Disclaimer: I am not an expert with a fancy degree in finance. I am a real (nice) person that has had real experiences and am on the tail end of my debt-hole, beginning the path to building wealth. You and you alone are responsible for your debt, wealth, and wellbeing. I’m here to cheer you on!
Still with me after reading the disclaimer? Great! This week’s Minimal List is a horror story akin to the 1982 horror movie Poltergeist. Instead of hiding in your television, the monster in my story (or list) hides in places you might not think to look or even expect.
The monster? Money suckers.
Here’s where to look:
1. Cell Phone Leases
Remember the good old days of low cost unlimited data plans that came with the bonus of a free cell phone? I do, but just barely. Nowadays, phone providers opt to give you pricey, capped data plans with phones that they so graciously finance out to you. How generous, right?! Wrong. Watch for their tricky hidden or upgrade fees. You might be surprised to find that you’ll end up paying more than your phone is worth. Not a good deal in the long run. Ditch the payment plan, and you may even receive a “deal” in the form of a discount on your bill if you are using a phone that has already been paid off. When looking to pay off debts, include any leased cell phone payments on that list.
2. Equipment “Rentals” From Your Internet Provider.
I’m my opinion, equipment rental from internet providers is an incredibly bad deal. It’s not debt in the traditional sense, but it is money coming out of your pocket on a monthly basis for a piece of equipment that you could purchase outright for a much better price. Don’t know where to start shopping? Check out reviews for network equity on reliable tech sites like CNET and Engadget.
3. Subscription Boxes
Again, not a debt in the traditional sense, but you’re locked into a contract to allow money to automatically flow out of your account on a regular basis for things you likely don’t need. Personally, I used to fancy myself a cosmetics aficionado and at one point subscribed to at least three monthly boxes at a time. I was paying $50-$100 per month for things I didn’t need, often didn’t use, and most of the time didn’t like. Not all monthly subscriptions are alike, however. Some do aim to save you money based on your very specific needs. Do you *really* need to have two razors shipped to your home per month? Perhaps you do. I personally, do not. Did I need a plethora of sub par cosmetic samples in colors that didn’t suit me each month? Absolutely not. Buy what you know you like. Read reviews if you don’t. Ditch those monthly subs, and say “hello!” to reclaiming a portion of your hard earned money.
4. Multiple Streaming Services
This one is a bit tough. It’s tough because there are so many streaming services out there. Each serves a separate purpose, and almost no two services include the same content. In fact, we’re in the process of canceling our Netflix sub when the balance of the gift card we received from a friend runs out. We do however, still have Amazon Prime for their music and the occasional movie. I really do think it’s the biggest bang for your buck if you really feel the need to pick one service.
If you have cable (which I don’t recommend), do you really need on-demand access to shows you have already watched? We as a society spend far too much money on entertainment that requires us to sit on our asses and stare at a screen. Flipping channels and binging on Netflix is SO easy to do, but it also disconnects us from each other and does nothing for our physical health. If you’re anything like me, you have a window in your home. I want you to look out that window. Out that window, you have many free entertainment options that are good for you and your relationships. Go for a walk, or pop over to the library for a free book or movie. Hell, snap pictures of some urban oddities and post it to Instagram. People love that stuff!
5. Food and Food Delivery Services
Why pay a premium each week to receive a bunch of food you probably won’t eat? Yes, you’re spending too much money on food and creating a bunch of unnecessary waste to boot. All for the illusion of a healthy diet when you know you’re going to the pub for a plate of fries while your lettuce becomes a sad pile of wilted waste in your fridge.
If you really want to give healthy eating a go, which I do recommend, it only takes a little effort. Make a menu for the week, write your list, go to the store, and only buy what’s on that list. We used to spend at least $600/month for two people on food that “seemed like a good idea at the time” and going out to eat. Now, we spend under half that amount. Your number might be different, but who couldn’t use an extra $300-$400 per month? All it took was a little planning, and BOOM! Money!
Where’s your money hiding from you? The best way to find out is to make an honest list of all your spending for each month. We use a free app called Mint that takes the guesswork out of budgeting. Realizing that we spent hundreds of dollars each month on alcohol alone was a nice slap in the face. We aren’t perfect, and we all need some distractions. I only suggest that you choose them wisely and always know where you are sending your money.
***This post contains no affiliate links. These are just some of my favorite resources.