How choosing less can save you money

I wanted to try to find data and science about how choosing less can have a measurable impact on your life.

I started by looking at how choosing less can save you money.

This article, citing information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shared that the average American had $57,311 in yearly expenditures. The article lists out spending per category per year, but I list it by month below:

  • Housing: $1,573.83
  • Transportation: $754.08
  • Food: $600.25
  • Health Care: $384.33
  • Entertainment: $242.75
  • Cash Contributions: $173.42
  • Apparel and Services (no idea what “services” are…): $150.25
  • All other expenditures: $327.75
  • Total expenditures per month: $4,775.92

None of seem too surprising.

Doing a little number crunching, I determined that choosing less in these areas can lead to cost month-to-month and big savings over a year.

For example, let’s say you’ve chosen less stuff and can more easily live in a smaller, cheaper place, bringing your housing expenditures down to $1,200 per month. Compared to the average American expenditures, you’d save $383.83 per month or $4605.96 per year. Nice!

Or, let’s say you decide to take the bus every day to work and only use your car and Lyft occasionally. Just doing some back of the napkin math adding up these estimates...

  • Bus ticket in Seattle ($2.75), twice a day, five times a week, four weeks a month: $110
  • Car insurance: $150
  • Gas, two tanks: $80
  • A few Lyft rides: $50'd spend $390 per month on transportation. Again, compared to the average American expenditures, you'd save $364.08 per month or $4,369 per year. Wow! 

Or, what if you spent a little less on entertainment? Maybe even just $200 per month, which is still $50 a week. That’s would mean you'd $42.75 per month or $513 per year, compared to the average expenditures. Cha-ching!

I could go on — I love crunching these numbers. So much so that I made a Google Sheet you can use to calculate numbers that apply to you. This is not an official financial recommendation or budgeting tool. Just use it as a way to compare your expenses to the average.

This data tells me that if the average American chooses less, especially in housing or transportation, it can lead to significant financial savings. So, I hope that choosing less can lead to savings for you, too.

This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.