Some people believe the surefire way to squirrel away enough money for a solid retirement is to cut out small but frequent expenses. Starbucks, quite commonly, is the whipping boy in this line of reasoning: Eliminate that sinful $5 daily coffee and you’re on your way to financial freedom.
These daily expenses can add up, but if you’re really trying to slash your costs and get serious about saving, you’d do better to zero in on the three areas where Americans spend the bulk of their money: housing, transportation, and food. As Tony Robbins has written, most people don’t consider the most obvious way to save money: move.
Combined, these three categories account for about $35,000 — or 62% — of the $56,000 households spend on average each year, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
With food, you can make some pretty immediate changes to trim costs, like shopping in bulk and cooking at home. You could kiss your coffee habit goodbye, but trading daily visits to Chipotle for home-cooked meals will likely stretch your dollar a lot further.
Housing and transportation can be tougher, considering the purchase or lease of a car or a house is a longer-term commitment. It’s tempting to try and keep up with your peers, but buying or renting something larger or more luxurious than you actually need is quick way to bust your budget and leave you with minimal financial flexibility.
Some sober analysis upfront about what you can actually afford will liberate you from having to penny-pinch everywhere else in your life.
Check out the chart above to see how your spending compares with the rest of America.