Michael on July 22nd, 2009
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Maybe it’s the part of me that remembers how excited I felt to still be awake at 12:30 AM as a teenager, but I still think Top 10 lists are fun.  From those I’ve created here, two of my favorites are:

If you’re already living Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, making any of the following decision is ludicrous (not that I haven’t occasionally been guilty of such behavior myself).

Others may be in a financial predicament which compels you to make some of the otherwise poor choices below.  As such, this list highlights just a few ways you currently sell yourself short by not moving Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck. What do I recommend in that case? Another top ten list, of course: The Top Ten Saving Strategies.

The Top 10 Ways to Save a Little Money While Ruining Your Life

(Or, said another way:)

Ten Ways to Be Cheap Yet Financially Irresponsible.

1.  Comparison-shopping cold medicine

If you’re sick, your significant other is sick, or your kid is sick and you need medicine, go to the store and get some medicine. Period.  That’s it. You don’t first go to the drug store, then the grocery store, and then visit drugstore.com to see who has the best price.  You buy the freakin’ medicine.  If you want to save money on OTC medicine, do so before you need the medicine.

2.  Opting out of a night out with friends

Question:  “Why spend money I don’t have on a place I didn’t choose?”

Answer:  Because you only live once.  If you like the people going out or even if you just need a change of scenery, go out.  You don’t have to order something expensive and you don’t have to agree to split the bill equally if half the group orders fillet and the other half (your half) asks for soda water with a slice of lemon.  You don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time, but you do have to leave your house every once in a while.

3.  Using a dial-up Internet connection

I’d love to explain to you why this is such a short-sighted decision, but then you’d have to wait even longer for this page to load.

4.  Not replacing old shoes or sneakers (or tennis shoes for you Midwesterners who call all “sneakers” “tennis shoes” even if they’ve never heard of Wimbledon)

Because I buy new sneakers so infrequently, I just re-learned how great new sneakers can feel.  But it wasn’t good for my feet (nor would it be for yours) to wear shoes to the point we don’t recall what an arch looks or feels like.

5.  Driving an Unsafe Car

I’m all about driving cars until they drop.  Want proof?  I’m well into my thirties and I’m still only on my second car. Ever.  I got seven years out of the first one and my current car is now over eight years old.  The no car payment strategy isn’t for the flashy.  After all, few young ladies were impressed with my red Plymouth Neon back in the day, and no one awes my Saturn sedan.  However, if I ever felt my car was no longer safe to drive, it would be gone.  I can’t imagine putting my safety behind my desire to avoid a car payment.  You shouldn’t consider it either.

6.  Not giving to the important causes in your life

We all have a soft-spot for certain missions.  Find the special causes that speak to you and give to them.  Give time but also give money.  You get back more than you put in, often in ways you don’t understand.  Withholding charity costs you far more than the check you would have written to help others.

7.  Not updating sporting equipment

Thanks to multiple ankle sprains and torn ligaments, my weak ankles require that I wear ankle braces whenever I play basketball.  I’m smart enough to take the extra ten minutes every time I play to put on the braces.  But I’m still an idiot because my ankle braces are more than four years old and were, therefore, not effective in preventing me from spraining my ankle (yet again) a few weeks ago. You might not need new gear every season, but you do have to replace your equipment periodically. Don’t be so cheap it costs you.

8.  Delaying a visit to the doctor to save the co-pay

Even if you have a high co-pay like I do, it’s not a good idea to delay seeing the doctor if you are sick or have sprained your ankle – again.  It may cost you more in the long-term, since your illness might become more serious and costly or require additional physical therapy – again.

9.    Not purchasing water before a hike

I don’t care to purchase bottled water.  (You know what Evian is spelled backwards, right?)  Nonetheless, I drink a lot of water.  When I’m home in NH, this is easily accomplished without buying a bottle. But since I don’t like filling up a thermos from a public restroom, you’ll probably see me with a bottle of water whenever I’m on the road.

But that’s because I’ve matured (at least in that regard).

Many years ago, my girlfriend and I would often go on lengthy hikes and invariably forget to bring water.  But without a container and not wanting to spend money on bottled water, we usually just went without.  But water is kind of important on a warm summer day on a long hike, even in Michigan.   Dumb – buy the water.

10.  Skipping a vacation

If you can’t afford a vacation, don’t go on that vacation. Go on a vacation you can afford. If you can’t afford any vacation-related expense, then take time off and spend it locally. If you have paid vacation time, you can afford a vacation. Find one. Life is too short.

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What other ways have you (or other people you know) saved money while ruining, or at least damaging, their lifestyle?  Let’s grow this list.

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If you liked this article, there are plenty more. Check out the archives to the right – I’ve been blogging for over two years.  You can also follow me on Twitter.

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9 Comments to “Top Ten Ways to Save Money While Ruining Your Life”

  1. This might be my favorite blog so far on this site. I have found myself doing many of the things mentioned here, then reflecting on how ridiculous i was being.

  2. Adam says:

    This was so well put. Sometimes we lose site of what should be cut and what should not. That being said, I need to get sneakers as I have put that purchase off long enough!!

  3. Michael says:

    @Jeff and @Adam/Fiamma: Thanks for the kind words! Sounds like a few of us are unnecessarily avoiding the sneaker outlets!

  4. Neil says:

    While I’ll agree with several of these, I’ll take issue with a few.

    1 – While you seem to be discussing mainly price shopping different stores (which will almost always cost you more time and/or fuel than it saves you whether you’re sick or not), stores make it pleasantly easy to price-shop without moving more than 2 feet. Just check all the packs for what their active ingredients are, and then compare price per pill. Takes 2 minutes and can save around $10 over buying the name brand by default, for a $300/hour return.

    2 – Opting out of a night with friends is not always a bad idea. If you don’t like the venue chosen, you might well look forward to the company and still have a bad time. That would be a waste of time and money. This is why I almost invariably skip 5-cent wings night, since it’s always at a dingy, noisy bar.

    9 – Purchasing water is always ridiculous unless there really is no other option (for instance failing to purchase water in Egypt would be stupid). But in a developed country where the tap water is potable? Seriously, invest in a reusable bottle and never worry about it again. I haven’t bought water outside a developing country in 15 years, and don’t intend to start now.

    I’ll agree with “not updating sports equipment” with the caveat that the bigger mistake is not maintaining sports equipment. I bike a lot and I find it painful when I hear someone squeaking down the street…I see some people do this daily. Less than $10 on some chain lube and cleaner and 20 minutes of elbow grease and it’s good as new. Like most things a bit of care goes a long way.

  5. Dee says:

    Not eating so you can save on groceries!

    I’m guilty of this one as I may be hungry, but I think of how much I’ll save by not eating at all.

  6. Michael says:

    @Neil: Thanks for sharing your comments! I hear you on in-store comparison shopping, especially where the “active ingredients” are identical.

    @Dee: Maybe your comment would have been better placed under a list of the Top 10 Ways to Save Money While Ending Your Life. Not sure you’re approach is fully scalable! :) Glad you’ve changed your approach!

  7. Michael,

    Love the post! I add not eating well. Buying highly processed food seems cheaper than fresh food (and sometimes tastier, especially at 3 am with a buzz). But the output of mega agri-business is not about optimal health for us, the eaters, but maximal profits for them, the corporations. Plus, processed food costs a lot more later in the form of hardened arteries, overweight and diabetes. So I say shell out a little more now for food in its original state (like fresh veggies) and avoid medical bill-induced bankruptcy later.

  8. Michael says:

    @Genevive: Thank you for this excellent addition. I discuss this at length in The 45-cent strawberry: Are organic foods worth it?

  9. Kevin says:

    I do most of the aforementioned things so I can afford cigarettes. Is that backward? You wouldn’t think so if you worked with the people I work with.

    Nevertheless, even if I netted 100k/yr I’d still refuse to pay for bottled water. I live in Michigan for cryin’ out loud. On a completely unrelated note, my 1991 Buick just crossed 200000 miles. However safe, in no sort of style. It’s brown and has a luggage rack. Which is funny because the trunk is already big enough to fit luggage for 12. Do they even still make luggage? Meh, I digress.

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