How to Kick the Habit of Wasteful Spending by Asking Yourself Two Basic Questions

by Shawanda Greene

Cash in TrashIt’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve recently flirted with the idea of hand washing clothes to save money.*

A couple days ago, while chatting online with my friend, Gus, I asked him if using a hand operated washer to clean my laundry is a good idea.

He simply replied, “You’re going too far.”

Yes. There’s a possibility employing 3rd world methods to complete household chores is a bit extreme. But I’m not one to reject a safe and effective strategy to save money solely because it’s unconventional.

I stated my case to Gus.

Since I don’t have a washer and dryer in my apartment, it costs me three whole American dollars to do a load of laundry. For reasons not yet publicly available, I really gotta tighten up my expenses in 2012.

Still unconvinced, Gus tells me, “I’m sure you’ll have enough to wash.”

Frustrated by his dismissive tone, I defended myself with the lyrics from a rap song.

Less money we spend on bullshit, the more for the weed. ~ Juvenile, Slow Motion

Stay with me.

I was speaking metaphorically to prove a point. You can replace “bullshit” and “weed” with anything.

The point is you should carefully consider how you’re deploying your resources.

Are you putting your money to its best use?

There are two simple questions to ask yourself to curb wasteful or non-optimal spending.

How many hours must you work to pay for the expense?

I learned the importance of this question during my sophomore year of college.

A friend talked me into picking up some extra cash with her by performing an inventory count at the Claire’s near our university.

We performed manual labor for two hours, received $10 in cash, and promptly spent our hard earned money gaining admission to a nightclub we frequented. Were we not working, we would’ve arrived at the club earlier and not paid any cover charge at all, but that’s beside the point. Fortunately, this terrible business decision didn’t ruin our friendship.

We should’ve asked ourselves, “Is a few hours at the club worth two hours of work?” It’s not!

The more money you make, the less things cost relative to your efforts.

Let’s say you earn $100 an hour, after tax, and you want to buy the Super Plus Platinum Digital package from your cable company. You want everything they have to offer. I’m not sure how much cable television costs, but we’ll assume this package is $200 a month. At $100 an hour, you’ll work two hours in exchange for tens of hours of entertainment over the entire month. Earn only $10 an hour after tax, and we’re talking two and a half days to cover the cost.

What else can you do with the money?

The other way I deter myself from frivolous spending is to mentally pay for products or services with currency other than cash.

As I’ve indicated numerous times before on this blog, I’m a foodie.

“Foodie” is a pretentious term used by people who love delicious food just like every other person on the planet but thinks him or herself too refined to come right out and say, “I like to eat!”

Yep, I’m a foodie. I like experiencing great food and cheap wine at a variety of restaurants. After tax and tip, the experience probably averages $30.

Now, when I’m tempted to buy a pair of $60 boots, I ask myself, “Are these boots worth forgoing two dining experiences?”

These are personal decisions. You have to decide for yourself.

Since your time and money is limited, how you allocate both for maximum benefit is no small matter.

*Since I only have to walk down one flight of stairs to access the laundry facilities in my building, I think I’ll shelve the idea of hand washing clothes…for now.

What mental tricks do you use to keep yourself from wasting money?

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam at MoneyTrail December 15, 2011 at 8:45 AM

Many people don't consider the cost of their time. Learning to equate the cost of an item with how many hours you would need to work to pay for it can be an eye opening experience!


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:18 AM

If you have to spend hours or days performing a job you hate to buy something you barely want, you really need to pay attention to the time cost of your purchases.


Pamela December 15, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Shawanda, make sure your landlord (or condo association if you own) allows you to have one of those. Even though they look quite basic, some associations/landlords get tetchy because of fears of plumbing issues, etc.

Also, I don't see what's so embarrassing to admit to considering handwashing clothing to save money. That's not embarrassing, that's just you covering the bases, is all. If people are going to get on your stuff about it, don't say much to them other than "Hand washing is easier on these fabrics."

But if this isn't practical for you, maybe you could wash your clothes at the laundrymat but dry them at home on a clothes rack? (If you already do this, then forgive my rehashing.)


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:29 AM

The machine I'm referring to is completely hand operated. So, it won't interfere with plumbing. I was looking at the Wonder Washer and the Rapid Washer (looks like a plunger).

You bring up a good point. Hand washing is easier on fabrics. Your clothes would likely last longer if you didn't subject them to the harsh environment of machine washing. Plus, the washer has ruined so many of my shirts. Too often I pull a shirt out of the washer to find an oily stain on it. I have no idea where the oil comes from.

I currently use a machine to wash all of my clothing. I use the dryer for almost everything except sweat resistant athletic apparel and clothes I'm afraid won't fit me after I dry them on high heat.


FabulouslyBroke.com December 15, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Well if you spend 3 hours washing clothes when it could be done in an hour by a machine and hung to dry, then I don't really think I'd want to save that $3.

But if it's something like spending an hour to make sure your bills are paid so you don't get hit by fees of $50 or more just because you were being dumb, I spend the time to reconcile everything.


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:31 AM

I ultimately decided to pass on hand washing because of the time commitment. The sacrifice required to save $3 is too great!


FabulouslyBroke.com December 19, 2011 at 10:23 AM

*nod* Wise choice. If it was $30 a week that's another story.


Nick December 15, 2011 at 4:38 PM

I like the questions, too.. We try and do something similar with vacations – only taking vacations where our salary after taxes for the time away is greater than what we spend. Sure it doesn't take into account that we still have to pay our fixed costs at home, but it's a good way to not go crazy with vacations.

Two cents :)


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:34 AM

Your formula sets boundaries on what's reasonable to spend on vacations given your after tax income. I like it.


JP @ Novel Investor December 16, 2011 at 12:49 PM

You could always skip using the dryer and save a little bit of money. I bought a washer years ago. Decided against the dryer, instead hang drying everything.


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:37 AM

You'd think I'd consider letting my clothes air dry to save a $1.50, but it seems like a lot of work. With hand washing requiring far more effort than hanging my clothes to air dry, I'm not sure why hand washing clothes seemed like a good idea.


@barbfriedberg December 16, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Shawanda, you are totallly cracking me up. I get where you are coming from, although I agree with Gus, that's going a bit too far. Think of your time value too :) Great article.


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:38 AM

Thanks! I admit it. Hand washing clothes to save money probably isn't one of my best ideas. :)


101 Centavos December 17, 2011 at 7:38 AM

Say you're a shopaholic. Spending a couple hours washing clothes might actually avoid other costs in shopping binges. Then again, that would require self-discipline unlikely found in a shopaholic. Never mind.


Shawanda December 19, 2011 at 7:43 AM

Yeah. I can't picture a fabulously dressed shopaholic hand washing clothes. :)


Jen December 19, 2011 at 11:51 AM

I hang dry my clothes that I machine wash on racks in my laundry room. It's really not that big of a deal and they only take about a day to dry.


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 7:31 PM

I'll hang dry my baby tees and other stuff that's one dryer cycle away from not fitting. But I think my biggest problem is that I'll wait until I have no other clean clothing options besides a pair of high water dress slacks before I bother doing laundry. So, I generally opt for the dryer to save time.


Georgewill December 19, 2011 at 8:55 PM

I try to delay big purchases for a day or so. Usually I will end up not buying the item. The biggest issue is maintaining the discipline of not splurging.


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 7:25 PM

So true. There are only a few things we need to buy immediately. I say wait and see if you come to your senses before making a large purchase decision.


Mark Anthony Morales December 21, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Love, love, love, love this post!

I love how you threw in a rap song lyric too haha

I definetly agree with cutting back on my expenses for 2012!

Also, when I visit my grandma in California, she always hand washes her clothes and hang dries them… keep in mind that her children provided her with a top of the notch machine washer and dryer.

When I asked her why she didnt just use the thousand dollar appliances she just replied that she loved how the sun dried her clothes. It wasn't about saving money or cutting down on the electric bill… she just liked this third world country habit.

If she were to start hunting for food… that's when I would think she was taking it too far haha


Shawanda December 27, 2011 at 7:22 PM

LOL! Thanks!

My mom and I used to hang dry our clothes during the summer months when I was still in school. We noticed our clothes ironed much better when sun dried. Plus, in Florida, you don't want to spend the day drying clothes in the dead of summer.


School apparel May 16, 2012 at 7:12 AM

It’s so informative I really update my knowledge by read your post !
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Carly June 11, 2012 at 8:39 AM

When I moved into the house I'm living in now I didn't have a washing machine and the cheapest ones I could find for sale were $400!!! So for several months I just washed my clothes in the laundry sink. It was no big deal, it was just annoying when I did sheets because those fuckers take FOREVER to ring out and your hands get really sore!! After doing the sheets that first time I started washing my sheets at a friends house. Eventually my boyfriend managed to source me a free washer, though! I still have no dryer – not many people in Australia use those. We're all fans of the free sun or, failing that, everyone has drying racks that we can put up in front of the heater.

Truth be told a part of me likes doing washing my hand, I like to pretend I'm in Little House on the Prairie or something :)


Carl Fischer August 14, 2014 at 6:38 PM

The Birds in Maryland target practice with clotheslines. So be cautious.


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