By Jami Miedema

I never considered myself a frivolous spender. A daily chai tea from the corner coffee shop is a necessity, right? And the fast food meal that I grab every so often when I’m in a rush is only $4. But, with the increasing prices of food and gas piled on top of other monthly bills, some “essential” items are turning back into the perks they once were. Consumers across the nation are forced to choose between commodities as they receive “less bang for their buck,” so to speak. This can be seen in the Consumer Spending Report released last year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed a decrease in entertainment, apparel, and services spending while healthcare, housing, and transportation spending increased significantly (2007).

Therefore, to keep myself on track as costs increase, I’ve created my personal budget. It was amazing to see how little expenses that cost a dollar here and a dollar there add up to be quite considerable amounts over a few months. My inexpensive morning tea could have set me back over $700 per year!  I know that I’m not the only one who has squandered money away on frequent purchases of low-priced items. According to an article released by, the top ten money traps are:

  1. Coffee
  2. Cigarettes
  3. Alcohol
  4. Bottled water
  5. Manicures
  6. Car washes
  7. Lunches out
  8. Vending-machine snacks
  9. Interest charges on credit cards
  10. Unused gym memberships

Budgeting has opened my eyes to the wasted money that results from unnecessary spending.  Items such as the aforementioned ones have the potential to set people back hundreds, even thousands of dollars per year. When that money could have been better used to make a car payment or for a weekend getaway, suddenly the $4 that I hand to the individual working at the drive-thru means something to me.

Although creating a budget may seem like a daunting task, it is really helpful to see where the money is being spent, and how it may be reallocated for a better purpose. Trust me…your wallet will thank you!


Consumer expenditures in 2006. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from (2007) 10 little expenses that add up fast. Retrieved from