The Sneaky Ways We Spend More Than We Mean To

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By The Feminist Financier

READ MORE: Compensation, Work-life balance, Salary

We work hard for our money. So hard for it, honey! For all our effort, it seems like the money we earn often disappears faster than they should.

We’ve all been there - opening up our credit card statement and thinking, “I can’t believe spent THAT last month!?” Our little splurges add up in a meaningful way. Is your wealth sneaking away from you in your shopping cart?

I’ve had the chance to review the budgets of many women. Here are the sneaky ways we ladies spend more than we mean to:

Food. Groceries and restaurants often represent one of our largest monthly expenses. Higher food costs often result from a lack of meal planning.

If you don’t plan your meals, you’re vulnerable to takeout and restaurants. We’ve all been there, hungry and without a dinner plan. Call the Thai place ASAP! This habit can add up to thousands of dollars annually for lunches alone. I enjoy restaurants, but go out meaningfully and occasionally (versus by default).

If you’ve skipped meal planning, you may enter the grocery store without a list. This puts you in a position to look for inspiration while shopping. This costs in two ways. First, you’ll pay more as you impulsively add items to your cart. Second, you’ll be more vulnerable to food waste - throwing away spoiled food that never made its way into a meal. Yes, actually throwing money away!

Drink. Enjoying a few cocktails at the bar can sneak our money away from us. The recommended markup for bar drinks is 75-80%, and provides an important source of restaurant profit. However, that doesn’t give us an excuse to blissfully over-indulge. Invite your girls over and learn how to make your favorite cocktails. Look for lower-cost but delicious wines like Bota Box (a Wine Enthusiast best buy wine) and raise your glass to the savings.

Cell phones. Providers like Republic Wireless and Virgin Mobile offer affordable, month-to-month plans. If your monthly cell bill is more than $40, you owe it to yourself to consider switching! These low-cost providers run on the same networks as the big guys and don’t require contracts. You may need to buy a new phone initially, but the cost savings can be tremendous.

Gifts and presents. Gifts can be a double-whammy. Events like birthdays can sneak up on you, and there is tremendous social pressure to gift generously. Gifting often falls disproportionately on women, who are often purchasing on behalf of others. I suggest budgeting for regular gifts, and giving memorable experiences or high-quality homemade gifts.

Most of us do not need more “stuff” but would appreciate an experience tailored to our interests. Think about gifts like: a restaurant-quality meal at home (served, cooked, and cleared by a close friend); a museum, art gallery, or winery visit; or a carefully planned day hike complete with a delicious picnic!

Beauty. This is a tough one for women. It’s incredibly easy to fall prey to the $60 billion dollar beauty industry. But, do we really need all the makeup and skincare goodies we buy? Do we really, really need the latest miracle cream? Haircuts, coloring, makeup, and skin care represent a huge expense for women.

I used to spend a ridiculous amount on high-end skin care and makeup. Each individual purchase was small…until I added them all up. Now, I’ve switched largely to drugstore brands. For example, I splurge on Kiehl’s sunscreen and Dermalogica moisturizer, but buy Maybelline makeup, and wash my face with Dove.

For kicks, I compared my Maybelline Great Lash® mascara to YSL’s Mascara Volume Effect Faux Cils - the price difference was 400%! If you love mascara, this may be well worth it for you. But, if you splurge on all beauty purchases, these “small luxuries” will add up and create a barrier to saving and investing.

Target, Costco, Kohl’s. Your store may vary, but this concept comes up all the time! This is the store you “swing into” for one item, but leave with a full shopping cart. “It’s just shopping,” you may say. But over time, you’re putting less and less wealth in your pocket.

Stores are carefully designed to separate you from your hard-earned money. I don’t blame the retailers - they don’t force us to spend more than we planned! However, next time you go to “your” store, stick to the items on your list. Before making an unplanned purchase, ask yourself, “Do I really need to this item?” This will prevent money from sneaking out of your wallet!

Keep an eye out for the sneaky ways that we spend more than we need to. What are the things you always splurge on? Are there different categories you’re vulnerable to? Let me know.

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The Feminist Financier is on a mission to help women build wealth and own their financial independence, by improving financial literacy and taking the mystery out of money. Ms. Financier is also a shoe addict, travel fanatic, and wine enthusiast.

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