Most people who grew up in the US have heard the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Good advice, as apples are certainly healthy! More importantly, if you are hungry and want a snack, an apple is better than a bag of potato chips. It’s a healthier substitute.
Here is the nutritional comparison:
Apple (medium, 5.5oz): 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2 mg sodium, 5 grams of fiber
Chips (1 oz bag): 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 180mg sodium, 1 gram of fiber
So, if you make your daily snack an apple instead of a bag of chips, you will consume 60 fewer calories per day. This is despite the apple being a more dense food, at 5.5oz vs. 1.0oz for the chips. Over the course of one year, that’s 21,900 calories saved. If you estimate 3500 calories = 1 pound, you could lose about 6.25 pounds over the course of the year by eating an apple instead of a bag of chips as your daily snack (holding everything else constant, of course).
What about applying this “apple a day” principle to the realm of personal finance? Well, lets take a look at an apple vs. a bag of potato chips based on direct costs. Assume supermarket purchase for the apple and convenience store purchase for the chips:
Apple (medium, 5.5oz): about $0.35 each
Chips (1 oz bag): about $0.75 each
So, if you make your daily snack an apple instead of a bag of chips, you will save 40 cents per day. Again, this despite the apple being a more dense food as well as more nutritious. Over the course of the one year, that’s $146 saved.
In my opinion, that’s a lot of money for a simple choice that’s better for you anyway. More importantly, it speaks to the savings one can generate from making a simple substitution. Just one of these a day could make a nice impact on your checkbook. What’s great is that so many of these substitutions involve bringing in a new choice that’s either a) not materially different from the alternative, or b) much better for you in terms of your health. When you add up all the accumulated benefits from these
Here are some examples of substitution choices in various purchase categories, and their cost savings:
|Original||12oz can of soda from vending machine||$0.75|
|Substitute||12oz glass of water from water cooler||$0.00|
|Annual Savings||(365 days/year)||$273.75|
|Original||Lunch out with coworkers||$8.00|
|Substitute||Lunch at your desk/office||$4.00|
|Annual Savings||(250 working days/year)||$1,000.00|
|Original||Medium coffee from outside, “on the go”.||$1.50|
|Substitute||Coffee from home, in disposable “to-go” cups||$0.75|
|Annual Savings||(250 working days/year)||$187.50|
|Original||Movie Theater tickets for two||$16.00|
|Substitute||DVD from $1 per night kiosk||$1.00|
|Annual Savings||(1 movie per month/12 movies annually)||$180.00|
|Original||Live Sporting Event tickets for two||$60.00|
|Substitute||Watching Sporting Event at home||$0.00|
|Annual Savings||(4 Sporting Events annually)||$240.00|
|Original||Purchase book from the bookstore||$20.00|
|Substitute||Borrow book from local public library||$0.00|
|Annual Savings||(6 books annually)||$120.00|
|Original||7 day hotel stay at 4-star vacation resort||$1,750.00|
|Substitute||6 day hotel stay at 3-star vacation resort||$1,200.00|
|Annual Savings||1 vacation annually||$550.00|
|Original||Home Phone Line||$35.00|
|Substitute||No home phone line – cancel it||$0.00|
|Annual Savings||12 monthly payments||$420.00|
|Original||Brand-name OTC medicines/health products||$20.00|
|Substitute||Generic OTC medicines/health products||$10.00|
|Annual Savings||12 months worth of purchases||$120.00|
|Original||Allocate $400/month for next car purchase||$400.00|
|Substitute||Allocate $350/month for next car purchase||$350.00|
|Annual Savings||12 months worth of savings||$600.00|
These 10 substitutions, not out of the realm of possibility for a middle-class American family, can save sizeable dollars individually and in aggregate. These are simply examples. Each of us has a different life, and different choices which provide different substitution opportunities. The point is that we all have the opportunity to save quite a bit if we just apply discipline in a few decisions here and there that don’t have a tremendous impact on our overall lives.
Going back to this example, if you take $3,691.25 and multiply it by 20 to get your 20 year savings, you get $73,825. This could pay off a home loan or get your kid through college, avoiding student debt. All for making a few simple, relatively painless substitutions.
And as we know, the quality of each of our lives is impacted by the health, wealth, and relationship working together and influencing each other. Besides, as I mentioned, an apple a day can keep the doctor away, so some of these substitutions are actually helpful to your life!
This post was included at Money Hacks Carnival #114 at Nerd Wallet.