Oh, September! You used to mean protractors, highlighters, duo-tangs and a fly new pencil case.
But for those of us older than 22, going back to school has turned into going back to work. After lazy, hot days and boozy long weekends, September means clearing your head of the cobwebs and making some serious gains in your career. Unfortunately, getting back into the office can also mean unnecessary spending. Saying goodbye to summer is hard enough, you don’t need to make it worse by throwing your hard-earned cash away on pricey lattes and bear claws.
You’ve likely heard about the Latte Factor, made famous by Automatic Millionaire David Bach. The theory is that all the money you spend on coffee breaks at work could be put to better use if you saved and invested it.
Not everyone agrees with the Latte Factor concept – for example, Bruce Sellery, author of Moolala: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things With Their Money (and What You Can Do About It) thinks people should concentrate on the big picture (like how much you’re spending on rent, mortgage, car payments, vacations, etc.) instead of sweating the small pleasures.
But surely there’s a happy medium. It’s important to analyze your major expenses if you’re trying to improve your financial situation, but I suspect most of us could also stand to take a good long look at how we spend our money on throw-away items. Here are six thrifty suggestions you can take to work to start putting a limit on your frivolous purchases:
1) Bring Your Daily Beverage
Whether you crave an Americano, Macchiato or a green tea latte, you are probably spending too much on pricey café fare. Make your morning pick-me-up at home and bring a bodum to work for an afternoon jolt. You can still buy fancy beans for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a drink every day at your local coffee joint.
2) Pack a Lunch
Brown-bagging it to work might make you feel a bit like a kid, but think of the extra bucks in your pocket. That’s not to mention the saved calories! Invest in a nice reuseable lunch bag and stainless steel tiffins (much more environmentally friendly) and take a bit of time in the morning to pack a healthy, tasty lunch. You’d be surprised how little you’ll miss the extra grease after a week or two.
3) Bottle Your Own Water
There’s just no excuse these days for buying water in a plastic bottle. It’s horrifically wasteful, not to mention expensive. Pick up a stainless steel vessel from a nice, small Canadian company like this one and drink the tap water. David Suzuki insists on it!
4) Bring Your Snacks
Everyone knows an afternoon snack can be a must on a stressful work day, but instead of heading to the vending machine for junk food, pack your snacks in the morning — fruit, veggies, nuts, granola bars. Do like the outdoorsy types and make up a bunch of Gorp to munch on throughout the day. (You can add M&Ms, bought in bulk, if you need a quick sugar fix.)
5) If You Do Splurge, Go Cheap
We all want to eat out for lunch now and again. Instead of hitting a more pricey joint though, do your research and find the tastiest, cheapest eats in your neighbourhood. Yelp is always a great place to find fabulous spots you may not have tried yet (just type in “cheap lunch” and your location). As well, every major city has a website or two filled with tips on the best places to get grub. Just let the internet do the work.
6) Don’t Smoke
Duh. It’s expensive, unhealthy and stinky. If you need a mental-health break, take a walk instead.
Shelley White is a Canadian freelance writer, editor and TV producer who contributes regularly to The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, The Grid and Spinner.com. Shelley is also a mother of two who aspires to never again carry a credit card balance.