The Morning Money Routine

About once every three months since I was eight, I would spend a day keeping a detailed chronology of all of the stuff I did on that day. I kept a little notebook with me, noted things throughout the day, and would write it all out in great detail that evening in a notebook that I still use for this project. It is really fascinating to look at this notebook, as it has snapshots of my life dating back to third grade.

Recently, I looked at this journal over a period of time to see if I could notice how my spending changed and also whether there were any routines to my life that I could identify that were costing me money. Interestingly, I noticed that the one consistent routine throughout my adult life that cost me money was my morning routine. Here’s how it would go for the last ten years or so:

5:30 AM – wake up, morning hygiene, check my email
6:30 AM – leave for work
6:45 AM – stop for breakfast – cost: $8
7:10 AM – stop at a newsstand for the New York Times – cost: $1
7:30 AM – grab a cup of coffee before heading in – cost: $3
9:30 AM – morning coffee break – cost: $3

Let’s stop and look at this for a moment. That’s fifteen dollars a day blown on a morning routine. Let’s say I did this every day for forty eight workweeks a year for ten years:

$75 a week
$300 a month
$3,600 a year
$36,000 for ten years

This simple morning routine, one that could easily be analyzed and broken down, has cost me roughly $36,000 over my adult life – enough to write a check for two top-notch automobiles or make a 20% down payment on a $180,000 home, just so I can enjoy breakfast and drink coffee.

Over the last year, I’ve changed this routine quite a bit. Here’s how it now looks:

5:30 AM – wake up, morning hygiene, check my email
6:25 AM – drop a homemade breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich into the microwave – cost: $0.50
6:28 AM – food is finished
6:30 AM – leave for work, drop son off at daycare, eat sandwich on the road
6:45 AM – arrive at work 45 minutes early, start up small coffee pot on my desk – cost: $0.25
6:50 AM – browse the NY Times website and a few others; print off any articles I may want to read
7:00 AM – get started on my day – I shifted my day to start half an hour earlier
9:00 AM – morning coffee break, drinking coffee I already made and reading articles I printed

Not only did I cut my morning routine spending down from about $15 a day to about $1 a day, I also freed up some significant morning time, enough so that I was able to alter my work schedule to start a half-hour earlier and thus leave a half-hour earlier (on average). Not only do I save money, but now my evenings seem longer, giving me more time to spend with my family, which is what is really important to me.

Spend some time looking at your regular routines. Write down a detailed rundown of a few random days in your life, then compare them and see what patterns you can find, especially those that cost money or waste time. You’ll be shocked at what you might find.

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