3 Things We Spend Way Too Much Money On
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Americans are some of the most fortunate people alive today. We have access to so many resources that we can use to improve our lives, and we have opportunities not available to most of the rest of the world. Because there is so much abundance here, we have a tendency to spend way too much money on certain things; namely: education, raising children and vehicles.
These are three very important categories of any budget, and the more conscious you are about how much you spend on them, the better off you will be financially.
As many long time readers know, I am currently paying off six figures worth of student loan debt. I know better than anyone that education is expensive. However, I think that when it comes to getting an education, you have to really weigh your options.
When my husband was thinking about going to medical school, we sat down and ran the numbers. We used the average income of a family medicine physician, typically one of the lowest paid physicians, and calculated how long it would take us to pay off his loans, how much our retirement would be delayed and more.
We learned at a minimum that the investment would be well worth it in the end. Since he matched into a surgical specialty, his income potential is even higher than we projected initially and so we will hopefully pay off our student loan debt quickly.
Unfortunately, not everyone sits down to calculate projected outcomes after college or graduate school. As a liberal arts major, I know first hand that some majors simply don’t produce as much income as others, and if you have to take out student loans, you should be well aware of this.
It doesn’t matter if you go to one of the best schools in the country with the highest tuition; if you go into a field that does not pay well, it will be hard to pay your student loans back. Social workers who went to Harvard will typically get paid the same introductory amount as social workers who went to a state school.
If you will be paying back your student loans yourself without any family assistance, it’s important to not overpay for your education. After all, you can get a great education no matter where you go.
Extracurricular Activities for Children
I recently moved to the Midwest from the New York City area, and while prices are generally less expensive here than they were on the East Coast, I’m still amazed at the prices for extracurricular activities for my toddlers. This has left me looking for ways to save money on extracurricular activities.
Recent statistics show it costs an average of $245,000 to raise a child from ages 0-18, and I can’t help but think a big chunk of that has to be the extracurricular activities that parents spend so much money on.
I recently called a gym that has gymnastics classes for toddlers. I thought my son would love to jump on a trampoline instead of his bed or my couch. However, I just couldn’t justify $200 a month to send my two year-old and his twin sister to gymnastics.
When they’re older (and when my debt burden is lower) I definitely plan on enrolling my twins in some sort of music class or sports; however, at this age, it’s hard to spend so much on what will surely be a glorified babysitter.
At the same time, it’s hard to say no to these things when moms at the park discuss how their toddlers are in art lessons, music lessons and Spanish lessons. Luckily, I know there are many free activities, like ones offered by the local library, that my children can enjoy without me writing a big check every month.
The average new car payment is now over $500, coming in at $503 per month. That’s a serious monthly bill that would take a large cut of out any budget. Not only that, but car loans can come with very high interest rates on a depreciating asset. People know empirically that cars lose value over time; however, it’s still tempting and easier than ever to get a car loan.
The best thing you can do is simply be aware of these traps. Marketing campaigns want you to spend as much money as possible, so you just need to know the facts. Instead of taking out a car note, try driving a paid-for-but-not-as-nice car instead. Instead of enrolling your children in a ton of a activities, try focusing on just one or doing research to find free ones near you. Lastly, carefully weigh your education options and those of your children. The most expensive school isn’t necessarily the best.
Ultimately, what’s important is to have an awareness about your finances and to know where many Americans spend too much money so you can try to avoid falling into the same trap.
Did you spend too much money on any of the categories above? Any regrets? Looking back, could you have gotten the same degree at a different school or gotten a different degree to derive more value from your education? What’s your opinion on enrolling kids in extracurricular activities? Is there a certain age that makes most sense to begin?
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