18 People On The Stubborn Expense That’s Hurting Their Long-Term Finances


I am always fascinated by FIRE (financial independence/retiring early) stories, not because I think I’m particularly likely to retire in my 30s (cue: exaggerated sigh), but because I think there’s a lot to be learned from the very premeditated spending, saving and investing techniques of many people who have achieved FIRE. Yesterday, I came across a subreddit called r/leanfire, which is mainly for people who are trying to get to retirement before 60, and are planning for less than $40k in yearly expenses. I spent a while (too long, probably) leafing through the leanfire posts, and I was impressed at how supportive the community was, and how practical a lot of the discussion topics were. On one thread, someone posed the simple question, “What’s something you overspend on?”

Because most people who follow the subreddit are trying to trim down their budgets so they can a) pursue early retirement, and b) live on less than $40k a year, most of them not only get honest about the expenses that kill their budget, but also offer a solution, or share how they’re trying to combat their bad habits. Here are 18 people on one thing they overspend on (that is making their early retirement budget tighter):

1. “Home improvement. I’ve got a fixer-upper house and a masochistic DIY streak. I bought it super cheap, knowing I’d need to put money into it over time. [It costs me] about $400/month right now, with the hope that eventually the place will be absolutely lovely to live in.” — PointiestStick

2. “Movies and shows are at an all-time high: we have Netflix ($96/year), Amazon Prime ($108/year though this year was free, and we do use it primarily for other purposes), and we now buy TWD and FWD on Prime (about $86/year total, but we may not do this next year). We occasionally also go to the dollar theater or buy a Redbox. Over our lifetimes, we’ll have to work a couple extra months if we continue to pay this much for TV and movies.” — KatieM2015

3. “Cars. I drive a $2,500 shitbox about 11k [miles]/year currently, which according to my calculations, costs me $2k/year in direct operating costs, and closer to $2,900 after factoring in depreciation and opportunity costs. Two thousand dollars is 12.5% of my annual budget, so it’s fairly significant, but I have no plans to cut back. If anything, I only see myself spending even more in the future. Looking to upgrade to a fun car in the ~$10k range right now, and I’m sure I’ll own lots of other cars over my lifetime. I… might have a problem.” — hutacars

4. “My main over-expense is books and foreign language-training materials. I’ve been using the library a lot more so the book expense has been way cut down, thank goodness. But because I study some slightly less common languages (Korean, Classical Chinese, about to start Mongolian), I’ve spent quite a lot on materials (probably at least $1,000 over two years). I feel like I finally have most of the resources I need for all three languages though, so I may not need to spend any more? Famous last words, I guess. I don’t know how to cut down on this category, exactly, because I carefully consider each purchase, buy only what I think I really need, and buy used whenever I can.” — alcibiad

5. “Clothes. I only buy from companies whose #1 focus is quality in fabrics and durability. I just bought a $200 pair of pants — yes they ‘cost’ more, but I own less, they last longer, and I don’t have to do laundry as much.” — 53×12

6. “1. Internet. I pay ~$100/month on my internet, but it’s hard to cut back as I work from home and need a reliable internet connection.

2. This sub[reddit] seems to be overwhelmingly male, but as a girl, I spent $2,500 on full body laser hair removal (a one-time expense). No matter how you work the math, the expense doesn’t make sense vs. just buying razors, but it is something I wanted that I splurged on. In this same vein: ~$3,000 for braces.

3. Like everyone else: Food. This will get better when I’m out of school, and I have less temptation to go out to eat after class.” —ChrisIsKinky

7. “Seriously rethinking cable TV. TV & internet package runs me $150/month. But last time I called about internet only, it was still about $60.” — OneRedSent

8. “Mobile phone bill — I pay, I think, £16 a month and barely use the inclusive. I’d probably pay less than £5 a month on PAYG [pay as you go]. I only really realized this within the last few weeks, and haven’t transitioned onto a cheaper rate because I do want a new handset. I can’t see myself getting the two bundled – I’m just still thinking about it (and reading /r/chinaphones).” — strolls

9. “Food, definitely. Combination of poor planning, long hours and laziness. It’s definitely a work in progress, and I am improving. I made a real pointed effort to reduce all my bills over the last few years. I just finished knocking down my cell phone from $71 to $32 a month. My last bill I could possibly lower at this point is insurance; I started researching new providers this weekend. Hoping to save a minimum of $50 a month. After that, food is really the only thing I overspend on.” — Lindsey-905

10. “Electronic cigarette liquid. My husband and I spend $60-$80 a month on it. :/ We’d actually spend less smoking the real deal because we’d do it less often, you know, having that tangible way to keep track, instead of mindlessly vaping and each going through a bottle a week.” — YesMyGlassesAreReal

11. “Tobacco. Roughly $4.50 a can per day for me, or $135 a month (roughly $1,500 a year). I definitely need to quit soon, and plan to take advantage of my inability to use at RCT for Navy as my chance to quit for good.” — SonOfLamb

12. “Traveling/camping. I have more time now, and I’m doing more things that require specialized gear, like a 21-day rafting trip down the Colorado. That was my first rafting trip, and I didn’t have any of the gear I needed. Even if I’m just straight-up camping, there are travel costs, camp sites, food/ice, etc. I actually spend much less on most other things than I did before leanfire, so it works [out to] about even.” — CassandraVindicated

13. “Health insurance. My work is a small start up and doesn’t offer it. I’m paying $206 a month for a bronze plan that doesn’t even have great coverage. Not sure what I can do about it either. The rates are crazy high this year.” — findsomelight

14. “Costco. Four hundred dollars a trip once every three or four weeks (in addition to regular grocery shopping). I can’t cut back, and I don’t know why.” — ghsebldr

15. “Definitely food. It’s insane how often the people around me go out to eat, and I can’t help but join them a couple of times a week. Had it not been for eating out, I would have easily been under $200/month for food, but now it’s like $400-$500. Eat lunch or dinner out 10 times/month and suddenly your [food] bills are +$200.” — oh_yeah_woot

16. “Booze.” — OrganicRolledOats

17. “Food is bad for me. I’m a social single millennial which means my friends are always going out. I’m also lazy and rarely feel like cooking.” — Riodancer

18. “[On socializing and eating out.] Same, except I’m married, and the wife and I are both lazy and hate cooking #millenialcouples. We’ve ‘cut back’ by doing the cash budget. We do $60 for ‘together’ money, which is mostly always spent on going out for food, and $40 each for our own ‘fun’ money…which is also sometimes spent on going out for food :p.” — schraderbrauishgood

Image via Unsplash

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