I love to discuss this topic with people. It can actually get people annoyed and frustrated.
Sometimes that frustration and annoyance is aimed at me but most of the time it’s aimed at themselves when they realise that they have been making their lives worse by their spending habits and that they actually hold the power of change in their own hands…. Or should I say in their wallet and purse!
When you talk to people you generally get the sense that they want more out of life. They want to do more things such as travel, have more holidays and enjoy more experiences other than the drudgery of going to work- going to bed – then going back to work.
People are the same the world over. They want to live, they want to enjoy their lives and enjoy the gifts they have been given but many if not all of us have managed to somehow get trapped into the cycle of work sleep and work.
How do people escape when they have bills to pay, food to buy and rent or mortgages that they must pay each month?
The answer you are looking for could be down to these two things:
The way you perceive ‘living’ and…
Your spending habits.
Understanding those two principles can be the solution to your problems.
You see, we all want to live and we want to experience a certain amount of pleasures to offset the pain of spending most of our week at work. And for many people their day/evening/night jobs do just that – they take up most of their time.
The Work And Pleasure Balance
People work on average between 7 and 9 hours a day with many doing over 12 hours a day. Then there is the commute to and from work. For some people it could be a leisurely five minute walk but for others it can be several hours.
The commute can be on a crammed train or bus which can be boiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. I was once told by a worker in India about how she had to endure a four hour commute every day – two hours there and two back – on a bus with no air conditioning. It was horrendous. The bus with the air conditioning cost twice as much and with her low wage she simply could not afford to do it often.
The average person’s day is consumed by their job. There is the time spent there at work, the time going to and from work and the time spent getting ready for work like preparing any food you need to take with you for the day.
So to offset this pain and misery people fill the remaining time with fun and pleasurable stuff and there is nothing wrong with that… particularly.
People perceive having a takeaway meal, a few alcoholic drinks, a trip to a restaurant, popping to the coffee shop or a night out with friends and family as ‘living’. Yes they are fun and enjoyable but it’s not all there is to life.
Doing them now and then is fun but doing it excessively can actually be ‘life’ damaging.
The problem is when a person says that they want to change their life or circumstances for the better but insist that they do not have any spare time or money to do so.
The Self Imposed Money Prison
When it comes to changing a lifestyle or circumstance money is generally required and often in large amounts.
Money can be available for those life changing events or to make those much needed improvements but to find it people need to release it from other areas of their lives and develop a strong discipline.
In a report released a few years ago by the United States Bureau of Labor it was reported that the average American spent $5356 (£4060 ish) on takeaway food and drink and alcohol. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself at the weekend when you have worked all week but people are doing it to excess these days.
With hectic lives and a desire for an easy life more and more people are turning to takeaway food for their evening meals during the week.
Many people turn to alcohol to help them wind down from the strain of a busy working week. Quite a few people get through half a bottle of wine in an evening. Some even manage to drink a full bottle of wine each night.
These habits – though enjoyable – are very costly. Each meal and drink needs to be paid for and it all adds up.
By the end of the month the average person has spent enough money on non essential food and drink which could have been used to work towards a change in circumstance and lifestyle or pay for something that you have always wanted to do or have.
I am just as guilty – or rather I was. Since learning to be mindful with my money I have cut back a lot on takeaway food. Not only does my wallet thank me but so does my health.
The money saved can be used in a multitude of ways which can change your present circumstances.
You could pay off some debts faster which is never a bad thing. Paying more off your mortgage in the early days will save you a lot of money in the long run. Tens of thousands can be saved if you really focused on paying off the mortgage quickly.
You may decide to buy stocks and shares as an investment. Buying the right shares at the right time then selling them at their peak can change a person’s life dramatically.
You could pay for a course or two and learn some new skills and knowledge which could send your life down a completely new direction – a better one hopefully.
You could purchase equipment or merchandise and set up a business making and selling products.
If you can find the money for pleasurable but non essential items then you can find it for the things you truly want.
Chances are that spending money regularly on non-essential stuff is actually holding you back and keeping you locked up in the lifestyle you don’t want to live.
You become trapped in a prison of your own making. You are preventing yourself from moving forward and blocking your own escape.
You don’t always need to earn more money, it’s what you do with what you already have that matters. If you spend your money frivolous then it is likely that if you did earn more you would also spend that money unwisely.
Finding The Missing Money
Let’s say that you needed £1000 for a training course or business equipment or maybe something special like a holiday but found that you have no spare cash after all of your monthly bills were paid, what do you do?
Well firstly you would see if the work that you do offered any form of overtime or see if you had anything that you could sell. That could be old stuff you no longer use or stuff that you can do on the side as an extra. Earning some extra money is always a good idea.
If there is nothing that you can sell or there is no overtime available allowing you to make any extra money then the only thing you can do is take a good look at your spending. Really drill down on your daily, weekly and monthly spending habits. Take note of all the things that you buy during that time.
You will be surprised and amazed at what you spend your money on. Or should I say you’ll be surprised and amazed at how much you spend and on what. Food and drink is often the biggest culprit. It may not be a lot each time you buy something edible but people generally buy food, snacks and drinks regularly without much thought.
Food and drink is one of the few things where you think I’ll just get a sandwich or I fancy a sausage roll or one quick coffee won’t hurt which turns into a regular buying pattern and this will add up over the month.
Once you have identified all of the non essential things you spend your money on it is time to whittle the list down and decide on a few things that you really can live without. It is very likely that you buy stuff that you simple do not need.
People are slaves to taste and pleasure. Walking past a coffee shop or a deli and looking in through the large glazed frontage is all the encouragement some people need. As soon as they see people drinking and eating or the advertising posters on the walls or the cakes and paninis behind the glass on the counter they are soon through the doors getting their cash out.
One quick visit can soon have you parting with £5 or more. Do that several times a week then you are really spending money. There are people who visit coffee shops several times a day. Now that is some serious money these people are spending. Great if you have plenty but if you can ill afford to buy the things you want and need to change your life and circumstances then this is not a good idea.
If you do find the opportunity to do overtime in your place of work or sell old stuff I would recommend that you look into your spending habits and cut back on buying some non-essential items AS WELL as trying to earn extra money. That way you can reach your intended target quicker. Makes sense right?
Back to finding that extra £1000 you need. So imagine that you – a fictitious you – have spent a day figuring out what you have bought recently and have a rough idea what your monthly spend is on non-essentials.
You have a list showing you that in the last 4 weeks you have:
- Been to the coffee shop 3 times a week spending around £5 each time. 3 x 5 x 4 = £80
- Eaten out or had takeaway 6 times during the last month with an average cost of £18. 6 x 18 = £108
- Snacks and nibbles such as chocolate bars and chips at a cost of £15
- Cans of pop or juices with a cost totaling £10
- Drank alcoholic drinks either at home or popping to the bar at a cost of £105
- Paid for a gym membership but rarely use it £40
- Clothes and other stuff £25
Total spend on non-essential items each month £383
Now the above list is fictional, it is based on the spending patterns of people in general.
There are people who do live like this. They spend money every day on food and drink but always complain that they are broke.
Some people spend more on clothing and less on food but I tried to do a generalisation.
There are also a lot of people who pay for gym memberships which they never use. They start off with good intentions and go to the gym every day but then they start to lose discipline and drive and the gym visits become less frequent. Before they realise it they have stopped going completely but forget to cancel the payments.
Some intentionally keep paying. They fool themselves with thoughts like I will start going again soon. But soon never arrives and each month they pay out for unused gym membership.
Money Wasted = Time Wasted = Life Wasted!
Another hobby people waste their money on doing which really baffles me that offers no benefits at all to an individual and is in fact very damaging to a person’s health is smoking – and to a lesser degree the new growing trend of vaping. How much do people spend on those two little hobbies and for what?
Potential lung and throat cancer.
People basically are paying companies to kill them slowly. It is absurd when you really think about it. I didn’t include this in the example above but some people really do spend a lot of money on cigarettes and tobacco and you have to ask yourself why. That money could be used to fund so many better things.
In the example above the fictitious you has identified that you spend £383 a month on stuff which you either do not necessarily need or use… it’s stuff that you just enjoy… mostly.
We haven’t even looked at the monthly grocery shop. People do a big shop buying lots of food which is put away on shelves and in cupboards ready to be used but because of buying other non-essential food and takeaway meals fresh fruit and veg doesn’t get eaten and has to be thrown away when it starts to rot.
Society as a whole wastes a lot of food. Food which costs money. We buy it, do not use it then we throw it away. While at the same time spending money on snacks, takeaway meals and eating out. It is ludicrous really.
What is worse is that you have had to work for the money you have wasted. You have spent hours at a job working alongside people you may not even like in an environment you would rather not be in like a factory, a shop or out in the elements. The money you waste is in reality wasted time.
In the example above our fictitious version of you who wanted £1000 has realised that they spend £383 a month on stuff which is non-essential to living. It is the little pleasures people enjoy without thinking. If you decided to do 3 months without doing any of the above you will have raised the £1000 that you needed.
Now that would be hard going, it is doable but it would require a lot of discipline and commitment. But if the person in our example halved their monthly spending they will save money and still get to enjoy some pleasures over the weeks. Instead of 3 months it would take 6 months to save the money but it would be a less painful and boring period.
Most of us have access to money that we could use to improve our lives and circumstances, it is just that very few of us actually know our own spending habits and realise how much we are spending and on what. It also depends on how much money you want and how fast you want it.
People buy things without thinking as and when the fancy arises. £5 here and £10 there doesn’t seem a lot at the time but add those spends up over a period like a month and you will be aghast as to how much you really have spent over that time.
Money which is in many ways wasted.
Money that could be spent better elsewhere.
Money which could be used to change your life or circumstances.
If you could save over £300 a month by cutting back on non-essential buying imagine how much you could save over a whole year.
Imagine how much your life would change if you used that money differently.
Imagine if you had used that money to invest in stocks or shares, or a business venture, or even on education of some kind.
Your life would be so much different now if you wanted it to be. Destiny is in your hands and you control more than you think. You just need to realise it and understand yourself and your habits. Especially those habits when it comes to your spending. That is where a lot of the potential or damage lies.
Being incredibly mindful of your spending could be the one thing which makes or breaks your future.
If you want to learn how to make money, save money and generally manage your money better as well as join a growing community of fellow Smashers with the opportunity to enter competitions and challenges with prizes then join the SmarterCash forum here: (Coming Soon)