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Your junk food habit is costing you thousands

SALT LAKE CITY — You know junk food is bad for your body, but have you ever stopped to calculate just how bad it is for your budget?

Sure, spending a few bucks a week on a fast-food lunch, a bakery doughnut or even a daily can of soda from the office machine isn't going to break the bank. But these purchases add up, not just over weeks and months but years — by one estimate, costing you in the tens of thousands over two decades.

That's according to financial adviser Barbara Friedberg, who writes in her book “How to Get Rich: Wealth Building Guide for the Financially Illiterate” that buying convenience store snacks could cost you more than $35,000 over 20 years.

By buying snacks on the go instead of bringing them from home, “the money lost is substantial,” Friedberg writes. “Slap together a few bad money habits — smoking, buying lunch out, playing the lottery — and you've needlessly spent thousands of dollars over the years.”

Say you buy a daily coffee for $2.00. Then once or twice a week you go out to lunch for $7, and another once or twice you grab a snack from the convenience store for about $3. That quickly adds up to $34 a week, or $136 a month. Over the course of a year that's $1,632 spent, and over a five-year period, that equals $8,160.

Even if your habits are less frequent, your purchases are still adding up. Buying a 65-cent soda twice a week equals more than $67 a year. Make that a daily habit and it will cost you $237 a year or $1,185 over five years. Buy it from a gas station at $1.25 a pop and you'll be paying $456 a year or $2,281 for five years.

Here's the approximate annual cost of other junk food habits:

  • Bottled soda twice a week: $186
  • Candy bar three times a week: $234
  • Daily coffee from a coffee shop: $803
  • Fast food five days a week: $1,690

Let's say you're OK with throwing a little pocket change toward your daily Diet Coke habit, or that you're fine with spending a few hundred a year for your weekly lunch out. After all, it's still a relatively cheap indulgence, and life is for the living, right?

But before you completely make up your mind, consider this: If you were to save that money spent and then invest it, your potential returns are sure to make you think twice.

Say your yearly junk food budget ends up costing you $1,715. Invest that amount each year in a stock mutual fund averaging 7 percent return per year, according to Friedberg, and at the end of 20 years, the $1,715 annual investment is worth $70,307.

How's that food for thought?