Darren Hardy has made a fortune explaining that the little decisions you make in life add up to everything we consider a big deal – health, wealth, and success. But I’d like to turn this concept around in a way to help save you a fortune, one small purchase at a time.

The Little Stuff Adds Up

Hardy talks about how working out 20 minutes each day, rather than foregoing a workout until you can spend an hour at the gym, will give you unexpected results. In the same kind of way, mindlessly buying a coffee or throwing a candy bar in your cart going through the grocery checkout lane can set you back more than you think, simply because those small purchases add up.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend about how they felt guilty about not rounding up at some food retailers who ask if you’d like to donate by rounding your total bill up to the nearest dollar. I explained that not only do I not feel guilty about saying no to those up-sells, I also don’t feel bad about tipping the minimum (15% in our household) when we go out right now.

Before my server friends get up in arms, that’s not to say that I don’t understand that tips are practically essential to survival for servers in some states and it’s also not a hard-and-fast rule – if I get absolutely amazing service (and I definitely have), I’m absolutely going to tip more. But the reason I don’t feel bad is because I have a very specific goal in mind that every part of my life is adapting to support. I’m not tipping less because I’m stingy – I’ve tipped more than the bill in some cases when I felt like I was being called to do so – it’s because I want to be free to tip and spend how I see fit without the weight of debt hanging over me. I’m trying to keep my priorities in line so I can be generous not only now, but also in greater ways long term.


Let’s say you buy a $4.50 drink twice a week during the 30 weeks of school for all four years. Honestly, I think that’s pretty low if I’m thinking about what most of my friends spent on small purchases every week in undergrad – but for the sake of the argument, let’s go with it. Over those four years, your total coffee bill would be about $928.80. If you were spending your student loan money on those coffees and find that you have to pay them back with interest, assuming your a dependant student with the lowest interest rate on a federal education loan, you’re looking at at least $202 in interest over the 10-year repayment period. For two coffees a week, you’re going to spend over $1,100 and 17% of that total is just interest.


I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to brew my own drinks.

I Don’t Even Like Coffee

The kicker to this reality is, I don’t even like coffee. But there are dozens, even hundreds, of little purchases that follow the same idea. When my husband and I recently closed out last month’s budget, it was a little shocking to realize that dinner out here and coffee (for my husband) there and this and that added up to quite a bit more than we had planned to spend. It’s a good reminder that we’re not done with this thing yet and if we’re ever going to be done, we’ve got to get intense and have a plan – one we can stick to and persist with.

What Works

Back when we started this journey, we were using Dave’s envelope system. Basically, using envelopes that are filled at regular intervals with a percentage of your income makes it really easy to be aware of what you have to spend (and what you don’t).  It was really easy in that season because we lived in walking distance of practically everywhere and only one of us worked outside the home. So if we went out, it was rare that the two of us weren’t together. But now that we have two jobs and one car and we live in one suburb and work in another, the envelope system, as we had learned it, wasn’t really working for our life situation and we abandoned it. Now we’re looking to go digital with an app that will let us keep the same kind of weather eye on where each dollar is going – which should be where we told it to go when we set our budget at the beginning of the month. We’ll let you know how it goes, but we’re hoping it keeps us honest and makes our repayment timeline shorter. Because we know all too well, the little things add up.