# Living from check to check? Here's why: The little things add up

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

In a recent post about the massive increase in personal bankruptcies, Zac Bissonette commented on the seeming disappearance of personal responsibility. A corollary to this is the apparent dissolution of self-control. Here's an example:

An acquaintance of mine often complains that he is living from paycheck to paycheck. In spite of the fact that he makes a very healthy salary, he seems incapable of putting aside any money, and regularly wonders why he is always broke.

One day, as he talked about this, I noticed that he was gesturing with a Starbucks cup. Specifically, he was gesturing with a Venti Starbucks cup. From previous experience, I know that his Starbucks cup was full of one of the carbo-loaded, sugary, creamy Starbucks creations that costs \$5 or \$6. I also know that this is one of two Starbucks beverages that he drinks in the course of any given day.

Keep in mind, by the way, that his employer has a nifty, space-age drink machine that allows the user to choose from a wide variety of coffees and brew an individual cup in seconds. The boss also offers free soy milk as well as a wide selection of regular milks and creamers, not to mention all of the most common sweeteners. This stands in stark comparison to my current employer, who has the same cool machine, but charges 50 cents a cup for coffee and only offers the cheap, crappy synthetic creamer. Honestly, my boss would charge for toilet paper if he could figure out a way to retrofit the dispensers.

Free coffee...lucky bastard...

Anyway, when it comes time for lunch, my buddy usually goes to a local restaurant where he spends between \$7 and \$12. For dinner, he either eats at a restaurant or picks up carry-out. The tab for this ranges between \$15 and \$20.

So let's do the math: on a daily basis, my friend is dropping at least \$10 on coffee, another \$10 on lunch, and \$20 on dinner, for a grand total of \$40. Over the course of a week, this comes to \$200. Moreover, the large portions that he is inevitably served at lunch and dinner encourage him to eat long after he's full, which have led to a condition that he tries to call a "beer gut," but which owes little to beer. Of course, the frou-frou coffee isn't helping, as every Starbucks Venti contributes approximately a billion calories to his daily intake.

I'm joking a little bit here, but the fact of the matter is that the minor daily expenditures that we make definitely add up. If you find yourself hemorrhaging money, and don't know why you're broke at the end of the month, a good place to start is by considering the little things that are tearing a hole in your pocket.

Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.

More from WalletPop!

8 PHOTOS
Things that you don't need to spend money on
Living from check to check? Here's why: The little things add up
I know a good glass of wine is hard to resist, but some serious cash can be consumed along with the tannins. Even though I've never been a heavy drinker, in the times in my life when I was drinking a few glasses of wine with dinner most nights, a good 25% or more of my grocery budget went to alcohol -- to the tune of \$1000 a year. Can you imagine what that would be earning in an IRA right now?
It may be a cliche, but it's true: at \$2.75 to \$4.50 apiece, lattes and other fancy coffee drinks are as pricey as they come. Add to that the super-generous tip left by most big spenders like yourself (yeah, I know you!) and you're racking up an expense of over \$100 a month, even if you only get one latte a day. How about a fancy coffee drink for special occasions, and learn the tricks of brewing great beans at home the rest of the month?
Want to remember this moment, at the fair, on that special trip to the amusement park, when you went on a business trip to Chicago and wanted your kids to remember you still loved 'em? Take a picture. Every time my husband and I go back through our receipts from a trip, the ones we rue most are the fleeting souvenirs, usually long-since relegated to the trash bin or the give-away pile. Memories were meant to be remembered -- not tossed in the garbage.
It may be fun to let your kids pick out their own cereal, but you get a lot less bang for your buck -- not to mention, adding unneeded packaging to the waste stream. Don't do it!
Vitamins + Water. Brilliant, right? You get your water, you get your vitamins...uh-uh. It would be tons cheaper to just buy a bottle of multi-vitamins, and get your water from the tap. In most cities, the tap water is just as healthy as bottled water -- if not better. Just remember to run the water for a few minutes if you live in an older house. Even if you get the priciest multivitamins, you'll save \$30 or \$40 a month off a one-bottle-a-day habit.
When you buy gift cards (for yourself too!), not only are you giving the establishment an interest-free loan for an unforeseen amount of time, you're also giving the company free money, too -- in nearly every case, you won't be able to get your small change back as cash, and you can never find anything on which to spend 71 cents. What's more, about 10% of gift cards are *never* spent; wouldn't you have rather put that in your bank account and invited your friend out for a latte, instead?
Going to the farmer's market to save money? Bring a bottle of water along with -- you'll spend your money on the good stuff (veggies! baked goods! dairy-fresh cheese!) and save your diet, too.
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION