by Dana George | Updated Aug. 27, 2021 - First published on Oct. 22, 2019
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If you find yourself wondering if you’ll ever have money to invest, you may be surprised by where we found extra funds.
Have you ever vowed to eat healthier, filled your shopping cart with enough fruits and veggies to impress a cardiologist, and then proceeded to allow the food to go bad at home? What about leftovers? Ever promise yourself you'll cut down on food waste by eating leftovers, only to think they look disgusting the next day?
If so, you are not alone.
Americans allow a full 40% of our food supply to go to waste, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, much of it between the farm and our kitchen. After all, we don’t like apples with spots or wilted lettuce, even if they're edible.
According to a survey by The Ascent on wasteful spending habits, 70% of respondents admitted to wasting money on food they threw away. And while the numbers vary, studies show that the average American tosses approximately 100 to 250 pounds per year. That comes to nearly $233 a month, or $2,798 a year, of spoiled food that is thrown into the trash, according to a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Bosch.
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Let's say that you come up with a plan to cut the amount of food you buy and throw away each month. Now, rather than dump $233 worth of food, you invest that money in the stock market through a beginners brokerage account. If the investment earns 9.5%, (9.7% represents the average annual S&P 500 return since 1965), that $233 per month will be worth $45,370 in 10 years. And that's just the money you'll save by not wasting food.
Being wasteful is bad for our health, primarily because it's not typically the Pringles or Little Debbies going into the trash. Here are some of the most common items being dumped and the percentage of us who fess up to it:
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When you take a loss on something major, like a home, for example, you remember it because it’s a big financial deal. When you pay top dollar for school supplies for your kids because you didn’t shop for bargains, it doesn’t seem as important. It is, however, the small, everyday financial decisions that determine how much we have available to invest each month.
For example, The Ascent's survey on spending habits brought some other money wasters to light. These include paying excessive or unnecessary fees and interest, impulse buying and overpaying for digital services. Just as we can control how much money we waste on food destined for the dump, we can take control of the other everyday costs that have invaded our lives.
Once you've cut out your food waste costs, see whether there are other small savings you can make that would dramatically impact the bottom line. Here are a few relatively painless ideas that could save you another $123 per month:
The beauty of investing is the way it turns small drops of money into a huge pool of savings. If you add these small savings to the $233 you’re saving by not wasting food, you could have as much as $354 to invest each month. At a rate of 9.5%, you could save $68,930 away in 10 years without diminishing the quality of your life.
Author and environmental campaigner Tristram Stuart said it best, “Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet.”
It’s also a really great way to invest in your future.
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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.