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What is Your Biggest Financial Vice?

Written by Nickel - 41 Comments

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Over the weekend, I was thinking about what my biggest vices are when it comes to staying healthy. As it turns out, my #1 health and fitness vice is also my #1 financial vice — eating out at lunch time. As I noted over at Fit36 (my health/fitness site), I really enjoy escaping the office and grabbing some lunch at a local eatery.

Unfortunately, eating out inevitably translates into less healthy meals and considerably larger expenditures than if I just packed a lunch. Assuming I do this 3-4 times a week, and estimating the “overage” at $5-7/meal, we’re looking at roughly a grand in extra lunchtime expenditures.

Add to that our tendency to eat out as a family once or twice on weekends and you’re talking about a decent chunk of change. A much cheap and healthier, but still enjoyable alternative (at least for the weekday lunch ritual) would be to pack a lunch and then skip out of the office when it’s time to eat.

What about you? What’s your biggest financial vice?

If you’re a blogger, feel free to write your own article about this. Just be sure to let me know so I can link to it.

Contributions from elsewhere

The Dangling Conversation
Just Getting Started
Paid Twice
Loonies and Sense
A Dollar a Day
Budgets are Sexy
Converting a Spendthrift
Art of the Coupon

Published on July 6th, 2008 - 41 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. I would say that my vice is the same – eating out. I pick up lunch 3 or 4 times during the work week and we also eat out a few times over the weekend.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 9:03 am
  2. Shoes. Specifically, shoes for work.

    And good beer. We could drink the cheap, watered down stuff and spend a lot less – or give up beer entirely and be richer and skinnier.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 9:44 am
  3. Baseball. I have season tickets to a AAA team which run me about $2k a year, plus a parking pass for about $300, food usually around $600. I also travel to see games in other cities – so add some gas money to that with additional tickets, parking, and food. I probably see about 90 games a year. But I love it – my life wouldn’t be the same without it.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 10:26 am
  4. Another example of diet and personal finance correlation…

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 10:43 am
  5. I would have to say eating out is my biggest vice. I know it is not as healthy and costs more, but I think of it as a treat. Need a mindset change.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 11:07 am
  6. Just posted mine at The Dangling Conversation.

    Thanks for the challenge!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 11:15 am
  7. I have two:

    1- I own a boat, which is a constant source of expenses. But, it brings us so much joy that I still believe it’s worth it.

    2- We eat out a lot. I spend close to $1000/month on food at restaurants. Contrary to the many of the comments here, it’s not necessarily the case that eating out is worse for you. Depends on the restaurant; many of our favorite restaurants specialize in local, organic ingredients and healthy, well-balanced meals.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 11:47 am
  8. I have to say that my vice would be impulse shopping. I and my family have a tendency to buy based on ‘oh, that look good’ rather than going out with a plan. It’s not a major problem short-term, but I have calculated a long-term impact of more than $500 annually if we keep up with the habit. We’re working on it though.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 12:47 pm
  9. Eating out, and “preparing” — spending money on things we might need. I love security.

    Although this month, looking at my budget, it appears to be travel … but that is a rare occurrence.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 1:46 pm
  10. Q-Doba’s ancho chille barbeque burrito with shredded pork and a side of three-cheese queso and chips. OMG. Can’t resist!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 2:11 pm
  11. I can’t believe people are saying things like eating out? Is a couple of thousand dollars a year really effecting your finances? If so you need to start making more money.

    My biggest financial vice is gambling, I love playing poker, betting sports, and hitting Vegas a few times a year. Last year I lost about $20k gambling. This year so far I’m up but that probably won’t last. I still save over $100k a year but I’m sure I’ve lost over $100k in total gambling over the last several years.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 3:22 pm
  12. @ TSModie: I have a bit of a problem with your comment. While I have no doubt that your issue seems bigger to you than the issues of others, that does not make those issues less valid for the folks who have them.

    I’m glad you are making enough money that you had the option to spend it the way you did, but you lost more than some of us make in a year. And it’s fine to say that we should start making more money, but that’s real easy for you to mouth at us, and, maybe, not so easy for some of us to do.

    I think that you could be a bit more sensitive to the issues others have, especially since you are clearly in a better position than many of us.

    (@fivecentnickel: I apologize for ranting in your comment thread, but the statement that “Is a couple of thousand dollars a year really effecting your finances? If so you need to start making more money.” really hit me the wrong way.)

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 3:30 pm
  13. TSModie: It’s all relative. We make a very good living, and the money that we spend on eating out isn’t a financial burden for us. But it is our biggest vice in that it’s not really necessary and we don’t gain anything of lasting value from it. Sure, we spend more money on other “luxury” things like travel, but we also derive a lot more value from travel (e.g., lasting memories, time with family, etc.) so I’d hardly classify that as a vice.

    And believe it or not, yes, “a couple of thousand dollars a year” makes a big difference for a lot of people. If going out and making more money was as easy as you make it out to be, don’t you think everyone would be pulling down six or seven figures?

    Comment by Nickel — Jul 7th 2008 @ 3:42 pm
  14. If I could just lay off the escorts I would be in good shape. It is an expensive hobby.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 3:53 pm
  15. Our biggest vice is posted at Just Getting Started.

    Great topic!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 4:18 pm
  16. TSModie, if it’s so easy for you to make $20K that you can afford to throw it away gambling, send some my way! I’m sure I can find some better use for it.

    As a poor chemistry grad student, I’m choosing to make less money in order to get more education. For example, I know the difference between “effect” and “affect”….

    $2000 feeds my husband and me for almost a year, by the way… it’s pretty substantial.

    Oh, and my biggest financial vice. That would be shopping. I convince myself that I need to buy something, which is especially easy if it’s a “good deal.”

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 4:59 pm
  17. “For example, I know the difference between “effect” and “affect”….”


    Comment by Nickel — Jul 7th 2008 @ 5:01 pm
  18. Both my financial and health vices are the same as yours. I barely ever spend money on things other than food, but I buy a lot of food. It’s basically my way to relax. I’m in the military so I can’t be a lot overweight, but I’m heavy by military standards. The thing that’s even worse is that I get free meals if I would just eat at the chow hall! There was a month a few months back that I only ate at the chow hall, but for some reason I stopped doing it. I saved a lot of money that way and also lost a little weight. I guess we all have to have our vices though. Some people smoke, some drink, some spend money, and some eat. I don’t know too many people at all who don’t do at least 1 of those. Everyone needs a way to unwind and indulge themselves.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 7:34 pm
  19. I’ve got two – designer jeans (@ $300 a pop) and really high quality produce.

    I’ve curbed my spending on both of those recently in a determined effort to save money. I haven’t purchased clothing in a 6 months (I can better distinguish what I want vs. what I need) and I’ve learned to embrace frozen veggies.

    Honestly, food is the harder one to curb. I’m a major foodie and I love to cook and to eat.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 9:17 pm
  20. Food and drink, no question of it. Close runner-up: dogs.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 7th 2008 @ 9:18 pm
  21. My biggest vice is buying computer equipment that is obsolete the week after I bought it. Also feeding electricity to this equipment.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 5:54 am
  22. Is there a spot outside the office you can eat that isn’t in an eatery? Pack your lunch and go eat there. That way, you still can get out.

    My biggest vice changes. Right now, we’re doing a lot of stuff to our house, so I need to resist the urge to want to do more stuff.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 12:02 pm
  23. Dogs, beer/wine that is not cheap, HDTV.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 12:16 pm
  24. To Robin:

    The snobbishness in your post didn’t go unnoticed. I think its great that you are in grad school and you’re right that I did make a mistake between “effect” and “affect”. I’m glad you will come out of school knowing that. I went to an Ivy for undergrad and didn’t go to grad school. I didn’t do well in school, in fact I got kicked out in my sophomore year and spent two years working in odd jobs before going back to school and finishing my degree. Those two years taught me a lot about goal setting and taking advantage of opportunities. I have a pretty good job now, and the name brand of my college helped me enormously in getting that job. But when people say they can’t just make more money that easily I become very skeptical. Saving a couple thousand dollars a year by dropping something a minor luxury such as eating out for lunch sounds like a bad way to live for me. I think earning an extra couple thousand would be much easier. My biggest peeve about a lot of these PF sites is the focus on living like paupers to save for retirement which sounds crazy – essentially giving up pleasures in your youth so you can have them when you’re old? And the fact is people don’t just change overnight, if you live like a pauper all your life you will live like that when you’re retired too. The bigger focus should be on managing the other side of the equation – the inflows.

    Let’s say you are making $70k right now and could spend every penny of it each year would you enjoy your life? If yes, then if you can raise that $70k to $100k and save the difference you’d be saving 30% of your income while still enjoying yourself. I currently take home around $200k after tax and save about $100k of that in retirement and personal savings. So I spend roughly $100k each year and I am single and live and don’t live in an expensive apartment. So where does my money go? Mostly to fun.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 12:21 pm
  25. See, but I’d rather eat out less and have less things but have a job that I enjoy than need to search out a lucrative job that I don’t enjoy in order to fund eating out.

    I don’t consider not being a slave to “things” living like a pauper. I will never make 6 figures in my career (I am a teacher), and I work long enough hours that aside from a 7-week summer job (yes, that’s how long summer is in my district), I don’t have time to take on a second job.

    So I keep the job I have and I live on less and I still save but $2K is a big deal ’round here … and I’m OK with that.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 12:44 pm
  26. YEP! Eating out, rather Take-out. And buying food and letting it go bad
    Had to LOL at #7 (John)! We used to live on a boat, and heard the old adage “a boat is just a hole in the water you pour money into” all the time!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 1:31 pm
  27. Ours is posted at

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 1:57 pm
  28. Mine is the same… I spend probably an extra $100-150 month on eating out at lunch. Seriously need to stop that out-go… Thanks for the encouragement!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 2:41 pm
  29. Mine is posted at

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 4:52 pm
  30. H Lee D:

    I love how you make the ridiculous assumption that a lucrative job would have to be something you don’t enjoy. I love my job. I’m sure I would love being a teacher too and make a fraction of what I make. And I’m sure I would love managing a hedge fund and making a lot more than what I make. You also make a ridiculous assumption that wanting more money means you must be a “slave” to things. In fact I hardly own many things, I hate shopping and I almost never have a desire to buy myself “toys”. I don’t own a car, I take public transportation largely because I hate owning things (depreciating things). But I spend a lot of money on experiences, like do a ton of traveling all over the world and experience the great restaurants, sailing around various islands, villas, and so on. I do the same in my daily life, I’m in a city with a million great restaurants, bars, shows, etc. that I take advantage of. So please tell me how I’m a slave to things. Come to my home and count how many “things” I have. The most expensive item I own is probably my computer which cost me about a day’s pay.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 8th 2008 @ 5:47 pm
  31. Posted mine today!

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 8:11 am
  32. Hey Nickel – posted mine as well today 🙂 It’s definitely changed over the past 6 months for sure – Diamond jewelry to Bananas! haha…

    Love the post, friend.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 10:50 am
  33. TSModie,
    No you’re not a slave to things, you’re a slave to a gambling addiction. smart way to live life.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 11:14 am
  34. TSModie,

    It’s funny that someone who has pis*ed away $100,000 by gambling has the audacity to chastise any Personal Finance blog. These PF sites don’t tout living like a pauper. They tout spending less than you earn. They tout being financially intelligent. They tout not wasting money on gambling. For the record, a $100,000 gambling debt is not an experience, nor a vice, it’s an addiction. You should have expected this backlash from the readers. You say your peeve is “essentially giving up pleasures in your youth so you can have them when you’re old” yet you save half of your income for retirement and savings, you could be going on much more extravagant trips around the world and enjoying more “pleasures in your youth”. You have an ivy league education that got you a $200K a year job. A majority of these readers weren’t afforded that luxury. They won’t EVER be able to retire if they don’t save NOW. You need to learn a little tact and keep your judgments to yourself.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 11:49 am
  35. My vice…

    Vacations, we go all out, trying to make it around the world.

    We are all about “experiences” also.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 11:55 am
  36. Hi Nickel, just posted mine

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 9th 2008 @ 6:29 pm
  37. Great article! I posted my vice at Its interesting to see how many people list eating out as a vice. Of course with the price of groceries these days, eating in may not be that much better, lol 🙂

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 11th 2008 @ 12:34 pm
  38. Tom I really don’t understand the point of your post. You call my losing of $100k over the last several years gambling an “addiction”, something I should obviously expect to be chastised for by the PF community (which from what I can tell is made up of people who know nothing about earning money). Well let’s put it into perspective. My gross salary is about $300k per year and the $100k I’ve lost is over at least 5 years. That works out to $20k per year which is about right. Which is about 6.7% of my salary. So now does that make it equivalent to someone who makes $50,000 a year losing $3,350 a year gambling? Not at all, in fact the $3,350 for the $50k earner is still much more than $20k for a $300k earner because discretionary income is what matters. The money you SAVE! Like I said in my previous post, I save over $100k per year or about 50% of my take home pay – that is AFTER all my spending and gambling. So please save your nonsensical “financial advice” for the uninformed masses who occupy your world of the working-poor.

    You say the majority of readers don’t have the luxury I have of going to an Ivy League school. Yes, it was a luxury. I grew up in a lower middle class family, went to a crappy public high school, had to work like hell to get into an Ivy and then had to work like hell in school in jobs as lucrative as the student dining hall to help pay for it. Sure I took on a lot of debt as well, though fortunately that debt is next to nothing against my income. But there weren’t any “luxuries” bestowed upon me. The average reader has only himself to blame if they are unhappy with their current place in life. Please show me where I criticized the idea of saving, I save more as both a percentage and as a dollar amount that probably 99% of people here. I criticized the absurdity of considering brown-bagging your lunch to be an exercise in personal finance. That’s great if it helps you save a couple grand and that money helps you out, but if that is the kind of thing that personal finance discussion has simplified down to than it is pretty pathetic.

    Comment by Anonymous — Jul 11th 2008 @ 8:34 pm
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