Will Those Easy Changes Save Big Money?
There is a fairly consistent debate that goes on in the personal finance world about how much of a difference minor changes make in a person’s overall financial position. Author David Bach has famously termed this, “The Latte Factor” and has written a book about it. Some argue that there is no reason to sweat the small stuff because major expenditures such as mortgages, daycare, and car payments will really make, or break, the bank. Others argue that little changes can add up to big savings over time.
I agree that the most important financial decisions are those that will either cost or save you the most. You’re not going to be able to simply quit buying a coffee and become a millionaire.
But, many of those major money decisions are difficult to control. Housing, for example, can be very expensive in high cost of living areas. I live just outside of Boston and could probably get the same house in a different part of the country for half or even a third of what I paid (and continue to pay).
The thing is, though, I don’t want to move. My entire family is nearby and my friends all live here. It would be unrealistic for me to pack up and move to Arkansas or New Mexico just to save on housing. It’s a choice I suppose I could make, but don’t want to. Those easy changes, on the other hand, I have much more control over.
So what’s the answer? Can you really save lots of money by making easy changes? I think you will see for yourself as you read this post.
About 4 years ago, I started to consistently make coffee from home instead of buying it each morning at a coffee shop. I love iced coffee and drink it throughout the year, so I initially had a tough time finding a coffee that was strong enough when brewed hot over ice. We discovered Solimo Coffee K-Cups in Dark Roast. The coffee is just strong enough to still taste great even when diluted with melted ice. 100 K-Cups only cost $24, which results in a 24-cent glass of iced coffee. Compare this to my daily Dunkin’ Donuts run from a few years ago at $2.50 and this quickly becomes a big money saver.
Old Dave – $912.50 New Dave – $87.60
One Year Savings – $825
2. Gym Membership
I used to have a gym membership. The membership was to Boston Sports Clubs, which is a pretty nice gym. They had a teacher discount so I was only paying $20/month at the time. It was a great deal for a higher-end gym! The only problem? You guessed it. I never went!
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I would go steadily for a couple of months, but then I would fall off the wagon and miss the next few months. The point is, a gym membership, no matter how great of a deal, is only worthwhile if you use it all the time. And I wasn’t, so I finally dropped it.
Old Dave – $240 New Dave – $0
One Year Savings – $240
3. Grocery Shopping
Over the past few years, we have become much more mindful of what we are spending our money on at the grocery store. We eat healthier, sticking almost primarily to the outside aisles of the store. We avoid many of the processed, unhealthy food. In the process, we have also saved money. Our average grocery bill is down to about $125/week for a family of four. It used to be at least $150 each week, and that was before our kids were old enough to be eating the same meals as we were. I was always under the impression that eating healthier costs more, but that hasn’t been the case at all for us.
Old Dave – $7800 New Dave – $6500
One Year Savings – $1300
We cut cable about two years ago and haven’t looked back. We still have basic cable for ABC, CBS, NBC, etc., but we eliminated everything else. Ditching cable has worked well for us. We still watch some shows, but we no longer mindlessly turn on the television and flip through the channels. If we watch something, it’s because we have a specific show we would like to watch. Our old bill was $125/month for cable and internet. Our new bill is $75. Clearly, less technology can save you money.
Old Dave – $1500 New Dave – $900
One Year Savings – $600
5. Cell Phone
I had an iPhone with lots of data back in 2016. I made the unusual (but awesome) decision to switch back to a flip phone (Read more about why here). Recently, I was forced back to a smartphone, but it’s with Consumer Cellular and I don’t have any data, so my monthly bill is much cheaper. I now spend under $25/month whereas I was spending about $65 with my iPhone. This was one of the easy changes to save money because it kept me from constantly being attached to my phone.
Old Dave – $780 New Dave – $300
One Year Savings – $480
We had a home energy audit and switched to LED light bulbs throughout our house. We have become more mindful of wasting electricity, and we are sure to unplug sources of “vampire energy”. Our energy bill has not plummeted significantly but has gone down some. And considering the tiny amount of effort we put into this, it’s an easy win. PS – Our electric bill is expensive, mostly due to our pool.
Old Dave – $2700 New Dave – $2400
One Year Savings – $300
I have never been much of a clothes shopper, but there were times in the past when I would go to the mall or the outlets out of boredom. Or, I would go needing one thing and end up buying more. I now make conscious decisions to shop only when it’s necessary and to only get whatever item or items I have on my list. I even wore the same clothes for two months to help prove that others do not realize what we are wearing as often as we think they do.
Old Dave – $400 New Dave – $200
One Year Savings – $200
I was tired of constantly spending $50-$60 on sneakers that never seemed to last longer than 8-12 months. While I was aggravated spending $50 or so, some sneakers go for much, much more. I found Dream Pairs online (some are even cheaper at Dream Pairs website) and decided to give it a shot. 16 months later, I still have the same sneakers and I will definitely buy another pair once these ones finally do fall apart.
Old Dave – $60 New Dave – $25
One Year Savings – $35
9. Credit Card Points & Miles
We used to only use cash for all purchases. It’s a common way to budget money, and it worked well for us for years. In the last few years, however, we have moved to a more mindful budgeting practice. Instead of setting aside a certain amount of cash each month, we now use credit cards, but only purchase what we absolutely feel is necessary. Now that we are using credit cards, we have been credit card hacking as a means of acquiring lots of points, miles, and cash back. We have been able to travel to Mexico, Hawaii, San Diego, and Florida for free or at a reduced cost because of all the point and miles. This amount has varied significantly over the years, but I estimate that I have saved around $1500 in travel and cash back rewards each year. Talk about easy changes to save lots of money.
Old Dave – $2500 New Dave – $1000
One Year Savings – $1500
We used to go out to eat all the time. I can remember many nights grabbing food to go simply because I was too lazy to cook that particular night. I was especially guilty of settling for take-out on many nights instead of cooking. Now, we make going out to dinner feel like more of a treat. We still go out, but much less often so it feels more meaningful instead of habitual. We now average around $125 in restaurants and take out each month. In terms of easy changes to save money, this was one of the more challenging for us.
Related post: Are you a frugal badass? Take this quiz to find out!
Old Dave – $3100 New Dave – $1500
One Year Savings – $1600
I just had a pair of Dollar Store sunglasses break on me. They lasted a whole year and you guessed it, cost me $1. Our local Dollar Store actually has a decent selection of pretty good sunglasses for the price. There’s nothing glamorous about them, but they do the trick. I compare this purchase to my honeymoon purchase of Maui Jim’s for over $200. Those glasses were nice, but they only lasted me about 4 years. I would have needed them to last 400 years to get the same value!
Old Dave – $50 New Dave – $1
One Year Savings – $49
I had a library card when I was a kid but hadn’t had one for the last 30 years until my own children were born. Now, we go to the library all the time. As a result, I read just as much, if not more, than ever and I rarely buy a single book. Every now and then, I will purchase a book, but unless I am sure I will read it multiple times, it makes much more sense to just borrow it from the library.
Old Dave – $75 New Dave – $15
One Year Savings – $60
12. Changing Cars
Four years ago, I sold my Ford F150 for a Honda Civic. I sold my 2005 F150 for $9,500 and bought the 2001 Civic for $2,500. I have since sold that one for $1,000 and moved on to the 2013 Mazda 3 I currently own for $7,600. This has saved me a good amount on maintenance and repairs. Additionally, this has helped me stay below my $1000 rule for car buying.
Old Dave – $2000 New Dave – $1000
One Year Savings – $1000
Speaking of cars, getting rid of my gas-guzzling truck certainly helped me to save on gas. I currently get about 37 MPG on the Mazda compared to 12 MPG (on a good week) with the truck. Gas prices are at or above $2.50/gallon right now and I put about 10,000 miles a year on the car. This disparity in miles per gallon adds up pretty quickly.
Old Dave – $2083 New Dave – $676
One Year Savings – $1407
Total Savings – $9,596!
In total, we have saved $9,596 each year by making the changes that we did. This is an eye-opening number when you consider that we saved this much money without all that much effort. There was no deprivation or struggling. We weren’t forced to give up any of the things that we enjoy doing. In so many ways, most of this was just wasted money in the past, spent mindlessly.
What do we do with that extra money each year? What if we invest it? This is where things really get fun. If we invested $9,596 each year assuming a 7% return, we would end up with $142,421 after 10 years!
Easy Changes to Save Big Money, Agree?
So, readers, what easy changes have you made to save money? Do you believe in the “latte factor” or are the big expenses what really matters?