The following story is based on true events. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent…
For easy reading, please assume that all purchases made cost approximately $20.
This is a story about “Vanessa,” a married, professional mother of one, and the potential cash flow pitfalls that she faces on a monthly basis. Vanessa is a sucker for a deal and frequently finds creative ways to justify even a seemingly frivolous purchase.
One day, she heads to the hardware store with curtain rods and a hammer on her list when she stumbles upon a vintage-looking aluminum bucket. “This would be a perfect prop for a photo of my baby” she thinks, and solidifies her “need” for this bucket knowing that it has the additional potential of functioning as a storage device.
While browsing through the Etsy app on her phone, she finds an adorable crocheted tractor hat for her son – which would also be perfect for said photo opportunity and of course, head warmth.
Any time she checks her email or browses through sites like Pinterest or Etsy, she is bombarded with once-in-a–lifetime deals, adorable craft and home improvement ideas, and fantastic goods to purchase. Here are a few examples:
▪ A great gift idea or decoration project for the nursery. Never mind that her son is 8 months old and doesn’t particularly care about the status of his bedroom décor.
▪ Free scarf with a sweater purchase! Wow what a deal – she doesn’t really need another sweater, but how can she not buy one if there is a free scarf involved?!? That’s just like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk!
▪ A (insert random holiday) blowout sale – everything is 30% off (that’s practically free, right?!). Vanessa proceeds to purchase 3 items that were not originally in the budget.
▪ $20 for a customized canvas print?!? Not sure where she’ll hang it, but better buy it since it’s such a great deal!
▪ A tractor-shaped cake pan on super clearance! Better get it in case her son wants a John Deere birthday party one of these years.
▪ Buy-One-Get-One-Free decorative pillows!!! The couch is basically naked, so she probably need at least 4 of these.
Have you been keeping track?
If Vanessa takes advantage of all of these “deals”, she has spent over $160 on items that may or may not have been in her family budget. Sure, she and her husband are dual earners who have plenty of extra income after all the bills are paid, so purchasing these items won’t put them in the poor house. But she arguably could take a more long-term approach and put her disposable income to better use.
If Vanessa were to restrain herself from the above purchases and invest the $160 per month for a year into a savings account, she would have an additional $2,000 in the bank for a rainy day, future purchases or a whole case of decorative pillows.
If she were to invest the $160 per month into a growth orientated investment portfolio (assuming a 7 percent rate of return), she could have approximately $27,000 in 10 years. Hmmmm…that would be a nice college fund for that little 8-month-old, wouldn’t it?
The trick is to identify the source of your “drip”. Is it the daily trip to Starbucks? Happy hours at your local pub? Random items that tend to jump into your cart at Target? Online shopping when you’re bored?
Use your bank’s website or other financial websites/software to track your spending and see if you have an extra $2,000 a year waiting to be discovered in your cash flow.
Next time you are drinking that $4 latte or mindlessly tossing items into your cart, think of Vanessa and the $27,000 that could have been. Don’t fall prey to the $20 drip – it all adds up.
Jamie Bosse, CFP, RFC, is a Financial Planner at KHC Wealth Management. She is an active member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City.
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