For the last four years I have saved up a lump of money for no real purpose. I knew that I would probably need large amounts of money in the future, and that one day I would like to be wealthy, so saving as much money as possible seemed like the logical step. In December of 2006, I opened up an ING Direct online savings account and began funneling money into it through monthly automatic withdrawals. Each month I watched the money grow, delighted with the interest payment I received (back then, it was 5%!). I nurtured it, I dreamed with it, I watched the interest add its own interest.

Fast forward four years, and most of this money is now going towards our down payment on a home. It’s time for my money and I to part ways, but on relatively good terms.

Sometimes I look at the sum I have saved in the last four years compared with the income that I have earned in the last four years, and wonder where it has all gone to? But yesterday I had a much kinder thought: had I not been so diligent with my saving plan, I could be looking at an almost empty account today instead of one that holds the promise of home ownership.

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So, where could all of this money have gone to instead of in my savings account? I have gathered some thoughts and calculations on this topic for common things people spend their money on. This includes categories that, if I had my way and a limitless bank account, I might have spent my money on as well. Here is what I found:

Item Cost Four-Year Cost
Lattes During the Workweek (200 days a year) $2.00 per day $1,600
Membership Dues to a Gym $40 per month $1,920
Weekly Manicures $20 $4,160
Car Lease (for this example, the popular Honda Accord Ex at $24,495) $239 per month, 36 month lease $8,604 (and I would not own the car at the end of the three years)
Pay Off Credit Card Debt (average for household is $8,000 @ 14.94% interest) $219.67 per month $8,000 paid off (hurrah!)$2,544 lost to interest (bummer!)
$18,828

 

Perhaps it seems to you that your everyday purchases, habits, and financial commitments do not add up to anything. But in the example above, it adds up to $18,828 in just four years (not including the credit card debt you paid off—which is great, but does not equal money in your savings). For each of the examples above, there is an alternative that I have used.

  • Instead of the daily lattes, I went to Starbucks once every other week to write and enjoy a delicious treat, which was $1,392 cheaper
  • Instead of working out at a gym, I signed up for periodic yoga classes and ran/walked outside, which was $1,440 cheaper
  • Instead of weekly manicures, I did my own at home, and went to the salon for a manicure and pedicure twice per year, which is $3,600 cheaper
  • Instead of leasing  a car, I paid cash for mine ($1500) and have driven it to 227,000 miles thus far, which is $7,104 cheaper (plus I own the car)
  • Instead of having credit card debt, I paid off my credit card each month (I have gotten away with only one $39 finance charge due to changing banks and not changing the automatic withdrawal), which was $2,505 cheaper than the average household credit card debt (also I have earned over $800 in gift cards for reward points from this credit card)

I could look at my account today and sigh at all of the dinners out, new car smells, trips to Bermuda, and clothes that I have missed out on over the last four years. But I don’t see it that way at all. I am alive, I am well, and I have a down payment waiting for the house of my dreams. To not have this down payment would be the true sacrifice in my mind.

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