I hope that you are having a great Memorial Day Weekend. By the way, according to the U.S. Travel Association, travelers hitting the roads, rails and skies this Memorial Day Weekend are expected to spend a total of more than $12 billion during their trips, an increase over the last two years. Then there is all of that great food and the special deals in the stores and online.
If you are a regular reader, you know that I enjoy monetizing things, such as how much we spend on holidays like Memorial Day, and on some of our “more interesting” spending, like nails, tattoos, Halloween costumes for our pets, and more. In our “hyper consumer society," where too many of us are “always trying to keep up," I feel that it sometimes helps to put some of that “more interesting" spending in perspective. I hope that it will make some people think more about it.
I have been writing and talking so much lately about some of this “more interesting spending," as well as related money saving ideas and anecdotes, that I just had to include some of them in this column.
So, here is an added perspective. Stop sometimes and think about the costs of certain things when you are out, compared to the costs at home. I was talking about this recently at Monroe Community College, and the students and the professor acknowledged that it was a good reminder. Then I spoke to several culinary classes at the Eastern Monroe Career Center, where they actually have to learn to price out the costs of meals, and they reinforced the lesson 10 times over. How many of those pasta meals can you cook at home for the price you pay at the restaurant? How many glasses can you share at home with your friends for the price of one glass of wine or a mixed drink at the bar? I offer this not so that people won’t go out, it is more so that they will appreciate it. And, yes, for some people, they need to focus on whether these expenses are contributing to their being in debt.
Along those same lines, I recently found myself in a conversation about coffee with my wife and some friends. I basically drink instant coffee, not to save money, but because I don’t like strong coffee, and I can easily control the strength with instant coffee. In addition, to be honest, apart from the caffeine, coffee for me is just an excuse to use my flavored coffee creamers, which I think is all that I really taste anyway.
Naturally, the conversation eventually turned to the relative costs of coffee, so I did a little research. I am sure that the results won’t surprise you.
A several-year-old chart from thekrazycouponlady.com (so I offer it only to show the relative, not actual current costs) lays them out this way for several, but not all, 12 oz. cups of coffee. Starbucks, $2.01; McDonald’s, 89 cents; Keurig Disposable K-Cup, 53 cents; and a Keurig Refillable K-Cup with premium coffee, 47 cents. Then a single-cup brewing system with budget brand coffee and budget brand instant coffee: 7 cents. It got my attention, and should for anyone who drinks several cups a day.
These, like being a good unit price shopper, coupon shopper, discount store shopper, or a “wait for sales” shopper, are simple ways to save some everyday money. But, remember, it is so that you can avoid debt, prioritize and make good spending choices, and, in the end, have more money to enjoy life.
Another possible way to save money when you are buying food out is to check out the calories. My wife and I recently went to a national chain restaurant, hungry for a specific dish that we really enjoy. Then for the first time, since more restaurants are now listing them, we focused on the calorie count. We almost didn’t order it because it had nearly the most calories of any dish on the menu. However, we did order the dish, after about 15 minutes of coming up with a million reasons why it was OK.
Then I was in a “donut shop," picking up one of those breakfast sandwich deals, and while I was waiting, I saw that the two donuts I enjoy the most, but only on occasion of course, had far and away the most calories.
Those calorie listings definitely may temper my desire for some of those “wants” in the future. The lesson — being “caloried” may save you money.
By the way, at the donut shop I had to tell them a great “silly” joke that a kindergartener told me. What kind of a bagel flies? A plain bagel, of course.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo