Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here Monday mornings.
People are constantly telling me that while they are worried about saving for retirement, they just don’t have enough money to invest at the appropriate levels right now. I frequently hear this from folks who earn a very nice living.
What’s going on here? Bottom line: a lack of discipline and watchfulness. We have so many more ways to spend our money than our parents or grandparents did. They didn’t have the option to pay for TV, connect three laptops to the Internet or have multi-line family wireless plans. But they were also more careful about how they spent their hard-earned paychecks.
I don’t want to come across as the Ayatollah of Austerity. We all work hard and deserve to enjoy life today as well as in retirement. But if we just give a little more thought to how we spend small amounts of money on daily basis, we’ll have more to spend on the things that matter, and we’ll be happier in the long run.
This list of possible tighten-ups comes from just one week of observing how my friends and I spend our money:
1. Home entertainment. How much are you spending each month on video? Do you really need HBO, Showtime and Netflix?
2. Car insurance. When is the last time you shopped it? When I finally took the time to review my policy, I realized I was paying for “Platinum” coverage with lots of features I didn’t need. A quick call to my agent saved me about $200 per year.
3. House size. Don’t buy more than you need. I have a buddy who brags that his McMansion has rooms that he visits once every couple weeks. Of course, he still pays for those rooms in the mortgage, tax and utility bills.
4. Credit card fees. Are you spending $300-$500 a year to use the Delta Crown room once or twice a year? Think about how many “free” drinks it takes to make up that annual fee.
5. High-tech toys. Is that $4 golf ball really helping your game? If it did help, would you admit it?
6. Multi-blade fusion razors. I don’t mean that multi-blade razors are a waste of money compared to your single blade bic, but what is a waste is using a brand new $5-plus razor blade every week. I learned the following trick from Clark Howard. The act of shaving itself is not what dulls a razor. The evaporation from wet to dry is what dulls the blade. If you dry your razor off immediately after every use, you can extend the quality life of your blade until you are tired of seeing it! This could save you $250 per year.
7. Engagement rings. The diamond industry’s insistence that you need to spend three-months’ salary on a ring is insane – especially for a struggling 20-something. Don’t do it. She’ll love you even more for your prudence.
8. Annual memberships. How many times will you go to the Georgia Aquarium this year? Be realistic.
9. Shopping without a list. Every time I go to Target or the grocery store without a list I either buy too much or buy items we don’t need. So do you.
10. Renegotiate. When my home security renewal came up, I called and said that while I liked the service, I could probably live without it. They cut $100 off my annual fee.
– By Wes Moss, for Atlanta Bargain Hunter