This month has presented itself as monetarily challenging; our car needed a major and unexpected repair, a tax bill showed up, and my sister’s wedding is just around the corner. Needless to say, I’m not going to make my savings goal this month.

Thinking about all of this on my bike on my way home from work the other day, I started thinking about “treating” myself to an extra coffee. It was hot, I was sweating and riding up hill, and I thought, “It’s only $4.00, I can afford that.” (I only drink cold coffee, so it sounded refreshing on a warm day.)

Then, bingo! It hit me. I tend to want to “treat” myself when I’m feeling stressed about money and $4.00 seems a whole lot less than a $700 car repair. This was a revelation for me. The truth is I didn’t need another coffee nor did I need to spend $4.00 on a drink. So, I skipped the drink and decided to become more aware of these feelings of “treat time” during stressful moments.

If anything, saving the small amounts here and there should keep me in check. Saving $4.00 doesn’t seem like much, but the small amounts do add up and can act as a nice cushion during cash-strapped months.

I’m sure I can catch up on my savings goal in the coming months. But, I have to form a new car repair plan. Since paying off the car this year, I see that annual repairs are going to be inevitable since the car is now an “older” vehicle. Saving even $150 a month towards repairs should help alleviate the surprise when the next repair comes up (which are the struts that need to be replaced this year. Fun times.)

At least I’m aware of my spending habits and can reign them in when I must.

Do you have spending patterns that you recognize? How do you prepare for large expenses?


  1. I know it sounds trite, but I really do spend a ton more at the grocery store if I shop hungry. I can easily add $50 to a food bill just because Pop Tarts looked good at the time….and I don’t even eat Pop Tarts!

    • @Average Joe -I do too. I have to make sure I eat something or am not starving when I go shopping or it’s really hard to stick to my list. 😉

  2. Congratulations on your revelation!

    It’s little things like this that can make a big difference, and those little purchases do add up. It’s actually the premise behind The Automatic Millionaire. David Bach (the author) of that book calls this the “Latte Factor”.

    It’s pretty powerful when you start to add it up.. $4 a week x 52 weeks is $208 a year on a coffee treat – and that’s not taking compounding into account. And what if you spent that per day? That’d be your car repair in a year with minimal adjust on your day to day living.

  3. I try to plan for the unexpected expenses as much as I can. Since I am older and further along on my goals, it is less of a problem.

  4. Lance@MoneyLife&More Reply

    I think it is great when people figure these things out for themselves. Congrats and enjoy the extra money you will be saving.

  5. Michael Davis Reply

    Instead of eating in restaurants every single day, I bring lunch to work from home as often as I can. It could save money and give you added reading and relaxation time too.

  6. Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog Reply

    LH – I have noticed that about myself recently as well – when I’m busy spending thousands of dollars on home updates, an extra 50 or so doesnt sound like too much.

    • @Jeff- That’s exactly what I think my problem is – $4.00 doesn’t sound like much compared to $400 or more, so I think it’s just fine. At least I’ve recognized this pattern and am trying to overcome it.

  7. Squirrelers Reply

    That sounds like me of late. I’ve been splurging for coffee or food when busy and on the go, and I think it’s partially convenience but also a way to treat myself during some stress. It’s good to recognize the sources of such spending habits. Thanks for bringing this up!

    • @Squirrelers – Convenience definitely plays a part when I’m busy, too. I’m trying to get better at planning around my busy schedule, but sometimes I slip up. 😉

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