"So I calculated, and I can last in New York for three and a half more days, maybe seven if I don't eat lunch," said Hannah Horvath in the pilot of Girls. Do you ever feel like you have to do daily calculations to make sure you can basically live your life and keep a roof over your head? This is a common problem people have in their 20s — they're supporting themselves for the first time and really learning how much it costs to be a functioning member of society.
If you find yourself worried month after month about whether you'll have to start busking on the subway for extra cash, you may need to do a bit of a life assessment. There may be some small things you are doing that add up to an empty bank account. Basically, here are seven signs you are being dumb about money.
1. You drink expensive coffee
Hey, I love the ambiance of a Starbucks as much as the next person, but I'm paying twice as much for their coffee as I would at a lesser-known shop or deli. And yes, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are delicious but the grande costs close to $5 a pop. Get one or two of those a day and you're spending thousands per year. Try breaking your caffeine addiction or — gasp! — make your own coffee. You can even put it in a Starbucks mug if it makes you feel better.
2. You belong to a gym and you go to expensive exercise classes
It's cool to be the first in your group of friends to say you did aerial yoga or barre spin class (doesn’t exist but they should do that one), or aquatic cycling. But going to classes on top of your gym membership adds up very quickly. An average gym membership costs $40 to $50 a month plus initiation fees (with much higher rates in places like NYC). Additional weekly, thrice weekly, or, for the very dedicated, daily classes can go for up to $34 a pop (I'm looking at you, Soul Cycle). Buying the latest in Lululemon will also trim down your bank account. Pick and choose your workout priorities — and consider exercising outside or with at home with online videos.
3. You spend too much on food
Yes, it is so much easier to order food after a long day, and Seamless web makes this nearly impossible to resist. But eating out or ordering in every night, even if it isn’t fancy food, will add up quickly. Same goes for workday lunches. Buying food at the grocery store, and actually eating it rather than staring at it until it goes moldy, will be cheaper in the long run. Bring your lunch to work at least a few times a week —may I recommend a kale salad to show everyone how trendy you are?
4. You have cable
I am a huge fan of TV, but today you don’t need a television to actually watch television — that's so 1998. Hulu and Netflix have changed everything. A recent study by consumer research firm NPD Group "expects the average pay-TV bill to reach $123 by the year 2015 and $200 by 2020." An easy way to save money is to cut the cable bill (but make sure you keep your internet unless you want to be one of those people who brags about reading all the time).
5. You float your bills
Casey Bond, Managing Editor at GoBankingRates.com, says, “You float bills to cover more 'fun' expenses. Have you ever swiped your debit card as credit so the charge wouldn’t come through for a couple of days? Done some creative bookkeeping at the end of the month knowing your landlord won’t cash your check until the 5th? These are signs your priorities are misplaced when it comes to spending — especially if you’re floating bills to cover happy hour or a class at Yogaworks.” Bills suck but you have to pay them. Is doing that fun thing worth screwing up your credit?
6. You swap money between accounts
If you are constantly borrowing money from your savings account for your checking account then what is the point of a savings account? Bond says, “Constantly transferring money from your savings to your checking account to prevent overdrafts defeats the goal. And if you’re incurring fees due to too many monthly transfers, it’s definitely time to examine why you can’t seem to keep a positive balance.”
7. You’re just lazy
You have a Netflix account, a gym membership and subscriptions to four magazines. Are you using all of these things? Do you actually sit down and watch a movie or go to your gym? This is just financial laziness. Get off your butt and cancel stuff so you can use that money for what you really want.