⏰3 Things We Could All Do Without To Not Only Improve Our Happiness But Our Bank Accounts Too!

We’re constantly bombarded. Distractions are everywhere. We have multiple news feeds, social media sites, subscriptions, streaming platforms and the list goes on. We’re glued to our screens and, what’s worse is that we feel the need to be available 24/7. When used excessively, these outlets lead to heaps of anxiety, stress and worry. It is important to exercise self-control and to realise that just because something can be used doesn’t mean that it should.

To improve our overall wellbeing and financial happiness (something we all strive for), removing distractions and saying “No” to more is the way forward. It will give us the headspace (and time) to focus on the things that truly matter like being with our loved ones and investing in ourselves. And, when we do indulge in a distraction or two, it should be with thought. That way it’ll feel more rewarding and worthwhile. No one wants to feel as though are being robbed, especially when it comes to time – the most precious of all.

Here are 3 things that I believe we’d all be better off for if we went a little easy on. Like many forms of spending, these things not only drain our bank accounts, but our mental energy, too.

1. Cars: four-wheeled darlings

We all know that to amass wealth you need more assets (add money to your account) and fewer liabilities (remove money from your account). And when it comes to a car all I can see are the (never-ending) bills: road tax, fuel, finance (usually accompanied by hefty interest rates) and then the insurance which as a new driver will be sky-high! No thank you.

There’s a hidden cost in everything 

It’s not just my money that a car would eat into but it’s my health as well. See, if I had a car I’d most probably (and by that, I mean without a shred of doubt) drive to: the supermarket, my friends’ home, the dentist, the doctor’s, the train station and so on. You get the picture. I’d hardly walk around because I’d be so tied to my car.

Walking, and being around nature, is one of the most amazing – and free things. It works wonders for your body and mind not to mention being great for your heart. Research shows that taking a daily stroll reduces stress levels, leaving you feeling a whole lot calmer.

I am also very aware that for many, a car is a must-have. For my friend, a car is her safe space, her sanctuary. She’ll happily cut her spending in other areas in order to keep this baby running. And that’s the beauty of personal finance. It’s just that, it’s personal. We all have different needs and wants and we must honour that. What works for me won’t necessarily work for others and visa versa.

But for all you car-owners, I challenge you to this: pick one day a week where you don’t use your beloved automobile. Use your two legs only. Stop to notice the things and people around you. Feed your curiosity.

2. Dining out: is the taste worth it?

The average American spends around $67 on takeouts each week, costing their purses $3,484 each year. Now, over the next 10 years, this takeout money amounts to a sizzling $34,840! And this is before we’ve added inflation (and tips) into the mix. Think just how much better off your future selves would be if you had stashed all this money away. 

Photo by Vincent Rivaud on Pexels.com

Back in the day (a.k.a before I learnt the value of money) I’d spend pretty much every Sunday with friends at different restaurants spending bucketloads of money on drinks, cakes, pasta, you name it.

Looking back, I cringe wondering how much better off I’d be if I had simply stashed that money away into a plain old vanilla index like the S&P 500. Yeah, let’s not even go there. 

But, I learnt two very important lessons:

  1. The best things are often free 
  2. We value that which we work for  

Managing expectations 

Nowadays, when I do treat myself to a takeout, I’m almost always disappointed. It either arrives soggy (and arranging a refund is like a tug-of-war) or it tastes mediocre. It could be that my expectations are so high because it’s a treat for me, hence my ever disappointment. 

Instead, I make a habit of eating home-cooked food most of the time. My body feels better for it and my bank account certainly does. I’m not neglecting our need to want to treat ourselves every now and then with a slap-up meal but you can have too much of a good thing. Dining out regularly strips away that excitement and anticipation.

I’m a big believer that everything can be enjoyed, in moderation. Be careful not to overdo it either way. Ordering takeouts on a regular basis will soon start to lose its appetite. So be sure to dine out/take out in a way that it still feels special, a real treat.

Before I go out for my special dinner, I’ll have read the menu a good few times and will have already made up my mind about the mains and to be honest, I think that this build-up is almost as good as the experience itself and worth every single bite.

3. Subscriptions: Costly time-wasters

When it comes to subscriptions, they aren’t created equally. There are ones that serve as an investment; much like the monthly subscription I pay for this blog site without which, I could not be writing to you today!

Other such subscriptions are great to have. They motivate you and spark new ideas. But any subscription that you don’t view as an investment in yourself is, quite frankly, a waste of time and money. It’s a personal decision and only you can decide what’s right for you. For some, a Spotify subscription is just what they need to feel good and conquer the day, for others it’s a monthly supply of coffee-on-the-go. You do you.

The not-so-good stuff

But then there’s the sorts of subscriptions that don’t really add any benefit and worse, they urge you to spend. Take Amazon Prime – we know that we’re paying a few quid a month for the joy of next-day delivery. Psychologically, we’re going to order more things (95% of which we probably do not need) because we know there’s free delivery and if we don’t make full use of it, it’ll be a total waste of money. I happen to think that with the Amazon subscription, you do get the most bang for your buck but it’s nonetheless draining money and time from you.

Subscriptions are designed ever so cleverly. They renew month after month, without you even noticing. They don’t ask you at the start of each month whether you want to continue or not, to give you a chance to cancel your subscriptions.

So, make this a part of your monthly routine. At the end of every month, look at your Netflix/Amazon/Sky/Spotify or whatever account(s) you have and ask yourself:

  1. Is it still worth my time?
  2. Is it still worth my money? 

If the answer is no, well, only you know what needs to be done.

Tough to break

When it comes to breaking old habits, it’s incredibly difficult. But if we were to switch up an existing routine, it becomes much easier. Say you watch TV for 1.5 hours a day (this is modest given that the average American spends more than 4 hours per day), why not try switching one of those binge-sessions with something that you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time for, like reading a book or learning a new language. That will leave you with 6 hours of time to invest in yourself every single month.

When we’re young, that’s when our habits are formed and they shape who we are. Choose them wisely. Everything compounds, from habits to money.

I hope I’ve shown you that you can enjoy life and get the most out of it without owning a car (or using it less frequently), spending money on silly subscriptions that you don’t really need or daily dining out.

It’s time to dial back the distractions to truly appreciate what you have right in front of you. 

There is beauty in simplicity. 

Less really is more. 

Disclaimer: This blog is not investment or financial advice. It is my opinion only. This blog is not a personal recommendation to buy/sell any security, or to adopt any such investment strategy. Always do your own research before you commit to any investment.