Americans love affair with stuff is causing an increase in personal debt, longer work weeks and less down time. Stressed out workers are less healthy, less happy and less prepared for retirement. By changing habits and perspective, Americans can live happier and healthier lives and enjoy debt free living.
Americans eat an estimated 222 lb of meat per year according to the USDA. Meat is not only expensive consumer dollar-wise but is also resource intensive.
According to NPR’s Morning Edition, a quarter pound hamburger patty requires the following resources:
- 6.7 lb of grain and forage
- 52.8 gallons of drinking water and irrigation water for feed crops
- 74.5 acres of land for grazing and growing feed crops
- 1,036 BTU’s for feed production and transport. That’s the same amount of energy required to run a microwave for 18 minutes.
It is difficult to quantify how much you can save by eating less meat but the consensus is that eating less meat equals spending less on food. The amount of money spent on meat depended on several factors including household income and whether the eaters were partial vegetarians or full vegetarians. Either way, it is best for our planet and your wallet to eat less meat or become a vegetarian altogether.
The Health Factor
“A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who don’t eat meat — vegetarians — generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians do.https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/meatless-meals/art-20048193
Even reducing meat intake has a protective effect. Research shows that people who eat red meat are at an increased risk of death from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Processed meats also increase the risk of death from these diseases. And what you don’t eat can also harm your health. Diets low in nuts, seeds, seafood, fruits and vegetables also increase the risk of death.”
Developing one of these diseases is expensive. Prescription medications, doctors visits and diagnostic tests will cost you in the long run.
2. Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is cheap clothing produced rapidly in mass markets in response to trends. From a cost perspective, these low quality clothing items only last a few wash cycles. That hip new blouse that doesn’t fit right, look the same or has threads unraveling after only one wash? Yep, you have been FastFashion-ized.
Not only did you waste money on that hip new blouse but fast fashion industries have historically had poor work place conditions and pay un-fair wages. The ‘middle men’ profit at the expense of your wallet and other’s lives.
3. Time Shares
Times shares are a pretty slick industry. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average time share cost is $22,000 with an annual maintenance fee of $980.
There are hidden costs as well. If you live far from your time share, the cost of getting there may add up. Also, due to unforeseen circumstances you may not be able to visit your time share that year.
Besides the costs, I personally would not want to visit the same place every single year making the long term proposal a bit blah. There are time shares where you can choose from a variety of locations that would suit me better. I still prefer to AirBNB my vacations and explore without limitations. Also, forking over $22K up front plus annual maintenance fees is a bit painful.
4. Huge Houses
Americans are having a love affair with stuff. Furniture, clothes and toys are among the top purchases for us. Stuff needs a home, and eventually needs an even bigger home. The cycle is pathogenic.
By purchasing huge houses, Americans have essentially become married to their mortgage. Having little money leftover after paying for the house and its maintenance, destination vacations seem like an improbability.
The median value of a home in the state where I live is $339K. I would need two full time incomes to come close to being able to make this payment. There wouldn’t be any money left over for fun. I would rather have less stuff, own a smaller home and not spend my weekends maintaining a pleasure palace. I save time and money by thriving in my little bungalow. I can either borrow, rent or skip having extra stuff entirely.
5. 4 Year Degree
I value college degrees. Education probably makes people better citizens and more capable of leading successful lives. The price difference between vocational training and a four year college degree however might make you think twice before going into huge student loan debt.
According to Money.Cnn.com, a two year degree may cost around $15,000 while a four year degree may cost you $57,000.
At Salt Lake Community College, one year of a vocational training program will likely only set you back around $5,000.
64% of Bachelor-seeking college students take more than four years to graduate. A vocational training student will enter the workforce several years earlier than those seeking a ‘four-year’ degree. The combination of the much cheaper tuition and the early entry into the workforce puts the one-year vocational student ahead of the rest. A vocational student is also much more likely to work in their field than those holding a bachelor degree.
6. Not Cooking
Eating out and ‘cooking’ convenience food will cost you big time.
The generations that grew up post World War II are very familiar to cooking highly processed convenience food. In fact, most Americans forgot or never learned how to cook real food in the first place.
Cooking food from scratch is not only cheaper but healthier too. A box of flavored rice or couscous can cost up to 10x that of rice and seasonings if you cooked from scratch. Thankfully, cooking from scratch is once again becoming popular thanks to the rise of food blogs.
Cheap foods to cook from scratch:
These cheaper foods, when cooked from scratch, have less calories and sodium making them healthier.
7. New Automobiles
Owning the latest shiny new automobile will cost you too. You will still have several years of car loan left by the time the new-car smell wears off.
Savvy marketers know exactly when your car note is almost paid off. Expect to receive some very clever letters and flyers come through your inbox at that time.
According to consumer reports, the average time Americans own their car is six years. Modern cars can last over 200K miles thanks to advances in technology. Holding on to your car for ten-fifteen years can save you around $30K. There will be more maintenance and repair costs as you keep your car into its golden years but the big advantage is when you maximize the car’s depreciation. Just buy some new car spray.
8. Latest Smart Phones
Having the latest smart phone/hand-held computer is expensive. Apple was the first to break the $1K price tag on new smart phones. Now it is becoming more common to hand over several Benjamins for the shiny new gadget we cling to. It is also becoming more common to change out your phone every year.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average life span of a cell phone is 4.7 years before performance noticeably suffers. Just holding onto your smart phone a couple more years can save you a few grand.
There was a time when I would treat myself to a grande cappuccino at my favorite coffee shop. Somehow, I convinced myself that I deserved and needed to treat myself to that piping hot cup of goodness sprinkled with cinnamon more often. Like every day.
It wasn’t until I downloaded the coffee shop’s app that I realized how much I was spending on my favorite cup of joe, a habit I had formed over time. I was spending $174.22 per month on something that started out as a treat but morphed into a daily habit.
My cappuccino is now a treat again and I brew my coffee at home after dusting off my perfectly suitable travel mug.
Other habits I formed over time:
- Signing up for monthly subscriptions and then forgetting about them -$40/month.
- Eating out at lunch, everyday- $120/mo.
- Stopping by my favorite breakfast drive-thru on the way to work- $72
- Buying sodas from the vending machine- $16/mo.
Just by changing a few behaviors, like packing a healthy breakfast to take to work, I am saving about $400 per month. This savings can be used to pay off debt and live your best debt free life over 40. Try doing a personal spending audit for yourself. How much can you save?