12 money-sucking “needs” … and a few more

Last week, MSN published an article about so-called needs in today’s society that become big money drains. Here’s the list and my take on them. See how you rate.

12 needs that suck away cash:

1. Daily latte. Sometimes I’m a sucker for this, but we often use our home espresso maker (an Italian stainless steel stovetop model that cost around $70 — Mr. Cheap worked in coffeehouses for years and is an espresso snob) and I heat up milk in the microwave; or rather Mr. Cheap, our espresso-maker, does. I do like coffee out occasionally, not daily.
2. Cable service. They say basic cable runs $30 to $35 a month. Mine is just under $14 per month. No premium channels here. What’s normal?
3. Weekly mani/pedi. Do people really get a manicure and pedicure weekly? At prices of $10 to $25, the article says you’ll save $520 to $1200 a year by doing your own nails. I’ve had about two manicures and three pedicures in my life.
4. Botox. It’ll cost you $1,200 to $4,800 per year. Just arrange your own face in a calm, immobile position. I don’t like needles, so I think I’m safe, although sometimes I worry about my forehead wrinkles.
5. Bottled water. We don’t buy it, sort of … although lately Mr. Cheap has been on a Pellegrino jag — substituting it for caloric beverages to tide us over in the hot, hot summer. Hey, it’s cheaper than beer or wine, about the same as soda. We mostly drink tap water.
6. A second car. We do have two cars, and the second one is mostly for convenience. At this point, I don’t have enough time to commute by bus on the occasions when I need to go somewhere and Mr. Cheap needs a car. But it has cost us a total of $3,000, it’s paid off, and Mr. Cheap uses about $25 a month in gas — facts I remind myself of when I find myself lusting after a beautiful newer car.
7. A cell phone. I agree, these can get costly. We have two cell phones. I use mine as my business line, and use it mostly for business calls. I have a Sprint Employee Referral Offer that costs $30 a month for unlimited text and data and 500 minutes a month, which I never use up. My husband has a TracPhone I got him for Christmas with a one-year card that I doubt he’ll use within the year (although he got crazy in July and set up his voice mail) — nobody but me has his number; it’s just for emergencies and very occasional convenience. His phone cost $150 for the year.
8. Lawn service. Up to $360 a month? I knew our half-dead grass would pay off somewhere! I’m going to save this one for when I’m old and infirm. Wait, I won’t have a lawn then.
9. Clothes. Oh, I do like to have new clothes. In 2008, we’ve averaged $205 a month for clothes. However, this includes some purchases we don’t make every year, like a new swimsuit for me, new durable summer sandals for me (Keens – love them!), and a bunch of new work clothes to make Mr. Cheap look respectable for his new career. We often do get by with “new to me” rather than actually new clothes.
10. Private school. Ouch! This is a MAJOR expense for us, and one we wrangle over weekly. Our daughter goes to the perfect school for her. It costs a freakin’ fortune. The expert MSN quotes says, however, “I think some private schools are actually inferior because sometimes their instructors don’t have to be credentialed.” (That could be true, but all of our school’s teachers have master’s degrees.) And MSN’s story goes on to add:

Oh, did we mention that you’re already paying for public school anyway? Go public and save anywhere from $8,000 to $35,000 per year, according to the Boarding School Review Web site.

By that measure, we are actually on the lower end – phew! Jury out, but meanwhile, we are shelling out big bucks here.
11. Kids’ parties. After our (shared!) kindergarten birthday party cost $120, we bowed out. This year, our party cost around $50 for 10 girls, with favors, etc., and it probably didn’t need to be that high. For next year, Little Cheap wants a backyard campout … but since her birthday is in March, we are thinking of a plan B.
12. Pet grooming/walking. We don’t use a dog walker, although if he knew that option existed, Schnauzer Cheap would think it was as unfair to deny him a walker as Little Cheap thinks it’s unfair to deny her a nanny (why aren’t nannies on this list?). He does go to the groomer, and it started out costing $30 a time … but last time, with tip, it was over $40. He needs grooming about three times a year. I have thought of doing it myself, but I haven’t bought clippers yet. I don’t know: How do they get all the tangles out of his long hair? How do they trim the hair right around his penis (because they do)? Would I have to express his anal glands myself? Hmm, $40 is starting to sound like a good deal.

Our outcome

I’m a super sucker on two of these categories; overall, our household indulges in eight of them. If I cut out ALL our spending on those categories, we’d save about $4,200 plus private-school tuition. Wow! Now, I don’t see us not having a birthday party for our child or not buying any clothing, but it is good to see things we could cut in a crunch.

The other “needs”

I’d add a few other needs that I think rank higher than Botox in many people’s lives:

  • A nanny.
  • A housekeeper. This costs at least $80 a week — I know, because I want one really badly, but I haven’t yet persuaded myself to give up enough to hire one.
  • Hair color. I’ve heard of lots of people shelling out $100 every month or two to stay blonde (or brunette, or any non-gray shade).
  • A video game system. And the accompanying games.
  • Netflix. How many times have I been asked, “You don’t have Netflix?!” Nope, I have a library card instead.
  • Hobbies. I’m oh-so-guilty-as-charged on this one.
  • Kids lessons and camps. Guilty here, as well — but man, do they add up.

What have we missed?

What about you? Has that categorization opened your eyes anywhere? Does your community have another costly habit that begins to feel like a need?


9 thoughts on “12 money-sucking “needs” … and a few more

  1. Michelle says:

    We just went down to one, old paid off car, cancelled Netflix (we don’t have a TV!), no cable, no daily lattes, no weekly grooming (hair, mani/pedi, botox)
    BUT Our cell phones are 100 bucks a month and the only reason that I don’t have a housekeeper is because I pay so much money on the groomer…I have also wondered about the cliping around the nethers. I guess it’s all progress. I would love to get down to 25 bucks a month in gas and ‘Oh Yeah!’ My hobbies are probably above and beyond.

  2. Leanne says:

    Yep, the hobbies get me. I’m easily addicted to anything new and have to stop myself from running out and spending on £100 in jeweller’s tools or the full range of modge podge. But that could just be me.

    I can get by without most things, just not the childcare. Luckily it hasn’t quite got to the point where I’m only working to cover childcare fees.

  3. organicneedle says:

    We definitely spend a lot on cable/Net Flix/Roku etc. Memberships is another big one for us. Now, while we can afford it, I feel like it is money well spent but it adds up. Between the zoo, botanical gardens, science center, & children’s museum we spend around $600 a year without even thinking about it. But like you mentioned, it is good to be aware of things easy to cut if the need comes. We also spend a fortune on other people’s parties…kid or adult. We always bring a gift and usually something for the party…wine, food, etc. That wouldn’t be so easy to cut.

  4. Kait says:

    I think I’m lucky – there aren’t a lot of things on that list that I am paying for at this point. I used to have gel nails, and that was a TOTAL money suck.

    My hobbies can be expensive, but I try not to indulge in them too often – less than once a month.

  5. Cheap Like Me says:

    @Michelle – If it’s any consolation, our primary vehicle definitely uses more than $25 a month in gas.

    @organicneedle – Memberships! These count as tax-deductible contributions, but they do add up, and entertaining/entertainment can be pricey too. All those “just bring a bottle of wine” invites …

    And I forgot one more – sports! Part of why we don’t ski is that $100 a day price tag, but for plenty of people it would be unthinkable to give it up. (I say it’s like smoking … just don’t start.)

  6. heather says:

    I happily pay for the netflix because we get a lot of use out of it. We don’t go to new release movies very often and we don’t have any movie/premium cable channels, and I have two problems with the library – it’s too far away, and they never have anything I want to see available when I want to see it. It’s our only entertainment expense, everything else we do it free.

    I do just want to talk about public school though. My daughter went to private school from K-5 and we wouldn’t have given it up if it hadn’t been for financial issues the school was having. It was a small school, enrollment kept dropping, they closed a week before school was to start that year. I was forced to put my daughter in public school because the only other private school in our area had a waiting list due to the other 2 schools both closing. We never went back. My daughter loves public school and I feel she has gotten a better education than at either of the two private schools she went to. There are also a lot more opportunities for her to be involved in as far as the selection of after school activities, band, etc. I know this isn’t going to be the same everywhere, with every school district, ours happens to be a great one. (Maybe yours isn’t, I don’t know.) However, we never even would have tried it if we hadn’t been forced too. (And if you don’t like it after a year, you could always switch back.) It just turned out really well for us and her.

  7. Condo Blues says:

    Paying someone to express my dog’s anal glands is worth it’s weight in gold! I have my vet do that because my understanding is you can possibly cause an infection if you do it incorrectly. Other than that and nail clipping (again at the vet) I do my Peke’s brushings and baths. Mostly out of necessity because he was beaten when he was groomed and I worked with a trainer to get my dog to trust me that I wouldn’t hurt him during grooming. My dog’s OK.

    I suppose dog training may be on their list but honestly, my dog had some behavioral problems that I couldn’t work through without professional help. For me, it was a good return on the investiment.

  8. Rachel says:

    I do most of the dog grooming myself. I’m lucky and have a terrier mix (our vet guesses Schnauzer + Yorkie = Snorkie) that doesn’t shed and has hair at a maximum growth of an inch and a half. So I just use scissors to trim around the face and butt. I don’t express his anal glands. I’m told it really only needs to be done if they have had problems with infections and otherwise can actually increase risk of infection. I do the baths on my own and absolutely adore Bamboo’s Dog De-Shedding Comb to remove the undercoat. The one thing I don’t do is doggie nails. I take him to get his nails filed by Dremel every few months and that’s only $10 plus tip.


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