Finance / Let Us Save You $ / Why You're Broke

Why You’re Broke: Small Purchases


There are tons of reasons you might be broke, but one of the biggest causes of empty wallet syndrome is actually the smallest purchases.

The thing hurting most wallets most is not the big $300 Xbox purchase or the once every 5 year $1,000 TV purchase. These are things most people budget for and plan out a bit. They are not going to have an ongoing effect on your wallet unless you buy them with a credit card (you should only buy what you HAVE the money for, unless it is a real emergency). No, the issue that gets most people in trouble is the “small things”.

Think of your typical week. How many small purchases do you make over the course of that week? The average American makes 13 purchases a week of $10 or less (Source: USA TODAY). In a 2 adult household this can add up to over a THOUSAND dollars per month. This is obviously not typical, but it is a possibility.

Let’s give a couple examples of how quickly things can add up: Daily coffee from Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc. cost around $4. Let’s say you do this 5 days per week every week of the year, Congratulaions, You just spent $1,040 on coffee. Go out and buy a Keurig, Ninja Coffee Bar, or a Nespresso and make your coffee at home for around .50. You get the convenience of high quality coffee whenever you want, plus you will save around $700 per year (including the cost of creamers and the machine itself).

What about a quick stop at the gas station or convenience store? There are the exorbitant prices ($1.79 for a candy bar, really?) and the mentality of, “it’s just $5” that can quickly get you into trouble. $5 per day at an average of 5 days per week is another $1,300 per year. Individual sodas are 300% higher at a gas station than via a 6 pack at a grocery store, Candy is nearly 400% higher. Make the smart choice.

One of my favorite stories on this matter was on a stop with 3 friends at a gas station stop a couple years back. One of my friends carries a water bottle with him and simply filled it up with free water. I looked thru the different options and decided the best value was a .79 32 oz. Iced Tea. Another friend picked up a bottled soda and a beef jerky at a total cost of about $4. My other friend ended up with 2 energy drinks, 2 candy items and another item which added up to nearly $13. If averaged out over the course of a year, one of us spent $0, another $208, another $1,040, and the other… $3,380!!!!! That is literally my car payment.

So to counter an extremely popular book series, when it comes to money, “Sweat the Small Stuff”.

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