As a Clark Howard reader you’re probably already aware to guard yourself against obvious budget drainers such as costly flavored coffee drinks and pointless mall purchases, but today’s consumer driven society will always try to throw you off budget.
Of course, you are ‘Clark Smart’ and would never succumb to spendy trends. But just in case, here are five trendy budget busters to avoid at all costs.
That free game app is hardly free if players are required to spend real money to get to the next level. We’ve all read frightening articles about children who’ve rung up thousands of dollars on daddy’s iPad or even their own smart phone. Make sure your parental controls are set, keep your app store password private from the little ones and then have a conversation with your kids about how it’s not just pretend money. And if the culprit just happens to be in the mirror, delete these games before you accidentally spend all your money slicing virtual fruit or battling animated dinosaurs.
Sure it’s convenient, but those coffee pods will end up setting you back around $51 per pound, which pretty much kills any joy from an instant cup of Joe. Sure, there are refillable pods, but they defeat the purpose of push-button brewed coffee. Instead, invest $17 on an endlessly reusable gold filter for your single cups of coffee. Heck, even John Sylvan, the inventor of the Keurig machine is quoted as saying “I don’t have one. They’re kind of expensive to use.” Plus you know . . . the environmental consequences of throwing away millions of of spent pods.
Meal and snack subscription services
Whether it’s Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or the myriad of competing meal services, pre-prepared dinner kits are all the rage. These pre-measured and over-packaged boxes are everywhere these days. These ‘money savers’ will set you back around $9.99 per person per meal, (although keep in mind that it’ll be a heart healthy portion that’s unlikely to provide much in the way of leftovers.) Yes, we’d all like to have our meal prep dumbed down and handed to us on a silver platter, but for those of us without a trust fund, this new trend will quickly drain the bank account. Instead, grab an armload of library cookbooks and you’ll easily identify recipes that are both tasty and inexpensive. Also . . . subscription snacks?!
Clothing and accessory rental services
Who among us doesn’t want to put forth a polished and attractive self to the world? For those who desire the aesthetic of the wealthy elite, but suffer from the budget of an average American, there are now services that’ll rent you everything from designer handbags, plus size clothing to red carpet gowns. Sounds great, right? Wrong! You’ll spend hundreds of dollars per month (or per day) renting a Louis Vuitton purse or a designer dress, but you’d be better off scouring thrift shops or high end consignment stores for a diamond in the rough. After all, if you spend all your money renting a purse, you’ll have nothing left to put inside of it!
Multiple streaming services
Those of us who choose streaming video services over cable maybe be patting ourselves on the back for our financial savvy, but we diminish our savings if we’re subscribing to multiple sites. There’s a lot of overlap with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, so make sure you’re being deliberate with your choices. For example, I’m a ginormous Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, but have noticed that it’s included on both Netflix and Amazon Prime. A quick peek over at Hulu Plus confirmed that they offer it as well. Yes, each of these services are now producing original content, but for those on a budget it makes good sense to choose just one. If you simply cannot live without your Orange is The New Black, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently told reporters that ‘We love people sharing Netflix.’ So now you can even split that subscription without guilt or remorse.
Whether you’re spending your money on Costco sized bags of black beans or a luxury meal prep delivery service, just make sure you’re doing so with deliberation and an eye on your overall budget. And always make sure that your parental controls are set when you pass your iPad over to junior. Remember, keep your money in your pocket and you’ll have the funds for what really matters.
Want money-saving advice? See our Deals section.