I’m Calling BS On This Popular Saving Tip

I’ve done a lot of reading recently on how to save more money, because wouldn’t we all like to have a little extra cushion in our savings accounts? There are many ways to do this, but some of them are just BS — usually because they only apply to a particular group of people.

Now, I feel very fortunate to have had opportunities that helped me save up money. For example, my parents graciously allowed me to live with them post-graduation for free — giving me time to start paying down my student loans and save up a pretty nice emergency fund. I eventually found a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago that I could afford on my own, but I haven’t been contributing to my savings since moving into it six months ago. I feel like I’m almost always living paycheck-to-paycheck to avoid dipping into that savings I built.

In my journey to start saving more money, I look for tips anywhere I can get them. Most of them include cutting things out of my budget, such as coffee, Grub Hub or Uber rides. It’s frustrating because I already consider myself a fairly frugal person. There have been times I’ve clicked on an article about how to save more, only to find that the entire message is to give things up. This is where I call BS.

I’m sure I’m not the only millennial who doesn’t spend outrageous amounts of money on lattes and lunch. I brown bag my lunch almost every single day, allowing myself a treat once in a while. This article claims you can save up to $2,500 a year by packing a lunch — but I can’t create that extra saving since I’m already skipping the lunch rush. I buy myself a coffee from either Starbucks or Dunkin only once a week, making coffee at home and transporting it in my Target travel mug most days. And I try very hard to not order in more than once a week. And cars? I maybe take a Lyft once every other month (admittedly more in the winter). Adding those up tells me that this lifestyle costs me maybe $80 a month.

Now, $80 might seem like a lot to some, and maybe you’re even trying to reach through the screen and shake me. But, Sam, that’s the point! You have to cut things to save more! But when you think about the time it saves me to just order Pad Thai for dinner one night (which has relatively large portions, by the way, and lasts me at least three meals), and the comfort it provides (my cooking isn’t always that great), it’s worth every penny. I’m not going to stop my weekly ritual of buying myself a coffee once a week — it’s what gets me excited on a dreary Friday morning. That $3 a week isn’t going to put me in a hole — my student loans are helping on that front perfectly, thank you very much.

Life is just expensive. Rent — even my very reasonably priced rent for living on my own in a popular Chicago neighborhood — takes up the majority of my monthly paycheck. Almost 50% on its own, and that only includes two utilities. When you factor in the rest of my bills, I have maybe $300 left over to pay for groceries, gas, and any fun stuff I want to do, like go out to dinner or see a movie.

Here are a few things I’ve started doing to help save me money when I don’t want to change my (already frugal) lifestyle:

1. Find the cheapest places to buy lunch near your office, and put them on rotation.

This might not always be the healthiest option, but I found that if I want a sub, Jimmy Johns is only around $7 for a sandwich and chips, in contrast to the $10 lunch options surrounding my office building in Chicago’s Loop. There’s also an Italian restaurant where I can get a slice of pizza for lunch for only $3.

2. Cook a big batch of something, and portion it out for lunches all week.

My favorite thing to make is Mexican Stuffed Shells. I cook it on a Sunday, and it makes enough that I can take a few shells for lunch every day, and it provides me with a couple of dinners, too. Plus, if I already portion it for lunch, I’ve made my mornings even easier by being able to just grab a Tupperware and go. For a healthier option, I’ve been able to buy a bag of pre-chopped lettuce, grill up one chicken breast, and then portion that out for five lunches for as little as $7 total.

3. Pay attention to where your money goes.

For this, I use Mint. I find it helpful because I’m pretty lazy, and this makes it easy to see what my budget is for each category and see where I stand throughout the month. I’ve also used their bill feature that helps keep track of bills, including how much they are and when they’re due. There have been a couple of times when my spending was out of control (*ahem* thank you, Backstreet Boys concert), but I was able to reel myself in on “fun” spending for the following month.


All in all, yes — cutting out small things will help your budget. If I stop my weekly coffee and occasional Grub Hub orders, I could potentially find that extra $80 in my savings. But damn the advice that I should give up my mochas and Chinese food. For now, I’ll start to utilize those coupons that come in the mail and continue to try new (bulk) recipes I find on Pinterest.

Samantha is a PR practitioner living and working in Chicago (aka the best city in the world, in her opinion). Currently enjoying the public relations agency life full-time, her little free time is spent petting dogs, eating Raisinettes, and binging Netflix. You can follow her on twitter @Sammi_Berrafato.

Image via Unsplash

  • Kevin Stoddart

    Agreed about the same, repackaged drivel that is normally included in the “Save $13,500 in 6 months” BS millenial targeted article.
    I say, sweat the big stuff and don’t worry about the $80/MTH you spend on things that help you feel like you’re alive to do more than pay your landlord and the telecoms.

    • Wolf

      Yep. Everytime I see one of those articles on “don’t spend $10 a day on Starbucks, avoid $80 happy hours and $50 brunches and buying new cars” I’m like “dude I never even did any of those”.

  • Violaine

    Yep. I agree. (Honestly though? In Europe where I am, ordering food once a WEEK would be considered a lot. Once a month would be the norm. But ignore this because I actually still agree with you!)
    I keep reading about that and I do all these things but yeah… still have a student loan to pay back, a rent that’s about 45% of my salary, my transport card is another 10%… It never stops. I love the success stories in finance but really, sometimes there is just nothing more you can do now in terms of saving. And it should be ok for a while if that’s the best you can do now 🙂

    • Allie Cleve

      It’s so weird reading all those finance articles as a European isn’t it? “Don’t take out a loan for a car, limit eating out to once a week”, etc. those are just not things we do here so most financial advice from the US just doesn’t apply. Totally agree with the writer though, if that coffee once a week makes you happy, the 3 dollars are a totally justified expense that isn’t gonna affect your long time savings goals.

      • Clytamnestra Dunge

        not to mention ‘uber’ and ‘creditcards’
        just take the bus/train/bike, the busstop is right over there and another in the next street, the bicyle-path is next to every road.
        all you really need is the free bankaccount that lets you deposit money, take money from an atm anywhere in europe, make electronic transfers all over europe, pay in pretty much any shop (all of which for a transaction-fee so low that shops may charge extra for paying cash: counting out money is a hassle)

        I agree with the author that it is perfectely fine to allow yourself some small pleasures. People who judge you for once-a-week starbucks are gonna find fault no matter what you do.
        Her rent is pretty high, but it sounds to me more like the standard ‘all rents have gone up the last few decades’ and not like she feels entitled to only the best house.

  • Tina Morris

    I feel the same way. I’m a Gen-Xer so I’ve been reading these rehashed articles for 20 years looking for new ideas, or just a reminder that I need to cut back on this or that. I do eat out way more than I should – but way less than my parents, sister or my son. It’s easy to cut yourself slack based on the behaviors you see around you, so I can use the reminders. However the amount writers estimate I save by making my lunch & not eating organic is always so ridiculous!

    • They are assuming that lattes, Grubhub, and Whole Foods are regular habits. When I checked my spending over the last 12 months food was definitely my biggest money suck (after housing and debt repayment). However, for people who already live frugally the biggest expenses are housing and taxes. Reducing those can make a huge difference.

  • Tito B

    I read and I try to practice what I read and I realize, sorry not gonna happen. I save and be miserable or I get my latte and feel I have a life. I drink my latte, and read some more. “I want to retire when I’m 45 too!” I look at my latte, and I realize, sorry not gonna happen. I smile, as I click the next saving article.

  • Hey! I’m in Chicago too. There is only but so much fat you can trim from the budget. It sounds like the issue isn’t spending, it’s revenue. A side hustle that brings in an extra $200/month cash could be much more effective than fast fooding and couponing yourself to death.

  • MW

    Are we just going to gloss over the fact that the author spends 50% of their income to live by themself in a “popular” neighborhood? 🙄

    • Michelle

      Yup there’s the problem right there! I’m pretty sure it’s also a popular savings tip to keep mortgage/rent & utilities to 30% or less of your income…

  • T

    You can cut and cut and cut expenses as much as you can (and that’s all good), but eventually you will reach a point where you physically (or comfortably) will not be able to cut back any more. That’s why focusing on income generation becomes just as important (i.e. a side hustle, working towards promotion, or a new job with more pay).

  • Lisa Rowan

    I’m terrible at so many of the “shoulds” of saving. These days, I ask myself, “What can I give up for a while?” instead of thinking of depriving myself. I’m on my way back right now from a long work trip where I spent a ton of money out of convenience. When I get home (I’m so excited to be back in my own bed), I’m going to see how long I can go without some of those conveniences. No online shopping (I have enough clothes right now!), no manicures (girl, you have nail polish at home!), no crazy nights out where I say “Oh I’ll buy this round.” Yes, I’ll still order lunch out almost every day, because I’ve realized the best way to get more fresh veggies into my diet is to buy lunch out. But I know there’s always a tradeoff. And it’s always that way even in flush times, too – you just need balance.

  • kddomingue

    I don’t live in a big city like the author but our rent and housing prices are pretty ridiculous considering the median income in my area. Most younger people or unmarried people have roommates to share the expenses so they can live in a semi-decent apartment or small house. If someone doesn’t have roommates, they’re likely struggling to pay for rent, utilities and food and they’ve already pinched their pennies until they screamed. And saying “well, just find a roommate” is easier said than done a lot of times. And saying “just find a side hustle” is often also easier said than done. No ideas here, just sympathy. I don’t begrudge anyone $10 or $20 a week to buy one lunch or dinner out and a latte. What’s the use of retiring at 45 if every year as an adult before that was sheer drudgery and Raman noodles?