Get Sweaty: Do Sweat the Small Stuff and Find Out How Much You Can Save!

By Lila Quintiliani, AFC
Military Saves Assistant Coordinator

A while ago I read a personal finance article, and the gist of it was “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  That people needed to pay attention to saving on big ticket items, like houses, cars, rent, and so on and to stop wasting their time nit picking over the minute details of their spending.  Well, I couldn’t disagree more.  I think most people get into difficulties because they don’t pay sufficient attention to what they are spending their money on daily.  They are literally nickling and diming themselves into financial difficulties.

One of the exercises I give people who come  to me for help with creating a spending plan is to have them track exactly what they spend their money on each day.  People generally know how much their rent, car payment and their cell phone bills cost, but when it comes to how much they might spend at the shoppette or the food court, they don’t have as clear a picture.  One airman I talked to was startled to discover that she and her husband spent over ten dollars EACH DAY at Starbucks, since they stopped both on the way to and from work.  Taking into account weekends and some leave time, that’s roughly $1200 a year.   If they only cut back on ONE of their trips each day, they could have had $600 more to pay down their debts or put into savings.  If they made their coffee at home, even with rising coffee prices, they could easily save $1000 each year.

A friend of mine was recently giving a “lunch and learn” budgeting class to a group of people.  As she emphasized the importance of building an emergency fund, several members of the class said that there was no way that they could save ANYthing given their current income level.  She looked around the room and virtually everyone in the class had a bag of fast food sitting in front of them.  “There’s your savings,” she said, pointing to the bags.  “That’s how much you could save each day if you had packed your lunch.”

So, while I don’t think people should forget about  planning for their big purchases, I do tell people to take note of all the little things they spend their money on over the course of a couple of weeks.   Get “sweaty” and see how much you can save.

Little ways to cut back:

  • Do you buy drinks or snacks every day from the unit fridge or a vending machine?  Try bringing some of your own instead.
  • Pack your lunch instead of buying it each day.  If you don’t want to seem antisocial, pack your lunch 3 or 4 days a week, and have a day where you go out to eat with your coworkers.
  • When you do go out, you can get a cup of water with your meal (free) versus a soft drink, which can cost upwards of a couple of bucks.
  • Keep your tires inflated.  According to the US Department of Energy, you could save up to 3%, which translates to about 12 cents per gallon.
  • Use a crock pot to cook your dinner while you’re at work.  That way, you’ll already have a plan for dinner when you get home, and won’t be forced to get drive thru convenience foods because you’re starving.  No need to buy a cook book – a search on the internet will result in hundreds of free recipes.

For tips on tracking expenses, check out SaveandInvest.org
For more ways to find money to save, check out Americasaves.org

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | February 11, 2014

    #Save just 1% of your income this year and grow $250-$500 in savings by the end of the year depending on your salary: http://ow.ly/tvMwQ

Saver Stories View all »

Setting a Goal Leads to Success

Written by Super User | May 24, 2019

Growing up, Marisa’s dad had always talked about saving first, but she said she didn’t really internalize it until much later. “I was drifting along with no plan, carrying a little bit of revolving debt, saving some money here and there, but without a real plan for it.”

Read more...

From Shopaholic to Saver

Written by Jackie Toops | January 13, 2021

Many of us spend too much money on things we don’t need, but we don’t always know why. It’s easy to get a quick fix from retail therapy, but before we know it, our hard-earned money is gone. Oftentimes, when we engage in a “shopaholic” lifestyle or sporadic shopping sprees, we still experience feelings of emptiness, but to make it worse, we now have debt, too.

Khanmany was a shopaholic who turned everything around. She is active duty Navy and shares, “I was spending too much on things I didn't need. I was going shopping for no reason and was trying to fill a void. I was running up every credit card I owned to include Victoria's Secret, Military Star, Navy Federal, TJ Maxx, JCPenney, Macy's, USAA, and was only paying the minimum payments.”

Read more...

Living the Dream: This Military Couple Retired Early

Written by Jackie Toops | March 18, 2021

“Continuous dedication to financial peace pays off,” shares military couple, Denise and Jim. They would know, because at ages 52 and 53, they are already retired. The couple enjoyed life as an Army family for 32 and a half years and started planning for retirement decades ago. Denise shares, “We are not working a paid job, but are volunteering and meeting some personal fitness goals and enjoying some time together after many years spent geographically apart. It can be done!”

Read more...