Money Saving Habits I Gave up Because They Waste My Time
It’s probably safe to assume that no one has ever received rich clipping coupons. However, this does not mean that saving money is a waste of time. Some money saving habits are good and will save you tons of money in the long run . Others just aren’t worth it. Here are some specific habits I’ve given up because they aren’t worth my time and energy (or yours).
Cutting physical product coupons
Cutting out coupons is a habit that is often ridiculed, in part because people think it takes a long time to complete a coupon. This is not the case for me.
I had a whole system that I followed that took me fifteen minutes every week, and I usually saved between $ 10 and $ 15 a week. However, after a while I realized that just because a task does not take a lot of time does not mean that it is worth your time .
Let’s look at the math. While saving $ 15 in 15 minutes, I basically make $ 1 a minute, which is not bad: that’s $ 60 an hour. The mathematics is adding up, but it lacks common sense. In fact, I don’t make $ 60 an hour like I do in my regular job. Sixty minutes of coupons probably won’t save me any more money, unless I buy a bunch of crap I don’t need . Besides, I’m not a robot. In fact, I value my free time much more, and the more work I have, the more I value the extra 15 minutes a week.
There are easier ways to save $ 10-15 per week. If this amount was decisive for me, I could always move to a cheaper apartment and save a lot more money. And then there was a mess. I hate clutter, and thanks to coupons, I kept stacks of newspaper brochures in my desk drawers. It was a waste of space and paper.
Another problem with coupons is that, according to a study like this 2003 NYU study (PDF) , they force you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy . All in all, this is just another ad designed to get you to consume. Don’t get me wrong, if I get the coupon I want, I’ll use it. For example, my local grocery store recently sent me free coupons for things I actually buy, so why not use them? However, this does not require time or effort on my part.
What I Do Instead: Plan Your Meals Better
Instead of worrying about coupons, I worked on a bigger issue: grocery shopping and restaurant spending. I have a bad habit of spending on restaurants every month , and my cost overruns are in excess of the $ 60 that I was saving for coupons. I also spent too much money on groceries and bought a bunch of food that I didn’t eat because I didn’t know how to shop efficiently.
My lack of meal planning was more of a problem than anything else because I was spending tons of money on junk food that I didn’t even like.
There are some great meal planning apps out there, and I’ve tried quite a few, but MealBoard is my favorite. It costs $ 3.99 but is well worth it for its functionality and simplicity. You can add or download any recipe, drag and drop it on specific days of the week, and the app will automatically generate an organized shopping list so you can get everything you need quickly. You can also save weekly templates. Some apps do similar things for free, but they are usually limited and difficult to organize, at least in my experience.
Overall, I saved more by ditching coupons and focusing on my real expense issue.
Looking for the best price for everything
Of course, if I buy a $ 900 laptop that I’m supposed to use for years, I’ll be looking for a good price. Deal hunt serves a purpose, but I’ve spent more time than I want to confess looking for, say, the best prices on toilet paper through Amazon sign and save .
I’ve learned to be very smart about finding the best deals, and sometimes it pays off. I’m still proud of the KitchenAid mixer I got for $ 160, for example. However, I cringe at the thought of the time and energy I wasted researching the deals for every tiny purchase, only to save a couple of dollars here and there. Little things add up, but this logic applies to your time and energy as well .
What I do instead: set the rules
Instead of looking for the best price for anything, I set a dollar limit. If I buy something over $ 30-40, I will take the time to find the best price. However, if I just need something fast on Amazon – toilet paper is a good example – I’m not going to spend more than a couple of minutes of my time looking for the best deal. If I spend two dollars more on toilet paper, so be it. There are also great regrets in life.
Your own guidelines should be different from mine, and mine are not set in stone. I just have a general idea of when the trade is worth my time and when it isn’t . Technique can help with this too. Tools like Honey , Invisible Hand, and CamelCamelCamel make it easy to keep track of prices and ensure you save as much money as possible.
On the more behavioral side, part of learning how to get rid of this waste of time was learning how to let go of my scarcity mindset . In the past, when I realized that I was spending even a few bucks more than I needed to spend something, it ate me from the inside out. To be honest, it was cheap! And this is primarily because I was stuck in a scarcity mindset: the fear of being poor that made me respond to my finances defensively rather than progressively.
Using save apps that require too much work
There are many fun apps to help you save money . I got addicted to them not because they saved me a lot of money, but because they were funny. It was like a game where I saved a few cents here and there.
However, after a while, I realized how much time I was spending on these apps, most of which required extra effort on my part: I had to take pictures of my receipts and upload them, check in the store every time I entered, or answer some questionnaire. Too much work.
Also, these shopping portals and apps are just shopping apps. They can help you save a few dollars here and there, but they end up motivating you to buy things in the same way a good sale does. In fact, we feelmore relaxed and happier when we get a good attitude towards something, and this can motivate us to actually spend more . For example, one Columbia Business School study concluded:
The study helps explain why luxury goods and services, such as high-end boutiques and luxury hotels, are often sold or provided in a relaxing setting. All things being equal, consumers will be willing to pay higher prices if marketers can relax them first, which has important implications for marketers.
In short, when I used these apps, I might have saved a little money, but they put me in consumer mode and literally rewarded me for spending. It might sound harmless, but over time, working with all of these apps and tools prompted me to mindlessly consume.
What I Do Instead: Conscious Spending
Rather than trying to figure out which apps were worth it and which weren’t , I ditched the ones that didn’t work for me, uninstalled them, and left those that required zero effort on my part.
Not all apps or shopping portals require a lot of work. I love the ones I use because I never have to look at them. Some of them may have been worth it, but it came down to conscious spending in the first place: making informed shopping choices, not impulsive spending .
Rather than trying to get cashback or rewards for my purchases after the fact, I found myself saving more by effectively questioning my spending. You can do this by literally asking yourself a few questions before buying, for example:
- Is this a planned purchase?
- Will he ever get into a bunch of “shit”?
- Where do I put it ?
- Have I included this in my budget?
- Why do I need / need it?
There is nothing wrong with spending money, but it all comes down to priorities . Make a list of a few things you really enjoy spending money on, and then, as Tiffany of Budget Guy Alisha puts it , “put your needs and love above your likes and desires.”
Of course, you could argue that you could just as well receive rewards or discounts for spending on your needs and love. If it’s worth your time and doesn’t encourage bad financial habits, go for it. In my experience, I’ve saved more on the big picture by limiting my time with these tools and my exposure to other types of marketing that drove me to consume. Don’t get me wrong, I’m spending anyway. However, for the most part, I try not to spend money as an occupation, but only as a means to an end: buying what I love and what I have budgeted for.
Thorough search for travel deals
Traveling can be expensive, so I understand to look for the best deals in everything travel-related, but sometimes it can backfire.
For example, when I shared my experience with the last minute hotel finder app , the hotels hated it. This sometimes resulted in poor service. One hotel employee even told me to just call next time and they will take the price into account if I book directly with them. It is easy to overestimate the effort it takes to find the best travel deal. Sometimes it’s as easy as picking up the phone and booking a room.
Flights are expensive, so you want to do your best to save money. For me, this usually means stuffing everything into one carry-on bag to avoid baggage charges, and agreeing to unreasonable number of stops to save $ 50 or so on your flight. The savings can be worth it, but it can also be very inconvenient .
When calculating the value of your time, to see if the saving habit is worth it, you must also consider the cost of the headache. The headache of stopping in two cities and rushing to your next flight may not cost you the $ 50 you save. You also want to fit your time and comfort into the equation. Especially if you are on vacation, you want to enjoy time travel.
What I do instead: Focus on “big wins”
Rather than keeping a close eye on airfare, sticking to a strict budget when traveling, and using all the other awkward savings tricks, I’ve found a much simpler option: fly when it’s cheap . Writer Libby Kane told Business Insider that this is her “favorite travel-saving trick ” because it is “the only solution that saves hundreds of dollars.” She is right!
Instead of making your trip more stressful or time-consuming than necessary, you can simply travel during the season when the weather is still good, but there are no tourists, and the prices are reasonable. It automatically saves hundreds on flights, hotels and more.
Of course, this is not always possible, and it’s pretty obvious to just say, “Fly when it’s cheaper.” Most of us don’t choose when we can fly, we fly when we need to , and obviously that helps us find the best prices and do our homework. However, instead of saving on all the small travel expenses like luggage and meals outside the home, I focus on what writer Ramit Sethi calls ” big wins .” These are such expensive expenses that the savings are worth it: flights and accommodation. I will take the time to find decent prices for flights and hotels , and on top of that, I just try to enjoy the trip.
Being frugal is a great way to help you achieve your financial goals, but it’s not just about saving money. It is about making efficient use of your resources, including your time and mental capacity. Of course, everyone estimates their time differently (and this calculator will help you figure it out ), and some money-saving habits make sense. Others, however, end up costing more or more time and headache than they are worth. For me, these habits have proven to be more of a problem than they are worth, and luckily there are better options.