2 Words to Remove From Your Vocabulary to Save: “It’s Only…”

By now, almost everyone has heard of David Bach’s “Latte Factor” – the idea that if you cut small expenses from your daily life, such as your fancy daily latte, and invest that money instead, you will be on track to accumulate great wealth.

I love the principle that small, easy, and painless choices can compound over time to result in a BIG change in your life. Because let’s face it – change can be hard. But, small, almost unnoticeable change seems much more manageable and less scary.

Even better, this same concept can be applied to many different areas of your life.

Leave a little bit of food on your plate at each meal and you will consume fewer calories each day without feeling hungry. Over time those calories will add up to pounds and before you know it, you’ve dropped a whole size.

Park your car at the back of the parking lot to increase the number of steps you take each day. Repeat several times throughout the day and now you can skip the gym. (OK, that doesn’t really add up, but we can wish!)

Now the problem with this concept is that it works both for you AND against you depending on the choices you make.

Eat a few more mouthfuls of food at each meal and over time your pants will become tighter.

Walk the fewest steps possible each day and your body will become increasingly weaker.

And of course, this concept also affects your finances.

So, are you ready for the two words you need to banish from your vocabulary to save big money?

They are simple, little tiny words, but if you toss them out with the trash, your wallet will thank you.

Without further ado, here they are: “It’s only…”

That’s it! Two little words that used to be three. Seven seemingly insignificant letters. But, those two little words have probably cost you BIG over the course of your life.

Stop and think about it.

How many times have you justified spending a little bit more by thinking: it’s only...

I’m betting countless.

Want to upgrade that drink size? It’s only $0.50 more.

Shopping at Target and your toddler whines for a toy from the $1 bin located right by the entrance that you literally can’t avoid walking past. You tell yourself: it’s only a dollar and it will keep him busy while I shop. (OK, this one is probably worth the money spent.)

Or, you spot a sweater on the clearance rack marked down from $100 to $20. You start doing a happy dance in your head. What a steal! It’s my lucky day! What does it matter that it’s a size too big, has a little pull, that it’s 105 degrees out, or that the pattern clashes with every other piece of clothing you own. It’s only $20! You can’t pass it up!

2 Words to Remove From Your Vocabulary to Save: “It’s Only…”

So, let’s reframe this seemingly harmless phrase.

What if you were walking down the street and you saw a quarter glistening on the sidewalk?

Would you say: Meh, it’s only 25 cents. I’m not going to waste my time bending over to pick it up. Plus, I’ve got a bad back.

I’m willing to bet that very few people would just keep walking and that most would feel somewhat excited about finding money on the ground.

But, let’s take this even further.

What if you saw a $20 bill blowing in the wind in the Target parking lot. Would you ever say to yourself: It’s only $20. I’ll just leave it there.

Heck, no!

You would think Jackpot! $20!!! Wooohhoooo! And would probably chase it around the parking lot until you caught it, bad back and all.

Now, the hypothetical $20 you found in the parking lot has the same value as the $20 that would remain in your pocket if you didn’t buy the “It’s Only” clearance sweater – you know, the one that you didn’t really need that sat in your closet for 5 years with the tags still on it before you finally gave it to charity. (Not that I have ever made that mistake…insert sarcasm)

But, the $20 you found in the parking lot certain feels like it’s worth more than the $20 you saved by not buying the sweater, right? That’s the power of it’s only. It tricks you!

What I’m going to say next might come as a shock. But, if you added up all of your “it’s only” purchases over a period of time it would likely amount to a big sum of money.

Don’t believe me?

What if I told you there was a bag of money sitting on your front porch totaling $31,200 and that it was yours to keep. Would you feel like you won the lottery?

I’m sure you would!

But, here’s the reality – if you didn’t spend $20/week on things you didn’t REALLY want or need for the next 30 years that’s how much you would save WITHOUT earning interest on your money, adjusting for inflation, factoring in high-interest rates on credit cards, or any of those other really fun financial terms that can make money hard to understand. Just plain and simple multiplication.

Now, if you put those, “it’s only” purchases on a credit card with an 18 percent APR that bag of money would be like (insert figure.)

Yikes! That it’s only $20 sweater actually cost you $65 (or whatever the math is).

See how “it’s only” thinking is costing you big money?

ESPECIALLY if you are putting those purchases on a credit card.

However, if you ban “it’s only” from your vocabulary you can free yourself from its costly chains.

Like the author of this Business Insider article, I’m not suggesting you cut things out of your life that bring you joy, add value, or that you need. I’m simply talking about the things you buy because you’ve been upsold, are buying because it seems like a good deal or the things you buy for emotional reasons that you don’t really need, let alone truly want.

So, the next time you think: it’s only $X.XX. Stop and envision yourself throwing that same amount on the ground and walking away and watch the allure those two words melts away.

What would you do with $31,200?

Invest it? Pay off credit card debt or student loan debt? Take a dream vacation?

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