We all spend too much money on something out there. After all, money in and of itself is useless unless we are spending it. That being said though, some of the everyday things people spend their money on are an absolute waste and a downright scam. In this post, I will go over the 20 biggest wastes of money that we continue to spend our hard earned cash on. I am not here to judge anyone in particular, just the human race as a whole that I am happily a part of. How many of these are you guilty of?
- 1 1) Cigarettes
- 2 2) Designer Clothing and Fashion
- 3 3) Playing the Lottery
- 4 4) New Cars
- 5 5) Bottled Water
- 6 6) Weddings
- 7 7) Paper Towels
- 8 8) Diamonds/Jewelry
- 9 9) Fast Food
- 10 10) University
- 11 11) Charity/Non-For-Profit
- 12 12) Makeup
- 13 13) Greeting Cards
- 14 14) Wrapping Paper
- 15 15) Vitamins
- 16 16) Cleaning Products
- 17 17) Gadgets
- 18 18) Eating/Drinking Out
- 19 19) Luxury Hotels
- 20 20) Gyms
Cigarettes are bad for you, like really bad, like proven to cause cancer and a multitude of other illnesses bad. Despite what you tell yourself, and unlike other substances such as cannabis, there are actually no real benefits to smoking cigarettes, especially when it comes to the money in your pocket. There are however hundreds of reasons to quit.
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To begin, cigarettes do not just contain tobacco, they contain over 599 additives. These 599 additives turn into 4000 different chemicals through the chemical change of burning the tobacco. 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Some of the lovely chemicals that cigarette smokers deeply inhale include: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides and ammonia. The initial 599 additives have been approved as safe by the FDA, but they were approved without being burned. The FDA never once approved the 4000 chemicals created through the burning process that are known to be noxious poisons. You are spending your money on unapproved carcinogens.
Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030. Cigarette smoking account[s] for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Smoking causes an estimated 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.
Translation: Cigarettes are a near guaranteed death sentence, a death sentence that consists of horrible pain and struggling until the very last moment. Oh, and if you don’t die from smoking cigarettes, you are still more likely to get sick. Because they lower the effectiveness of the immune system and other bodily functions, the CDC notes that compared to non-smokers, smokers are more likely to develop:
- coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
- strokes by 2 to 4 times
- men developing lung cancer by 23 times
- women developing lung cancer by 13 times
- dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times
So if cigarettes are so harmful, why do people start smoking in the first place? The major reasons are:
- Media advertising
- Epigentic predisposition
- Parental influence
- Stress relief
- Self medication
- Appetite suppression
- Social benefits
- Peer pressure
Some of these reasons for starting are understandable and may seem like benefits from the get go. For example, stress relief doesn’t sound so bad. The problem is that once the incredibly strong sway of nicotine addiction sets in, which could be within days, cigarettes themselves become a stressor because smokers are antsy, anxious, and stressed without the tool they have become dependent on for solving their stress. Quite the downward spiral. The truth is that any physical benefit from smoking quickly subsides as the body builds a resistance to the nicotine found in tobacco. The positive benefits, such as appetite suppression and mood elevation, quickly fade in place of the same old you, that same old you that you originally tried to alter with a highly potent poison. Keep in mind that nicotine is incredibly potent, with resistance and dependency forming very quickly. To be precise, it is:
- 1000 X more potent than alcohol
- 10-100 X more potent than barbiturates
- 5-10 X more potent than cocaine or morphine
What about social benefits? Isn’t it great to be able to do something with your mouth and fingers to distract from the awkwardness of getting to know other people? The truth is that in this case you are only slightly curing a symptom of a problem with much deeper roots. If you require a biologically destructive tool to be able to comfortably talk to people, then you should put your focus on overcoming this societal fear rather than using an irrational crutch forever and ever.
It should be obvious that the rest of the list consists of very shallow and poor reasons for choosing to take up such a clearly destructive and incredibly hard-to-break habit. Not to mention, cigarettes are extremely expensive.
Super, super expensive in fact! In 2011 a pack of cigarettes cost between $4.74 (West Virgina) and $11.90 (New York), depending on the state. In 2012 the price range for cigarettes changed to $4.84 (West Virgina) to $12.50 (New York). If you live in New York and smoke a modest 1 pack of cigarettes a day, you’re spending $87.50 a week, which is $4,550 a year. Not surprisingly, a recent study found that cigarettes smokers in New York that made $30,000 a year or less spent a whopping 25% of their income on cigarettes. 25% of their income on something that has no real benefits past the first couple weeks, is incredibly difficult to stop doing, is proven to cause cancer, and shortens your life span by at least 10 years. Go figure.
You might be thinking, ‘Hey, I’m sure some people enjoy smoking until the day they die whether they develop cancer or not.’ The odds are against you friend. 69% of smokers in the United States admit to wanting to quit completely with 52% of smokers trying to quit in 2010. Feel like throwing your health and money away? Grab a pack of cigarettes.
Sadly, even today, despite so much available information, 4,000 kids younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette everyday, and everyday 1000 kids younger than 18 become daily smokers. If you are attempting to quit smoking, there are many ways to change behavior and break habits successfully. Don’t give up on yourself, you’re worth it!
Related Article: A How To: Behavior Changes and Breaking Habits
2) Designer Clothing and Fashion
If there was ever an absolute scam, this is it. Billions of people around the world have been brainwashed into believing that brand names equate to better quality and ‘cool factor’. While this may be the case in some instances, it is not the norm.
Whether it be sunglasses, watches, hats, handbags, pants, jackets, shoes, or any other material possession, much of the world is not happy unless they have an item made by their favorite designer. The problem is that designers charge insane amounts of money for products that often cost them about the same amount as it costs Walmart to make their products. The difference is that they claim their name and minimum amount of labor is worth the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars extra.
The brainwashing goes even further when people insist that they need to buy new clothes each season to keep up with the changing fashion. High end clothing companies and designers would have you believe that you are not cool unless you pay them exorbitant amounts of your hard earned money four times a year to keep up with the ‘in crowd.’ What an ingenious way to suck consumers dry.
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This form of brainwashing comes largely in the form of advertising, celebrity worship, and companies/independent designers banking on your insecurities. According to David A. Aaker, the vice chairman of Prophet, a brand consulting firm:
The cost of creating those things has nothing to do with the price, it is all about who else is wearing them, who designed them and who is selling them.
It’s not about price, it’s about competing with everyone around you. And for what? To look the flashiest? Readers, I have news for you: You are an adult, and if you haven’t figured this out yet, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. The only time it matters is in a job interview, because a job has the benefit of giving you the ability to support yourself. Your potential boss is not looking at your wardrobe, he is looking at a single outfit. But even in that instance, guess what? Unless you have the Walmart logo on your button down collared shirt, your boss will have NO IDEA how much you spent on your clothing. As long as you look presentable, that is what matters, and it does not take $500, $200, or even a $50 shirt to do that.
The mark ups on all clothing are astronomical, but this is especially the case with designer clothing. Did you know that Kohl’s department store has been caught hiking up the price of their products right before a huge sale? It is even possible to pay more for a sale price than you would have for the normal price of the good. There is a reason why all your favorite designers are living in multiple mansions, driving cars that cost more than your life’s net worth, and purchasing their own islands: they tricked you. They have the world at their fingertips, and what do you have? Their sewn together fabric. Woopdie-do.
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If you just can’t break the habit of buying designer goods and clothing, all hope is not lost. Head to a resale shop like Plato’s Closet and pick up some designer clothes at a fraction of the price. Sure, the clothes might be used, but after washing them no one will be able to tell the difference. Plato’s Closet has incredibly high standards for their clothing and even the slightest defect will be noticed and that piece of clothing removed from the store. You may be wearing used clothes, but at least you won’t have to work 20 hours of overtime next week to pay back the growing interest on your Macy’s credit card.
*Note: Another great idea is to buy clothes and other art from Etsy.com and support independant, and possibly even local artists/artisans. At least you’ll know that your particular item is one of a kind instead of wearing the same Abercrombie shirt as every other 20-something-debt-up-to-their-nose-fashion-freak.
3) Playing the Lottery
You actually have a better chance of being killed by a mountain lion or becoming president of the U.S.A than winning the Mega Millions Jackpot or the Megabucks Slot Machine Jackpot. There is a reason winning the lottery is called a pipe dream, and it’s not because pipes help you win.
4) New Cars
Buying a new car is one of the best ways to cut your money into little pieces and throw it to the wind. The moment you drive your shiny new vehicle off the lot it depreciates in value by up to 40% of the price you just paid only seconds before. So, if you pay $25,000 for a new car, within seconds of the purchase it is worth only $15,000. Yikes! By the end of the third year your 4-wheeled baby is worth about 40% of its original price. If you’re planning on holding onto your car for longer than 3 years its only going to get worse. The older a car is, the slower it depreciates in value.
Don’t forget that it’s impossible to know whether you will get into an accident or not, potentially totaling your car. Remember, you might be the best driver in the world, but what about everyone else?
5) Bottled Water
Bottled water is next on the list. Not only is bottled water a completely unnecessary expenditure in all but the most extreme cases, it is also extremely detrimental to the environment and your wallet.
While there is an ongoing debate regarding the safety of many plastics and various other ingredients found in plastic bottled water, what is not debated is the effect on the environment. Bottled water clearly effects the already heavily burdened environment in a highly negative way. Just because you throw your plastic bottles in the recycling bin does not mean that the bottle is being reused; it’s probably being dumped right into a landfill or the Pacific Ocean.
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Every bottle you buy and toss away has on average a 28% chance of actually being properly recycled. Keep in mind that due to improper recycling practices and the rise of plastic use around the world, parts of the Pacific Ocean contain more particles of plastic than plankton. Sea life consumes this plastic, is caught by fishing companies, and goes right back on your plate. You are eating the water bottles you throw away, that is not an exaggeration.
Furthermore, there is no clear proof that bottled water is any healthier to drink than tap water. While our tap water is not very clean, containing harmful drugs, plastics, pesticides and other dangerous elements, there is no evidence that bottled water does not contain the same substances. You are better off buying a water filter and filling your own BPA free water bottles at home. The best reason to fill up your own water bottles at home is how much money it will save you in the long run.
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Think gasoline is expensive? Bottled water costs up to 3 times as much per galon! To make matters worse, bottled water costs over 1000 times more than tap water, the water you are paying for each month anyway! The absolute worst part? Many studies have found that a large percentage of bottled water is just tap water.
On average, each person in the U.S. consumes 167 plastic bottles of water each year. You can use this bottled water cost calculator to figure out your own wasteful spending, but let’s just assume you are average. If you buy 167 bottles of water per year at a low price of 1.50 per bottle (some bottles of water like Fiji brand could cost up to $5.00 per bottle in the stores) you are looking at $250 dollars per year. Compare that to buying a water filter and a reusable water bottle and the purchase already pays for itself even before the end of a year. Remember that the water filter and water bottle are almost endlessly reusable.
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*Note: The one instance where it is extremely tempting to buy bottled water is while traveling where it is unsafe to drink the water. The same suggestion applies: buy a couple reusable BPA-free water bottles and just fill them on the go at your hotel/hostel. You can even get a lightweight, compact UV water purifier to bring with you and ensure your water is completely safe to drink. If you live or are traveling in North America, a great solution to bottled water is to take advantage of purified water vending machines, an idea that many bottled water companies are implementing. These vending machines can often be found outside of supermarkets.
Weddings: one of the prime sources of gossip on Facebook, and one of the ultimate stressors for couples and relatives alike. Weddings are romanticized and embedded deep into the psyche of little girls from the time they are toddlers. Since time immemorial, humans have simply accepted that the culmination of success and happiness in a relationship must lead to a budget crippling, single-day expenditure called a wedding. Of course, most weddings just end in the creation of bridezillas and couples taking out a few additional loans to base the foundation of their future lives on. No wonder so many marriages end due to arguments over finances.
The majority of couples end up paying far more for their wedding than they had originally budgeted for. After adding up so many variables (the wedding dress, makeup and hair, DJ, decorations, food, wedding favors, invitations, photography… the list is seemingly endless) the final price of a wedding usually ends up being about the price of the downpayment on a new couple’s house. I suppose that’s easy to understand when the average price of a DJ is $748, and the average price of a photagrapher is $1,777. Even saying thank you costs big bucks, with the average price of thank you cards totaling $94.
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In 2012, couples and their families in the U.S. spent an average of $28,427 on wedding ceremonies alone. This is an absolute waste of money, especially for something that lasts less than a full 24 hours. According to the Bureau of Business & Economic Research, the median personal income in the United States in 2012 was $42,693. That means that on average, couples are spending 66% of the average person’s income on a single day to celebrate, well, themselves. Spending the cost of a house downpayment on a single day to remind everyone of your love: that might be the very definition of both insanity and vanity.
The truth is that traditional weddings are downright unnecessary and insultingly wasteful to the rest of the struggling world. Amy Keyishian reminds women in her article “Why I think Weddings are a Stupid Waste of Money,” to not make the mistake of spending thousands for a wedding. By not spending so much:
You’re not a princess, princess. You’re a smart cookie. Trust me, that’s so much better.
If you are spending anywhere near the United States average on a single day, this is a great chance to improve your creativity. There are a remarkable amount of DIY wedding ideas that you can implement to ensure that your wedding is a low cost, creative, unforgettable experience. There are also many ways to have the traditional wedding you’ve been fantisizing about on the cheap by cutting out some of the unnecessary expenses. One of my favorite solutions is cutting out all the ridiculous party favors. According to Gail Johnson, a Decatur, Ga.-based wedding and event consultant:
I can’t tell you [how] many times guests leave these items on the tables or take them home and toss them. Entertaining your guests with a great meal and entertainment is plenty, so there is no need to spend money on wedding favors.
Weddings are not a fairytale, they are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that wants as much of your money as possible. What’s so romantic about that?
Related Article: Money: Designed to Fail
*Note: Even the prospect of marriage isn’t entirely necessary nowadays. Although there are a great deal of federal benefits afforded to married couples, domestic partnerships and civil unions are a great option as well. Check out your state policies to see if a civil union or domestic partnership is a better alternative for you and your significant other. Remember, marriage does not equate to true love.
One ton of paper towels is equal to 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water. 3,000 tons of paper towels are produced in the U.S. each and everyday. That means that each day approximatley 51,000 trees and 60,000,000 gallons of water are used so that Americans can dry their hands.
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The solution is simple. Instead of shelling out clams for disposable paper towels each time you go the supermarket, make a one time purchase and buy reusable dish towels instead. It costs $13 for a 12 pack of reusable cotton dish towels. Throw them in the wash when they get dirty, dry them, and repeat. I know Bounty brand is tempting, but it destroys the bounty of our environment!
Many people purchase diamonds and jewelry as gifts that symbolize true love. This was not always such a widespread practice though. Giving a diamond ring as an engagement gift is only about a century old. Furthermore, the only reason people do it, as usual, is because a very clever business convinced all of us that it is not only a great idea, but a crucial one. Oh well, at least diamonds and other precious jewelry are a great investment right? Wrong. This myth has been dispelled time and time again.
The value of jewelry rises at about the same rate of inflation, but good luck selling your jewelry at even half that price. The biggest issue with trying to sell jewelry is that high-end jewelry stores generally do not buy back precious stones and metals. The amount they would offer sellers would be embarassingly low as they would have to offer them the wholesale price, not the insanely high mark-up price that we all pay.
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Diamonds and jewelry are a horrible waste of money and the very opposite of a smart investment. You’re better off recalibrating your societally learned bourgeoisie tastes and heading to Etsy.com for truly unique, creative, and beautiful jewelry. Besides, is it really worth putting so many eggs into one basket. Owning a $5,000 dollar diamond ring means that if your ring is lost or stolen, so are all those greenbacks the ring is worth.
Keep in mind that an unknown amount of diamonds on the market are blood diamonds, and it is very hard to be sure of the source of your precious stones. When you flash your bling-bling, there’s a good chance you are announcing to the world that you happily support slavery, suffering, and mass death. Support Etsy instead.
9) Fast Food
Fast food: quick, convenient, cheap, and a total waste of money. In 1970, Americans spent $6 billion on fast food. In the year 2000 that number rose to $110 billion and continues to rise year after year. To give you a better perspective of these numbers, every day 25% of the adult U.S. population shoves fast food down their gullets.
Fast food might seem like a bargain, but the truth is that you are scamming your body and your wallet with every bite you take. Sure, you can get a meal that will fill you up for 3 dollars by ordering off the dollar menu, but is it worth it? Is a dollar worth the nutritional value and health detriment of a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger? The simple answer is no. Let’s take a look at the not so simple answer.
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Eric Schlosser describes in his book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” the ugly truth behind fast food: it tastes good, but is utterly destructive to your body. In an excerpt from Fast Food Nation, Schlosser explains that:
The Food and Drug Administration does not require flavor companies to disclose the ingredients of their additives, so long as all the chemicals are considered by the agency to be GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). This lack of public disclosure enables the companies to maintain the secrecy of their formulas. It also hides the fact that flavor compounds sometimes contain more ingredients than the foods being given their taste. The ubiquitous phrase “artificial strawberry flavor” gives little hint of the chemical wizardry and manufacturing skill that can make a highly processed food taste like a strawberry.
A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amylketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), α-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, γ-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.
Here’s a hint: much of what you just read does not belong in your body, and that is just one example among tens of thousands of products. Despite this, American kids between the ages of 6 and 14 eat fast food 157,000,000 times every month. One of the major reasons is that the flavor wizardry of fast food keeps you wanting more. Simply put, fast food is addictive.
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You’d be hard pressed to find a doctor who would suggest that even a small amount of fast food is okay to eat. In fact, many doctors in the UK are demanding a ban on fast food chains near schools due to how serious of an epidemic fast food, and consequently obesity, is. That is why fast food is an utter waste of money. Sure, you won’t starve if you eat it, but you are far more likely to become obese and have very serious health problems down the road if you eat fast food on a regular basis.
Take a look at the nutrition facts for your favorite fast food chain. A Big Mac alone contains 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 1040 mg of sodium. Add the obligatary order of large french fries and you just tacked on an extra 500 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 350 grams of sodium. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, that single meal consisting of a burger and fries accounts for 50% of your alloted daily calories, 83% of your alotted daily fat intake (consisting of a great deal of saturated fats and some trans fats thrown in for good measure), %58 of your daily sodium intake, and 36% of your daily carbs at 108 grams. Not a pretty picture, is it? Let’s paint a complete picture just for fun and eat 3 meals at McDonalds, shall we?
Minutemaid Orange Juice: Calories (190), Fat (0), Carbs(0), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (39mg)
Egg McMuffin: Calories (300), Fat (12g), Carbs(30g), Cholesterol(260mg), Sodium (820mg)
Hashbrown: Calories (150), Fat (9g), Carbs(15g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (310mg)
Big Mac: Calories (540), Fat (29g), Carbs(45g), Cholesterol(75mg), Sodium (1040)
Large Fries: Calories (500), Fat (25g), Carbs(63g), Cholesterol(0mg), Sodium (350g)
21 fl oz Diet Coke: Calories (0), Fat (0), Carbs(0), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (30mg)
Big N’ Tasty With Cheese: Calories (510), Fat (28g), Carbs(38g), Cholesterol(85mg), Sodium (960mg)
Medium French Fries: Calories (380), Fat (19g), Carbs(48g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (270mg)
Mcflurry with Oreo Cookies: Calories (510), Fat (17g), Carbs(80g), Cholesterol(45mg), Sodium (280mg)
21 fl oz Coke: Calories (0), Fat (0), Carbs(58g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (15mg)
Breakfast: Calories (640), Fat (21g), Carbs(45g), Cholesterol(260mg), Sodium (1169mg)
Lunch: Calories (1040), Fat (54g), Carbs(108g), Cholesterol(75mg), Sodium (1420mg)
Dinner: Calories (1400), Fat (64g), Carbs(224), Cholesterol(130mg), Sodium (1525mg)
Full Day Total: (Daily values based on a 2000 calorie diet)
Calories (3080) 154%DV
Fat (139 g) 214%DV
Carbohydrates (377 g) 126%DV
Cholesterol (465 mg) 155%DV
Sodium (4114 mg) 171%DV
Combine these atrocious numbers with all the artificial additives and preservatives in fast food and its easy to understand why it is so unfathomably unhealthy and not worth a single penny!
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The fats found in most fast food products have been linked to increased fat around the abdomen and an increased risk of diabetes. There is also clear evidence that fast food (constituting the foundation of a poor general diet) is in large part responsible for childhood obesity. Even seemingly healthy options at fast food chains are coated with hidden fats and biologically harmful ingredients. Keep in mind that all of the health problems caused by eating fast food also increases individual and statewide health costs.
What is the point of eating food that only serves to harm you? Doesn’t it make more sense to spend a little extra cash for the sake of actually eating a nutritional meal, maintaining health, and steering clear of medical bills? Paying more for healthy food actually gives you bang for your buck, as opposed to fast food which only serves as a health detriment in the long run.
Besides, eating healthy doesn’t have to be more expensive! In fact, with some careful planning, eating healthy and cooking your own meals at home could be even cheaper than your weekly fast food budget. For example:
Don’t have time to cook? Might as well start making time for more hospital visits. I can’t put this any nicer: find time! It is your life and well being we are talking about here! You could be spending $200 to $400 a month on healthy food, or a ‘fair price‘ of $63,648 on heart surgery. $63,648 is equal to 13 to 27 years of paying for healthy food. It’s your choice.
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If you don’t think eating healthy foods will fill you up enough, remember that getting filled up is entirely dependant on food density, rather than calorie content. While 4 pounds of fruits and veggies will provide about 400 calories, 4 pounds of pop tarts will provide nearly 10,000. If you think 4 pounds of veggies won’t fill you up, give it a try. You won’t even make it a fourth of the way through.
People that struggle with body fat management tend to fill up on energy dense, processed foods. This means stored energy for later.
If we eat 4 pounds of energy-controlled, whole, real food – we get lots of nutrition with a calorie count that our body can handle.
Check out the differences outlined below:
Most people in the U.S. are consuming (on average) the following amounts of food each day:
2.0 pounds of meat, dairy and eggs
1.5 pounds fruits and veggies
0.5 pound grains
0.5 pounds added sugars, fats and oils
= 4.5 pounds
= about 3,700 calories per day
What if we switched this around?
2.5 pounds of fruits and veggies
1.0 pounds of grains and legumes
0.3 pounds nuts/seeds
0.3 pounds meat, dairy and eggs
0.1 pounds added sugars, fats and oils
= 4.2 pounds
= about 2,075 calories per day
You can eat healthy without paying anymore than you would for fast food and still be left completely satisfied. The dollar menu is an illusion; nutritionally the food is worth far less than a dollar.
If you happen to work 120 hours a week for $1 an hour, then there are still options for you. If for whatever reason you must resort to eating fast food, there are ways to make healthier choices when perusing the fast food menu, as well as ways to make normally unhealthy fast food healthier. Some of my favorite suggestions are to drink water instead of a soft drink, undress your meal by removing unnecessary sauces, and to research all ingredients. Don’t waste your money on non-nutritional garbage. Think of healthy food as an investment in yourself.
While some countries enjoy free university and college, here in the U.S. we are stuck paying prices that a Middle Eastern oil mogul would be awed by. From 2008 to 2010 the average tuition cost for American universities rose by 15%. For some schools, it was even as high as 40%. On average, in the 2010 to 2011 school year, the average cost of one year of tuition, room, and board for all insitutions across the U.S. was $18,497. To split that total up, the average 4-year private institution cost $32,617 per year while the average 4-year public institution cost $15,918 per year. That is a whole lot of dead presidents. Some for-profit universites, which are not included in those averages, could cost even more.
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A university education is not a waste of money for everyone out there, but for a huge percentage of the population it absolutley is. Think long and hard before setting foot on campus: there is no return policy. If you are paying $20,000 a year to get a bachelors degree, by the end of 4 years you are looking at spending the price of a brand new condominum, or 2 brand new condos, depending on where in the U.S. you lay your head at night. And that’s IF it takes you 4 years to complete your degree. The average time it takes to complete a bachelors degree is 54 months, or 4.5 years. So, if you are on the upper end of that average, and going to an above average university, you could be spending closer to $200,000. You could completley pay for 2 houses for that price; live in one and rent the other one out. We are talking about a very serious amount of money just to listen to people considered experts in their field give lectures. From my experience it is mandatory to buy the new version of their book each year too.
Despite what society would have you believe, going to college or university isn’t for everyone. A degree does not guarantee success, nor does it guarantee a job. With unemployment currently hovering around 7.5%, employers only plan on hiring an extra 2.1% of graduates compared to 2012, a number that they had originally estimated to be 13% in the Fall of 2012. Unemployment for people under 25 in the U.S. is closer to 16%. Financially, the situation is even more troubling for recent grads:
Young college graduates with full-time jobs earned an average hourly wage of $16.60 last year, roughly $34,500 a year. That is down 7.6 percent from 2007. Benefits are also a problem. Between 2000 and 2011, the share of young graduates whose jobs provide for retirement plans dropped to 27.2 percent from 41.5 percent. The trend is troubling given that most students are graduating from college with huge debts.
Let me reiterate: having a degree does not guarantee success, or even make success any more likely. The most important thing when thinking about university is to consider who you are as an individual, and to remember that there are so many other options. An article from Learnfinancialplanning.com shares a very poignant story.
A friend of mine recently told me the story from when she worked at McDonald’s back when she was still in high school. Someone came along and applied for a job. Under “educational experience”, the individual listed a 6 year degree in Calligraphy.
They hung the application on the wall and had quite a few chuckles.
They laughed because the degree was absurd and stereotypical. There are precious few things one can do with a degree in Calligraphy. Spending $50,000 was probably a bad choice. The individual could have simply learned the trade without the degree, and saved thousands.
Don’t go to a degree it isn’t necessary. If it is necessary, and you can make your money back with a typical job in the field you’ll be getting your education in, then go for the degree. Just rationally analyze your situation, your goals and the necessity of the degree, and you’ll be fine.
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Education comes in many forms, don’t let society convince you that university is the only way. So, what are your alternatives to university? How about traveling the world? Backpacking through different countries is a great way to widen your perspectives and find out what you truly want to achieve in life. It is also one of the best ways to meet other people and create a solid network. The age old saying ‘it’s not about what you know, but who you know’ still applies. Volunteering or interning is also a great way to get experience in a field without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to find out that it doesn’t really appeal to you. You could also apply for vocational training, or even start a business. Ever heard of Mark Zuckerberg? He didn’t need a degree to make Facebook.
While not everyone who starts a business will succeed, the lessons you will learn will be an invaluable tool you can take with you for the rest of your life. PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel is even paying university students $100,000 to drop out of school and attempt to start a business. According to Thiel,
Learning is good. Credentialing and debt is very bad. College gives people learning and also takes away future opportunities by loading the next generation down with debt.
In a similair vein, Cameron Herold, an entrepreneur since he was a child, points out the importance of recognizing and fostering entrepreneurial talent in kids. He gives an extraordinary TED talk on how exactly to raise kids to better their chances of becoming succesful entrepreneurs, if not more successful people in general when they grow up.
Related Article: Paul Ryan: “School? Get a Job! In Fact Get Three!”
Sure, you may be nervous to go against the mold of society, but just remember that there’s no rush. Take some time to think about what you want out of life. Society insists that we go to university, graduate, and start a career as quickly as possible; don’t listen to everything you hear! Your life is yours to live. If going to university/college turns out to be a mistake, it will be a costly one that will haunt you in the form of loans and insane interest rates (6% or more!) for decades to come. You don’t have to waste your money on university if it isn’t right for you, and you can still be a fully capable, and even highly successful member of society.
If you feel alone in choosing not to go to university, check out this endless list of highly succesful people that never went to university or dropped out. Just to name a few:
Sandy Adams, U.S. congressperson. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the Air Force. Later got her GED and attended the police academy before being hired as a deputy sheriff.
Ben Affleck, actor, screenwriter. Left the University of Vermont after one semester; then dropped out of Occidental College to pursue acting.
Chuck Allen, banker, co-founder of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, and founder of the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association. At the age of 19, he moved from Oklahoma to California and began working odd jobs until he was established enough to move on to a banking career.
Woody Allen, screenwriter, actor, director, and producer. Was thrown out of New York University after one semester for poor grades. Also dropped out of City College of New York. As he admitted, “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”
Hans Christian Andersen, short story author, fairy tales. Left home at the age of 14 to find work. Later attended Copenhagen Univesity.
Peter Arnell, advertising executive. Never attended college. Talked his way into the advertising business after graduating from high school.
Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, software programmer. Studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne but dropped out because other students were doing research for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian. Dropped out of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Keep in mind that this list consists only of famous drop outs with last names that start with the letter ‘A.’
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When you donate to charity it gives you a nice, warm feeling inside. You get to help the world, at least a little bit, from the comfort of your own home. In 2011, individuals, corporations, and foundations in the U.S. collectively donated $298.42 billion to charitable organizations. The sad truth is that a surprisingly large percentage of many charities’ donations do not go to helping anything or anyone at all, but instead cover the costs of overheads.
Even well known organizations such as Feed the Children have been found to be utterly inefficient. While the founder and former president of the organization Larry Jones purchased a $1.2 million dollar house to better “reach out to celebrities,” Feed the Children was caught lying about donating food to the needy in Haiti. They hadn’t fed a single person!
A few weeks ago I was was traveling through Sumatra, trekking through the jungle with a guide. The guide explained to me that people from North America and Europe think that the money they donate to NGO’s such as the World Wild Fund for Nature is being used to make a difference. He expressed a very different reality, telling me that:
They do nothing to help the wildlife here, and often do more harm than good. They helped pay for feeding platforms for the dying organgutans, but this only makes the orangutans dependant on humans for food. It also spreads disease to the orangutans. Because they have nearly 97% identical DNA with humans, they can catch our sicknesses and have no way to cure themselves. WWF is useless.
Even handing out money to homeless people you pass on the street is often totally unhelpful because tiny amounts of money that they do not and cannot save only serves to perpetuate their poverty. What they need is direction, not beer money.
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I am not going to claim that every single charity is a waste of money though! You can use the sites Charity Watch, and Charity Navigator to check the efficiency of charities and find out if the money you donate is actually being used to help the needy.
Another option is to look into is microcrediting. Microcrediting is:
a small loan that individuals invest towards small businesses or entrepreneurs in developing countries. It can also help to improve the lives of many women who, unlike men, have less of a chance to find stable employment.
This provides the direction that the needy require, hopefully allowing them to escape from poverty for good.
Makeup? More like mark-up! The price of makeup is marked up by 78% on average. Ladies, all 80% of you that wear makeup on a regular basis have seen and paid for these high prices, but is it really worth it?
The average woman spends $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime, money that contributes to an industry worth more than $382 billion. Lost makeup alone costs women $400 a year on average. All of this money to alter your physical self in order to be more comfortable around people that will judge you regardless of the mask you wear. Daily makeup use is also very unhealthy due to the chemicals that are absorbed into the skin, and subsequently the bloodstream. Anything that has a 78% mark-up, is unhealthy for you, and only serves to hide who you really are is an absolute waste of money.
If makeup gives you a greater sense of confidence and security, then I can certianly understand your argument. But ladies, moderations is key. Your health and wallet will thank you dearly!
13) Greeting Cards
Whether it is for birthdays, anniversaries, religious holidays or just to say thank you, giving greeting cards is a staple tradition of society. It is subsequently a mindless waste of money. As Pretired Nick excellently describes:
At the local stores, the customer plays his or her role, flipping through the cards as quickly as possible until one is found that will “work” — not perfect, just “good enough.” The card is mindlessly purchased, a name is unemotionally signed and the card sits until it’s time to hand it over to the receiver. That moment is funny, too, with the giver anxiously waiting while the receiver opens the card, fakes a chuckle at the joke and says a heartfelt “thank you.” If it’s a group setting, the card is then passed around so everyone can enjoy the hilarious joke. And, then, of course, after the journey from forest to factory to store to lucky recipient, the card is usually recycled [or thrown away].
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The greeting card has become an object we now take for granted. We may as well pretend to open a card, say “blah, blah, blah” out loud, and then mock throw the card away; it will yield the same results only with less waste. Giving a greeting card is equivalent to giving a person a clump of dirt and saying “look, I picked this clump of dirt for you rather than any of the other clumps, how great is that!?”
They are a drain on the environment, a social stressor, and most of all, a sink-hole in your wallet. Americans spend between $7 billion to $8 billion each year on over 6.5 billion greeting cards.Birthdays are by far the most popular card sending occasion. And listen up ladies; you are responsible for a whopping 80% of all greeting card sales!
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The average price of a greeting card falls between $2 -$4. If you buy greeting cards for a modest 10 people, on 4 different days out of the year, you are spending $80 to $160 per year on something that is glanced at, thrown away, and never thought of again. If you are buying cards for more than 10 people, well… you may as well just burn your money and leave out the middle man.
I know, I know, you still don’t want to break the societal mold and just stop giving greeting cards, so what can you do? Luckily for you, technology!
You can always send your friends and family an e-card and save the environment, money, and your time. The best part about sending an e-card is that they are usually free. Even Hallmark, the almighty Baron of Greeting Cards, offers unlimited e-cards for only $1 per month! E-cards will also reach the recipient instantaneously. Goodbye snail-mail, hello 21st century!
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Another major reason for not buying greeting cards is that picking a piece of paper from amongst other pieces of paper requires zero creativity. The same applies to ready made e-cards. If you truly want to show someone that you care about them, make your own greeting card or e-card. There is endless amounts of greeting card software available for those that are not creatively inclined.
For those with even a minute semblance of creativity, get a piece of paper, put a writing instrument in your hand, and make your own. Simple, yet surprisingly not so obvious.
14) Wrapping Paper
Wrapping paper may be the single most belligerent thing humans have ever conjured up. It’s single, solitary function is to be ripped apart and thrown away. That’s right, not recycled, but thrown away, because the dyes and chemicals in wrapping paper make it non-recyclable.
Here are some disgusting facts about wrapping paper and its evil cousin, ribbon:
2 pounds of gift wrap per American: Every year, Americans use at least 40 million tons of paper products for wrapping, packaging, and decorating gifts during Christmas, birthdays, and other holidays. That’s two pounds of gift wrapping paper annually.
4 million tons of gift wrap and shopping bags: The trash generated from gift wrapping paper and shopping bags for special occasions in the US totals 4 million tons.
Enough ribbon to wrap the earth: 38,000 miles of ribbon is discarded every year, which is enough to tie a bow around the entire earth.
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The environment is just one consideration. Think about how much time you spend wrapping each and every gift. I’ve seen people set aside entire nights devoted solely to wrapping with paper that will be immediately disregarded in lieu of what is inside of it. Waste of time, waste of resources, burden to the environment, and an utter waste of money.
Let’s assume a naked gift is simply going to far. You’re modest and have a sense of dignity, and you want your gifts to reflect your top notch moral values. I understand. Here are some cheap, eco-friendly alternatives to wrapping paper:
- Recycled paper
- Make your own wrapping paper
- Reusable gift wraps and bags
- Tree free paper
- Plantable Paper
- Old comics
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More often than not, wrapping paper is dyed and laminated. It can also contain non-paper additives, such as gold and silver coloring, glitter and plastics. Additionally, it can be very thin and contains few good quality fibers for recycling. To make matters worse, it usually has tape on it from gift wrapping. Recognizing that those pretty words at the beginning of this paragraph probably distracted a few pro-wrapping paper fiends out there, if you do receive a gift covered in it, make sure to reuse it and not just throw it in the garbage.
The way I see it, giving unwrapped gifts can be a great gauge of a person’s personality. If they seem irritated, angry, or disappointed that you didn’t wrap their gift, then they missed the whole point of your giving them a gift in the first place. They are short-sighted and ungrateful. Pat them on the back, leave them alone for the time being, and send them over to this article for some perception restructuring. We’ll have them back to you good as new in no time.
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Many of us took Flintstone vitamins as kids, take vitamin supplements as adults, and will continue taking vitamins well into the winter of our lives. You probably already know this, but I’ll remind you anyway: food, that natural stuff that grows out of the Earth and comes in various shapes and colors, contains the same vitamins and nutrients found in all the pills you’re popping!
Just because vitamin supplements contain nutritious elements doesn’t mean they’re your best option for attaining nutrients. In fact, the only reason ANYONE takes vitamins is due to a single Nobel prize winner named Linus Pauling, who despite decades of clear scientific data showing the opposite, claimed that taking multivitamins would eradicate the common cold, cure cancer, and amongst other miracles, extend life expectancy to 150 years. In case you weren’t sure, Linus was dead wrong.
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Although just about the entire global scientific community agrees that multivitamins/ nutrient supplements do more harm than good in the long run, over half of the American population still takes their daily multivitamins. This is largely due to age old hype and unfounded propaganda convincing people that money spent on vitamins equates to years of elongated, healthy life.
Even a glance at the tip of the research iceberg regarding the effects of multivitamins makes it clear that they are incredibly dangerous and in fact detrimental to health. They are a waste of money in the same way that cigarettes are. The vitamin and supplement industry combined is worth nearly $90 billion, despite the fact that according to Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, it is clear that:
The concept of multivitamins was sold to Americans by an eager nutraceutical industry to generate profits. There was never any scientific data supporting their usage.
Studies repeatedly make it clear that this multi billion dollar market is pure quackery, and yet:
On October 25 , a headline in the Wall Street Journal asked, “Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?” Studies haven’t hurt sales. In 2010, the vitamin industry grossed $28 billion, up 4.4 percent from the year before. “The thing to do with [these reports] is just ride them out,” said Joseph Fortunato, chief executive of General Nutrition Centers. “We see no impact on our business.”
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If you do have certain allergies or restrictive diets, your choices may be slim, but there are SO many options out there. Be creative and do your research. You don’t need pills to be healthy, quite the opposite!
16) Cleaning Products
How many households including your own do you know of that have a cabinet filled with cleaning products? I’m willing to bet there’s bottles you didn’t even know you had sitting under your sink, filled with chemical names you can’t pronounce or even begin to know the danger of. The truth is that all of those bottles of biological/environmental poison can be replaced by a few simple, safe substances/solutions that you can make yourself in moments for a fraction of the cost.
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Websites abound with various options for creating your own cheap household cleaning products. These cleaning products often involve white vinegar, lemon zest, certain essential oils, and the legendary baking soda! I consider it legendary because baking soda can save you money by being used in literally hundreds of different ways, from deodorizing smells, to cleaning produce, to putting out fires!
A mixture of baking soda and white vinegar mixed with a solution of water can take care of just about any area in the home that needs some cleaning and disinfecting. If you’re looking to kill mold, instead of bleach, use clove oil, which in my experience works just as well.Need to cut grease? Use lemon juice, it’s that simple!
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In no time, by making a few simple changes, you can clean your home non-toxically and on the cheap. Not to mention, think of all the cabinet space your cans of Febreeze and Oxy had been hoarding that is now ripe for the filling! For 1000’s of cheap, alternative cleaning ideas, check out the following links:
But, and I know I should walk on eggshells when I ask this, do we really need all our fancy gadgetry? Of course not, but it makes life so much better. So, let’s rephrase the question: Do we really need a new gadget so often? Do we really need to upgrade our phone every 6 – 12 months, get a new computer every 1-4 years, buy the latest, greatest, mind-bending fast machine the moment it is released?
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We all know that technology changes rapidly; there is always something new. Weeks after buying state of the art technology it is rendered obsolete by the next best thing. It is simply impossible to keep up with every single generation of new gadgetry. And yet, in the face of impossibility, we humans persevere, and practically kill ourselves trying to keep up with society’s view of the Western dream:
A television in every room, a computer, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, printer, faster internet, a bigger television, a better computer, an external harddrive, faster laptop, new headphones, more advanced smartphone, faster internet, new camera, 3-D television, quad core computer…. you get the idea.
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Isn’t it incredible that the moment we hear rumours about the iPhone 5S, suddenly, our iPhone 5 seems like a drab toy barely capable of entertaining a Neanderthal? The tech industry, specifically the at-home-electronics industry, is a Yoda-level swindler when it comes to convincing you that what you need is the next greatest technological development NOW. The industry, like all big industries, is a master of constantly reigniting your desires for something new, and convincing you that what you have simply isn’t good enough.
Every 3 – 12 months Apple releases a new model of the iPhone, and its out with the old, in with the new. Their sales continue to rise, and the population continues to fork over their hard earned cash for something they pretty much already have. And that’s just the iPhone! Countless other gadgets, electronics, and gizmos attain the status of ‘necessary to our lives’ on a daily basis. How is it possible that a device that can do everything, including have a conversation with you, can bore us in less than a year? Our grandparents used to get a kick out of playing wall ball for half a day. Wall ball, a game so simple that you can describe the entire premise of the game with two syllables: wall, and ball. Try to do the same with Final Fantasy. And yet, More than 20 Final Fantasy games later, we need more, more, MORE!
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The hard truth is that in contemporary society, enough is simply never enough. Take a look at the graph below. It is evidence of the aforementioned truth.
According to the graph:
— In 1900, <10% of families owned a stove, or had access to electricity or phones
— In 1915, <10% of families owned a car
— In 1930, <10% of families owned a refrigerator or clothes washer
— In 1945, <10% of families owned a clothes dryer or air-conditioning
— In 1960, <10% of families owned a dishwasher or color TV
— In 1975, <10% of families owned a microwave
— In 1990, <10% of families had a cell phone or access to the Internet
Today, at least 90% of the [U.S.] has a stove, electricity, car, fridge, clothes washer, air-conditioning, color TV, microwave, and cell phone. They make our lives better. They might even make us happier. But they are not enough.
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Compared to a single generation ago, everyone has everything, and yet, the majority of everyone is in debt and/or living paycheck to paycheck. So, is the only solution to become the fool on the hill and live gadget free? Not a chance. The answer is far less extreme.
Decrease your frequency of gadgetry/electronics purchases. That’s it. As long as you can still browse the internet, take pictures and video, call friends and family, play endless amounts of games, take notes, have conversations with AI, and pinpoint your exact latitude and longitude in the blink of an eye, you DON’T need a new gadget that performs the exact same functions with the sole added bonus of a fingerprint scanner for an additional $500 or more. Gadgets themselves are not a waste of money, far from it. It’s a waste of money to buy a brand new, redundant gadget so often. Let’s have a look at some solutions to your expensive gadget habbit:
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Be honest with yourself. Buy a single gadget that meets your needs. Don’t buy a new one until you TRULY need it. If you have a built in camera in your phone, do you really need a state of the art $2800 camera? Unless you are a professional photographer, the answer is no.
Look for sales. For many people, a sales price means that because the item is so cheap they have money left over to play “what’s the quickest way to empty my wallet?” This defeats the purpose of buying items on sale. Take advantage of sales prices, but don’t spend the money you save on something else you don’t need. Be patient. Some of the best sales can pop up at any time. Use sites like slickdeals.net to ensure that you are getting the best bargain price possible.
Upgrade instead of buying new. The next time your computer starts processing information in slow motion, consider upgrading its component parts rather than buying a whole new one. If you have 8gb of RAM, and your computer has a 16GB RAM capacity, just buy more RAM. Upgrades will not always be the better value, but they often are. Make sure to do a price comparison.
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Wait for the price to come down. Within as little as a few months after a product’s release the price will inevitably decrease. The truth is that technology companies have already developed the technology years before it is released, meaning that nothing is really state of the art. Everything you see on the market is technologically inferior to what actually exists. Simply put, you will never truly have ‘the best.’ So, is it really a big deal to just deal with your perfectly capable piece of tech for a few more months, or even years, in order to eventually buy a product at a fraction of its original price?
Watch out for gadget overlap. If you have a laptop that can do practically everything you don’t need a tablet for the sole fact that it has a touch screen. People have survived without touch screens since, well, forever, and you will too. If you have a $20 pair of headphones that work, unless you are Mark Zuckerberg and have a couple billion dollars to throw away, you do not need a $1200 pair of headphones. No, you don’t.
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Be rational and reasonable. If you’re a man and you find a computer that is 10% of its normal price but only sold in pink, just be the guy that has a pink computer! You just saved 90% and are now able to eat food without charging your nutritional intake to a credit card.
Be satisfied with the incredible god-like gadgets you already own. Compared to a single generation ago, the capabilities of even our most basic gadgets make people living in the 21st century seem like Gods to the rest of former humanity. Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself perusing Amazon for something better. Buying new gadgets, like any type of shopping, is a drug and a status symbol, and you are wasting your cash trying to keep up with the Joneses for the sake of a slightly better screen resolution and larger harddrive space to look at even more high quality pictures of cats with Hitler moustaches.
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What’s the rush anyway? Due to exponentially accelerated change, in the very near future we won’t be able to tell the difference between biology and technology.Cherish the time when you actually have the choice to be separate from your precious gadgets. The singularity is near.
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18) Eating/Drinking Out
There’s nothing like a nice dinner out with a glass of wine to demolish your bank account. Society romanticises the notion of eating and drinking out, making us believe that going out for a meal or a drink should be the norm. Check your perceptions and you’ll come to see that there is nothing romantic about paying outlandishly high prices for something you can obtain at the market for a fraction of the price right down the street from the restaurant.
Sure, going out to wine and dine affords us a pleasant, stress free night, but in the same vein as gadgets, the problem comes in when we start wining and dining too often.
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While America as a whole doesn’t spend the most on food and alcohol compared to other nations, food and alcohol still does some serious damage to our collective paycheck. The worst part is that more often than not, we choose to pay for outlandishly overpriced food and drinks at restaurants and bars.
In the last 30 years, from 1982 to 2011, alcohol at stores has decreased in price by 39%, while alcohol from bars and restaurants has increased by a whopping 79%.
Despite these statistics, over the same 30 year period, Americans have increased the amount of alcohol they buy from restaurants and bars by 14%, and have decreased the amount they buy from stores by 16%.
This means that as Americans, we have consciously chosen to spend drastically more money on booze than we have to. Why would we choose to spend nearly double the amount for a product, despite having the clear option of a cheaper deal on the same product right down the street. Must be the booze.
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What about restaurants? Are we more rational with our restaurant spending? Surely there’s some financial rationality left in the human race.
The good news is that in 2012, a survey from Gallup reported that 77% of Americans were eating at home the day before the survey, which is a fantastic number compared to the 10% who reported they had eaten at a restaurant. The bad news is that when it comes to money, percentages can’t hide the fact that we are throwing it all away on eating out.
61% of Americans say that they want to cut back on their restaurant habit. Clearly we are feeling guilty for the amount of time spent hassling waiters and gorging ourselves in public.
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How much a person dines out is dependant on numerous factors, including gender, age, income, and region. Writers at Mother Jones used information acquired by Bundle.com, a company that analyzes credit card data from Citigroup, to create a food spending chart of major cities around the United States. They found drastically different spending behaviors across the country. For example, the average person in Austin, Texas spends $420 a month on dining out, whereas the average person living in Detroit, Michigan only spends $69 dollars each month on dining out. People living in Austin spend nearly 6 times as much on dining out compared to people in Detroit. According to Mother Jones:
Austin, Texas, spends almost twice the national average for dining out; five Detroit households could eat for a year on an average Austinite’s food budget.
How is it that we are spending so much on food? Don’t these amounts seem drastic? A large part of the reason, as we all know, is that restaurants overcharge us. The only reason restaurants exist in the first place, like any business, is to fill a niche and ultimately make a profit. The only way to make a profit is to charge you more than they paid for the food and drinks. Much, much more, especially since they buy everything in bulk.
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Barring very special occasions, your best option is to just not eat out all. Even in instances where your family or friends invite you out, invite them to your place and let them know why you would rather make a meal at home. What are some reasons it is better to make food at home?
- It’s cheaper. This is probably obvious to you, but what might not be so obvious is just how much you can save by not eating or drinking out. For example, Crystal Brothers from Servingjoyfully.com saved her family over $50 per week, or $2600 each year by simply not eating out. Think of all the iPhones you could buy with those savings! Also, if you have some self control, make sure to buy your alcohol in bulk. For example, buy cases of wine instead of a single bottle at a time. You could save 40% or more using this method.
- It’s more fun. Cooking is an art form that combines all 5 of your senses. The texture of the foods involved, the smell and taste, the colors and presentation, as well as the sounds of preparation all play pivotal roles in the experience of cooking. It is also a great chance to experiment. Buy foods at a foreign supermarket you’ve never even heard of and look up a recipe for them. You might find a new favorite. Take a traditional recipe and spice it up or down. Cooking at home can be a journey of culinary self discovery. You can even get the kids involved or, throw on some tunes, pour a glass of wine and make it into a healthy and delectable date night.
- It’s healthy. Cooking at home is mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically satisfying. Choosing ingredients and preparing a meal provides mental stimulation. Cooking with a partner gives you more time together to develop a stronger emotional bond. Being in control of the sodium content, fat, cholesterol, etc. in your meal makes it a healthier alternative to eating out. Lastly, your budget will love you for choosing the economical path.
- You’re in control. You are in control of the ingredients so it can be healthier. You can also control the portion sizes, which is one of the major reasons we in the West take up so much space. Drinking at home can also be more fun as it provides a more intimate scene. Instead of shouting across a noisy bar you will actually be able to hear and engage in proper conversation. Most importantly, being in control can lessen the chance that you will drink industrial amounts and/or drive drunk.
- Better for the environment. Eating at home is better for the environment for various reasons. Each year America wastes about 40% of all the food it produces. This frightening percentage means that a family of four loses nearly $2,275 per year solely due to food waste. Studies have shown that one of the major reasons for such extreme levels of food waste in America is due to portion sizes, especially those served in restaurants and bars. And, if portion sizes are too big, what do you do? You take your meal home in a plastic container, inside of a plastic bag. Waste upon waste upon waste.
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If you’re going to cook at home and aren’t the experimental type, you’ll need some solid recipe sites to inspire you with cooking ideas. Below is a list of some of my favorite recipe sites:
Really though, the internet is full of great ideas for at-home cooking. Take a look in your refrigerator and do a Google search of the ingredients. A delicious recipe is bound to pop up. Or, you can use Recipe Key to find recipes based on what’s in your refrigerator and pantry. You can even make your own baby food. The possibilities are endless.
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You know why you shouldn’t eat out, and why it is so much better to eat at home, but what about those uncontrollable urges? How can they be avoided? Here are some tips for avoiding the urge to eat out:
- Don’t run errands around mealtime
- Bring your own snacks and lunch to work
- Grow your own food
- Plan a menu
**Note about tipping: Do not go out to eat or drink unless you are also willing to tip. Not tipping is not a way to save money. Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, busboys, and other members of the hospitality service are paid well below minimum wage all across America, (usually between $2.13 and $4.95 per hour) nearly all of which goes to paying taxes. By not tipping a server, you are effectively telling them that you don’t care whether they are alive or not. Even worse, if you don’t tip a server, they are literally PAYING FOR YOU to eat at the restaurant. A percentage of what a server is tipped is given to bartenders, busboys, and other restaurant workers whether a server is tipped or not. If you tip a server 18%, 14% goes to the server, and 4% goes to other employees. This tip-share is different for each restaurant, but the large majority of restaurants have a tip-share.
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If you don’t know how to tip or how much you should tip, read this tipping guide carefully.
19) Luxury Hotels
How cool would it be to stay in a hotel with a private pool, a grand piano, 12 rooms, and ivory furniture? Even if you had the money, it would still be an utter waste.
Sure, you could stay in some of the most expensive hotels in the world and talk to your personal, hotel provided butler all day, but what’s the point of paying top dollar for a luxurious nights sleep. Why bother traveling in the first place?
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The most meaningful and memorable vacations are those in which you can truly step outside of your normal day to day life and experience something new and exciting. Sleeping on a super comfy bed in an air conditioned room after ordering room service does not fall into that category.
When my partner and I were traveling through Laos we had the option of staying at a $26 per night hotel, or a $3 per night hostel. While both of these options are incredibly cheap by Western standards, we opted for the $3 hostel. We met another couple who opted for the $26 per night hotel. After exchanging descriptions of our respective accommodation we realized that both places had the exact same amenities. The only difference was that the hotel room had a slightly better view and a larger room. Too bad the only time they went back to the room was to go to sleep, at which point the expensive view they had been enjoying all day outside of the hotel was too dark to see.
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Keep in mind also that hostels almost always have a public kitchen where you can cook your own meals. This saves even more on food, and gives you the opportunity to shop at a supermarket and live like a local.
Instead of spending so much money on the hotel room, spend the money on a dish you’ve never tried, an unforgettable experience, or something else you come across unexpectedly. Traveling, if done right, will provide you with a truly enriching cultural experience, a cultural education, endless fun, a chance to meet new people, and most of all, an opportunity to get out of your shell and grow into an even more broad minded, well rounded you.
Experience the world, not a hotel room.
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Some great sites to use for finding reviewed hotels, hostels, and guest houses for very cheap can be found below:
For those of you looking for a truly unique experience along with FREE accommodation, even in your own country, check out the following sites:
Gyms; the place most of us go to force ourselves to do exercises we hate, exercises that we could be doing for free. What a waste of time and money. Unless you are a professional body builder you have no business giving a gym a single penny.
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Any given gym, like most places we waste our money at, is part of a multi-billion dollar industry worth nearly $20 billion as of 2008. The average gym membership costs $55 per month, and yet, on average, people only go to the gym 2 times per week. Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics, stated in the New York Times that
people who buy annual gym memberships often overestimate how much they’ll actually use the facilities by 70%.
Who are we kidding? That’s right, ourselves.
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Before gyms, did exercise simply not exist? Of course not. Why are you running on a treadmill when it is free to run outside? Or, if you want to run inside, go to your local park district and run around the track for free. Why are you lifting finely sculpted pieces of heavy metal? Just go lift any heavy object that exists on planet Earth, the results will be the same. Oh, you enjoy swimming as a form of exercise? Well, is the $40 gym really the only place with a body of water?
Going to the gym has become a status symbol and social soiree. The gym has more to do with conversation than it does with fitness. Why are you spending any money at all, no matter how little, to stand around talking? And if you are actually exercising, you need to start thinking outside the box gyms have trapped you in.
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Instead of wasting your money at a gym try doing exercises you can do at home, in a park, or in other places that are free. Try out yoga, callisthenics, a jog around the block, the full body 7 minute workout, maxalding, or even just going for a walk.
You can even incorporate your workout into everyday life. While at the supermarket do a few more laps around the store once your cart is fully loaded. Sprint to the bus stop instead of walking. Do jumping jacks during a commercial break. You can even make a game out of it; for every 30 minutes of GTA V that you play, do 10 push-ups. Or, every time you catch yourself logging into Facebook, do 15 lunges.
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If you’re still not convinced and want to continue pretending you go to the gym far more than you actually do, at least take advantage of tried and true techniques for slashing the cost of gym memberships.
- Pay month to month
- Check with your health insurance to see if they will give you a discount for having a gym membership
- Look for sales and promotions, especially on sites like Groupon
- Try out a free trial memberships at multiple gyms before committing
The fact remains… unless you are a professional or a highly disciplined individual, a gym is almost always an unnecessary, utterly wasteful expenditure.
Just so you are fully aware, this is the only form of human that can claim his or her money is well spent at the gym: