Forget Frugality If You Have This Expense

by David Ning · 15 comments

When we try to cut our expenses and be a little more frugal, most people start with the bigger ticket items.  The theory is simple and logical.  Cut one big expense and it can cover 10 different ones.  While this is great, the problem is that we almost always stop thinking about the little expenses because we pay way too much attention to the large ones.

If we look closely, we will realize that we shouldn’t be thinking about spending less on big expenses but rather on small expenses that just keep repeating.

frozen yogurt

I actually never realized this until recently, when my wife all of a sudden added eating frozen yogurt to her favorite activity of all time.  Every night nowadays, she is wondering whether we can go out to buy a cup of frozen yogurt.  At $5 USD, it’s really not that much money but if we just think about it, we could be spending $150 a month translating to $1800 a year.  This means that without 1 year of frozen yogurt (which should be quite easy because we’ve never had any for the last 30 years), we could buy a TV and still have money left over.

Look.  I’m not saying that we should stop all daily, smaller expenses.  I just want to make everyone realize that the small, repeatable expenses add up really quick.  Watch those expenses, or we might as well forget about being frugal.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel @ Master Your Card April 16, 2008 at 6:29 am

Absolutely right – it is like having a latte on the way to work, buying something from the snack machine or getting into the habit of buying take outs. If we can change our spending habits just a little bit, it can make a huge difference.

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No Debt Plan April 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

David, I’ve written on this in the past as well. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.

And yea, that frozen yogurt stuff can get expensive.

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Greg the Niche Blog Dude April 16, 2008 at 11:12 am

Isn’t this referred to as the “Latte Factor?”

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El Cheapo April 16, 2008 at 12:49 pm

My sweetie was hooked on froyo for a while too. After some serious consumption (3x per week at $5 each serving) for about three months, she finally decided that it was too expensive a habit to maintain. She hasn’t picked it up again which is a good thing.

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JB April 16, 2008 at 9:47 pm

I know what you mean about those small things adding up quick. I try to explain this concept to my wife, who likes to watch movies in the theater frequently. Everyone once in a while seems fine, but it can really add up over time.

I have to keep myself away from the coffeeshop myself. I’ll spend 20 bucks in a week there.

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Dividend Growth Investor April 18, 2008 at 6:36 am

I totally agree that the little expenses do add up over time. Whenever you are thinking about buying a snack from the vending machine, stop, and put the dollar ( or your quarters) back in your pocket. Instead go drink some water. That would get you going until lunch or dinner time..

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Nancy December 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

Yes, put the dollar back in your pocket. But I take this a little further. I put the dollar in a bank, yes a piggybank, so that the money I saved doesn’t get spent elsewhere either. I use that tactic in other ways, too. For example, I put a dollar in the bank whenever I line-dry laundry instead of using the clothes dryer. Recently, I was tempted to stop off on the way home and pick up BBQ takeout because I felt too tired to cook. I talked myself out of this, and put $30 into that piggybank. Yes, it’s a mind game, but I end up with a bit of money to add to savings. It’s fun and I feel good.

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Aaron Stroud April 21, 2008 at 11:52 am

A frozen yogurt habit might cost us more than money. I suppose it’s healthier than ice cream, but the calories will add up night after night.

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Witty Artist September 1, 2011 at 7:38 am

You’re right, David. If we take a look at some little expenses we make that we consider insignificant, well, we’d be surprised to see they aren’t that little. It’s all about little pleasures turned into habits. I used to make the same mistake with some snacks I liked to buy, until I noticed both the sum that I spent and the extra calories. But, with a little discipline I managed to solve out everything.

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Jim Ryan January 13, 2012 at 8:16 am

A better way to enjoy frozen yogurt without spending $5 a pop …. we frozen yogurt by the carton. Normally $3 for a 48 oz. carton. We can easily get 8 portions out of that, at a cost of less than $.40 per serving.

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Jim Ryan January 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

We also take advantage of every two-for-one coupon we see for restaurants we enjoy patronizing. Almost all of our eating out is done this way, saves us a lot of money without giving up the meals we enjoy. We also do our fair amount of picnicing as well, doesn’t take that long to throw a few items into a picnic basket.

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Ed2012 January 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thank God I’m not alone! My wife switched from ice cream to frozen yogurt, which are basically the same thing in my eyes, but the yogurt is of course more expensive! We have a place called Yogurtland, where you self serve your own and they weigh it at the end. Well, a 6 or 7 dollar yogurt can come quit quickly if you fill the little bowl up and put some toppings. We haven’t gone since the 1st, as we’re trying to cut back on dairy for the new year, but I know this won’t last forever! God help me :)

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Jenny June 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Not only with frozen yogurt, but also those mocha frappe, and ice cream cone on a Friday night. Don’t ever deny getting one every once in a while, otherwise you will feel deprived. Maybe once in a blue moon.

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Alan December 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I evidently need to get in the frozen yogurt business. Can you imagine the markup from what that stuff actually costs?

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Jennifer January 30, 2014 at 10:14 pm

It’s worth taking the time adding up all the “little” expenses for just about anything that is a repetitive cost (egs., shaving, laundering, grass cutting, dry cleaning, manicures, hair cuts, deliveries, etc) and seeing if there’s a way to do them more frugally. E.g., Do them less, change the process, use a different services provider, or just don’t do it anymore! That’s how to push back on these “budget” items.

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