Financial Fitness

So this post is a little different than most of my posts, but I think financial fitness is pretty important and is one of my current focuses.

I used to be an incredible saver. I was thrifty and never spent a penny where a penny could be saved.  However, living in New York gets to you.  You see people spending money—everywhere on everything.  You start to value the convenience of shopping at the nearby overpriced grocery store rather than figure out how to lug groceries home from the cheaper store a couple miles away or from Costco, I mean it’s not exactly like city living is equipped with storage for bulk purchases.  You develop a taste for sushi and you want to have a brown rice salmon avocado roll every single night.  But most of all, you want to enjoy your time and take advantage of the city, which is why you live there after all.  You want to see the shows, go to the shi shi restaurants, shop at boutiques.  Why live in the city if you are holed up in your apartment all the time? And since apartments are on the small side, socializing gravitates outwards to bar$ and re$tuarant$.

What’s a girl to do? Here is my gentle plan for simple savings….

While I am certainly good at finding cheap entertainment and snagging fitness deals, I am not a clothes whore,  I don’t own a single designer shoe or bag, but I have to admit, I have developed a pretty embarrassing “latte factor.” I believe I stole this term from “Smart Women Finish Rich” which I highly recommend, although reading doesn’t guarantee success.  The reading was easy, it’s the action that i haven’t been able to master.  But I am going to give it a go.

I was shocked and stunned when I read about the $100 November/Thanksgiving challenge.  I literally could not believe it would be possible for anyone to spent only $100 on food for a month.  Seriously?  I could spend that in a day.  I probably typically spend $100 on food every 3-4 days.  Easy-peasy.  I know that $100 would be impossible, maybe $100 a week.  That would actually be great—taking advantage of my work meal plan more, asking people to go to cheaper restaurants, going out for coffee not wine.  To Emily—the founder and my friend—and to all those partaking in the Thanksgiving Challenge my hat is off to you and I am reading in  utter awe and fascination!

But instead, I am going to tackle my spendthrift habits in a different, but equally effective way.  By reducing my latte factor.

What is the latte factor?

It is the little everyday (or every hour) purchases you make capriciously. Coffee, gum, energy bar, bottle of water, lip balm, drugstore impulse buys, magazines, iTunes, cigarettes, 4 pm vending machine raid, etc.

Everyone has a different latte factor.  But essentially, they are things that aren’t around long, but their cost can really drain your wallet, in a sneaky and speedy way.  Unlike investing in a nice sweater, which you will have for years, you down a coffee and move on with nothing but a slight buzz to show for it.  Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes that buzz or piece of gum makes you happy in a way that makes the rest of your morning or afternoon enjoyable or at least bearable.

This trick is to cut out or down on your non-essential latte items and keep only the one or two that truly make you happy.

I took a tally of my major latte expenses and man, was it down right embarrassing.  Here is a what I could save in a given day or week

Imprudent Purchase             Cost per day             Cost per week

Bottle beverages                               $8                                $56

Coffee                                                      $2.50                          $5 (twice a week)

Gum                                                         $1.50                              $4.50  (3 times a week)

Magazines                                              $4                                  $8 (2)

Unnecessary snacks                          $4                                      $20 (average per week

Total Possible Savings:                $20                                     $93.50

Wow, that is almost $100 a week on stuff that provides minimal real enjoyment.  I mean at least eating a meal out reflects meaningful social time.  A trip, a sweater, at least there is a memory attached, I don’t have much memory of my last piece of gum!

So this is my challenge and feel free to join me!  I am going to tackle this progressively.  I am going to try and eliminate one “imprudent purchase” each week for 5 weeks (cumulatively) and keep track of my total spending and saving in these areas.  I will check in each week.

Week one challenge: cut back to only 1 bottle beverage purchase per day. Yay for the environment too!

Another great read, I highly recommend: City Chic: An Urban Girl’s Guide to Living Large on Less.  Fabulous book to help you save!

Finally, a few things I have really enjoyed compliments of my magazine obsession:

Padma Laksmi’s 15 Healthy Snacks (in the December Marie Claire).  It’s not online yet, so here are my favs:

  • orange or grapefruit sliced into rings and drizzled with honey and cinnamon (dessert, breakfast or with tea)
  • baked figs with balsamic vinegar and black pepper
  • hummus on endive with parsley
  • Cucumber spears dusted with salt and chili and lime juice

I am also loving Tim Gunn’s new Marie Claire Fashion column

Here are Tim’s Rules for Dressing for a Big Night Out

Here’s a Gunn quote, perhaps directed at me :)

Why, oh, why do people persist in dragging around luggage-size handbags to evening events? I see this with more frequency than I care to recall. What are people thinking? Do they line these behemoths with plastic in order to escape with leftovers?

All right kids, I am going to try to knock off some more school work before the big Gossip Girl OM3 episode!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s my one night at home this week and I will watch teen tv shows if I so please :)

PS: DJC, I hope you are enjoying Mozambique!

ENTER KATIE’s Amazing Your Choice Giveaway–magic bullets, spiralizers, oh my!

18 Responses to Financial Fitness

  1. YAAAAY Gossip Girl! :-D

  2. Ooh Mr. Gunn, you just don’t understand. We have so much to carry! Phone, wallet, keys, camera, lip gloss, small hair brush….hmmm, why DO I always carry a big bag?! Oh right, b/c I’m usually hauling gym shoes, a book or two, bills I need to pay, gym clothes, toiletries, etc. Ah well, I’m so far from being fashionable that I don’t think my big bag is really the deal breaker ;-)

    I love your plan to reduce your latte factor, good luck with it!!

  3. I read about the $100challenge on some other blogs too. I think that groceries and food are just more expensive in New York — I always spend more here than I would at home in Michigan. Maybe there could be a special $200 challenge for New Yorkers, lol?

  4. Great post! I definately agree those “small swipes” of the debit card add up so quickly! I am trying to not swipe my debit at all during the work week. It’ll be nice to end the week with as much money as the beginning of the week

  5. Great post! It’s so so true, especially with a debit card, that we rarely see the impact on our wallets until after we’ve made those imprudent purchases! I love this. I just requested the City Chic book from the library too.

  6. This is all very true. I don’t even want to think about what I spend on gum in an average week. I chew almost a pack a day! I try to cut back but am a complete addict haha.

  7. I spend $100 a month on food. I have a VERY tight budget with school and work and not having student loans. I am going to be in NYC for NYE and the BF is from there and tells me its all a lot more expensive than it is here.

  8. GREAT post!

    I think that I’d reached a really terrific financial balance and budget last year (food-related and not), and I have truly lost touch with that in the last six months. Not at all proud of me. This is an inspiration to be mindful of my little expenditures. I’ve packed all of my meals for the week or plan to, so that’s a start in a really good direction!

    Meanwhile, I am definitely inspired to start examining useless money spending.

    Ahem, cab habit.

  9. Great post! I have become so aware of my ‘latte’ spending in the past year. I have stopped buying gum, magazines, and tea.

  10. haha, so many people have the cab habit. I get so absolutely frustrated in cabs that I actually hate taking them, regardless of the money. I guess my frustration at red lights is a good thing :)

  11. Chelsea, I am really impressed. I just can’t fatham it. Good job

  12. Let me know what you think of the book Erin. :)

  13. Missy, you are my city saving idol!

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  15. Pingback: Financial Fitness Update « Fitness NYC

  16. i found your blog through “A runner wife’s life”. a money saving tip i wish i would have known before moving to a city… gym membership. look for them on craigslist. some gyms such as NYSC, well they won’t let you out of your contract if you want to leave early but they will let you “transfer” your contract to another person for a small fee ($20-$40 bucks, i don’t remember). sometimes you can find a person who wants to transfer a contract that they’ve had for a few years (which means a low payment per month for you and no joining fee other than the money to transfer).

  17. Pingback: Sorting Through Savings | Fitness NYC

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