Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating. Today's topic: what women waste their money on every month.
Chances are, you waste money sometimes. Not necessarily on purpose, but instead of saving that $5 a day, you spend it on your favorite coffee drink. True, you need to wake up, and the caffeine will help, so maybe it’s not wasteful, but you know what I mean. One person may think it's wasteful, yet another may not. Below, I asked what Millennial women waste their money on every month, just to see if there were some commonalities. Plus, maybe it'll give us all an idea on how to save more and spend less.
"If you stop buying a daily $5 coffee for one year and put that $5 into a savings account instead, you will have $1,825 by the end of the year," Maggie Germano, Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women, tells Bustle. "In addition, bringing lunch to work ends up saving a ton of money! I know how tempting it is to go around the corner for some delicious, comforting Pad See Ew, but that takeout can run you at least $10 a pop. If you do that every weekday for the entire year, you end up spending over $2,500 on lunch! Think of the amazing things you could do with that money instead." Yep — just thought of a bunch.
But some ways people waste money may not be as overt as others. "One of the biggest ways millennials waste money is by not contributing to a 401(k)," Brianna McGurran, student loans and personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle. "Contributing early gives your money more time to grow, meaning you can save less in your 20s and it will have more of an impact on your savings. You should also check with your employer to understand their 401(k) benefits — if your company matches your monthly contributions, you should aim to meet that amount. If you don't, you're actually losing out on free money!" Well, that certainly got my attention.
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All that said, here are more ways millennial women waste their money every month. See if you can relate.
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Snacks are definitely something I waste money on each month. Not the ones I intentionally purchase while grocery shopping, but the ones I buy when I am out and about because I forgot to bring something with me.
I waste the most money on eating out! Seriously, if I'm not spending $10/day on snacks, I'm spending $20 on dinner for me and my daughter or $10 for my lunch. I'm quite sure that if I meal-prepped and fought the urge to spend, I'd easily save $200-$300 a month.
I have made very strategic moves to reduce wasting my money on anything at this point. My first thought was "food," like eating out at places or picking food up when I have food at home to make, though I'm going to argue with myself that it's not wasted if it serves the purpose to feed me and my family AND it also serves the purpose of being quicker and convenient than preparing food each day if I've failed to pre-plan family meals.
I've had a bad habit of wasting money on makeup. I never need anything new, but I tend to get sucked into the marketing, and convince myself that it's OK to treat myself. I can also waste some serious cash on eating out. I'd probably save around $250 a month if I could cut these expenses.
I know for a fact that I'm wasting money going out to eat every month. Rather than save for nice dinners with friends (where I also spend most of my money), I'm constantly losing cash to the convenience of food cooked by someone other than myself. I try to avoid going out to eat too much, especially since when I'm with friends; I'm more likely to spend $15 on the trendy cocktail. My estimate is anywhere between $100 to $200 a month would be saved if I cooked for myself more often.
I definitely waste my money on lunch at work and the occasional morning coffee. I have slowly started to pack my own lunch, as I can probably save $150-$250 a month. I also make sure to have a clean mug on my desk every day so I can make coffee in the office. I also try to avoid buying food during my commute. I often have to wait 20-30 minutes for a train and sometimes a snack is the easiest way to keep busy.
I spend money on eating out for lunch while at work, which has become an expensive habit. If I chose to spend my Sunday afternoons meal-prepping for the week, I would probably save $30-$40 a week just on lunches — $6.99 here and $8.99 there may not seem like a lot of money at the time, but it certainly adds up.
I waste money on fancy/new/trendy restaurants. I LOVE to try new places, and it seems like the Nashville food scene right now is full of amazing restaurants popping up every week. As soon as I hear about a new restaurant, I don't even look at the prices, I must go (in my mind). If I could avoid eating out as much, I would save quite a bit of money. I would save easily $500 a month, if not more, if I didn't go out to eat as much.
My office is right next to a 7/11, so I probably spend about $10 a week on candy and iced tea. That is definitely a waste. I also have a bad habit of deviating from my grocery list, so my grocery bill is always higher than I expected going in, not to mention I waste probably about a quarter of the food I buy because I don't cook it in time.
I'd say shopping is my vice. If I need to go buy something essential, like a bra, but then I pass by X, Y, and Z stores that have sales, watch out! Soon, that bra will cost me hundreds of dollars because of all the additional (and unnecessary!) purchases I made along the way. So now, I'm trying to just order essentials online, via Amazon, and NOT browse for things I don't need, no matter how cute those shoes are that pop up while I'm ordering the bra!
I’d say food, no doubt. The thing is, I buy groceries each week with the intent to NOT eat out (so I can save money). But then I give in to temptation! Friends will want to go out for lunch at work. Or Happy Hour will end and then we’ll pay full price for dinner... I really need to make a budget and stick to it! I start and stop a lot, but don’t follow it!
Coffee!!! I buy WAY TOO MANY coffees out. I know it would be WAY cheaper to just make it at home, but I always have an excuse — running late or I HAVE TO try Starbucks' new drink! And then I get addicted to that new (pricey!) drink! Plus, my coworkers love to go have a coffee break in the afternoons. I guess I can go and not have any coffee, but, once again, temptation creeps in. Someone help!
I waste a lot of money on manicures, coffee, eating out with friends, and Postmates (a delivery service that charges like $10 for delivery — so way more expensive than GrubHub). The pro is, you can buy from any restaurant.
As you can see, there are definitely some themes above — namely, eating out (meals and snacks) and coffee. I don't know about you, but after reading the above, I thought about how much money I waste on extraneous purchases, too. I wrote them down — which I highly recommend, even though it may be a scary thought to see it all in writing.
"The key way to stop wasting money is to pay attention to where it's going," Germano says. "Look closely at all of your spending every month. You can’t make better financial decisions if you don't know which decisions you're already making. Whether it's in a program like Mint or LearnVest, or in an Excel spreadsheet, it's critical that you keep track of your spending. Pick a time each week (or more than once a week) to sit down and go through your bank statements or receipts and add up how much you've spent and what you've spent it on. This will let you know if you're reaching your monthly budget (if you have one — which you should) and if you need to start slowing down." OK, great advice, and I'm going to start following it STAT, like tonight.
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.