Forget About The Low Hanging Fruit

One of the most important aspects of personal finance is that we spend less than we earn.  After all, the only way to accomplish spending more than you earn is by taking on debt.  Since the economic crash I’ve seen countless articles give the finance concious a way to lower expenditures in hopes of paying down debt or simply to save more.  Let me go on record by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of lowering your expenses.  Many of you aren’t going to see an increase in salary year over year, nor are you likely to inherit a financial windfall, or win the lottery.  If you want to paydown debt, or save more money, you are going to have lower your expense-income ratio as much as you can comfortably can.  However, and this is what irks me, I’m tired of hearing about the low hanging fruit of your expenditures.

I can’t tell you how many articles I have read that tell us to cut back on our daily lattes.  I suppose if you truly are buying lattes from a place like Starbucks every single day of the week, then yes it may be the first step in reversing some needless expenses.  But I’m going to assume your closer to the average person, and that you probably don’t spend $4 a day on lattes, 7 days a week.  You may buy a $4 latte one day, and a 99 cent gas station coffee the next day.  In fact, you may be in debt, overspend, and don’t even drink caffeine at all…what’s the solution then?

The media has driven the gas price scare into us for years.  I once even fell prey to the scare tactics and changed my driving habits.  An article I read explained that we can all save a ton of money on gas by driving no faster than a consistent 60 mph, with our windows up, and preferrably the air conditioning off.  I’m not an engineer, an automotive expert, or even more intelligent than the average person, but I’m willing to bet that the savings equate to pennies in a month.  I tried this annoying slow, hot, and stuff method for about a month, and I dont recall having any difference in the amount I spent monthly in filling my tank.  Also, I remember the suggestions of utilizing a work carpool, and using public transportation instead of your own vehicle.  Great ideas, if you happen to live in one of the dozen metropolitan areas in the U.S where this is truly viable.  I live in metro Detroit, we don’t do public transportation, though I wish we did.  Not to mention I don’t punch into a clock, nor do I have a 9-5 job, I have more like an 8 – 8 job…carpooling isn’t easy to schedule when you work in a professional environment as a salaried employee.

Cutting back on entertainment options may be the one that gets me the most!  For instance, canceling your health club membership.  I personally think that we are more likely to exercise when we leave our home to do so, less distractions.  I also think that we are more apt to exercise when we are paying a monthly membership at a gym.  Frugality is great, but not at the expense of your health.  What about eliminating your cable?  Great! The very same article may be telling you to stop frequenting the movie theater and to rent movies instead, but what about just watching movie on cable?  Isn’t cable a cheaper form of entertainment than going out on the town?  Yep, I love utilizing the local library, but with spending cuts their selection of entertainment isn’t as vast as it once was, nor are the days and hours as accomodating.

I understand that these suggestions offer a glimmer of hope to people that are entrenched in debt, but abstaining from debt is truly the only effective solution at times.  Buy a house with an affordable mortgage, that is perhaps smaller in size.  You won’t have to waste your time reading about wrapping blankets around hot water heaters, and installing programmable thermostats, your utility payments will be less with a smaller home.  Don’t buy a brand new BMW if you can’t afford it, and then you won’t have to worry about the gas savings by leaving your windows rolled up, and the air conditioning off, when its 90 degrees outside.  Continue your education, do well at your job, build up ample savings, and you won’t need to worry about cutting $10 off your monthly cable bill and surrendering yourself to the selection of outdated movies at your local library.  Yes, I do believe in spending smarter, but it’s those significant expenses that are inevitably going to weigh you down.  In short, start with the high hanging fruit and work your way down, you’ll find life much simpler and more efficient that way.

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16 thoughts on “Forget About The Low Hanging Fruit

  1. krantcents

    Too many people are in careers, they do not enjoy! How can they be successful? Success means you have choices! Who wouldn’t want choices. I am not suggesting to spend freely, but a choice is better than no choice.

  2. admin Post author

    If the majority of people werent in careers they didnt enjoy, we wouldnt have as many sanitation workers, janitors, retail and restaurant employees, and perhaps manual laborers…I dont look down on anyone, but I have worked in one or two of these areas when I was younger, I certainly didnt enjoy it, but they are necessary jobs. Let success be that they work hard and avoid debt and save for a comfortable retirement and for their families.

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  5. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer

    I don’t think people should obsess over the small purchases, but they should definitely take a look periodically at what they’re spending on it. $120/month on coffee shop drinks versus $10-20 at home adds up.

    The molehills do turn into mountains if they’re ignored.

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  9. Small Footprints

    You make a good point that we should take a look at the high-hanging fruit first and work our way down. Once the high-hanging fruit is taken care of, it may be appropriate to then take care of the easy-picking fruit. Many people, in this economy, must make the choice between that latte’ (even an occasional latte’) and dinner ($4 buys a lot of beans). In our society, we often don’t know the difference between what we really need and what we simply want. We can thank advertisers for that. In reality, there’s a lot we don’t need and when economic times are tough, we really must take a look at that and prioritize. Often, something we deem necessary and which we are currently paying for can be acquired for free. For example, exercise is necessary but a gym membership isn’t. Yes, the gym membership may encourage us to workout on a regular basis but, with a little determination and strength of character, we can exercise on a daily basis without spending a dime. Again, the cost of a gym membership would go a long way in sustaining a family. Thank you for a thought-provoking article.

  10. Judith

    For most people, “continue your education” and “build up ample savings” don’t go hand in hand. We have always felt that, if you’re intelligent enough to learn at an institution of higher education, you’re intelligent enough to figure out how to continue your education without getting into debt. Our family has always studied part-time and worked part-time in an job related to our studies. When we finally received our BAs, we already had years of experience in the field and stood head and shoulders above other job applicants when we applied for full-time jobs.

  11. Joanne Schultz

    I mostly agree with your comments. But I do agree that one should cut back on expenses wherever – the large as well as the small! It helps if you have a specific goal in mind; otherwise it’s hard to stick to your cost-cutting.

  12. petra

    It seems that moderation is key. Don’t spend what you don’t have. Live within your means. And always, an easy way to save is to pay yourself first.

  13. luckylifepath22

    i agree, in that it is usually the larger lifestyle choices that increase the amount of debt one has, rather than small, day to day expenses

  14. Amity Johnson

    We have cut down on our unneeded spending. It upsets me that we can’t do much with our kids but hopefully it isn’t for long. They are good kids and do understand 🙂

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