This post is inspired by my favorite financial expert, David Bach, and his recently released The Latte Factor. (Disclosure: if you click Latte Factor links in this post, you’ll be taken to Amazon. If you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.) All the other clickable links in this post go to other posts I’ve written, or an external post.
The latte factor is a method to get you to examine your own spending habits to figure out what you can cut back, whether or not you actually drink coffee. You probably have something else in your life that you can cut back your spending on. That way you’ll have found extra money to put towards your debt or savings goals.
I love sweet treats. When I’m in the grocery store I always swing by the bakery section, the freezer section where the ice cream and novelties are kept, the cookie aisle, and the candy aisle. Many times I keep walking. If I see something on sale, I stop and check it out. More often than not, that sweet deal ends up in the grocery cart.
Same thing if I’m at my favorite drug store, London Drugs. I always have to check out the candy aisle to see if chocolates are on sale.
Willpower! I was so good a couple of weeks ago. I was at the Real Canadian Superstore to pick up a few items on my grocery list. Then I spotted the aisle where the chocolate lives. Even though I don’t have chocolate on my grocery list, there’s no harm in window shopping, right? I walked down the aisle. I was eyeballing the M&M’s and reached my hand out. Then I said – what the hell are you doing? Save your money and save your blood sugar levels! I turned around and got out of that aisle. Stick to the program. Stick to the shopping list.
How much does the chocolate factor cost?
What do you suppose my sweet addiction costs me? You know, I can’t even say for sure, because something sweet ends up in the grocery cart during every shopping trip. Or at least it used to up until a year ago. Luckily, I have that fugal thing going for me. If it’s not on sale, often I can leave it alone. Except for my favorite chocolate peanut butter ice cream. I’ll probably buy that even if it’s not marked down.Though not lately, sad sigh. It’s been a year since I’ve had my favorite ice cream in the house.
Talk about willpower! You go girl!
Let’s say $40/month spent on sweet treats that I pick up at the grocery store and drug store. When December hits with the Pot of Gold chocolates and boxes of salted chocolate caramels that dollar amount could increase. Let’s call it $500/year basically spent on chocolate bar type sweet treats.
Once I throw in cookies and granola bars, maybe the occasional box of Pop Tarts, frozen toaster strudels, or Little Debbie’s that could add on another $200/year to my sweet tooth habit. Maybe even $300.
One other thing. The bakery aisle at the grocery store. I swing by and if I’m lucky, cake will be on sale. You know a double layer chocolate cake. Swoon! Yummy! How can I ever resist chocolate cake on sale? Sometimes I’ll see pie on sale. Apple pie! Stawberry rhubarb pie! What about a peach pie! Oh no! Into the grocery cart it goes.
I’m addicted to those Lofthouse soft cookies – iced sugar cookies that melt in your mouth. They always seem to have some kind of theme going on like Halloween decorated or red sprinkles to celebrate Canada Day. Oh yum! There could be just about any kind of baked good that might catch my eye, especially if it’s new or a different flavor. That could be another $200 to $300/year.
You see, I really have no concept of how much I spent on sweet treats because I didn’t track my spending. It was all inside my grocery budget. A sub-category.
You might be wondering if I let other junk food sneak into the grocery budget like potato chips? I’m not a huge potato chip person because salty snacks are not my thing. My weakness is I’m all about sweet stuff! Oh sure, if chips are on sale and they’re sour cream and onion, I might be tempted, and some times I am craving them. Remember my story about the one time I bought potato chips on a gas credit card?
Although I don’t keep chips on hand in my house, I occasionally buy them and use them in a recipe like my chick pea sandwiches. Yummy!
If I was looking for that salty crunch snack, I’d be looking more at tortilla chips. Hint of lime.
In other words I might not buy potato chips or tortilla chips in a month, maybe not even every two or three months! I might buy 4 or 5 bags a year tops.
Chips are not my downfall.
Trim the Sweets
I started keeping track of my weight on July 29, 2018. I mean really tracking it on an Excel spreadsheet. This was the day after a doctor’s appointment. When the doctor said my blood sugar was still in the normal range, but getting higher, and that I didn’t want to cross over into diabetes territory. She said to accomplish that I’d need to cut sweet treats, use willpower and portion control, and get my weight down.
Fear is a great motivator for weight loss. I do not want to get diabetes. I pretty much cut out all sweet treats. No chocolate bars, cakes, donuts, ice cream – all the stuff I liked.
Which pretty much meant I was saving money not buying this stuff!
Another reason to trim the sweets might be partly due to this article I recently read about a possible link between sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease.
My mother had Alzheimer’s Disease, so that’s always in the back of my mind that it might happen to me one day, even though it’s not hereditary. You can read more about this on my post on Alzheimer’s Disease and an unforgettable mother.
As I write this, I have plenty of sweet treats in my house. The majority of them are in the freezer.
Whenever you’re reading articles about weight loss, some of the advice probably goes to the effect of purge all the “bad” stuff from your cupboards and freezer.
I’m frugal. I hate wasting money. Throwing away perfectly good food, even if it’s not perfectly good for losing weight, just won’t work for me.
I still have all these Mr. Big chocolate bars sitting in my fridge’s freezer compartment, mostly purchased by a very generous former co-worker.
The freezer is also home to the chocolate peanut butter donuts I baked.
Not to mention the fudge I bought in September 2018 at the Sea Lion Caves in Oregon. Every now and then I cut off a piece, barely allow it to thaw, and then eat it. Still tastes pretty good ten months later! Later in the day I stopped at Cranberry Sweets in Coos Bay and bought popcorn (long since eaten!) and salt water taffy which is in the freezer. I pull out a piece every now and then, but I don’t really like this salt water taffy as much as I’ve liked others. Or else this particular brand doesn’t freeze as well as other taffy!
There’s a Toberlerone from Christmas 2017 sitting in the freezer, minus a couple of triangles! A partly eaten box of pumpkin cookies I bought at the Trader Joe’s in Bend, Oregon in September, 2018.
Tally up the chocolate factor
In my case I need to tally up the cost of chocolates and other sweet treats, mainly of the baked goods variety but also ice cream.
I’d say $1,000 but it could be as high as $1,500 a year.
I tried to research how much money people spend on candy a year, but couldn’t come up with anything. The statistics seem to follow how much people spend on Halloween candy each year, and to a lesser extent Easter, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day candy.
I found out that the average American spends $100/month of fast food, with some people eating burgers, fries, and milkshakes nearly every day.
That $100/month sounds about right to me for eating what could be loosely classified as junk food. Whether it’s purchased at a fast food joint or the candy aisle at the store.
My cursed sweet tooth! The chocolate factor is a big hurdle for me.
How about you? What do you spend too much money on that you can trim?