Don't blame avocado toast for an empty bank account

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CC BY 2.0 Investment Zen

There are much bigger money sinks than the occasional edible treat. Start by examining your household habits.

When it comes to articles on saving money, it's the small edible luxuries such as avocado toast and fancy lattes that are most viciously attacked. Many frugality bloggers would have you believe that, by eliminating these expensive treats from your life, you'll see the savings pile up.

While this is partly true -- the little things do add up -- this approach can distract from bigger money magnets. Many of us have daily habits that are costly in the long run, but these are often overlooked because the costs are invisible in the moment of use. An article in Fashion Beans points out the ways in which you could be wasting money that you don't think about, some of which I've outlined below.

So, instead of panicking about your beloved takeout coffee, put it into perspective by analyzing the bigger-ticket items first. Here's what you should really be worrying about.

1. Food waste

U.S. households waste roughly 40 percent of the food they buy. That's the equivalent of 1,200 calories per person per day going in the trash, costing each household nearly $1,600 annually. (That's something like 400 lattes.) So if you did a better job at incorporating those shrivelled mushrooms and limp celery in a vegetable soup, or cutting the mold off a block of cheese, you could free up a good deal of cash -- especially if you stopped drinking the lattes as well!

2. Eating out

Store-prepared food is, hands down, far more expensive than home cooked meals. The problem is that it's far more convenient and many people lack basic cooking skills -- made worse by lack of opportunities for practice. Become disciplined about buying ingredients in bulk, preparing meals in advance, and taking it with you, and you could save upwards of $4,000 a year, if you're accustomed to spending around $10 a day on takeout.

3. Laundry

Wash your clothes in cold water and hang them to dry. This works well all year round, with outdoor warmth and sunshine in summer and dry air indoors in winter.

You can always use less detergent than what the manufacturer says, especially if you have a high efficiency machine. Fashion Beans points out that you can use white vinegar in place of detergent, although I haven't tried that myself; I use an all-natural powdered laundry detergent that comes in a paper bag and works well in cold water.

Wash clothes only when they need to be washed; less washing will help them last longer. Always make sure the washing machine is full. If using a dryer, clean the lint trap every time.

More good money-saving laundry suggestions here at MoneyCrashers.

4. Turn down the heat

The Department of Energy says, "You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting." Instead of keeping it automatically in the mid-70s (low 20s Celsius), redefine your idea of a cool house and save some cash in the process. Put on a sweater (or two) and an extra pair of socks. Need inspiration? Check out: Why you should be 'hardcore' about one thing in life.

5. Clothes shopping

Resist the siren call of retail therapy. You don't need the debt that goes along with it, nor the glut of unnecessary stuff. On average Americans spend 11 percent of their discretionary budgets on shoes and clothes. Whether you fight this by implementing a strict budget, sticking to thrift stores, or embarking on an ambitious shopping ban, saying 'no' to new clothes is a sure-fire way to reduce the monthly credit card bill and keep money in your account.

Don't blame avocado toast for an empty bank account
There are much bigger money sinks than the occasional edible treat. Start by examining your household habits.

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