William Blake once famously proclaimed, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Though Blake might make a valid point with his affirmation on the benefits of self indulgence, he never elaborated on how those luxuries can affect your savings account.
Ash Wednesday 2014 is today, which starts a six-week period preceding Easter called Lent. What is Lent? It’s a time when many Catholics and non-Catholics alike decide to abstain and refrain from vices and other things they enjoy. It could be sweets. It could be Starbucks lattes. It could be fast food. But what about the really bad habits? What about alcohol, or nicotine, or even caffeine?
If you’re deciding not to participate in Lent 2014, do it for the sake of saving money. Sacrificing these luxuries could save you a bundle.
Skip the Bad Habits, Save Money
When is Lent? This religious observance lasts from Wednesday, March 5, to Thursday, April 17, the day before Good Friday — and a perfect time to make some personal changes to not just ourselves, but our finances. Here are just a few ways to save $1,000 over the next month and a half.
If you successfully made the first month of the year a “Dry January,” then you’re well prepared to give up the booze for Lent. Beer, wine and spirits can do a number on your health and your finances.
Both GOBankingRates and MSN Money recently cited a Bureau of Labor Statistics study which stated that Americans dedicate 1 percent of their income toward the purchase of alcohol — $1 per every $100 earned. That’s only the average. According to David Mitchell of SavingAdvice.com, he and his wife had at one time spent more than $100 a week on their drinking pastime. Over six weeks, that’s $600 worth more than the hangovers it causes.
If you’re spending that much money on alcohol, you shouldn’t give it up just for Lent — you must reconfigure your priorities and might want to quit for good. Habitual drinking can lead to alcoholism, which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. If going teetotal isn’t your thing, you might find that you enjoy the change that a six-week abstinence from your favorite lager will bring.
That cheap daily fix of 7-Eleven Joe might not break the bank, but if you’re a bean snob of the Starbucks or Peet’s kind, your caffeine kick can give the contents of your wallet the biggest jolt of its life.
Are you one of those twice-a-day Starbucks patrons? Do the math, and a $5 venti, soy, no-whip mocha latte two times daily, five days a week, for six weeks is $300 that could have been spent on cheaper caffeinated beverages — if none at all. Herbal teas are cheaper and don’t lead to caffeine withdrawals or headaches.
If you must go through withdrawals of any kind, it’s best to make them from your checking account for responsible purchases outside of bad habits.
If Ash Wednesday must be about anything at all, stomp the ashes of that cancer stick out! So much has been said about the dangers of cigarette smoking — from lung cancer to heart disease and emphysema — that it needs not be repeated here. But if you’re still late on keeping up with that New Year’s savings resolution, now is as good a time as any to quit the nicotine habit, even if it’s only financial.
Using the American Heart Association’s Financial Cost of Smoking Calculator, a pack-a-day smoker could save $240 a month on a box of $8 cigarettes. Increase that to six weeks, and you’ve got a $300 savings that’s easy on the bank account and the respiratory system, too.
Photo credit: Wise Geek
Adding Up the Savings
To recap, $600 + $300 + $300 is $1,200 saved over the six weeks of Lent. Can’t think of any more bad habits? The sweet-toothed with an affection for cake and chips can easily save $100 on junk food; and chronic gamblers can lose a small fortune playing the casino tables.
What can you use the money on? Sign up for a gym membership, lose weight and get yourself in shape. Travel somewhere you’ve never been before. Get your debt in order. Or, best yet, invest your savings — just because the money is there doesn’t mean it has to be spent.
Starting Lent off right by curbing your bad habits on Ash Wednesday can save you more money than you think. You might not miss your vices one bit! Turning over a new personal and financial leaf can lead to major changes that can, and should, last the rest of your life.
It will prove, once and for all, that your new motto goes something like, “The road of good habits leads to the palace of financial wealth.”