“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that we can do something about it now,” is a quote by author Alan Lakein. Most of the things that we overpay for have something to do with things that happened unexpectedly. Things like impulsive clothes shopping to funerals are not cheap, but there are plenty of alternatives if we actually “plan” before spending. Consider these examples:
1. Funerals vs. Cremation
The cost of traditional burial has risen faster than we ever thought. In 1960, the average cost of a funeral in the US was $708. In 2012, it was $7,045. And this does not even include the burial site, vault, stone or marker, opening and closing fees, and other related cemetery expenses. If you sum it all up, it’s somewhere between $9,000 to $15,000.
“The total cost of a full-body burial is about 6-8 times that of a cremation,” according to Neptune Society, one of the largest providers of cremation services in the country. The National Funeral Directors Association reported that in 2013, 45.5 % of Americans opted for cremation instead of funerals, and this percentage is projected to climb up to 71% by 2030.
Cremation is the cheaper alternative to funerals. Many are not aware that they can still hold a ceremony with a cremation service. Scattering of ashes can be done in a variety of ways to celebrate the death of a loved one. Preplanning cremation is one of the best ways to ensure you’re not overspending at a time when your family is under a lot of stress.
2. Gourmet Food and Drinks
Consuming specialty and organic foods isn’t a necessity, but a personal choice. Some argue the touted value of these expensive options. Instead of hoarding individual coffee K-Cups or stopping at Starbucks for a $6 macchiato, try buying gourmet coffee in bulk and investing in a multi-purpose brewer. Better yet, go to online coupon stores who dish out discounts on many gourmet products.
3. Cellphone Plans and Gadgets
Most of the time we pay for phone services we don’t even need. Ditch separate plans and go for a bundle — usually internet and cellphone bills are cheaper if you get them from one provider. Another alternative to long-distance calls — Skype. With internet access being almost omnipresent, anyone can stay connected without overpaying.
Speaking of phones, the average life of a gadget in the market is 3-6 months. This means that as soon as you buy that new iPhone 6s, Apple will come up with a newer, more upgraded version six months later. Same goes for tablets and computers, such as Kindle Paperwhite and Microsoft Surface Book.
How about extended warranties? Put it this way — considering gadgets come and go, why pay for an expiring manufacturer’s warranty when you probably will replace your gadget six months later?
4. Going Out
Movie popcorn is expensive, bar drinks are $8 plus tip, and parking on Saturday nights is scarce and overpriced. While going out with family and friends is something we all enjoy, a cheaper alternative would be to subscribe to Netflix or just wait till the DVD is out, nuke your own popcorn, and learn a little bit about homemade mixed drinks.
5. Credit Cards
As if bank fees aren’t enough, not planning your credit card expenses makes it worse. Many of us make the mistake of not looking into annual interest rates, getting lured into rewards, and overspending without paying off what we owe every month. Don’t get suckered into this problem in the first place. Commit to a plan for paying your credit card off before even applying for one.
The year 2015 has been a boon to travelers in general. Gas fell to, on the average, $2 a gallon. This doesn’t stop airlines from charging the same price on flight tickets though. Traveling can be expensive without making appropriate plans. Despite cheaper fuel, holidays make commuting longer and hotel rates go up. You can save money by going off peak season. Also, plan to pack some munchies instead of grabbing food from fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
7. Buy vs. Rent
If you believe you’ll be staying in a certain area for less than five years, you’re better off renting. Home buying requires careful planning and calculation. The benefits of buying a house far outweigh renting if you’re settled and have a stable job, but buying comes with its own responsibilities.
Many people opt to rent apartments or condos because they don’t want to bother with fixing repairs and they can move to another location if they need to. This is why renting is sometimes better — there is no need to worry about payments on the principal interest, property insurance, property taxes, homeowners association fees and maintenance of a house.
Education is truly one of the best gifts you can give to your children, so many parents don’t skimp on this expense. However, there are ways not to overspend and while getting great value. Compare the costs of enrolling in different schools (especially if some of your choices are private schools), see if you can get financial aid, and visit the College Affordability and Transparency Center website to get a report on tuition prices.
Every savvy shopper will tell you that the best time to buy clothing is at the end of the season. Prices go down on winter boots and jackets when Spring arrives — just pick fashion that doesn’t go out of style. Impulse buying will wreak havok on your wallet. Stick to your shopping list and learn to mix and match clothing.
The National Retail Federation reports that the average American spends a little over 75% more during the winter holidays than any other time during the year, with an average of $616 in 2014-2015. You should begin making your holiday shopping list starting the last quarter of the year. How many times have we overspent on rush shipping just because we didn’t plan our gift buying ahead of time?
In many aspects of life, we like to be spontaneous. But reality will bite when we are most vulnerable to stress and anxiety. Planning ahead gives us the opportunity to focus on what matters, instead of wondering where to find money when we need it most.