7 Habits You Didn’t Know Were Derailing Your Finances Every Month

by | BiggerPockets.com

I can already feel the hate mail coming my way. The “you have to live” talks. The “you’re missing out on the best times of your life” talks. That’s OK, though. I like those talks. In fact, I love those talks. Each time someone tells me, “You have to live,” it reassures me that I am living like no one else now, such that I can live and give like no one else later.

A couple of years ago, my buddy Scott Trench posted an article about a few seemingly harmless habits that many Americans have. Because I 100 percent agree with Scott—and because I’m a numbers guy—I have taken many of his harmless habits and done my best to attribute a dollar value to show the impact of each of these activities. Think of the dollar values below as a unit of comparison; the actual amount may be more or less for you.

Before we get started, let me preface with a disclaimer that I am no angel. I take part in almost all of these activities and don’t expect you to cut them out of your life either. However, I am keenly aware of the impact of these activities and practice them significantly less than the average American. Now, it’s your turn to scale back.

This article is typically for younger people in their 20s to mid-30s who are seeking early financial freedom. If you have already joined the “financial freedom club,” do whatever you like. You’re there! Enjoy it! For the others, I suggest you keep reading.

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1. Watching Television (Netflix, Hulu, Cable): $2,709/mo

Eight-ninety nine for an unlimited catalogue of TV shows, movies, and documentaries. That’s cheap, right? Wrong!

This New York Times article suggests that on average, Americans watch 5 hours of television every day. To me (and likely most of the readers of this blog), that sounds crazy. Let’s assume that we are better than the typical American and assume that the average reader of this blog consumes 3 hours of TV each day. That’s 90 hours per month, or $2,700 worth of your time, spent watching TV.

The total there is $2,709. This does not even include the cost of cable, a nice TV setup, and any other miscellaneous items such as snack food, soft beverages, or whatever other ancillary expenses are associated with watching TV.

Watching TV/movies is something I have totally cut out of my life. The only time I will watch TV or a movie is to spend time with friends or family.

2. Drinking & Bars: $2,220/mo

After looking deeply at the effects of drinking and nightlife have, it truly does shock me as to how many people do it consistently. Every Friday and Saturday night. I used to be one of these people. In fact, for about 6 years, I did not miss an opportunity to party with my friends on Friday and Saturday night. Thankfully, I have smartened up.

Let’s have a look at the impact assuming you go out 2x per week. Over the course of the month, you will spend at least $300 in alcohol, Ubers, “drunchy” food, etc. Not to mention the hours wasted. Between the pre-game (pre-drink for the folks outside the U.S.), the game, and the hangover, let’s say a total of 8 hours is wasted per night out. That’s a total of 64 hours per month.

If your time is worth $30 per hour (~$65k per year salary), that’s $1,920 per month! Plus the $300 in direct costs and that’s $2,220 worth of money and time down the drain. This does not even include the health issues and sicknesses to follow.

You keep drinking while the rest of us run circles around you.

3. Social Media: $1,800/mo

We all know that social media is a distraction. Still, the average person spends about 2 hours each day encapsulated in other people’s lives. That’s 60 hours per month—OR $1,800 worth of your time—each month dedicated to social media.

Get off your phones and start living your own life!

4. Listening to Music: $1,560/mo

According to a Nielsen study, the average American listens to 25 hours of music each week. Think about the time spent in the car, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, or doing menial tasks at work.

I am going to assume that many of us (including myself) listen to classical music for concentration purposes. I’ll cut this number in half to 13 hours per week, or 52 hours per month.

This is 52 hours each month that could be spent listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or having conversations with those around us. At $30 an hour, that’s $1,560 per month of time listening to music.

5. Driving a Car: $1,010/mo

When you have to go to the grocery store, a friend’s house, or work? What’s the first thing you do? Many of us jump in our cars and drive there. Think of it this way. Every single time you step on the gas, the break, or even turn the engine on you are opening up a hole in your wallet that your hard-earned cash trickles out of.

Let’s break it down further. A new car purchase is $25k. Financed with a 6-year loan at 3% interest, this equals car payments of ~$350 per month. A new car is said to be worth less than half of its value after the first 3 years. So, $13k over 36 months is $360 per month in value lost.

Not to mention all of the added costs—gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. Let’s say that’s another $300 per month.

$350 car payment + $360 value lost + $300 in added cost = $1,010 per month

That does not even include the added stress levels of brought to you by traffic and the health benefits provided by walking and/or riding a bike.

Stop driving and start riding!

drive-for-dollars

6. Watching Sports & Fantasy Sports: ~$1,000/mo

While this closely aligns with watching television, I like to separate it out because watching a sporting event is a different experience than watching TV. Typically, it is more of a social event.

Assuming you pay $0 extra to watch sports—you do not have a large HD television, you live in the same area as your favorite sports team, and you do not buy any extra food or drinks because of it—let’s quickly break it down.

Let’s say that the average amount of time spent watching sports is 6 hours per week. Obviously, this ranges during different times of the year. For example, in fall and winter months (September through March), you have the NFL (football) season and March Madness (college basketball), where the hours per week are higher than in the summer months where it is just the MLB (baseball). At 6 hours per week for 4 weeks, that is 24 hours per month or $720 per month watching sports.

With the explosion of fantasy sports, this gets even more costly. The average American pays $550 in fantasy sports dues over the course of the year. I presume, that’s skewed by the real high rollers so let’s say $150 per year. $150 per year, won’t kill you.

The real killer here is time. A study shows that the average fantasy football player spends 2 hours per week or 8 hours per month tinkering with their fantasy lineups. At $30 per hour, that’s $240 of time wasted per month on fantasy sports.

Adding these up, $720 watching + $240 of fantasy sports + any other form of dues, you are looking at close to $1,000 a month on sports. Again, this is before any miscellaneous costs

7. Eating Out: $900/mo

We all do it. We all do it more than we should. Eating out is one of the biggest killers for those in pursuit of early financial freedom. Not only is it expensive, but it’s time consuming AND unhealthy.

Let’s say your average meal out is $20 compared to the $5 it would cost you to buy the groceries and cook your meal. That’s a $15 per meal difference.

According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, Millennials go out to eat on average 3.4 times per week. We’ll round that down to 3 times per week or 12 times per month. At $15 incremental charge, that’s $180 per month.

Each time you go out to eat is probably on average 2 hours of your time. This includes commuting to the venue, the restaurant experience, and the food coma we all fall into when we are done. That’s 24 hours per month, or $720 worth of your time.

$180 per month in additional food costs + $720 worth of time = $900 per month eating out

See you at Safeway!

Conclusion

Again, I am no angel, and I do not expect you to be either. With the exception to watching Netflix, I still do all of these activities. I go out with my friends. I listen to music and am frequently on social media. I still take 3 hours every Sunday to watch the Patriots.

However, after thinking about what the impact each of these activities have, I have reduced the negative impact it has on my life. For example, I go out, but don’t drink. I watch sports, but ONLY my team. I listen to music, but have substituted half of the time to podcasts. I am an active user of Facebook, but I gray-scaled my phone so I naturally use it less.

The purpose of this article is NOT for me to tell you to stop doing these things. It is to make you aware of the financial impact each has. It is just to get you to scale back on some of these bad habits. Making small tweaks, will allow you to retain similar happiness levels while being on the fast track to financial freedom.

Cheers!

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

Do you agree that the above habits are counterproductive? Would you add anything to this list?

Let’s talk below.

About Author

Craig Curelop

After developing a huge love for real estate investing and personal finance, Craig decided to join the BiggerPockets team as a financial analyst. Over the past few years, he has looked at hundreds of financial models of startup companies. His experience will help BiggerPockets reach the next level as a startup company. Craig has a passion for helping others get out of their “comfort zones” to get what they want and achieve the “impossible.” In his spare time, Craig enjoys traveling, hiking, exercising, and sports of all kinds.

90 Comments

  1. Curt Smith

    Thanks for this advice. I tell folks in my REIA that they could have that down payment for a rental if they just stopped most of the above budget leaks for 1 year. Then of course do it again for another rental the next year etc.

    Financial Independance is so important to me (us) that we sacrificed for 6 yrs then I was able to quit my day job to live off our passive income. Was it worth it? Heck yes!!!

    It was shocking though. Friday lunches during my W-2 years I’d ask the table, would you work weekends, scrimp on any frills so that in 6 yrs you could quit too?? I heard folks blurt out – Heck NO! I just was sadened, shocked and sorry to hear folks so short sited. Then that fall of my last year 20% got laid off. Its not a level playing field, some percentage of folks will succeed and thats the way it is….

    Tnx for this outline of how to tune up ones finances!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks for sharing, Curt! We are definitely on the same wave length. Once your mind is set on a goal, it sounds like you remove every single obstacle in your way in achieving that goal. That’s very admirable.

      I hope that some others can start thinking that way as well! If they did, we would have a lot more people who are financially free, pursuing their passions and making the world would be a better place.

  2. Marcus Lawson

    I completely understand the main idea of the article for sure. And each one of those topics due take a lot of time away, but

    ….. I don’t know about the 30 dollars per hour part. Like 100% of those times cant be spent working. Listening to music costs 30 dollars per hour (when it could be spent working in assuming), but also then listening to a podcast still costs 30 dollars per hour. So even productive things like reading this article…cost me 30 dollars per hour.

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Marcus – Thanks for sharing. Sorry if I was unclear in the article. That $30 per hour does not necessarily mean you are “working.” It’s just the value of your time. Of course you can’t work when driving. However, instead of listening to the same songs on the radio, you could listen to an educational podcast or an audiobook. That gives you much more value for your time than the music.

      Every thing you do costs you $30 per hour. It’s just making the most of your time (i.e. listening to the podcasts/audiobooks rather than listening to music).

      Hope that makes sense!

      • Brandon Hall

        Hi Craig – I’ve been done this road before with my own posts, and over the years, I’ve realized you can’t assign a monetary value to non-working time.

        How do you assign a monetary value to time spent with family? Time spent with a spouse? Friends? Many times these relationship building activities cross paths with the activities you mention in your article.

        I like the idea of the article, and a few years ago I was writing to the same beat of the drum, but I’ve come to realize not everything can be assessed in monetary terms.

        • Craig Curelop

          Hey Brandon – I appreciate your response and I hear your concerns. The article wasn’t meant to detract anyone from spending time with family, friends, etc.

          I still have a social life. I go out once or twice a week. However, after deciding to quit drinking, I realized that going out was much cheaper and I felt a lot better the next day.

          Why is that we need alcohol and expensive dinners to have fun with friends and family?

          The monetary terms are used as a metric to show the impact of each of activity. The actual dollar amount, of course may not be accurate for everyone.

  3. karen rittenhouse

    Starting out in the investing business, we cut everything extra out of our lives: no eating out, no cable, no movies, nothing. If it didn’t give us a return, we didn’t spend money on it.

    It was tough, but we had a reason, a goal. And we not only hit our goals, but hit them a lot faster than if we’d just continued to live like we always had while hoping this real estate thing would work out.

    After reading your post, my largest weak area today is TV. End of day, I’m exhausted and want to turn off, so I turn on TV. I need to rethink some of that…

    Thanks for the post, Craig.

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks for sharing, Karen! It’s reassuring to hear that when you have a goal in mind and set yourself to it, it will be achieved.

      Honestly, for me, it’s not that tough. Once I had that goal. Once I figured out my “why?” Not doing these things became easy. When I do end up doing these things, it’s more of a treat than a daily habit.

  4. David Etenburn

    That was a cage rattler! Spot on, too. Our addictions, habits, vices, etc. are destroying our productivity. If we spend 8 hours a day at our job, 2 hours a day commuting (hopefully listening to podcasts that will enrich yourself instead of music or talk radio), there are still a good 4-5 hours a day we can spend doing things productive, like property hunting, rehabbing, managing your business, playing with your kids, and interacting with your spouse. All important, productive activities.

    A good 8-10 hours a week can still be enjoyed doing the things above. Not the 60 hours a week the average job worker puts in. Escaping the rat race should be the ultimate goal.

  5. Marshall Hooper

    How are you coming up with this $30/hour? I’m assuming this is based on the traditional method of calculating time value which is based on a 40 hour week? Otherwise, your target audience we need to be working 24 hours a day and making $250k+ per year in order for these opportunity costs to make sense. I do understand the premise, but the numbers are exaggerated.

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Marshall,

      Yes – the $30/hour is based on the 40 hour work week of someone making between $60k and $65k per year. Your point is valid. If you count the days as 24 hour days, the number will be higher. I think most people are accustomed to looking at this as ~$30 per hours rather than < $10 per hour.

      Because that is what your employer is willing to pay you (and that is what you are willing to accept), the $30 per hour is your market rate which is why I used it.

      Either way, the numbers don't matter too much. As long as you use a consistent calculation, you can compare the impact on all of these activities.

      • Brandon Hall

        If you are pulling the number from a 40 hour work week, then the value of your hour is not $30. The value of your work hour or business hour is $30. Based on your arguments, the non-working hours would be valued at $0.

        Marshal is right, you’d need to extrapolate that across a 24 hour period.

        Someone making $60k per year has an hourly value of $6.85/hr. I imagine this would change a lot of your calculations.

        The premise is the same though.

        • Craig Curelop

          I’m not sure I agree with attributing it over a 24 hour period. The reason is that you could do freelance work or some other sort of side hustle and be making your market wage (i.e. whatever your W2 pays you).

          If it were to be attributed over a 24 hour period, that would imply that your employer is expecting that you work 24×7, which simply is not true.

  6. If you’re counting the total time involved in going to a restaurant, it’s only fair to compare it to the time involved in preparing and cleaning up after a meal at home. In many cases, the restaurant meal is a time saver, or at least an equal time commitment. Unless you have someone to wait on you at home, in which case, lucky you.

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Julie – Thanks for your comment!

      I suppose it all depends on what you’re making. Many millennials (including myself) meal prep. So every Sunday I take about an hour of my time to cook dinner for the week. I usually make something that is either bakeable or I can put in a crockpot so I can do other things while the meal is cooking.

  7. Jason Hinton

    Every hour of every day is not worth $30. It is only worth that much if you can realistically work that time and make the money. For salaried workers that is not realistic.

    I also see some contradictions. The premise of the article is that time is money and we should not waste time on unproductive things. Then you say we should bike or walk places instead of driving? Talk about a time suck. My round trip commute is 50 miles per day. How much time would I waste biking or walking to work instead of driving my 2016 Spark EV that costs me $160 per month all-in: lease +insurance + maintenance? How many times would I have to walk to the store if I’m limited to the amount of groceries that I can carry or put in the saddlebags on my bike? (I do agree that time is money and I calcualte in commute time and cost when evaluating potential jobs)

    The article is also very city centric. It assumes one can actually walk or bike places. It also assumes greatly inflated prices even for city dwellers. $30 per bar visit! Sorry, I’m not going to drink 10 beers per visit or pay $10 a drink. The brewery we frequent is $2-4 per 8 oz pour and the taproom is $5 per pint for good microbrews.

    Then there is the car calculations: First you understate the average price of a new car – it is $33,500 in 2017. Then you assume that someone is going to change cars every 36 months. How about buying a 2-3 year old car and keeping it for 10 years. That is what my wife and I do (usually, the Spark lease was too cheap to pass up) I track every expense on my cars. The last two cars averaged $270 per month all-in: Purchase + Fuel + Insurance + Maintenance)

    • Craig Curelop

      Jason – thank you for sharing!

      The way I look at it is if someone is willing to pay you $30 for your time, that is what your time is worth. Whether you seek out $30 per hour tasks or not is completely up to you. What I allude to in this article is that people should seek out more $30+ per hour tasks rather than wasting their time doing negative dollar amount tasks.

      This article is geared towards millennials, specifically those in their 20s. Many of whom live in cities, yet still drive their cars around needlessly. If you live 50+ miles away, driving a fuel efficient car is a fine way to go. However, I do think a better way would be to either move your home closer to work OR move your work closer to home. That way you can take advantage of bike riding and walking places.

      Again, we can go back and forth about the numbers on how much you spend per bar visit. From my experience, I was spending about $300 a month on extra on all things related to alcohol, not just drinking. $30 is two mixed drinks and a ride home. I do hope you’re not driving yourself after drinking.

      As for the car calculations, I scaled back some of my assumptions based on the BiggerPockets blog readers demographic. Most of us are semi-financially astute so purchasing the most expensive car on the lot is not in our practice. I strongly disagree with anyone who leases a car. You are renting a depreciating asset that after 3 years, would sell for half of it’s value. You’re locked in at the price minus any payments made. There’s a reason why car companies do this, they definitely make money on it.

      Either way, you can disagree with me on these calculations. I’m fine with that. Maybe you do a similar exercise with your assumptions plugged in to see how each activity impacts your life? That will show you which of these you should scale back on.

      • Jason Hinton

        I have found that if you have a high paying W2 job it is easier to save money then make more money. Saving money has the added benefit that it is 100% pretax dollar. You use $65K a year for your example. That is more than double the median individual income in the USA. Most salaried jobs that pay that much are not strictly 40 hour a week affairs. In my experience they involve at least 45 – 50 hours per week with sporadic late nights and maybe some travel. That makes it hard to pick up another W2 job.

        Houses: When millennials settle down, get married a buy houses, they will find that it can be difficult for a couple with two working professionals to both find jobs within their fields that are close together. My wife and I are both engineers and we have lived in 3 cities in the past 15 years. Each time one of us has had a commute of more than 50 miles round trip. Today I’m 25 miles from work while my wife is 7. If we move close to my job my wife has to drive farther plus the same house will cost $200K more. I do walk and bike places but it would be totally impractical to try to live without a car.

        Booze: You were spending a lot on booze. I do not. If I drink it is generally one beer with dinner. At social events it is not more than one drink* per hour with a non-alcoholic drink between each alcoholic drink. I don’t drink to get drunk or buzzed, I drink to enjoy the taste of a fine beverage. * (Note that is 1 unit of alcohol. A mixed drink generally has at least 3 units so your 2 mixed drinks are actually the equivalent of 6-8 beers.)

        Cars: I generally agree that leases are a bad idea. However, I did in fact run the numbers and as you can see from the numbers above the lease was $110 per month cheaper than buying a used car and keeping for 10 years. (Again total cost: purchase, fuel, insurance, maintenance) That was because this particular $27K car had $17K worth of rebates to bring the price of the lease down to $99 per month because they were clearing out the Spark EV before the launch of the Bolt EV. No one is going to buy a electric vehicle with 82 miles of range when it is sitting next to one with 238 miles of range.

        Evaluating life: I’m about 15 years ahead on that already. The fact that my wife and I made the conscious decision when we were 25 to get out of debt and make a plan to establish financial independence is the reason we are in the financial condition we are today. Things were very tight for 7 years but that early sacrifice has paid off handsomely.

  8. Ken p.

    Another time sucking activity with poor ROI is lawn maintenance. I used to do everything on our primary residence myself; cutting the grass, using the string trimmer, edging, and then blowing the sidewalk and driveway clean. It took a good couple of hours, weekly during the summer months and biweekly in early spring and late fall. What was I thinking?! For $20-$25 per week in our area, a crew descends on our property and takes care of everything in less than half an hour. Using the freed-up time for almost any RE-related activity has a *much* higher ROI.

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Ken,

      That’s a good one! Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t thought of that. Mainly because I live in a city where the yards are small or nonexistent. Absolutely, you should figure out what your time is worth and if you can hire it out for less, you should!

    • Andre Dufour

      I enjoy lawn work. I listen to pod casts while I do it. So , I am exercising and learning (and if the kids are outside, watching them too and spending time with them 🙂

      Always use audible.com, podcasts, etc. throughout the week whenever you can.

  9. Michael O.

    Good write-up, Craig. Most people don’t understand that the money not working their 9-5 is actually time that could be used to keep hustling/prospecting/working on side jobs. Like you said, it is hard to stay focused all the time, but at least being aware of your time helps to cut down on unnecessary time wasters and reset your mind on the main goal: financial freedom!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Michael! I’m glad you liked it.

      Most people (including myself) need to indulge in these activities to stay sane. It’s just a matter of scaling them back. You said it exactly right! Get your mind on the goal of financial freedom!

  10. John Murray

    I have been successful and a multi millionaire. Here are the cold hard facts. Besides working your W-2 job and raising a family you have to put in another 6 hours per day in wealth building. This means smart wealth building. This does not include fantasy sports. TV armchair sports or any other escapism activities. Wealth building should include gym time. wealth study, family concerns and hard manual labor. Combine all of these factors and you will be successful. Getting involved in others drama will spell failure, whether real or fantasy.

    • Craig Curelop

      John, thank you for sharing! That is some good advice. I never thought to put a time budget on outside of work hours spent on wealth building.

      Realizing that many of these activities above have very little impact on your life is the first step!

    • Craig Curelop

      Thomas – Thanks for sharing your concern.

      It’s all a mindset game. By you saying you “need” your “ME” time which you consider watching TV, you are programming your mind to believe you “need” to watch TV everyday. What if you reprogrammed your mind to make your “ME” time exercising or reading a book?

      Everyone gets tired at some point. However, I think most people confuse being tired with being uninspired. If you REALLY want to achieve early financial freedom, you have to do things outside of what everyone else is doing. If that goal inspires you, you should have no problem changing activities during your “ME” time to achieve that goal.

      • Tom R.

        I read too. I’ve read 20 or 30 books on money, investing and real estate since I took the plunge in July. My day job is mentally exhausting and stressful it takes a little time to unwind after a long day. If I had to give up all of my relaxation time in order to become financially independent I absolutely would not do it because I know its important to my mental health. Maybe you should give up exercising in order to become financially independent. I estimate you are losing over $10000 a year not including the cost of equipment and gym memberships.

        • DJ P.

          While this article has merit, it falls into the all-too-common what I call Shakespearean Protagonist-Antagonist format. You have stated CONS of some activities; however you don’t state any of the PROS.

          What if music “inspires” and “motivates” ? … maybe that intangible translates into a tangible higher dollar output.

          What if a scene/episode/interview in a TV show [be it inadvertently or prescriptively] helps someone get past some mental hurdle or conflict? …. maybe that translates into some resolution and thereafter more earning potential.

          What about simply realizing the return on investment (ROI) of your hard work? Maybe the enjoyment of engaging in those activities are what makes one happy? “…of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” [I think this is the spirit of Thomas’ comments]

          What if the neuroscience of each individual requires some type of release to maintain emotional equilibrium – without one of these “alleged money / time waster activities” the individual spirals into an unhealthy state? There is no one walking the face of Earth that can provide an equation that shows how intangibles (seemingly wasteful or emotionally driven activities) translate or transpose into tangibles (money/financial gains), BUT it happens to humans ALL THE TIME.

          The article, while making some valid points (and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it stupid), it does not provide the counterbalance arguments, which makes it much harder to digest. I think you have to factor in both sides [and possibly additional POVs]…. The monetary opportunity costs of these activities [Craig], and the personal value of the activities [Thomas].

          Each of us only has 24-hours in a day and maximizing that ROI for each individual varies – gotta find your personal equilibrium/steady state even if you wanna make mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.

          ….just my two cents

  11. While I agree with the intent of the article — there are plenty of things that we do that are unproductive and costly — I don’t agree with all of the math or all of the examples. For example, I listen to a ton of music, I watch a ton of sports and spend time on fantasy football, I spend time on social media, and I watch a reasonable amount of Netflix. By your numbers, I spend $7,069 on these things… which is almost more money than I take home. In my estimation, I spend, in real dollars, about $20/month on these things. No one is ever going to be productive 100% of the time, and I think there’s something to be said about being happy. This article gives me the feeling that we should attain financial freedom at all costs, avoiding things that make us happy, because money is going to make us happy. I find this thesis incorrect. To each their own, but I’d prefer to find a balance between working towards financial freedom while keeping my sanity and happiness vs. spending ALL of my time working, listening to audiobooks/reading, working out, and eating at home. 🙂

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Julie – thanks for sharing!

      The dollar value behind each of these activities isn’t an actual dollar value that you give to some omnipotent being. It is a metric I used to show the impact of each of these activities. For example, instead of doing all of these things, you could be making $30 per hour doing something else (i.e. side hustle).

      I do all of these things too. Again, I just scaled back and have noticed a significant difference in my life. I have also surrounded myself with friends who have similar goals so it is much easier to spend time and money on these activities.

      The dollar amount will be different for everyone. I would suggest taking a realistic look at how much time you spend doing these activities and seeing what it is costing you using the dollar value as a metric, not necessarily money lost each month.

      Hope this makes sense!

  12. Pat Bournes

    Thank you for the excellent Post – Most people would be well advised to at least think about how much time we waste. Sports , drinking alcohol, drinking luxury coffee, television, video games….. all poor ways to spend our time. I mention this to my son frequently….. you can use your time wisely or you can use your time unwisely. One of the choices has a high probability that you will be richer. The other choice is almost guaranteed to make you poorer than you could have been. We all have this choice. Which of the two choices will you make?

  13. I have had extensive training in lean methodology, and have led numerous corporate projects to remove waste and make processes more efficient. In addressing the “waste” factor of lifestyle choices, this article makes some valid points, but seriously errs in other areas.

    As several others have pointed out, if we become über-efficient by eliminating all sources of entertainment, life lacks any color – and as we know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We need downtime to decompress and recharge. While TV can be seen as a “costly vice,” it’s also a favored way for many productive folks to disengage from the realities and minutiae craving our attention at all hours… making it possible for us to tackle these with renewed vigor. Based on the article’s premise, reading a novel (since we’re not learning about investing nuances) is also a colossal waste of time. This is totally off-base.

    And yes, driving to restaurants, waiting for tables, ordering food, waiting for food, waiting for the bill, and driving home does take a good amount of time. But as my wife and I realized long ago, cooking proper meals involves this much time and more between food prep, cook time, and cleanup. Since we have to eat, and many of us don’t want to fill our bodies with empty calories and unhealthy foods, the comments on restaurant meals are also off-base. If we stay on the subject of monetary savings – yes, there’s no contest. Restaurant meals easily cost 5x or more of what equivalent home-cooked meals – made from scratch – cost.

    • Craig Curelop

      Paul – thanks for commenting! All great points.

      The article wasn’t meant to suggest that you act as a machine and cut all of these things out of your life. It was meant to make people aware of the impact on each activity and scale back on some of the more significant ones.

      Instead of going out to eat, I typically cook meals for the week in a crock pot. That way I can do things while it is cooking and it only takes about 30 minutes of my time between prep and cleanup for the entire week.

  14. Lana Lee

    I know this is not a health talk, but restaurant food is full of GMO, pesticides, artificial hormones and other junk. I would rather spend some time cooking out of the ingredients that I know are healthy. In the long run it is too going to save us money on medical bills. Investing in your health always pays off.

    • Craig Curelop

      That’s a great point! Becoming more efficient is even more important than working longer.

      The time spent in this article may not necessarily be “working.” If you find your passion, I hope that the time spent that you can presumably get paid for does not feel like work.

  15. Brandon Hall

    Hi Craig – the article has a good premise. I’ve written on the subject in the past and my views have changed over time. Mainly that you simply cannot assign a monetary value to these activities as you have attempted to do.

    The reason is that you cannot monetarily evaluate happiness and joy that these activities may bring. Someone mentioned lawn maintenance being a poor ROI, however I wholeheartedly disagree. I LOVE working on my yard and it’s the one part of my day that I get to spend outside and de-stress. How do you value that? Surely someone would not tell me that’s a poor use of my time?

    The other factor that I think you need to consider is that you can make money from ALL of these activities you mention. But if you simply cut them off, you’ll make $0 because you won’t see the opportunities.

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Brandon – Thank you for your comments! Definitely a lot of value add and I love the discussion.

      I understand that you can’t put a monetary value on everything. The main point here was to use the dollars as a metric to show the tangible impact of each of these activities. For example, watching TV. It’s only $8 a month for a Netflix subscription. The $8 per month isn’t the killer, it’s the time spent vegging out that’s the killer.

      If you like mowing your lawn, mow your lawn! The same thing could be said for traveling, hiking, exercising, etc. Those are some of the things I really enjoy and I do them without second thought. The monetary value is just a way to look at the activities that many people do and see if what they’re doing is really worth .

      I hope that makes sense!

  16. Mophutholodi Molatudi on

    Hi Craig and thanks for the article. I made a decision to cut out some of the activities that were not contributing positively to my financial freedom e.g. I hardly watch TV and instead read motivation books or listen to audio (aids sleeping too), I stopped drinking completely, I only buy items that I need, I pack my lunch or snacks to work and don’t have to buy things that I already have at home-this contributed significantly to my health and wellness, I invested in some basic gym equipment and do some exercises at home regularly (stretching, walking, jogging, skipping and a bit of weight lifting) don’t have to pay to go to gym and coupled that with running a marathon once or twice a year (for charity and my well-being). I enjoy home cooked meals and eat out sometime. These have saved me a lot of time and money. I only have one debt-my mortgage and started investing in real estate. I am never broke… I have friends who don’t want to change their spending habits but are always broke. It is a sad situation.

    • Craig Curelop

      Wow Mophutholodi! That’s incredible! You’re doing better than me…. I still pay a significant amount for gym memberships. After your comment though, I am going to make it a goal to find a new, less expensive gym by the end of the year. Thanks for the inspiration!

      You are definitely on the right track. Live like no one wants now so you can have the life everyone wants later.

      • Mophutholodi Molatudi on

        Thanks to you Craig! All that I managed to do up to now was made possible by people like you who are selfless and share their life experiences so that others can avoid the same pitfalls (if they choose to).

  17. Jiri Vetyska

    I agree in principle that you need to cut out some time and money wasting activities (which essentially means cutting out your social life, unfortunately), but the way you try to assign some wasted cost to these activities, that is completely wrong.
    For one thing, we are not machines and life is about more than just working 24/7. You need to sleep, to enjoy nice meal and enjoy yourself and have some down time to relive the stress. Yes, some people overdo it on the down time, there has to be a balance.
    Craig, based on your equations above, you seem to be suggesting that live has no value to you, only work. Maybe you could consider waiting until later in life and then share what is really important and what people should really prioritize.
    In addition to the improperly used numbers, you seem to completely struggle with basic math. For example, if you car payment is $350 a month, that will payoff the car completely, that already includes depreciation. So you should actually lower the cost by the value of the car above the depreciation. And then lower that whole amount again by tax savings, which in most cases far outweigh the cost, so your car will actually save you tons of money! So, yeah, I’d like to be more eco friendly and bike to the grocery store, but it would cost me a lot of wasted time and I would have to spend money on a bike, rain jackets, lights, helmet and all the equipment that will depreciate and provide no tax benefit. Back to the drawing board perhaps?

    • Craig Curelop

      Jiri, thanks for your comment.

      The point of the article is not to say you should not do any of these things. I do quite a few of them. I watch sports, I play fantasy football, and I listen to music frequently. It’s just making people aware of the potential costs of doing these things too frequently.

      The $350 per month pays the interest & principal of the car payment, not the depreciation. I have no intentions of making this article confusing by including tax savings on a car payment. It’s not THAT meaningful and we can say they are cancelled out by the insurance and maintenance savings you gain from riding a bike. Not to mention the future health costs associated with the exercise from riding a bike.

      Sure – there are a few things you need for a bike. All of those things mentioned above would cost ~$100 for a bike. About one trip to the mechanic’s shop for your car.

      Feel free to disagree, but there is a very low probability that you can convince me that driving a car is a better financial and health decision than riding a bike.

      • Proncias MacAnEan

        Jiri is right, partially at least, you can kind of include your depreciation on the car, or the cost of the loan but not really both.
        And to get a true estimate of cost it is a combination of both.

        So with your example, after 3-years while you’ve lost $13K in value (and I would strenuously dispute a 50% loss in 3-years; more likely 1/3).
        Your down-payment must have been about $5.5K with those numbers. So after 3-years you owe about $8K on a $12K car.

        Therefore your costs have been $5.5K down, plus $350pm = $18.1K;
        minus current equity of $4K
        Total cost = $14.1K or about $390pm

        Not over $860 (including the down-payment divided by 36). The depreciation is really only useful to calculate the current value of the car and from that the equity.

  18. Deanna Opgenort

    Disagree w/car cost. You are forgetting to add the time “costs” to alternate travel.
    If it’s an extra hour each way to get to work, that’s a time cost of $60 extra PER DAY in time. I happened to randomly notice that per Google maps it was exactly the same time to bike or transit, and that both were an hour longer than driving 13 miles in early rush hour traffic.

    • Craig Curelop

      Sure – it definitely takes longer on a bike. However, what are you doing with that extra time by driving your car? If you are doing any of the above activities, then it doesn’t matter.

      Riding your bike 2 hours per day, could also cancel out a gym membership and keep you mentally and physically fit.

  19. Matt Tatkow

    Nice, Craig! A big key for me is momentum. I find that when I reallocate my time away form said activities towards more proactive activities (i.e. reading, exercise, side hustling, cooking), I get momentum to take on more challenges that move me towards FI. The more I do, the more I can do. Whereas, when I get lazy with how I spend my time (drinking, watching Westworld), I start to get lazy with other things like going out to eat and finding creative ways to enjoy myself. The less I do the less I can do.

    I’d be keen to hear about how reallocate that time toward more productive measures and how you structure your days. You’re obviously very efficient with your time.

  20. Andrew Herrig

    All that non-productive time spent sleeping at night is costing me $7200 per month! Better cut that out and go get a night shift job!

    In all seriousness, I get the intent of the article. But valuing every hour of every day at your market wage is a recipe to becoming a terrible (and terribly depressed) human being.

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks, Andrew! The point of the article is just to make people aware of the costs of these activities beyond what they “pay” for them.

      I have a very fulfilling life. I travel a bunch, hike, and hang out with friends frequently. It’s just I believe people spend way too much time staring mindlessly at a TV than maybe reading a book or doing something that is far better for them.

  21. Brian Bistolfo

    I’m all for understanding how your lack of frugality is killing your finances, but treating every waking hour as if it should be a working hour is the recipe for burn-out. By these metrics, a good night’s sleep “costs” $240/night. I find it’s better to focus intensely for a small number of hours on the most important task at hand, and then enjoy life. I make the same amount of progress that way as I have in the past being a stress-case and feeling like only work-related activities were worthwhile in this stage of life.

    Driven people like us will never have enough. People…enjoy the ride or you’re doing it wrong.

    • Craig Curelop

      Brian, I agree 100% with what you are saying. I don’t think of my life every day like this and I rarely deny a Saturday night with friends to work. However, if I’m not doing anything on a Saturday night, I will 99% of the time do something productive rather than mindlessly watching Netflix for 6 hours.

      Nowhere in this article do I mention that you should sacrifice sleep. Sleep is extremely important and I get between 6 and 8 hours every night. This is enough to keep me focused throughout the day.

  22. Mark Hutchinson

    Great post! I love that you took the time and effort to monetize these items. It makes the costs of normal activities a little more tangible. Opportunity cost and actual cost per service together can really add up. Thanks for the reminder to stay focused and budget my goofing off time!

  23. Nothing like an accident that keeps me home with a broken leg to verify that all of us can save a ton of money! No eating out, no driving car (temporarily), and no socializing does save a ton. I was only getting a $1 McDonald’s coffee and a cheap lunch and have saved a bundle. But unfortunately the TV watching has gone up as I’m stuck here. 😉

    Good points however.

  24. I could simply respond with “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Or maybe it’s that “I may work to live, but I don’t live to work.” There is such a thing – a very real thing – as work-life balance, and everyone needs to achieve it. As I approach regirement, I am glad I had lived (and worked) fully and happily, doing things that were interesting and fun and stimulating and which had absolutely nothing to do (at least directly) with the bottom line of my income. You only live once, and then you die (and you never know whether that is going to occur in 30 years or 30 minutes). Enjoy your work and your fun everyday, while you can.

    • Craig Curelop

      Thanks for the wisdom, Brent! Finding a balance is ideal and this article is not about ONLY working. It’s just making people aware of how much their down time is costing them in a tangible sense. I have a very fun and fulfilling life. While I work pretty hard now, I like to think that the scale will be tipping towards play as each year goes by.

  25. Janine Badic

    Fun article… I only disagree with the cost of going out to eat. I eat almost exclusively home cooked meals and I spend A LOT of time shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning up. Sometimes I think it would be a better use of time and money to eat out more 🙂

    • Craig Curelop

      Hey Janine – Glad you liked it! I suggest meal prepping? Especially if you have a crock pot. I take maybe 30-60 minutes on Sundays and I have food cooked for the week. When you go out to eat, you often have to wait in line, wait for the order, etc.

  26. Jared smith

    Like everyone else we get the moral of the story. Be frivolous. But to beat a dead horse most of the ideas don’t relate to real life. Ex. Netflix cost $8.00 per month. That’s a big savings over cable, plus you have to purchase internet either way ( if you want to find a rental property ). Or you can buy a book for more money.

    Can’t live in the dark eating stale bread, watching the mice run by. You forgot to mention utilities. If its yellow, let it mellow and vice versa.

    The article points out that there is a need to cut back but everyone needs to write up a plan and and look over their expenses, and decide what more important to them.

    • Craig Curelop

      Jared – yes. The point of this article is not to say do not do any of these things. It’s just putting numbers to these bad habits. Sure, Netflix only costs $8 per month. But if you are watching for 5 hours a day…. you’re wasting much more than $8.

  27. Matt Guignon

    Humbling post Craig! Just like yourself, I am definitely guilty of participating in all of the above mentioned activities! By monetizing the use of our time, I will definitely be viewing all of these activities with a new perspective of how they dramatically affect my pocketbook now and in the future!

    Keep up the hard work, and awesome content!

    • Craig Curelop

      Jay, I’m sorry you feel that way. The purpose of this article is to put a tangible number on activities that are costing us much more than we think (i.e. Netflix). The numbers don’t matter…. the point is that doing these activities are costing you more than you think. So do them in moderation.

  28. This article is funny to me. I’m one of those unusual people who avoid most wastes of time like the plague – tv, bars, video games, restaurants, etc. The only thing I’m guilty of is reading fantasy books, but I’ve also written two, so in a way, it’s research for my own books.

    But at the same time, I can see that everyone needs some free time to avoid stress. It’s nice if your “downtime” can be somehow productive, but that also wastes the point of it. I start to feel stressed out and I don’t sleep well if all I do is work. Mind you, I feel like every minute during every day, I ought to be productive and I feel guilty when I am not. To me, this has always been a fault of mine, that I hold myself to such high standards. I can see that I’ve managed to accomplish more because of it, but I’m not sure if I’m really better off.

    • Craig Curelop

      Great comment Alison. The whole point is not to say that you should be working every single minute of every day. It’s just to be mindful if you are spending 5+ hours a day watching TV or going out to eat all the time, etc. It’s costing you more than you think.

  29. Jiri Vetyska

    Craig, are you suggesting that we do nothing else than work, work and work?
    I don’t know if you are 16 and left school to pursue your entrepreneurial career, and are just so eager you don’t care for anything else, but trust me, even you, in few months or years will realize that money isn’t everything, that work isn’t life and there are much more enjoyable things that one can do than just go crazy.
    Maybe you should add things to your list – why even bother eating – switch to soylent and save another 20,000 a month, going to bathroom and sleeping is such a waste of time, you could probably save another 50,000 a month and cut off your family and friends and lock yourself in a room for a year and you save another 100,000 a month. Enjoy man!

    • Craig Curelop

      Jiri,

      I’m afraid you are missing the point of the article. This article is not to say that you should stop your life and only work work work. I’m trying to make people aware that doing these things too much can cause problems. It goes beyond your credit statement. I wanted to put a tangible number on things like Netflix, which only shows $8 per month, but has a much larger impact than that.

  30. Erika G.

    Thanks for this eye-opener. Unconsciously, even though I limit my shopping spree, the things you’ve listed here became part of my monthly expenses. They’ve been considered a commodity, which after reading your blog, should not have to. Good read!

  31. Max Householder

    Time spent on leisure is only a “cost” if you’re giving up doing something of value instead. If you get paid $30/hour by an employer to work 40 hours per week, your time outside of work isn’t also worth $30/hour because nobody is offering to pay you during that time. It’s not like your 8 hours of sleep every night is costing you $30/hour. If you wanted to factor a $60,000 annual salary to include leisure time, it’d be more like $7/hour (24 hours x 365 days = 8760 hours, 60,000/8760 = $6.85 per hour annually). Now sure, if you turn off the Netflix and write 3 yellow letters every night and you know those 90 or so letters every month should net you one $3,600 wholesale deal, then choosing to spend those hours on Netflix instead could be considered a $30/hour cost. It does a good job making your point, but aside from the fixed costs of the beer, Ubers, Netflix subscription, etc. there is no 4-figure hourly charge to leisure each month, otherwise your annual”worth” would be like $250k+

  32. Christopher Connell

    I like the general idea of this article but as many others have stated in the comment section, The monetary value on time isn’t realistic. I get the time is money deal but I’m not earning 30 an hour when I’m not watching tv or hanging with friends, so I’m definitely not losing money when I am doing those activities besides actual money being spent.

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