One of the things I love the most about living in a big city is that we are the first ones to have access to innovative products and services like Uber, Instacart and Flywheel. Whenever I start to daydream about moving back to the quiet of a small town like the one I grew up in, I have to remind myself that I’d be giving up things like the option of having my groceries delivered from Trader Joe’s or the variety of workout options I can choose from each week. (I currently teach BODYPUMPTM and have credits at Zen Yoga Garage and Flywheel.) If I want to live where you can hear the grass grow and the need to carry Mace is laughable, I won’t be able to be so picky about where and how I get my sweat on.
But access to those luxuries is also one of the top ways that I see people wasting money in the city, while at the same time delaying saving for the future or paying off debt. Ordering your groceries online and having them appear at your door an hour later is a great convenience, but if you’re strapped for cash, eliminating the markup you’re paying is worth putting on your shoes and heading to the store. So before you resign yourself to working until you’re 70 or paying on your student loans until kingdom come, take a look at some of these money leaks and see if you can’t find some extra cash to accelerate your goal timeline:
Boutique fitness. I do love my specialty gyms, but besides the free class for first-timers, I hadn’t set foot inside one until I was out of debt. In my mind, I couldn’t afford this luxury until I was on more secure financial footing. At upwards of $25 per class, even just cutting out one class per week and replacing it with a cheaper alternative can boost your annual savings by $1,200. That small tweak could add over $100,000 to your long-term savings. One of my friends made this change without giving up the great classes. She found her favorites online, like Shred415, and does them from home for a fraction of the price.
Meal delivery. If I told you to eliminate dining out altogether, I’d be a hypocrite and you’d probably stop reading right now. But what about just giving up having someone bring your dinner to your door for an extra charge? Services like DoorDash and Postmates are great in a pinch (like when you’re sick in bed and your mom is in another state and you really need someone to bring you Tylenol and chicken soup), but to me it’s not worth $5 or more to avoid having to walk a few blocks to pick up my food. I once had a family switch their delivery habits and find an extra $150 per month in their budget – enough to pay their credit cards off in just under 2 years versus the 12+ year timeline they were looking at by paying the minimums.
Ridesharing services. Yep, I know that Uber and Lyft are cheaper than cabs. You know what’s even cheaper? Riding the bus or walking.
The only time I pay someone to drive me somewhere is if it’s late at night or unsafe or if it’s a special occasion and I’m decked out too fancy for the El. And when I am making plans and deciding whether to go somewhere, I consider how I’ll get there. I’ve said no to many invitations because I couldn’t get there without taking a cab and the cost wasn’t worth it to me. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and Ubering everywhere, take another look and see if some time management and public transportation savvy can free up some extra dollars.
Online personal stylists. The first couple times my Stitch Fix came in the mail were like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to tear open the box and try everything on. The novelty wore off when I looked twice at the prices and started questioning whether these are things I would honestly buy at the store or if I just kept them because of the perception that it was “made for me.” Yes, it’s super fun to get clothes in the mail, especially when they’re things you normally wouldn’t choose that add some spice to your wardrobe. But if you’re not saving enough to be on track to retire when you want, this is one of the “wants” that should be cut from your spending.
I hate to sound preachy, but this is the tough part about prioritizing your finances in order to reach your true goals. When you do make changes to cut these things out of your budget, make sure you also adjust the amount of money you’re putting toward your goals to reflect the sacrifice. For example, if you decide to go on an Uber diet, take a look at how much you spent on Uber last month and increase your auto-savings amount or your debt payment by the same amount. This takes that tweak and carries it directly to the bottom line: getting to your goals faster.
Do you have ideas for other topics? What money questions can I help address in future blog posts? Please let me know in the comments or send me a tweet.