Personal Finance Tips That Suck

If you’re a regular reader of personal finance blogs or websites, I’m sure you’ve come across the constantly repetitive “Easy tips to saving money” posts that float around. Even the Toronto Star’s Moneyville site (which I read daily) features one at least every week or so. Many of the tips are extremely outdated and irrelevant to actual savings, or they are redundant suggestions for people who are actively watching their spending. Here are a few of my (least) favourite ones.

1. If you stopped drinking Starbucks every day, you’d save $____.
This is a well documented tip that emerged from the “If you stopped smoking every day, you’d save $___” calculators that used to float around. As fewer and fewer people smoke, this calculation became adjusted to another vice, coffee. (See here ) But this is ridiculous for two reasons. 1) The assumption that everybody who gets a drink at Starbucks is buying a $5 monster latte every single day. While I’m sure those people exist, they’re less likely to be the same people looking for finance tips. 2) Assuming that by avoiding Starbucks, you avoid spending that money on coffee whatsoever. Whether or not you buy your cup of java from Starbucks or Tim Hortons, you’re spending money on it somehow. Unless you aren’t, then good for you 😀

2. Get rid of your cellphone
Seriously? Get rid of your LANDLINE, who needs those anymore? Let’s face it, we live in a digital age. Cell phones are made for people who are on-the-go, who may or may not have a number at work but sure as shellfish don’t go immediately home and wait for their landline to ring to find out what’s happening that evening. Cell phones can help you connect on the go, complete tasks like banking, keep in touch with family and friends and operate as an e-book reader, mini-computer and gaming device. I was a late-bloomer to the smart phone era, but I haven’t had a landline in 5 years, and with the advent of the homephone or VOIP technology at home, landlines are less and less relevant. Get rid of your landline!

3. Get rid of your cable
Who even has cable anymore? Of my friends, I’d say less than 10% have cable television, and many of those are bundled in with their buildings so they either don’t pay or have no choice. With the advent of the internet, cable television is an unnecessary evil. There are still so few good shows to watch and more often than not you’ll find yourself filling up on terrible reality TV or TLC shows. With the exception of HBO (in Canada at least) you can pay to download or stream many (quality) shows of your choosing, or invest in Netflix Canada and a VPN or a proxy server to block your Canadian IP and take advantage of Hulu and American Netflix and even streaming BBC television!

4. Stop going on vacation.
Who even gets to go on vacation anymore? This suggestion really burns my buns. Most of us paying off loans and making ends meet haven’t had a proper vacation (unless you count a staycation) in years. While there will always be your friends who somehow manage to go to Cuba every winter, they’re few and far between. The rest of us are huddled on our couches with hot chocolate and Downton Abbey, not swimming in Varadaro, much less Europe.

5. Watch your bank fees/Pay bills on time
This suggestion is one I see a lot and it’s a resounding “duh”. Most people who need to watch their money never pay anything in bank fees, myself included, and are always on top of payments. Why waste money on an administrative fee that is really just a cash grab? This is such a given that it’s almost an insulting tip.

6. Get rid of your gym membership
This one I can concede slightly. If you haven’t gone in over a month or so, barring injury, yeah, get rid of it. Otherwise a gym membership does quite a bit more for your well-being than that $30-50 would otherwise (definitely more than a cable television package!) It gives you a space away from the house or work to get rid of tension and frustration while improving your wellness. It’s more valuable than the sum of the membership, that’s for sure. Just don’t spend money on their crappy energy drinks!

Related terrible tips
Cancel your newspaper subscription – If you actively read it, keep it around. You’re benefiting more than you think. Or perhaps switch to on-line for weekday delivery to save a few bucks.
Cancel your magazine subscriptions – Once again, this can be useful if used properly. Never apologize for education/information.
Brown bag your lunch – Obviously, not going out every day for lunch can save you money. We all know this.

Now here are a few websites that offer useful tips and suggestions, most savvy savers may already know of these, feel free to share your favourites too.

  • Lifehacker – I can’t even count the things I’ve learned or fixed thanks to Lifehacker, it shows a little brains goes a long way. Suggestion for today – Top 10 Ways to Save Money in a Recession
  • The Billfold – This is an all-around money blog from the people who brought you The Hairpin and The Awl. Interesting perspectives on money and spending.
  • Red Flag Deals – More of a forum than a website, I’ve saved quite a bit of money thanks to these people.
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