It’s safe to say the way I spend my money has changed a lot over the years.
Working at the grocery store in high school, I didn’t think too much about how I spent my pay cheque. I saved some money, sure, but for the most part, I purchased whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it.
Thankfully, as an adult, I am a lot more conscious about what I purchase — and, perhaps just as significantly, what I don’t spend money on.
In this post, I’m sharing five of the things I don’t spend money on — and five things I splurge for.
Five things I don’t spend money on
Narrowing the list of things I don’t spend money on to five items was tough — turns out, there are many things I don’t spend on. But when I think about things that make a difference to our bottom line, these are the five that come to mind.
Dying my hair
This is a relatively new addition to the list but man, has it ever made a difference in terms of our budget.
I dyed my hair for years. Not because I felt like I had to or anything, but because I wanted to. For years, I changed up my hair on the regular — from black box dye in high school, to blonde, to red, to fashion colours like greens, pinks and blue.
It was fun. I enjoyed experimenting with different looks. But after a point, I stopped — not because I felt like I had to or anything, but because…well, again, I wanted to. Does this mean I am done with hair dye forever? Who knows. But for now, I’m enjoying my natural colour (and my bank account is enjoying the savings).
As an adult, I’ve only had cable twice: once when the bundle was actually cheaper than internet on its own and once when it was included in our rent.
In both cases, we didn’t get a lot of use out of it. Neither of us have ever been big TV people and when we want to watch something, we go to Netflix or Prime.
There was a time where I would shell out cash for an extended warranty on certain purchases. What changed?
I started using the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard.
One of the nice perks of this card is that it actually gives you an additional year of manufacturer warranty on many of your purchases. Having recently used this feature (post coming soon!), the process is a little involved but if you don’t mind doing the work, it’s a great way to save a little cash!
After trying the all-cash budget for a year at the start of our debt-free journey, we switched to using credit cards almost exclusively. Our go-to credit card is the Tangerine Money-Back Mastercard, which we use for almost everything we buy. We transfer funds from our debit account every time we use it and never carry balances. It’s a system that has worked very well for us over the years.
One benefit of using credit cards almost exclusively is that we don’t spend money on ATM fees. For the rare occasion when we need cash, we go to our bank and withdraw from the machines there.
Buying lunch at work
Take-out coffee is a weakness for me, but one thing I am very disciplined about is packing my lunch.
Most days, I pack breakfast, lunch and snacks for the work day. The exception here is when I’ve planned to have lunch out of the office, but those instances are very rare.
Here’s my thinking: on average, we spend $110-$140 a week on groceries. It’s not a small amount of cash. And let me tell you, there are few things I dislike more than watching food go to waste — especially at that price. Packing a lunch for work means there’s a better chance of actually eating through the groceries we buy before they go bad. Everyone wins.
Five things I splurge for
On the flip-side, for everything I don’t spend money on, there are quite a few things I splurge for on a regular basis. These are my top five splurges.
I get iced coffee at Starbucks a minimum of two times a week — and often, it’s more frequent.
Would it be cheaper to make coffee at home? Absolutely. I have an awesome cold brew maker plus the syrups and creamers needed to make a great iced coffee at home. And on days when I don’t go to Starbucks, that’s exactly what I do.
So why spend money on take-out coffee? Simple: I enjoy it. I view it as a treat, something to enjoy once in a while. The way I see it? If coffee is how I treat myself, I’m doing alright.
When I say eating out, I’m talking both about going to restaurants and ordering take-out. While we certainly don’t do either often, we do eat out at least once a week.
Usually, this looks like pizza on Friday nights, but sometimes we change it up and order from a local place or go to a sit-down restaurant. This usually runs us anywhere from $30-$70, depending on where we go. We make it work by planning for it; I include this in our miscellaneous budget with gas and groceries.
Like coffee, eating at home is far cheaper. But eating out once a week is a treat, one that I find helps me stick with eating at home during the rest of the week.
We skip out on cable because we pay for two streaming services: Netflix and Amazon Prime. Both together cost a little less than $25 and give us access to a pile of TV shows and movies.
Along with the television options, we also pay for Spotify Premium. Our duo account costs $12.99 a month. Between the two of us, we more than get our money worth for the service.
My cell phone plan
Confession: I pay over $100 a month for my cell phone plan.
For years, I had the same cell phone plan. It was $65 a month — $60 for the actual plan, which included the My 10 list for unlimited calling and 2 GB of data. Because one of my friends lives in the United States, I added $5 for international texting. After taxes and fees, I was spending something like $72 a month.
I had that plan until 2018 when I upgraded my phone. At the time of the upgrade, my provider was offering a promo on a plan that included all the elements of old plan by 8 GB of data for $95 (before taxes and fees). Fast-forward to 2020, my plan was upgraded again to an unlimited data plan for the same price.
Are there cheaper plans out there? You bet. But here’s the thing: since upgrading, I have never gone over my data limit (and now, that’s impossible). I like not having to worry about that if I’m on the go. It’s worth it for me.
Finally, I splurge on travel — sort of.
I’m not talking about expensive vacations here. More often than not, when we travel, we stay in the Atlantic Canada region. The exception to this: my visits to my best friend in Ontario.
When we travel, we do what we can to keep it affordable. For example, when I go to visit my best friend, I stay at her place and we try to eat at home as often as we can. When we visit other Atlantic provinces, we look for affordable flights, book affordable vehicles and, of course, we plan and save for these trips over time.
There are some folks who think you shouldn’t travel while you’re paying back debt. I can understand why — the money you spend traveling is money you could be using to pay back debt. But I’ve always said there’s more to life than paying back debt. Traveling, for me, is one of those things that make life enjoyable. As a result, I don’t mind spending money on it.
Decisions about how to spend money are highly personal.
My lists of what I don’t spend money on and what I splurge for will look different from your list — everyone’s journey is different, which means everyone’s list is going to be unique. That’s not a bad thing at all.
With that said…what’s on your list? What do you not spend money on? What do you splurge for?