Ever wish you could ask others how they spend their money? We’re going there. In our “Cash Confessions” series, LearnVest breaks down the numbers to show how real people spend their paychecks, and whether their habits are financially on track — or off the rails.
Today, one woman shares how her soda addiction was nearing $100 a month — and how she changed her ways to save money and become more mindful of her spending.
I love Diet Coke. I have at least one every day. It’s a small, inexpensive indulgence that brings me an unusual amount of joy.
But when I looked over my bank and credit card statements one month to tally up my spending (something I do every month to make sure I’m sticking to my budget) I was shocked to see I’d spent close to $100 on soda alone. How did my daily Diet Coke habit add up so quickly? Here’s a rundown.
My Typical Week in Diet Coke
I don’t like coffee, so instead of hitting up Starbucks on my way to work each morning, I usually stop by McDonald’s for their dollar soda deal — $1.08 to be exact. When the line at McDonald’s is too long, I’ll stop by the gas station instead and grab a fountain drink for $2.16. A little more expensive, but not terrible. And compared to the price of a latte, I figured I was saving money.
Sometimes, I’d grab a second soda on my way home from work or while running errands on the weekend. Again, spending $1.08 just didn't seem like a big deal.
On nights or weekends when I go out to eat, I usually always order a beverage with my meal. The problem with restaurants is the pricing is much higher — around $3 or $4 for a soda. But I always justified it because I was already spending money on food, so a little more wouldn’t break the bank, right?
This nonchalant thinking quickly caught up to me — and my budget. During an average week, I was spending around $22 on Diet Coke. After four weeks that’s roughly $88 dollars. Not only is that a lot of money each month, but I was also noticing some negative effects on my health — like frequent fatigue and headaches — that gave me even more concern.
Breaking the Habit
I believe that small indulgences are important. For me, getting a Diet Coke is a treat that I look forward to. But after seeing my soda spending habit on paper, I realized I needed to make some changes.
I knew I’d still want a Diet Coke here and there, so I didn’t want to cut it out entirely. However, for the sake of my physical and financial health, I set up some spending limits. I told myself I would cut back on my soda intake on the weekends and only indulge if I was eating out at a restaurant. This could be charged to my credit or debit card (since it was part of a larger purchase). But for my pre- and post-work McDonald's runs — which I limited to just one or two a week — I'd have to pay in cash. No more mindlessly swiping my card for $1.08.
Setting a threshold for how little I’m willing to charge to my card made me smarter and more mindful about my purchases. While a lot of people set a spending maximum for themselves, I set a spending minimum to help me truly appreciate the value of a dollar. Now, I won’t charge anything under $5. And if I don’t have the cash, then I’m not buying it.
While I still enjoy my bubbly, cold Diet Coke each week, changing my habits helped me save between $35 and $40 a month. This may not be a huge amount of money, but it was enough for a date night with my husband.
And as an added bonus, I've also lost a couple of pounds, feel less bloated and have more energy. Scoring one for my bank account and my body? I call that a win-win.