How to waste $175,000 in 10 years

I love these kinds of illustrations. They show us just how quickly a few dollars here and a few dollars there add up to big money. I admit that I'm not that frugal of a spender. I was when I started my business almost nine years ago, but since then I've become accustomed to much more spending freedom. I don't really look for sales at the grocery store, I get a regular pedicure at the salon, and I stop regularly for a cup of my favorite coffee.

Yet how many of us really stop to think about how much we're wasting each week, month, and year? I bet not many. And when people complain about being broke, an analysis like this makes it clear how many of us probably have plenty of fat that can be trimmed from our budgets.

The Digerati Life did an analysis based in part upon a recent feature at AOL Money on Top Ways to Waste Money. She added up many of the common "extras" we buy on a daily or monthly basis: coffee, gum, lottery tickets, bottled water, manicures, car washes, memberships we don't use, cable television, and the like.

Add up all those extras over ten years, and what would be the result if you had instead saved and invested the money? A whopping $175,000!

Sure, there are some items on the list that you never buy and wouldn't affect you. And an average rate of return of 8% compounded monthly might be a little optimistic. But even if you only indulged in half of the items on the blogger's list, we're still talking $87,500 over ten years. That's a whole lot of "extras," most of which really aren't necessary and don't truly enhance our quality of life.

I know it's nice to treat ourselves sometimes. I'm guilty of doing that often enough. But I think that when consumers start to look at this type of spending over the long haul, they see how truly wasteful it is. Do I really want a fancy coffee today? Or would I rather save that money and ten years from now have a nice nest egg that will offer me flexibility?

What would you do with an extra $80,000 or $125,000 or $175,000 in the bank? It might allow you to leave a job you don't like, take some time off for a family medical crisis, or start the business of your dreams. I hope more consumers start looking at their own lifestyles and figuring out where they can trim expenses and save that money instead. Long term financial stability is worth so much more than today's manicure or unused gym membership.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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