Lent is here, and with it the news that four in 10 Americans will give up chocolate, alcohol, and meat on Fridays—at least for a week or two, in order to repent for their sins and swear off self-indulgence. But even if you aren't observant (or Christian for that matter), taking time to practice self-restraint and reflect on your life and habits can lead to better decision-making on everything from your budget to your career. And it can save you a ton of money, even in just 40 days.
Just how much are your vices costing you? We broke it down according to the Seven Deadly Sins, with advice for what you might give up.
Pride: Give Up Brand Name Bath and Beauty Products
That lipstick packaging might be pretty, but when it comes to certain beauty products, experts swear there's no difference between generic and brand-name varieties—except the price. And it's not just makeup: drug store label body washes, bandages, pain relievers and other over-the-counter drugs, sunscreen, and more often have identical ingredients to their brand-name counterparts, at a fraction of the cost.
Another way to save? Avoid the Pink Tax. Women pay an average of 7% more—often much more— than men for the same health and beauty products, a discrepancy deemed the Pink Tax, since the color of the product is often the only distinction between "male" and "female" versions. His shaving cream is just as effective, but likely cheaper.
Savings: $3-$20 each trip to the drug store
Greed: Give Up Spoiling Your Kids
You may be stuck in your greedy ways, but there's always hope for the next generation. Lent, a season of self-denial and reflection, is the perfect time to teach your children the value of saving a hard-earned dollar.
Savings: $100 per week x 6 weeks = $600, plus interest
Lust: Give Up Expensive Dates
Last year, dating site Zoosk found that the average price for a date ranged from $82.62 (in Indianapolis) to $173.88 (in New York), according to Fox News Magazine. And the average American will spend $146.84 on Valentine's Day alone this year.
Yet more than 50% of 24-to-35-year-olds say they'd prefer an "experience" over a fancy dinner or bouquet of roses. So listen to your boo and take things easy. There's no reason to shell out $100 for a five-star restaurant when having a meal at home or attending a cheap comedy show can be just as romantic. Your wallet will thank you.
Savings: $100 per date x 4 dates = $400
Envy: Give Up Social Media
It's hard to quantify the value of forgoing social media, but if comparison is the thief of joy, your FOMO could be costing you big. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram typically rank among the most popular things to give up for Lent, perhaps because avid users know how much of time suck they are—and are sick of seeing their exes pop up on their feed.
Comparing yourself to seemingly more successful acquaintances or stressing over photos of events you weren't invited to is no boon to our self-worth. According to Psychology Today, "Habitual negative social comparisons can cause a person to experience greater stress, anxiety, depression, and make self-defeating choices." Deleting your Facebook account won't solve all your problems, but it's a helpful first step.
Savings: Time, confidence, ego
Gluttony: Give Up Soda
The average U.S. household spends $850 on soft drinks every year, or about $71 a month. That's a lot for liquid sugar with absolutely zero health benefits (even wine is better for you). And your dentist will thank you too.
Savings: $71 x 1.5 months = $106.5
Wrath: Give Up Alcohol and/or Cigarettes
So your boss did something that really set you off at work—is your first reaction to head to happy hour at closing time with coworkers to blow off some steam? Are cigarettes your refuge after a fight with your significant other? Behaviors we engage in when we're angry, like smoking and drinking, can be especially costly.
If you're averaging a pack a day, depending on the state you live in, cutting out cigarettes can net you $6 a day. And we've estimated that even drinking moderately, you can spend around $650 per month on booze. Giving up cigarettes and spirits all together isn't easy, but it's definitely practical from a money (and health) perspective.
Savings: $240 + $975 = $1,215
Sloth: Give Up Going Directly Home After Work
And hit the gym. Sure, gyms cost money, but the overall savings of living a healthy life are indisputable. Lower health care bills, spending less on soda (see above), fast food ($100 a month savings, on average), and alcohol (see above), less impulsive stress-related spending: The savings possibilities are endless.