How Much is that Trivial Costing You?

Last Friday I successfully resisted the urge to visit the Dunkin' Donuts in my office building.

I wish I could tell you it's because I've turned a new leaf on healthy eating.

Umm, have you ever had one of their biscuit sandwiches?

Okay, so maybe I am moving further along in my quest to be more financially responsible.

Seriously, their sausage, egg and cheese biscuit is no joke!

Fine fine. Perhaps I resisted the urge because I had enough food in my lunchbox to ward off fast food temptation.

Then again, nothing says "balanced meal" like leftover pizza with a side of fresh biscuit! And, while we're at it, nothing spells "complete" like biscuit with a hot chocolate.

One of the more difficult aspects of saving money is resisting those little temptations that accumulate to put a big dent in your budget. It's easy to pass off the occasional soda, coffee or your choice of temptation as a harmless purchase, but look back through your expenses and calculate the total cost over the course of a year.

In my not so hypothetical example above, a biscuit sandwich and a large hot chocolate runs me something like $6.78. Let's multiply that by 50, taking two weeks of hypothetical vacation, and over the course of a year I will have spent $339.

You might be tempted to point out $339 over the course of twelve months is still not so bad compared to your total annual earnings. Here are a few reasons why you are misguided.

First, there's nothing wrong with rewarding yourself. Living a financially responsible life does not mean you have to be miserable, but there's a difference between a reward and a routine. A treat ceases being a treat if you buy it so often that you stop enjoying it as a special moment.

Next, there's a slippery slope at work here. If you can easily justify the purchase of something you deem to be insignificant on Monday, on Tuesday you might find it just as easy to buy something else that seems equally insignificant. If you spent $10 on breakfast, $5 on lunch is quite the deal, right? A $5 magazine subscription on Amazon isn't hurting anyone, right? The name brand product is only a few bucks more expensive than the generic, so where's the harm? And so on.

Finally, the money you spend on trivial things is money you can't put toward something important. The hundreds of dollars I wasted on beer in college is money I was not able to put toward student loans. The money you gradually spent on frivolous purchases is money you can't put toward your mortgage, car note, monthly bills...

What's your trivial purchase costing you over the course of a year? If it's a food or beverage, how much more effort would it cost to prepare it at home? What could you have put that money toward instead?

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