5 Things You Should Stop Buying (To Save Money And Increase Your Monthly Savings)

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In the present economic climate, it can be difficult to feel particularly secure in your job when companies left, right and centre are making extensive furloughs and redundancies. When the usual time for your annual salary review rolls around in such a climate, the expectation of an increase in salary is minimal and almost entirely overshadowed by that looming feeling of job insecurity. In such circumstances, you just feel lucky to have a job/monthly income at all.

With such an economic backdrop and job-uncertainty, it is perhaps more important than ever that we watch our monthly costs and try to increase the amount of money we put aside each month for our savings accounts and investments. I have therefore prepared a list of five things which I have either stopped buying altogether or in relation to which I have found a cheaper alternative which I hope will give you some ideas for saving money too.

1. Premium Brand Groceries

Now, I’m not suggesting that you sacrifice all your favourites in this regard. If there are branded products which you genuinely find superior to their store-brand equivalents, then by all means continue to make those purchases. However, I have found that there are many branded items I have often bought without thinking in relation to which I hold no particular affinity. The issue in doing this is that I ended up paying double or triple the price for the same product (by comparison to a store’s own-brand, for example) because of the goodwill associated with that premium brand (when I would hardly notice the difference between the branded product and the store-brand product anyway).

Take mayonnaise for example (perhaps an odd example, but bear with me). This is not a product I have passionate feelings about. I enjoy mayonnaise as much as the next guy, whether as a sandwich spread or a condiment. I sometimes even have mayonnaise with french fries from time to time (if I am feeling particularly exotic). However, am I willing to pay a premium for a well-marketed mayo brand because their mayonnaise has a distinct subtle mayo nuance that the cheaper store-brand mayo just cannot achieve? Well, no. I hold no mayo prejudices. Both taste just fine. And in such circumstances, when confronted with two products with equivalent desirability but where the store-bought alternative is three times cheaper than the recognisable brand (most likely to pay for their multi-million dollar marketing operation), I am more than happy to go for the store-brand mayo.

There are countless other examples of groceries which fall within the same category for me i.e. where I like them, but where the feelings I hold for them are not strong enough for me to justify tripling my spend for a certain big brand over the generic grocery store alternative.

This is perhaps one of the smaller cost savings you can make in the short-term, but taking into account how frequently you buy groceries, the long term results can be substantial. Over the course of the year, we could be talking savings in the thousands. I would therefore recommend that you assess which of your fancy brand groceries are replaceable with cheaper store-brands as you probably won’t even notice the difference.

2. Starbucks Coffee (Or Any Other Coffeehouse Coffee)

I would assume that this sacrifice is a given, but I still find it amazing how many people have a daily routine of consuming not one, but multiple cups of coffeehouse coffee such as Starbucks each day.

If we assume an average purchase price of $4 per cup with an average purchase frequency of once every weekday over the course of a year, we end up with the calculation:

(Price per cup: $4 x Number of weekdays: 5) x Number of weeks in a year: 52 = $1,040

I think we can all agree that this is steep. But what is steeper is how subtracting this figure from your possible savings each year will impact the compounding effect of those savings.

Let’s assume you are capable of saving $1,000 dollars per month (after all expenses, but before accounting for Starbucks). Based on our calculation above, the monthly cost of that Starbucks commitment is calculated as follows:

$1,040 divided by the number of months in a year (12) = $86.67 per month

By subtracting this from the $1,000 possible monthly savings, the monthly savings of the Starbucks regular will be reduced to $913.33. This is already considerable, but the real impact of this monthly deduction becomes far more significant if we consider how this will impact long term savings.

Let’s assume you start saving today and manage to achieve an average annual return of 3% on your savings over the next 10 years. The difference between the savings results of the Starbucks drinker and the non-Starbucks drinker then becomes all the more stark:

Starbucks Drinker’s Savings After 10 Years’ Compound Interest:

Non-Starbucks Drinker’s Savings After 10 Years’ Compound Interest:

As you can see, in addition to having spent $10,400 on Starbucks over the course of the 10 years (yikes), the Starbucks drinker also loses out on almost $2,000 dollars in interest due to the chipped deposits over this period.

Although it can be nice to enjoy a coffee out in a rustic, hip cafe from time to time, if you turn this occasional treat into a daily habit your savings stand to take a significant blow in the long term. As an alternative and rather than foregoing coffee altogether (as I know I couldn’t!), why not make your coffee at home and bring it with you on your commute?

If you can’t give up the freshly ground beans and steamed milk experience, you could even invest in a proper coffee machine. Although coffee machines are expensive, they are a one-off expense and the resulting cost per cup thereafter will be a fraction of the cost of a Starbucks cup. In the long run, this will inevitably result in a substantially lower coffee spend by the end of the year, so you could even consider it an investment.

3. Gym Membership

First off, I am not suggesting that you stop exercising. Maintaining a regular exercise routine is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and is a sure fire way to improve your mood when you’re feeling lethargic about life.

Having said that, do you really need to be spending $80 per month on a gym membership? If your answer is yes because your gym offers great classes, an excellent swimming pool, tennis courts and/or olympic weightlifting equipment which you make use of 4+ times per week, then fair enough. Such classes and specialist facilities are expensive to maintain and if you are regularly making use of them your monthly gym payment becomes justified.

However, if you are paying this amount and your workout consists of basic cardio and weight lifting, you can likely achieve an equivalent home workout by purchasing just three pieces of home gym equipment for less than $200 (which would pay for itself in no time if your monthly gym membership fee is as high as $80 per month) .

Home Gym Essential Number 1: A Thick, Good Quality Pilates or Yoga Mat

Although you can obviously use these thick padded mats for pilates and yoga, I would classify them as an essential purchase for anyone intending to build a basic home gym setup.

Every workout should start with a quick warmup and stretching routine and these mats offer the ideal way for you to get all of those injury-prone locations limbered up before getting down to business.

Besides the full range of floor stretches, these mats are ideal for carrying out core exercises including plank variations (regular, up-and-down or in-and-out planks) and crunch variations (regular, bicycle or reverse).

They are also great for carrying out more intense floor-based exercises such as pushups and weighted pushups to soften the impact on your hands and wrists.

I have embedded some links below to two of the thicker, better quality pilates and yoga mats available on Amazon which are still very affordable:

Amazon USA:

Amazon UK:

Home Gym Essential Number 2: Adjustable Dumbbells

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Adjustable dumbbells are perhaps the most versatile piece of kit of the three I am recommending, so if you can only afford to buy one of the three, I’d go for these.

The main exercises we all associate with dumbbells are upper-body related, but the dumbbells should not be underestimated in their ability to function as lower-body equipment also.

Perhaps the best way of demonstrating the versatility of a set of adjustable dumbbells is to list some of the main muscle groups and an associated dumbbell exercise you can carry out to target that muscle group (starting from the top of the body):

Traps: Dumbbell Shrugs

Shoulders: Shoulder press

Deltoids and Lats: Dumbbell lateral flies and front raises

Biceps: Dumbbell curls

Triceps: Dumbbell overhead extensions

Forearms: Forearm curls

Lower Back: Dumbbell deadlifts

Quads and glutes: Goblet squats

Calves: Dumbbell weighted calf raises.

I have embedded some links below to two great sets of adjustable dumbbells. These are the most expensive of the three pieces of equipment, but given their versatility I would say they are worth the expense:

Amazon USA:

Amazon UK:

Home Gym Essential Number 3: Dip Bars

Dips are a great compound exercise for developing your upper body strength and mastering your command of your own bodyweight, so picking up a set of dip bars is my third and final essential home gym purchase.

If you’re relatively new to working out, dips are quite a difficult exercise to get the hang of, but without the pressure of a busy gym and other gym goers wanting to rotate into the equipment, you can really spend the time to develop that gymnastic-like ability to hold your bodyweight with your arms and ultimately perform dips with ease. As the parallel bars are not too high off thee ground, you can also build up to the full bodyweight dip first by using your legs for assistance.

Besides dips, these bars also work wonders for strengthening your core by enabling you to perform core-focused exercises such as L-raises and knee raises.

I have embedded links below to two sets of dip bars which you can add to your home gym arsenal:

Amazon USA:

Amazon UK:

Three Full-Body Workout Routine Ideas:

Just to demonstrate how versatile the three pieces of kit discussed earlier are, I have set out below three full-body workout routines which I am currently rotating five times per week using just this equipment. The only additional piece of equipment I have added to my setup is a rucksack so that I can wear the rucksack loaded up with some of the adjustable dumbbell weights to weigh down and increase the difficulty of some of the exercises (e.g. the press ups and calf raises). I have also bought a barbell so that I can do barbell deadlifts.

In terms of cardio, I usually just achieve my cardio requirements by carrying out a brisk 20 minute jog outside prior to my workout.

Routine 1:

Warmup: 20 minute jog outside followed by stretches (using the yoga or pilates mat)

Push Exercise: Dips (using dip bars) // 5 sets of 8 repetitions (180 second rest between sets)

Pull Exercise: Dumbbell Row (using one of the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (120 second rest between sets)

Leg Exercise: Goblet Squats (using one of the dumbbells) // 5 sets of 8 repetitions (180 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 1: Dumbbell Curls (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 2: Dumbbell Tricep Extension (using one of the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 3: L-raise (using the dip bars) // 3 sets of 16 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Routine 2:

Warmup: 20 minute jog outside followed by stretches (using the yoga or pilates mat)

Push Exercise: Shoulder Press (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 8 repetitions (120 second rest between sets)

Pull Exercise: Dumbbell Row (using one of the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (120 second rest between sets)

Back Exercise: Dumbbell Deadlifts (using the dumbbells) // 5 sets of 8 repetitions (180 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 1: Up and Down Planks (using the yoga or pilates mat) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 2: Shrugs (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 3: Press-ups (using the yoga or pilates mat) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Routine 3:

Warmup: 20 minute jog outside followed by stretches (using the yoga or pilates mat)

Push Exercise: Dips (using dip bars) // 5 sets of 8 repetitions (180 second rest between sets)

Pull Exercise: Dumbbell Row (using one of the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (120 second rest between sets)

Leg Exercise: Lunges (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 8 repetitions (180 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 1: Dumbbell Flies (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 2: Dumbbell Front Raises (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 12 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Isolation Exercise 3: Calf Raises (using the dumbbells) // 4 sets of 20 repetitions (90 second rest between sets)

Although my home gym equipment is fairly minimalist, the variety of workouts I can achieve with it are anything but. Having previously been paying £48 per month for my gym membership, with just a small investment in a few key pieces of equipment (which have now long since paid for themselves), I am now able to put this money toward my savings instead without compromising my workout.

The added benefit of working out from home is that you will no longer be waiting for equipment, meaning that you can actually get through your workout far more quickly. In addition, instead of being forced to listen to the gym’s out of date dance music playlist (for the nine thousandth time), I also have full freedom to work out to whatever music or audiobook I like – it truly is a delight.

Perhaps in the future (when I have more space) I will consider adding a few additional select pieces of equipment, but for the time being I have all I need with my pilates mat, dumbbells, barbell, dip bars and rucksack.

4. Books

As an avid reader, I am definitely pro books in all their forms, whether you prefer a physical copy or the convenience of Kindle or Audible downloads. I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment having finished a thought provoking book and really absorbed the contents (by contrast to more passive forms of entertainment such as watching Netflix).

However, once you become an avid reader, it is quote easy to develop the dangerous habit of “tsendoku”, a Japanese term for the habit of acquiring books with the intention of reading them, only for those books to pile up and add to an ever-increasing backlog on your bookshelf.

With $10-$20 dollars coming out of your account here and there for such whimsical, well-intentioned purchases, the total cost of this habit can soon mount up over the course of a year.

With that in mind, my first suggestion would be to get through your current backlog of books before making any further purchases. You may find after contemplating the pile of books on your now-floor-to-ceiling nightstand, you already have enough reading material to last you the rest of your life.

Once you are through your backlog, only then should you consider purchasing a new book. However, the decision to purchase should be weighted against the other option of just borrowing the book from the library. It may be that you do not have a library card and have not stepped foot in your local library for many years (if ever), but I would highly recommend that you take advantage. Beside the fact that you may inadvertently be paying for the library in any event via your state/county taxes, it is just a great place overall to maintain inspiration to read and browse for new reading material.

As I have already hinted at, libraries also offer book lovers an opportunity to save some money. If you’re considering your next book acquisition but you’re not certain that the book is one you will be desperate to read again at any point in the future, borrowing the book from the library is the solution. If the book turns out to be below-par, nothing has been lost (assuming you return it on time and avoid late-return fees). On the other hand, if you were moved by the book and anticipate needing to refer back to its contents in future, you can now proceed to purchase your own copy confidently.

Even if the library does not have the book you are after, it is often the case that they can order it in for you if you ask (resources-permitting).

If you prefer to read your books on your phone or listen to audiobooks, many libraries now make use of iOS and Android apps to allow you to borrow electronically. Have a look at your local library’s website to see if they offer such a service.

In the long run, there really is a lot of money to be saved in taking advantage of great services such as the library and in being more selective in your book purchases.

5. Cell / Mobile Phone Upgrades

There appear to be a seemingly endless supply of developments being made in the tech industry each year, with particular emphasis on the ever-increasing sophistication of devices such as the iPhone. The issuance of new models with fantastic advertising campaigns every year inevitably produces an anxiety in the consumer that their own model (which may have been purchased not 12 months previously) is now outdated and in need of replacement; but is it really?

I love tech and I am always excited to see what developments companies like Apple have implemented into their latest products, particularly if those products have been designed to save you time and improve your life. However, I am not of the belief that you need to upgrade every time a new model appears. In fact, it often appears to be the case that the upgrades between last year’s and this year’s model are nice, but negligible and not worthy of a further significant expenditure just for the purpose of staying current.

I am not sure that there is a defined cut off point at which the urge to upgrade your cell phone should be succumbed to, but for those who really want to accelerate their savings I would perhaps set the interval at 4 years (or maybe more). The reason? Well, for one, the iPhones and other comparable phones from 4 years ago are still incredibly capable. My own phone is coming up for three years in age and I have not suffered any drop in performance despite this.

In addition, my original 24-month phone contract which involved relatively expensive monthly payments has expired. Since that expiry, I now own the phone and have options as to the terms and cost of my next phone contract. I was therefore able to choose a sim-only 12-month contract on much better terms than my original contract (more minutes, texts and data) for a fraction of the monthly cost of the original contract.

With my 12-month contract now coming up for expiry, I am again left with the same question as last year. Do I find another cheap monthly contract or do I upgrade? As a relatively frugal individual, I didn’t contemplate this question very long before deciding that another cheap contract would be my choice.

The thing is, my phone still functions swiftly and the battery life still lasts in excess of a day (even with extensive use with the data always on). As my phone use primarily revolves around listening to music, managing investments, reading eBooks and listening to Audible, it is still more than capable of all of these tasks. Perhaps if I was more of a photographer, I’d take a greater interest in the iPhone (with its amazing looking cameras), but for now my current phone is holding up perfectly. If I were to upgrade, I could only imagine the feeling of buyer’s remorse I would feel as I proceeded to do the same activities I was already doing with my old phone and experiencing no discernible benefit in having upgraded.

Perhaps in a few more years when my current phone’s battery life begins to decline in duration and its pace begins to slow down I will consider an upgrade. However, by this point the advancement between my 5-6 year old phone and the latest iPhone will no doubt be considerable and will make me feel that the upgrade really was worthwhile and quite a special occasion. Until that point, I will stick with my older phone with a renewed cheap contract and proceed to add a sum equivalent to the considerable monthly payments I could have been making on a new iPhone to my savings account instead.

Update: I’ve actually written a whole article on why I put off upgrading my phone, check it out if you’re on the fence about upgrading!

Conclusion

I hope the above tips will be of some use to you in considering ways to cut down your costs, save money and increase the amount you are capable of putting aside each month for your savings. I know it’s hard to save, but little actions like these can make a difference even if you only make one change.

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