3 Reasons Why You Can’t Save Money
I ate that entire pizza myself.
When I finished I moved a couple doors down to a bar and drank a couple glasses of wine.
Here’s the record from my bank account:
You Eat Out Too Much
My average spend on a typical night out pre-pandemic.
A common occurrence. And that was when I was by myself.
In a recent Medium article, I detail how the pandemic helped decrease my restaurant spending by 85%. I spend roughly $1,600 less each month on overall food and drink than I did before COVID-19.
Talk about a wake-up call.
$75 in one night. $1,600 in one month. A lot of money.
If you flat out stick $1,600 a month under your mattress, you’ll have $192,000 in ten years. Invest it at a 5% rate of return and it turns into $246,981.06.
And that’s if you start with nothing.
I know it’s tough to resist the allure of dining out and drinking as the centerpiece of a vibrant social life. For a few months, the pandemic showed us — by force — how to do life differently.
Everybody has a story about how much money they saved, new hobbies they took up, or more productive habits and routines they started. Most of these people will go back to their old ways.
It’s happening already.
I will not be one of these people.
I ate out too much before the pandemic. I literally threw money away. I thwarted the wealth-building process because I was saving and investing a fraction of what I am saving and investing now.
You probably ate out too much before the pandemic.
Try not to go back there.
It’s likely the biggest reason why you can’t save money.
You Buy Expensive Food At The Grocery Store
Now, I cook at home more.
I eat two meals a day with a snack or two in between. I go to coffee shops daily, but rarely get food from restaurants. I’m cooking my food 98% of the time. I envision that number fluctuating between 90% and 98%.
I eat the same meals over and over again. This is crucial.
Because if you go to the grocery store without a plan. Or if you don’t have some semblance of a meal plan to begin with, you grab things off the shelf haphazardly. Walk into the supermarket hungry and it’s an even bigger free-for-all.
Compare prices on frozen food and things that come in boxes — on impulse and unhealthy items. They add up much faster than what you’ll find on my methodical grocery list.
Here’s my grocery store spending for August:
I spent $310.89 on groceries.
I have a set route in Trader Joe’s: avocados, asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, eggs, Greek yogurt, butter, peanut butter, whole black beans, refried black beans, ground turkey, chicken breasts, almonds, cheese.
I occasionally switch out different fruits and vegetables or make one-time purchases of things such as olive oil, jalapenos, vitamins, and supplements.
But that’s it. And I prepare the same handful of meals each day.
I don’t think it’s boring. It makes my life easier.
I’m super fit. I feel better and am more productive than I ever have been. This eating routine helps me get more exercise and writing done.
I understand this might look like and wind up a boring existence for you.
I’m not here to prescribe anything. You have to pick your spots if you want to save more. For most of us, food and drink provides the biggest opportunity. Maybe you have equivalents in your budget.
Going into wholesale budgetary and lifestyle change with a positive attitude and laser focus on what you want — saving money and financial freedom — makes it more likely you’ll stick to your new ways, whatever they are.
You Treat Yourself With Food
This isn’t the first time I made changes to how I eat.
I have done it many times before, to save money or get in better shape.
In every instance, I failed. I think I know one big reason why.
I kept food on a pedestal.
If I met a savings goal or went X number of days in a row without cheating on my diet, I would treat myself — usually with food and drink.
We all do this, but I don’t think we realize the obvious downside.
We spend too much money on food and drink. Poor food and drink choices can make us unhealthy.
So we curtail our intake, change our routines, and break bad habits.
Food and drink done wrong should be the enemy.
How much it can cost. What it can do to our physical and mental health.
We’re flipping the script on food and drink. Our new ways cost less and produce positive physical and mental health benefits.
Yet, right when we see success, we often “reward” ourselves by going back to the exact same behaviors that got us in the mess in the first place. Often, what we think of as a “cheat day” or “reward” tailspins us back into our old destructive patterns.
It’s like kicking cocaine. Then, on your one-year anniversary of being sober, you “reward” yourself by doing a bunch of cocaine.
It’s doesn’t make any sense.
Life Is One Big Compromise
There’s no way around it. To save more, build wealth, and achieve financial freedom, you’ll have to sacrifice and make compromises. It might even be unpleasant for a while.
You’re effectively rewiring your brain.
Because we’re socialized into not thinking twice about overspending on food and drink.
Any element of your budget that takes up such disproportionate space requires scrutiny. You might not be able to change areas such as housing (though I bet most people can), but you absolutely can spend less on food and drink. Once you commit to it, you’ll look back sheepishly on your old ways.
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.