Young Money

A couple who blew $30,000 dining out highlight an alarming trend about how Americans spend

Expenses have a way of adding up quickly.

They certainly did for one couple who reviewed their credit card statements only to find that they spent $30,000 eating out in 2016, according to Frugal Rules blogger John Schmoll. That's more than $82 a day for their three-person family.

What's more, they also realized they were spending $200 a month, or $2,400 a year, for two separate gym memberships that they never use.

Despite making good money and generally living up to their means, the couple doesn't have much left over each month to put towards retirement.

They're just one example of the millions of Americans who are failing to pay themselves first, and consequently, are unprepared for retirement. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), nearly half of families have zero retirement savings.

Mindless spending doesn't help.

Take 38-year-old software engineer and blogger, "Mrs. BITA," who asked to remain anonymous, of "Bayalis Is The Answer": From 2008, when she first started using Amazon, to 2016, she managed to spend $41,000 on more than 1,400 items. That's 178 items a year, or about 15 a month.

As Mrs. BITA notes, her habit cost her much more than just the $41,000 she paid Amazon over the years. Had she put that money to work, assuming a five percent annual investment return, she figures it would have grown to roughly $108,000 in 20 years.

The "true cost," she says, is "the money tree that I could have grown using a $41,000 acorn," and "the amount of freedom frittered away. How much earlier could I have gained financial independence? How many extra hours do I have to now stay chained to my cubicle?"

If you have no idea how much of your money is going towards subscriptions, coffee or Amazon, it may be time to find out, especially since you could be spending twice as much as you think you are online.

Try recording each and every purchase you make for a couple of months by keeping a spreadsheet on your computer or using an app such as Mint, Personal Capital or Level Money. Chances are you'll find there are ways you could cut back.

Don't stop there. Once you find ways to trim your spending, invest that extra money so it'll grow over time.

From splitting the check to DIY adventures, "Young Money" helps you navigate tricky financial situations.

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