The Topic: Avoiding the three most-tempting money black holes with Managing Editor Elizabeth Castoria
The Dish: Sometimes, it's not about knowing how to save money, per se, but instead about knowing how to not spend tons of money. Maybe the distinction between the two isn't totally clear. In the words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up." Saving money involves getting goods for cheaper than the sticker price, either by buying in bulk, using coupons (such as today's Living Social Deal for $20 of Whole Foods groceries for $10!), or doing something yourself (like making your own almond milk, instead of buying pre-made). But! You know that moment that tends to happen right around 7:48pm, when it's been a long day at work and you know that you should probably eat something for dinner, so you wander dazedly into the grocery store and fill your basket with frozen peas, a block of tofu, almond butter, and peaches, only to get home and discover that those ingredients don't actually make themselves into a meal and you've managed to spend $28 dollars? That, friends, is where not spending money comes in. Here are my top three money sucks to avoid!
1. The Grocery Store. Yes, you have to go there to buy groceries. Avoiding this one all together might be impossible, but planning ahead can save you big time. Do your best Virgo impression, make a list before you go, and stick to it. Even if you happen to discover that the store stocks an impulse-buy section with vegan chocolate peanut butter cups and whole-wheat fig bars—walk on by!
2. The Salad Bar. It's so shiny! As someone who is about as attracted to shiny things as your average raccoon, this is a problem for me. Salad bars gleam with pre-chopped potential, artfully arranged add-ons, and mountains of maybe. You know that you can purchse all the ingredients for a salad at a lower cost by simply buying the vegetables and chopping them yourself. If you do get sucked in by the salad bar's siren song, remember to stick with light, space-taking items like romaine lettuce and grated carrots, and avoid pre-made tofu dishes like the plague.
3. The Bar That Has Great Vegan Food. First off, let's take a moment to be grateful that there are bars that have vegan dining options! Yay! Even teetotalers can find themselves at the local watering hole because of the novelty of finding vegan hot wings or nachos. As someone who has, possibly on too many occasions, told myself that I'd just go to Millennium for a couple drinks and maybe an appetizer, I've discovered something incredible: When you're drunk and there's awesome vegan food all around you, you're going to eat it, regardless of what your intention was when you walked into the joint. This is especially true if, like me, you go in thinking that your low tolerance for alcohol will make for an unexpensive evening. Just imagine your (read: my) surprise when lo and behold, sometime around drink number 1.4, you're ravenous and have suddenly ordered all of the appetizers on the menu, and the bill has now jumped from a mere $20ish to a whopping $600ish. (Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it's definitely how expensive the meal will seem.) How to avoid this pleasure trap? Either eat substantially before your evening out, or keep the food menu as far from your barstool as possible.
The Final Word: Money sucks are all around, but with a heightened awareness of their budget-busting powers, you can not only save money smartly, but also not spend money accidentally.
Awesome black hole image via NASA