The Cost of Habits

September 10, 2013 | Kate Horrell

We all have habits.  Some are good, some are not-so-good, and some are expensive.  For example, each morning I make my bed (good), give my bathroom a wipe (good), and grab a load of laundry on my way downstairs (good.)  Then, I crack open a can of Pepsi (not-so-good and expensive) and get started on the rest of my day.

Daughter #2 starts her day with a shower (good) and a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich (not-so-good and expensive.)

I could give you more examples from my house, but my family might be offended by the lack of privacy.  I’m sure, however, that you’re getting the point.  Often, habits are not-so-good and expensive at the same time.  Perhaps those are exactly the type of habits we need to kick.

Let’s consider the cost of some popular habits.  (I’m guessing on some of these prices, but I think you’ll get the picture.)

Three bottled beers per day, with a cost of $9 per six-pack, is $4.50 per day:  that’s $135 per month.

Picking up a Value Meal at McDonald’s one day per week, is about $6:  that’s $24 per month.

A bottle of soda out of the vending machine each workday, at $1.50 each:  that’s $30 per month.

A bottle of wine each night, assuming you’re being pretty cheap at $9 per bottle.: that’s $270 per month.

A pack of cigarettes each day, with $6 being an average price across the country: that’s $180 per month.

Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, 2 per day $4 per box of four:  that’s $60 per day.

When I was in college, I drank Diet Coke.  A lot of Diet Coke.  I could easily drink six cans a day.  Even if I was getting it for 1.50 per 12 pack (totally possible at that time), I was still spending at least $45 a month on Diet Coke.  As a student on a limited income, that is a pretty expensive habit.  Then, throw in the 4 or 5 times per month that I wouldn’t have a 12 pack handy.  I’d then spend $2 buying two bottles to help me survive until I could track down another 12 pack.  There’s another $10 per month.  I can’t believe how much money I wasted!

I know it is hard to break habits, especially when they include items that are so appealing.  (Hello, Starbucks?)  I still can’t kick this Pepsi habit, even though I’ve quit several times.  And I like beer.  And wine.  The trick is to make sure that you’ve budgeted for these things, and that you feel that you are getting value from your purchases.  One way to increase value is to decrease the amount you are spending.  There are a lot of ways that you could do that.  You could find less expensive options:  find a good boxed wine vs. bottled wine.  You could cut back  – could you stretch a pack of cigarettes across two days?  You could stock up when you find items on sale, or use coupons.  Just how many breakfast sandwiches can I fit in my freezer?

If your budget is tight, these items can really mess up your spending.  What habits do you have?  Do you think they fit in your budget?  How could you make some changes?