This article is, of course, not really about a $5 item. It’s about simple changes that can have a dramatic impact on your savings rate.
The frugal among you should be prepared to be underwhelmed by the great item I’m going to reveal. For the other ones, I’m just trying to show how very simple lifestyle changes can have a big, very big impact on your wealth.
When I was a young engineer in France, I would eat out for pretty much every single lunch with colleagues, at an average of $10 per meal. This was a lot and I’ve explained before (just as every finance/lifestyle blog has done before me) how preparing your own meals can be one of the biggest vectors of improved savings for you.
I still ate at home regularly and “prepared” my dinner, if you call spreading some cheese on bread “preparing”. Yeah, I was still a student at heart, and for me that included not knowing how to cook, plus not enjoying it.
I tried really hard to cook healthy, but I had no ideas about quantities or didn’t plan for my meals, and very often I ended up with rotten vegetables and fruits in my refrigerator. I remember cooking pasta, eating only half of it because I had prepared too much, and putting the remains in the fridge, as is. Within 24h, these would become super dry and be pretty much disgusting. Hop, in the trash can too.
Trying to eat healthy but not having the time/experience to know how to prepare food and store it was very expensive for me. I threw away a lot of stuff just because I didn’t feel like eating it, or because I had prepared to much and didn’t know how to store the remaining food properly.
Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. I made the same mistake for several years, and ended up thinking that the only way to conveniently store perishable food was to buy it in individual portions.
Then I met my wife, and her love for (prepare for the big reveal): Plastic Wrap.
Oooh (underwhelmed sound from the crowd). Yup, plastic wrap is awesome at preserving half-a-meal that remains because you cooked too much (intentionally or not). Pretty much every thing we have in the fridge right now is sealed in Plastic Wrap. Half an avocado, a quarter of a tomato, yesterday’s meat sauce that we didn’t eat entirely with the tacos,… if it’s food and is out of its initial container, you can bet that my wife has it wrapped in plastic.
The thing is amazing. I can’t remember the last time we threw some food away. Of course, Plastic wrap is not the only reason for that. There’s also the fact that my wife is terrific at planning meals, and she knows when it’s about time we ate that lettuce we bought a while ago. I still suck at that, but the Plastic wrap is still the bulk of the improvement. I’ve estimated that my old habits with not storing perishable food properly would cost my family an easy $1000 a year, so, thank you Plastic Wrap.
If you suck as much as me at storing food, let me tell you: start getting some plastic wrap and sealed containers (ziploc et al) right now. This will make a huge difference.
Of course many of you could dismiss this as a stupid or obvious example. But food waste was a real source of expense for me, and plastic wrap is part of the solution to that. The message to get out of this is that sometimes, extremely simple changes of habits, that do not impact your lifestyle at all, can help save huge amounts of money. Look for the categories where you are wasting money and could easily improve things.