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

Stacking 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.

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