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A Nickel Here, A Dime There, It All “Ads” Up

written by John Chow on May 15, 2007

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You know the old saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned?” Our parents used that saying to tell us that even a small amount of savings can eventually become a big amount down the road. Personally, I have never subscribed to it. To me, a penny saved was not worth the effort. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that. This is where the impulse purchase comes in. They’re designed to take our pennies.

How many of us see something we like and say, “It’s only a few bucks. That’s not going to break me.” I always thought that way for a long time. Then I realized this is how I make my money – with a click here and a click there. By themselves, the clicks make less than a dollar. However, added over the course of a month and they run into the tens of thousands. There is a lot of money in nickel and diming.

Many years back, a financial planner asked me track my all purchases for a month by writing them down on a small notepad. Being the tech guy that I am, I used a Pocket PC and MS Money. He asked me to begin the month with an estimate on how much I think I will spend and then compare it to the real number at the end of the month.

The experiment was very enlightening to say the least. I completely blew my estimated budget. You have no idea how those little purchases can add up quickly until you see it all in front of you. All those nickels and dimes really do add up.

The exercise did change my spending habits – I don’t buy thing as impulsively as I used to. Most people keep an eye on their big purchases but they really should be keeping an eye on the impulsive ones. Impulse purchases are like clicks to my Google ads – it’s only nickels and dimes but they add up really fast.

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Greg Butler May 15, 2007 at 10:21 am

We have to be careful that we don’t nickle and dime ourselves to financial ruin. Money is energy. The more we have the more we can invest. We need to always be plugging the leaks. The key is to focus our financial energy, not dissipate it.

Monetize Your Blog May 15, 2007 at 10:42 am

well said

Deaf Musician May 15, 2007 at 2:13 pm

You make a post about making $11,000 / month from a blog where you talk about your expensive eating habits and in the next post you complain about spending pennies? :roll:

Monetize Your Blog May 15, 2007 at 2:40 pm

john is not complaining
he was simply reminding us how important it is to pay attention to the nickles and dimes

Linux operating system May 15, 2007 at 8:25 pm

And that is a great advice!

Law of Attraction May 16, 2007 at 1:58 am

well said

Marc May 16, 2007 at 6:30 am

You think that “And that is a great advice!” is well said? I’m not English major but there’s nothing there that particularly impresses me. It’s grammatically correct and all, but I’m not blown away by the content…

Marc May 16, 2007 at 6:30 am

Scratch that. It’s not even grammatically correct… Like I said, I’m not and English major.

Kumiko May 15, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Saving his pennies is how he can can afford expense eating habits!

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Everything adds up; small or big amounts of money that you save and spend makes a difference. John was able to afford all those scrumptious meals because now he acknowledges the importance of even the littlest amount of money (that, and he didn’t have to pay for ALL those meals LOL).

Marc May 16, 2007 at 6:45 am

Don’t forget that he can claim them as business related expenses since he blogs about them :twisted:

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:19 pm

I would still write them off, but just make sure to bring the blog up at dinner so it can be considered a business meeting…that’s kinda evil right??? :twisted:

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:18 pm

LOL…I like this comment because of the responses it gets…Now you know John has a true following :smile:

Matthew May 15, 2007 at 10:21 am

I used to be suprised when looking at online banking and how many trips to the cash machine I made. I now try not to go except for exactly what I need. I managed to cut back a few hundred a month that way.

A little here and there does add up.

Monetize Your Blog May 15, 2007 at 10:46 am

yeap, i need to stop eating takeaways, it costs me 150 a month, which means i eats up a top range laptop every year

Don Wilson May 15, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I think most of us have that problem, sadly

Law of Attraction May 16, 2007 at 1:59 am

true thats why not everybody is a mogul

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:35 pm

The ATM can be an evil, evil thing alright. Now that I think about it, I have been going to the ATM more than I should; this is definitely a wake-up call.

Best Airmiles Deals May 15, 2007 at 10:27 am

I have found that not having cash really helps to stop the impulsive buys… You have to be willing to visa $2.21 to make the purchase rather then just pull out a $5.

Try it.

Unix blog May 15, 2007 at 11:52 am

I agree to not having cash part, but don’t agree to having the cards. If you really want to stop the impulsive buys make sure you leave your cards home. One other thing that really helps is to make a list before you go shopping and stick to that list. Again not having more cash then necessary for the items in your list can help you stick to the list :)

Best Airmiles Deals May 15, 2007 at 11:55 am

Yeah not bringing the cards really helps. Although, at the grocery store or where I’m making other purchases I don’t really consider most of those purchases impulsive… although, technically a box of cookies is impulsive but much better then just throwing a dollar or so to a chocolate bar….

It’s all relative I guess.

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Cash-on-hand is as good as gone, especially if your spending habits lean more toward the “happy-go-lucky” spectrum. A credit card can be devious that way, too, since almost all merchants accept them. Basically, you just have to take enough money that you think will last you through the day and leave the temptation to spend more at home.

PS–That grocery list thing works actually; thanks for pointing that one out.

Entrepreneur May 15, 2007 at 11:59 am

I agree, I rarely carry cash because it disappears so fast :)

Linux operating system May 15, 2007 at 8:28 pm

And usually those small purchases stops in the basement getting dust.

Entrepreneur May 15, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Or don’t even make it that far because they are disposable (i.e. food)

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:21 pm

well, my small purchases tend to go in the vending machine :razz:

Law of Attraction May 16, 2007 at 2:01 am

…you earn to spend 90 and save stash away the 10 and another 40 for bills and spend away 50.

blogdinero May 15, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Kumiko May 15, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Insightful comment!

Law of Attraction May 16, 2007 at 2:01 am

ohh kumiko changed her picture

Monetize Your Blog May 15, 2007 at 10:41 am

it is so true

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:21 pm

which part?

internet marketing blog May 15, 2007 at 10:48 am

Great post and very true. I usually very good about tangible impulsive purchases, but find when advertising a website, Im very impulsive.

Uway May 15, 2007 at 11:11 am

great read this post reminds me of the struggle that i am in to get out of debt in life. but with everything surrounded to make you spend its no surprise that everybody is broke. At the rate its going it might get back to a trade :mrgreen:

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Barter system LOL oh gosh, I don’t even have enough possessions to trade! For my sake and the rest of us who are not John Chow, I seriously hope it never gets to that. :shock:

SEO Mash May 15, 2007 at 11:20 am

Is it just me or are there posts on this blog that just seem to disappear? Several days ago there was an entry about the “power of a PR6 blog” and I can’t find that any more. Yesterday there was what looked to be a ReviewMe ad for a dating site and that seems to be missing now too. Strange! :shock:

Derrich May 15, 2007 at 11:34 am

John has evil powers. Maybe they didn’t pay up. Not sure what to think about the PR6 post.

Steve's Tech Blog May 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

They must pay first. I know because I paid for my ReviewME and they charge my Visa a few minutes later.

They only pay bloggers after and end of the month :(

For the topic:
It’s true, I don’t keep change or very little with me and at night and put it in a pot. Wow! it add up. Plus with $2(coin), the pot grows faster. ;)

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:46 pm

And I thought I was weird for having a piggy bank for loose change. :oops: It’s good to know I’m not alone on this (although a “pot” sounds way cooler when you’re a grown-up LOL).

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:23 pm

unless it was a direct review through John, but i believe John sticks to going through ReviewMe as good practice. Well done John.

Entrepreneur May 15, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Did you check the archives?

Best Airmiles Deals May 15, 2007 at 12:55 pm
TheAnand May 15, 2007 at 11:20 am

true, very true…but google does not add nickels and dimes for me…i am thinking about stopping using them!

Corey Stroeder May 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm

In trying to save for my retirement. I have had to become more conscious of my impulse purchases. And over the years, I have noticed that it does help the bottom line when you are trying to save for a goal.

derek May 15, 2007 at 12:18 pm

This is absolutely true and one of the main culprits behind people that struggle to make the ends meet month to month.

I’ve written a few articles on impulse buying, one with a few tips to curb impluse buying at the grocery store which is often one store people struggle with:

Strategy to Curb Impulse Buying
How To Curb Impulse Buying

Matt Jones May 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm

If you can’t make impulse buys then who can!

Ali May 15, 2007 at 1:03 pm

I’ve become more careful over the years with spending money. It does add up at the end when your bank account seems more than it used to be.

Wolf Stone May 15, 2007 at 1:05 pm

i just stopped drinking coffee and using the ATM …and i think i saved aound $50 bucks a month.

KingFish May 15, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Hey Wolf,

With $50 spare bucks a month, you could advertise on John’s site :evil:

Best Airmiles Deals May 15, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Just buying your own beans can save a LOAD of money. you don’t have to stop drinking the black gold.

Kumiko May 15, 2007 at 10:39 pm

You can afford a reviewme from me every month!

daily comedian May 15, 2007 at 1:19 pm

couple little changes i made:

stop eating breakfast out of the house…now eat at home…saves about $3-5 per day x 20 = $60-100 per month

other thing is media…cut out mag’s…look for free newspapers or the cheaper competitor…saves about $.50 per day x 20 = $10 per month

total from just those two per year is $840 – $1320.


Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 11:16 pm

Eating out less and at home more is very effective money-saving, I have to agree…unless you order food in, then that doesn’t change anything LOL.

Rich Minx May 15, 2007 at 1:21 pm

I refuse to give up coffee. It makes me productive and chatty.

The few rich people (millionaires) I know all have a balance between overspending and penny pinching. They don’t sweat the small coins but neither do they go off on shopping sprees.

Learn to Blog May 16, 2007 at 9:24 pm

lol…luckly I never took to coffee or tea. So that’s one vice I don’t have to give up :smile:

D&D May 15, 2007 at 1:22 pm

I’ve generally been pretty good with this throughout my life. So much so that at one point I had $20+ worth in just pennies.

Looking back on that now, I feel a bit sorry for the cashiers who had to deal with all those pennies when I bought something I really wanted. :twisted:

Also, I’ve found that more impulsive buys have decreased for me when I stopped using my debit card everywhere and instead use cash. Generally, I’ve been taking out a couple hundred at a time from an ATM, but I make that last for as long as I can. :wink:

Shawn Knight May 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Im the exact opposite. If I have cash, I have an impulse to spend spend spend. Its rare that I keep cash on me now, and when I do have it, I tend to forget about it because im used to not keeping any on me.

Shawn Knight May 15, 2007 at 1:37 pm

This is very true!

I started keeping a record of every dollar I spent starting in January of this year. The results were staggering. As you said, its the little things that add up quickly. For me, fast food is the number one culprit. Damn those delicious fast food facilities!

Gary Lee May 15, 2007 at 1:38 pm

quote from the movie Ray – “If you think pennies, you make pennies. If you think Dollars, you make Dollars” or something like that . . . so what are you doing with all your money john? Stock Market? Real Estate? 401k? Mutual Funds?

Joey May 15, 2007 at 1:41 pm

That is a wonderful comparison. That saying has never really meant anything to me until now. You can expand that into other areas as well. If you are a salesperson sometimes all of your little sales add up to more than your large one. Another angle is you have to lose one pound before you can lose 20 and it takes that one to get to twenty.

Fashion Industry Ceo May 15, 2007 at 3:59 pm

I see you have a lot of featured sites now John…I’m glad you used my suggestion.

Dollar Short May 15, 2007 at 4:15 pm

There is a blog somewhere called give me back my 5 dollars or something to that effect where a woman managed to pay down 15000 or so in debt in 10 months by being frugal (e.g. packing her lunch each day). Those small things add up huge.

Speaking of nickels, has a melt value of U.S. coins (and I think canadian coins). It turns out they are worth a lot more than their face value

Paul May 15, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Good post. I used to spend lavishly until I started my first business. During that startup phase I seriously realized the value in ‘nickel and diming’.

Tantowi May 15, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Buy something only when you need it. Have you ever buy something but you never use it? Nearly everyone buys products they never actually use.
Don’t buy something just because they are on sale, you may never use them.
So before go shopping, make a list the items you need in the order and don’t buy stuff unlisted.
Save your money!

Desi Baba May 15, 2007 at 7:02 pm

You’re right John it all adds up. I’m a great fan in saving money and it’s true, it’s the little purchases that affects some people’s budget.

Stephen Welton May 15, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Great advice. I was able to take on this information at a young age and it has significantly done wonders. I would add that if and or when you take on this challenge you try keeping it to yourself. Watch of for those opinions to fly. There is no need to get the opinions this will impact your quality of life in a positive way IF you can follow it through all the way. Report back in 30 days. Great post John Chow.

Linux operating system May 15, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Great John! is not only how to make money, it is also how to keep it with you for the important things, thanks for remember that.

Rory May 15, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Every mikkle makes a muckle :mrgreen:

InvestorBlogger May 15, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Guys! It’s your nickels and dimes that drive the world economy at the moment! So, please keep spending those little amounts! Do take your credit cards everywhere! Spend, spend, spend! You’re giving millions of workers worldwide a good job! And you’re giving lots of financial advisers work who write books, blogs, and whatnot telling you to cut your spending habits! Not to mention, all those stores in the US that sell the goods, think of those workers, too! :idea:

So, if you are at all caring, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND! It’s really charity, after all! :twisted: :mrgreen:

Wahlau.NET May 22, 2007 at 7:03 pm

This guy is evil.

Credit Card is no good as you will actually not run out of cash. And in US you could pay small amount even with credit card

Cheap Custom Content May 15, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Yeah, saving for a goal can help you change your spending habits alright. Awareness is crucial, I think; the more you tell yourself “it’s just a couple of bucks,” the more your money slips away from you without you even noticing.

luciano May 16, 2007 at 3:05 am

When I was a student in US (many yeras ago :sad: ) I used to count all the pennys and dimes at the end of the year and I always had 220/250$ extras in my pockets…same rule I do now on my Blog’s Ads :wink: . It is not super great but I am happy about it!

Come visit and click! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Thanks & CIAO!

Tech news May 16, 2007 at 5:13 am

Money-saving and rich guys like you, John? A big no-no ;)

doy May 16, 2007 at 5:47 am

Without nickel and dime there is no one dollar, and without a dollar there’s no hundred dollar and so on and so fort. Just spend minus your savings for the future…

Cheap Custom Content May 16, 2007 at 6:42 am

Actually, that’s what I tell my nephews and nieces. Without a penny you can’t possibly have a whole dollar — interesting enough yet completely elementary.

James May 16, 2007 at 11:56 am

I just wish the nickels and dimes my sites make added up faster.

Daniel McLean May 16, 2007 at 1:42 pm

It’s like compounded interest, it doesn’t seem to move very fast then BOOM! :mrgreen:

Dy ( May 16, 2007 at 2:13 pm

help John! I can’t even put google ads to my site. I’m not sure how to do php or add it to my wordpress, even after plugins.

Chicago 2016 May 16, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Speaking of which, what’s a good time to start putting ads on my page?

green May 17, 2007 at 6:27 am

Nice article, all things are true