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Managing Your Money: Only $18 a Month

Living a Better Life® (from the editor's desk)
by Michelle Jones

Short term thinking like this can be a real budget buster, so let's do the math on a few of these small added monthly expenses.

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Just $18.00. That’s how much my cell phone service was, before I cancelled it. Now, it’s zero a month, which is even better! (It's 2002 and I really don't need an extra phone right now, so this is an expense we CAN live without.)

While driving into town this morning I was reflecting on my decision to cancel this bill. “But it’s only $18 a month”, I thought. Yes, and the cable is only $25, the newspaper delivery is only $12.00, and those sodas we like to buy sometimes while we’re driving around running errands are only $1.19.

But take that a step further. The cellular phone for $18 a month equals $216 each year. Cable TV, at $25 a month, equals a whopping $300. That inexpensive newspaper subscription (even just $12 for the weekends), will cost you $144. Sodas at $1.19, let’s say three times a week, comes out to $185.64 per year! Just these few items come to a grand total of $845.64.

It’s so easy to fall into the “it’s only $18 a month” thinking. Most of us even know better, but we still do it!

I remember when my husband and I bought our first house, almost 15 years ago, we felt we also had to buy several large items to go with it. All the appliances and things we needed were just $10, $20, or $50 a month… we put them on credit cards of course. After all, we had two good jobs (at the time), and knew we’d be able to pay them off quickly. But they added up to thousands of dollars worth of debt that took us years and years to pay off.

As I was driving through town today, thinking about how nice it would be to have my cellular phone turned on again, I thought about how some people might think it’s pointless to be saving that money. But then I thought about how it wasn’t that long ago, that none of us had cellular phones, and we got along just fine.

We do carry AAA road service, that’s something we don’t skimp on due to our proud ownership of two very well conditioned used cars. But since everyone else has a cellular phone, if my car breaks down I guess I’ll just borrow a phone call from one of you lovely people who might be kind enough to stop and offer assistance (to this pitiful driver who’s too frugal to have her own phone).

Right now, my priorities are just in a different place. It’s not that we can’t afford the phone, it’s that we have other things to spend the money on that are more important to us. Including, contributing to an employer matching 401k to build our retirement fund back up since we lost it a few years ago due to a job loss. In this case, that $18 a month is really more like $36.

There are lots of things that would be nice to have, all of them costing just around $10 - $20 a month. But each one represents a bigger number (x 12 months). Though by themselves they may seem small, add too many of these extra expenses and you can build quite a threat to the success of your family budget.

So, next time you find yourself thinking "it’s only going to cost $18 a month" or whatever amount, get your calculator out and reconsider!

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Copyright © 2002 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.

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