real money growth

random product rants: can we save money?

PROFITABLE DECISIONSGComment

About the author

Hello, I’m the author of realmoneygrowth.com, an engineer, and Mint enthusiast. I grew my savings to $93K in a little over 4 years by using simple life-hacks, living frugally, and optimizing daily life tasks. You can call me G.

“Before pursuing a side-hustle to increase your income, let’s optimize your expenses first.” - G


Beware, read at your own risk! Below are 5 random savings rants on small financial purchases. Some rants may save you a couple of bucks and some may not fit your savings needs. It is up to you to determine if you can integrate the rants into your lifestyle.

coffee cups: old or new style?

The new style coffee cups are cool. Well, not cool in temperature, but cool in the ability to keep your coffee warm, throughout the day, for hours. I used to use an old-style cup that my soon-to-be father-in-law gave me until my fiancée brought home a new style cup from her work - it was a freebie. I never looked back at the old-style cup and sometimes wonder how we - humankind - have made it this far.

Why do I have little faith about humankind’s intelligence? Well, the first reason, as I previously mentioned, is because the new coffee cup keeps my coffee hot throughout the day whereas, the older style cup only kept my coffee warm for 20 minutes. The older style cup was poorly designed with little thought put into development. Now, with the newer cup, I can enjoy my coffee slowly instead of rushing to drink it. The second reason, I burn myself way less frequently, since I do not rush to drink my coffee. The third reason, the new style cup has a lid. The lid prevents me from dropping things in the coffee like my phone, flash drive, etc. and keeps an excess of coffee from spilling out on my face and chest; this has happened to me multiple times before when I was using the old-style cup.

The transition from the old-style cup to the new style cup cost me nothing - very rarely in my life does this happen. However, I believe that the price difference between the two cups is only a few dollars - $5 at most. To me, the new style coffee cup is worth the difference.

You may be asking yourself, “but G - that’s me - why are you rambling about coffee cups; are they really that important?” My point here is that all financial choices need to be considered appropriately, no matter how small they may be. When it comes to coffee cups, I’ll spend the extra $5 to get a newer style cup. So, in this case I’m spending a little extra money. Let’s say that you are faced with 100 minor purchases a month and 70 of them you can save $5. That’s $350 saved per month and $4,200 saved annually!

you're cheap: thank you, that's a compliment

Sometimes, I get told that I’m cheap; I choose to take it as a compliment. It means that I’m good at stretching a dollar and am conscious about saving. Over the years, I’ve started to change my thinking in that, when I’m around someone who spends freely, without thought or worry, I find it somewhat disturbing. Now, I’m not saying that you should save so much that you can’t enjoy life; I’m just saying that enjoyment can be a mindset and you can most certainly enjoy life and do it frugally.

I never try to cheat or underpay someone for their service or product. If my waiter does a great job, I’ve been known to tip well beyond %15. If the person cutting my hair at Supercuts takes their time and does a stellar job, then I pay them appropriately. However, if someone sells me a poor product or service, I still may tip them, but it’s nowhere near %15. There have been a handful of times - I can count on one hand - throughout my lifetime where I left no tip at all. I’ve never done this on food bills, though. I always leave a little extra.

The goal is to be frugal, mindful, and respectful. I see some people arguing so hard for that extra $1. Sometimes, especially when it comes to a service that you may come back for in the future, arguing for that extra $1 is not worth the time. If you want an ongoing relationship with someone who is offering a product or service, then expect to pay a little more. Just remember, you are paying the little extra for a reason; you are beyond satisfied with the product and/or service.

I try to create ongoing business relationships with people offering the following services:

1) haircuts

2) automotive work - mechanics

3) coffee shops - sometimes you may be able to skip the line

4) doctors - optometrists - dentists

Maintaining a business relationship with a service and/or product provider that you like will ensure consistent quality in the future. The consistent quality of a product and/or service will make you happy for the years to come. If prices ever increase, you will need to weigh the cost vs the quality and start shopping around to see if you can get the same elsewhere for cheaper.

straws: paper vs plastic - the cost

The paper vs plastic straw human transition is far from maturity. It really seems like restaurants just stopped providing straws. I’ve noticed this in California and its’ neighboring states. I’m usually served the drink and must ask if I can get a straw. About %50 of the time, I am given a paper straw. I feel like the transition from plastic to paper is a good idea; but wait, wasn’t this offered to us before? It wasn’t offered with straws; it was offered to us in grocery stores - would you like paper or plastic? Wasn’t the “smart” eco-friendly choice to choose plastic, because the creation of paper-bags relied on cutting down trees?

Now, we are switching back to paper products. I hope that we are using paper-like recycled products to create these “paper” straws. If so, we are still using plastic cup lids. These lids contain the same amount - if not more - of plastic in them as the plastic straws do. When should we expect paper lids too? Protecting the environment is a must. Looking at this transitional plastic to paper phase, I hope that any additional cost isn’t directed to the consumer. Like grocery stores these days, we may be bringing our own cups to restaurants soon. I see some people bringing their own custom metal straws to dinner, already.

So, you may be thinking, “how does this affect your finances and how are paper straws related to saving habits.” Well, I’ve noticed that whenever there is a nation-wide change in the way that we do something - no matter how small it may be - it affects me financially in one way or another. How so? When we switched to reusable grocery bags, I had to go purchase a few. I spent around $15. You may be thinking that $15 is not a lot, which it isn’t; however, I still forget them at home all the time, and end up buying the thick plastic bags that grocery stores offer in order to carry out my items. These bags are cheap, but they are still a cost to me. Can I optimize my workflow by keeping reusable bags in my car? The answer is yes.

In this example, we are talking about saving dollars. But it is the optimization mindset that should be used when viewing all financial decisions in your life. You may have some choices and expenses that when optimized will save you thousands. The money saved from optimization is savings, and savings can be invested. Invested savings will lead you to one day becoming financially independent.

haircuts: how frequent and how much?

I’m terrible when it comes to getting a haircut. So bad, in fact, that I used to give myself haircuts during the first three years of college - I used one guard to do the top and sides and a few mirrors to trim the back. Yes, I was beyond cheap! But this saved me $20 every two months. That’s $120 a year I was saving! I’m not as cheap as I was then; now I pay to have my hair cut.

Currently, my haircuts usually range from $20 to $25 every two months at Supercuts. I usually leave a $3 tip on top of that. I’m living in Southern California and things are expensive around here. I just paid $4.05 for unleaded gasoline this morning, too. I know shops in a few cities over in which I can get my hair cut for under $10 bucks; however, during the workweek, I would spend hours in traffic getting there. The other option would be to go during the weekend. I could, but I still can’t justify the drive. One, I’ll probably use one gallon of gasoline to get there and back - so that’s $10 plus $4 ($14 total). Second, even without traffic, it still takes around an hour to get there and find parking.

I could optimize my haircut strategy; however, to me, it is worth the extra $10 or so to get my hair cut somewhere close to me. I try to lower the annual cost by delaying my trip to the barbers. If I can go 2.5-3 months without a haircut, I feel like I’m saving money.

hair products: wax, gel, or none, and what's the cost?

Growing up in Northern California, during the early 2000’s, I remember using the ICE spiker gel/glue. I also remember the frosted tips, too. Back then, when I was a kid, I didn’t have to purchase hair care products because my parents did for me. These products cost around $10-12 back then. When I grew up, and had to purchase them for myself, I no longer thought that the spiked look was cool. For the longest time, I didn’t use any hair products (high school - community college) besides shampoo at all. My hair styling budget was fully optimized! I spent $0 annually.

Over the years, I developed a habit of using a little Axe clean-cut hair wax now and then. I feel a little more professional when using it. The reason for the wax, rather than gel, is because I have very thick and curly hair. The wax gives my hair the hold that it needs. Over a year ago, I bought a 6-pack of the wax on Amazon for a little over $30. I thought that this was a great deal. I’ve used 3 containers and have another 3 to go. Doing the quick math, it looks like my hair styling budget is $15 a year. That’s not too bad at all!

Now, let’s look at the beard care budget. Yes, this budget does exist. I’ll go through phases where I’ll shave the beard and go for the clean-cut look, and then there will be times when I grow the beard out. I really prefer the beard, because I have a nice scar on my top lip which the mustache part of the beard covers. I bought a 4 oz container of Maestros Beard Butter - Spirited Blend two years ago and still have a little left. I like the way it smells, and it feels like it softens my beard a little. The butter cost me $13. My total hair care budget is $21.50 per year. This amount is still not that bad; however, it wasn’t as low as it was during my high-school and college years. Even though my hair care budget has inflated slightly over the years, I feel that it is optimized.