on a beverage and a bagel. Poof – there went $20 a week. Now I drive a different way into work each day to avoid that pit stop, and my wallet has been thanking me.

Completely avoid any places teeming with temptation. I love ice cream, books, and electronics. There is a place not too far from where I live where you can find a Borders, a Best Buy, and a Cold Stone Creamery all next door to one another. I used to visit this place regularly, intending to buy only a book, and I’d leave with a book and a DVD and a container of ice cream – and a much lighter wallet. Now I find other places to get such things.

Find replacements for your biggest temptations. My weakness has always been books – I’m an incredibly avid reader and I used to read as many as two books a day. I often would buy these books at a bookstore or even on amazon.com, but as time went by I found my bookshelf overflowing and my wallet shrinking. It didn’t take me long after my meltdown to discover how truly amazing my local library is, and since then I not only use it for checking out books, but for many other things as well.

Make your own “fast food.” For me, the convenience of fast food was the allure of it. I always enjoyed home-cooked food much more than fast food, but it was hard to get those delicious meals in such a convenient fashion. Luckily, I figured it out: just prepare such items at home and microwave them on your way out the door. Now, instead of eating a burrito from a drive-thru, I eat a burrito I made at home that’s much tastier, much healthier, and was less expensive to prepare.

Go home for small things; don’t go out. I used to stop about once a week and have a drink after work with some friends. However, this often turned into twenty or thirty dollars gone by the time I had a couple of drinks, some appetizers, and played a game or two. I was scared to stop doing this because of social concerns, but when people started moving onto other jobs, I took the plunge and gave it up. I still enjoy a gin and tonic once in a while after work, but now I do it at home.

Learn how to cook. My wife and I used to get takeout for supper almost every night. Why? It was easy and cooking seemed so hard. Since those days, we’ve both learned how to cook – and we’re saving a ton of money in the process. Even more amazing? It doesn’t take nearly as much time as we had convinced ourselves that it would. I actually think advertising is somewhat to blame for this – they want you to think that cooking is hard but takeout is easy.

These changes on “splurge” items such as books, ice cream, takeout, drinks, coffee, and so forth have saved us literally hundreds of dollars each month, cash that was saved by just a few little behavioral changes. We still splurge, but nothing like we used to.

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  1. Jessie says:

    You really hit the nail on the head with your last highlight. For the last few years I survived as the microwave queen and ate out A LOT! I learned how to cook with a few of the beginner cookbooks and sites like AllRecipes. It literally cut my food spending in half.

    I also think planning saves me quite a bit too. If I plan out my day I am less likely to forget to bring my lunch or have to pick up items I really don’t need.

  2. Frugal Duchess says:

    Great Post.
    Detours around shopping magnets also work for me.
    The best sales are the ones I avoid.
    As always, I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog.

  3. Great post–books are my weakness as well. At least with Amazon.com you can buy the books at a discount. Blogging helps too… you can often persuade publishers to send you review copies for free. If you need contact info for any financial publishers let me know :-) ~Russ

  4. gp says:

    My wife convinced me to use the library. She always checked out her books, but it never occurred to me to do the same. After paying $20 or so for a book, it would just sit there and collect dust. I’m now converted. In our city we have multiple branches that lend books to each other. I can get just about anything I want. Over the summer I even requested that they purchase a book, which they did.

  5. You are dead-on about the gin and tonics at home. One way to make it feel easier could be to splurge on some Tanguary Ten (my person fav). It’s expensive compared to other gins, but it would still be much, much cheap than a drink at a bar.

  6. Matt says:

    Great Post, all of the items you mention are things that are great money savers. Impulse buys when you’re going out for say a book are how many of the big box stores get you (and probably why many of them are so close to each other).

  7. Continuing the theme of avoiding temptation–one weakness of mine was online shopping, so when I decided to really tighten the pursestrings, I unsubscribed from every commercial e-mail newsletter or anything letting me know about sales and specials. Since I’ve done that, I’ve had only a few small (easily overcome) urges to e-shop.

  8. Cami says:

    There are no such things as “little things” financially – those bagels or morning coffees will kill you financially, eventually. So many people I work with constantly complain they have “no money” but they show up with Tim Horton’s coffee and a bagel each morning – poof – $5.00 gone a DAY. That’s gotta be like $100.00 a month at least! Imagine what else you could do with that – retirement plan, a vacation… I quit doing the morning coffee thing for a year, saved $1200.00 and am going to Jamaica in January. I figured that in retrospect, I didn’t want to say I spent $1200.00 on bagels! LOL It sounds so stupid but it’s true! Good article.

  9. Robin says:

    Nice article. Unfortunately our local library tries hard, but often misses. I joined a paperbackswap club, and while I pay shipping costs, I don’t pay full price for books any longer and I don’t have them taking up space in my house.

  10. Jihan says:

    I have to agree with the spendings of having a drink with friends. I used to hang out with a few friends and we occasionally bought food and stuff. Not to mention to stay in the cafe, we’d have to buy stuff such as a cup of coffee or tea which is $1 and sometimes an overpriced snack and to play a few games in the machines they have went to probably $4 and then having to eat out with them costs another $5 at LEAST.

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