Saving money really boils down to making choices. The more cash we dedicate to various bills and temptations, the less we have available to sock away. Now, I don't believe in depriving oneself of all of life's luxuries in an effort to pad one's bank account. I do, however, believe in being judicious about where my money goes, so that I'll be able to enjoy the things that are most important to me without sacrificing my retirement or major financial goals. With that in mind, here are a few things I personally think don't are worth their prices.
1. An expensive gym membership
I'm all about fitness activities. They keep us healthy and help us avoid medical issues that can not only harm us, but cost us money. But I don't necessarily believe in paying a premium for them. I've seen gyms in my area that charge anywhere from $50 to upward of $250 per month, and I think that's madness, especially when you consider the percentage of people who pay for those memberships and hardly use them.
If you absolutely love going to a gym, then by all means, spend money on it. But if you're looking to get in shape on a basic level, go for a walk or run three times a week, and save yourself the cash. Similarly, you can bust that old bike out of your parents' garage and take it for a ride on the regular, or swim laps in your community pool. Free fitness is easy to come by, and so it's something I don't enjoy having to pay for.
2. Takeout meals
Don't get me wrong -- if I'm traveling or am really in a pinch, I'll occasionally dial a local food establishment and pick up a meal or have one delivered. But as a general rule, I refuse to spend money on takeout for a couple of reasons. First, it's expensive, and by that, I mean prepared meals typically come with a 300% markup. That means a $30 order can be prepared for just $10 at home. I have friends who order takeout two or three times a week as a matter of course, and they're easily spending an extra $2,500 a year on food as a result.
Second, ordering takeout doesn't do much to enhance my quality of life. I'm a decent cook, and even in a hurry, I can generally whip up meals that taste good without much prep. If I'm not getting to enjoy the ambiance of a restaurant, then to me, the pricier food just isn't worth it. And, it's generally less nutritious than a home-cooked meal.
3. Fancy clothing
As a writer who works from home, I rarely attend in-person meetings and the like. Therefore, I refuse to spend more than the bare minimum to put clothing on my body. If I can look presentable in a $30 pair of pants and $15 shirt (keeping in mind that while I do work from home, I also have to leave the house to run errands and attend social events), then I see no reason to spend double or triple. Fancier clothing might be a solid investment for someone who's trying to look professional at an office, or who simply gets pleasure from buying high-end items. But since that's not me, it's an area where I'm able to save.
4. High-end hotels
A nice hotel, whether domestic or aboard, can easily cost upward of $200 a night. And I generally won't pay that much for one. When I'm traveling, I tend to jam-pack my days so that when nighttime rolls around, the only thing I'm looking for is a bed to sleep in and a working shower. The vast majority of the time, a cheap hotel will fulfill that need, thus freeing up more money in my travel budget for activities and entertainment while I'm away.
On the other hand, there are certain expenses in life that are more than worth it for me. Here are two I won't hesitate to spend money on.
1. A cleaning service
Yes, I admit it: I have someone who comes in and cleans my house twice a month so that I don't have to. The reason? It's not that I mind cleaning; it's that outsourcing it is more cost-effective than doing it myself. As a freelance writer, the more I work, the more I get paid. And the amount that I pay for a cleaning service is far less than the amount I can make spending that time on the computer.
2. A gutter service
Have you ever balanced atop a 30-foot ladder while attempting to clear deeply lodged gunk out of your gutters? Neither have I, and it's something I downright refuse to do. My inherent fear of heights aside, I feel that it's not something that's safe for me or even my much braver husband to attempt, and so I'd rather hire a professional than risk injury for either of us. Besides, the $150 I pay once or twice a year is far cheaper than an ER copay under our insurance plan.
There's nothing wrong with spending money to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. But the next time you're wondering whether a particular purchase or service is worth it, think about the other things that money can buy you instead. Sure, it'd be nice to drive a sleeker car, but is it really worth not being to take vacation? Similarly, while you might get pleasure out of a larger home, if a hefty mortgage stunts your retirement savings, you'll be sorry later on.
If you're currently struggling to save money, or have other financial objectives you're working to meet, think about the various things you're currently spending money on, and consider the benefits of unloading a few. You may just come to realize that certain expenses really aren't worth it.