Welcome to a column from The Financial Diet, one of our very favorite sites, dedicated to money and everything it touches. One of the best ways to take charge of your financial life is through food and cooking. This column from TFD founders Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage will help you be better with money, thanks to the kitchen. A version of this post originally appeared on The Financial Diet.
I've spent a lot of this week taking care of finance-related things in my life. I can generally say I'm proud of where I am with money, especially compared to this time a few years ago. But I still find budgeting on a day-to-day basis to be a challenge — so much so that, when I comb through my spending every few weeks or so, there are always things I regret spending money on.
It is wild to me that, no matter how many times I tell myself not to spend in these areas — heck, no matter how many times I write about it — I still fall into the trap. Every single thing I list here is spending I could have avoided, had I just chosen to be less lazy.
So here are all of my incredibly lame wastes of money from 2017 so far, ranked. They are not all big, necessarily, but as we all know, small purchases can add up, until you realize that your expensive pastry habit is the reason you can't meet your savings goal this month (just me?).
7. Bulb string lights from Amazon: $6.99
I have been in home-decor mode since I finally have a home office. I'm planning to make my desk area look somewhat like the second-to-last photo here, complete with some bulb lights. But of course, I didn't read the product description well enough, and ended up with a string of light bulbs about a third the size I wanted. But since they were only $7, and are in a box that takes up very minimal space in the closet, I just don't feel like returning them. I have no idea what to do with them.
6. The wrong-sized fan: $26.99
I meant to order a second standing floor fan for my apartment. I remembered that the one I already have and like, which is about three feet tall, was about $25 on Amazon when I bought it a few years ago. So, I looked for one with good reviews that was around that price … and accidentally got one that was maybe 18 inches, and definitely meant to sit on top of a desk. Once again, I didn't read the product description thoroughly enough, and it came back to bite me. At least this one I did manage to return, which still sucked because I had to pay return shipping costs. Lesson learned.
5. Chicken soup add-on: $3
Not the costliest mistake, but one of the more annoying ones. I ordered a salad for lunch a month or two ago and opted to get the add-on chicken soup, because it seemed like a good deal. The salad was plenty of food for lunch, though, so I took the soup home with plans to eat it the next day. What a cheap lunch, right? Except I put the soup container into its paper bag and into my backpack, and promptly forgot about it. Until I started smelling it the next morning. Obviously a styrofoam container of chicken soup leaked into my backpack. Do you know how difficult it is to make a canvas backpack stop smelling like chicken soup? I do, because it was two days of washing and scrubbing and drying out on the windowsill. All because of the lure of a cheap meal add-on.
4. Sad airport meal: $31
I was heading home to see my parents for the weekend, and, as happens about 40 percent of the time for me, my flight was delayed. I was expecting to eat dinner after landing in Atlanta, but I was already hungry and didn't want to wait two extra hours to eat something. I decided to treat myself at one of the sit-down restaurants in LaGuardia where you order off of an iPad (so chic). I paid $31 for one glass of wine and one cup of French onion soup. I could have gone to one of the still-expensive-but-much-cheaper counter-service places and ordered an actually substantial meal, but no, I needed to treat myself in this tragic time.
3. A taxi when I didn't feel like carrying things: $14
I went to get bagels and coffee from our favorite bagel shop the day we were moving my boyfriend's things into the new apartment, which is about 20-ish blocks from our building. I was too lazy to walk back with them in the cold, so I got a cab. The cab cost more than the bagels and coffees put together. I could have walked, and I'm still kicking myself over this.
2. My YTD Seamless total: $240
Between the added stress of moving into the new apartment and just plenty of cold days and nights where I didn't feel like cooking anything, I've been reverting to this bad habit of ordering takeout a lot this year. I honestly thought I had this more under control, but looking at my Mint account right now is telling me that nope I do not.
1. A lunch order I never picked up: $15.
This is truly terrible, and it's number-one on this list, above my takeout total, because at least all my other food delivery meals I actually ate. I ordered lunch on Seamless to save myself some time on a particularly busy day, and when an hour and a half passed, I was starting to wonder where it was. I logged in to check on my order, and it turned out that I had accidentally selected "pickup" instead of "delivery." I still had a lot of work to do, and it was about two hours from when I was going to be eating dinner, so I just … never got it. At least now I know I'm a monster.