If you're good with money, then I salute you. You probably set aside a portion of each paycheck, stick to a budget, and rarely give into the siren call of fancy coffees. But the rest of us? We have all sorts of bad habits that can lead to financial problems. We struggle with budgets, set nothing aside for savings, and almost always pop into cafes to spend money we don't have.
While it's nothing to be ashamed of, poor financial habits can cause a lot of stress. That's why it's a good idea to notice where you might be going wrong and then change your ways. "The sooner you adopt good money habits, the better," says Jennifer Barrett, chief education officer at Acorns, and editor-in-chief of Grow. "When you're just getting started, it's less about how much you save or invest ... then about getting into the habit of regularly contributing to your savings. Developing the habit is key."
Once you figure out how to save money, and which habits can lead to financial issues, the sooner you'll be rolling in dough. (Or, at least not being totally broke at the end of each month.) If that sounds like a goal worth striving for, then read on for some habits that might be messing with your finances.
1. Buying Things Without Thinking
Ever get to the end of the month and wonder where all your money went? This scary moment is all thanks to mindless spending, which is a habit you can totally stop. "Mindless spending is one of the biggest barriers to financial success," says Barrett. So set a budget, or start making lists. "Once you're conscious of where your dollars are going— and where you want your dollars to go — you'll naturally start making smarter choices about how you spend your money every day."
2. Paying For That Gym Membership You Don't Use
If you use and love your gym membership, then by all means, keep it. But if not, it may be time to cancel for the sake of your finances. "Seventy percent of gym members never go, and the 30 percent who do only attend twice a week," Janis Isaman, nutrition coach and owner of My Body Couture, tells Bustle. If that's you, it may be better to work out at home, or buy a daily pass instead.
3. Buying Things Because "They're On Sale"
While it might not feel like a big deal to snag something during a sale, buying things you don't need can quickly get you into trouble. "These are ... daily habits that we may not think much about but does accumulate over time," says Jennifer McDermott, Consumer Advocate of the personal finance comparison website Finder.com. The next time you're tempted to hit up a sale, pause and think about your financial future.
4. Not Getting That Refund
If you buy a pair of shoes and they don't fit do you A) take them back and get a refund, or B) let them rot in your car for all eternity? If you answered B, it may be time to change your ways. Failing to get refunds is a major source of wasted money, McDermott tells me, as well as a bad habit to get into.
5. Lending Money To Friends
While it's fine to help out a friend in need, or loan them a couple bucks for a coffee, it's not a great idea to make lending a habit. "Shakespeare had it right when he penned: 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be / For loan oft loses both itself and friend,'" says McDermott. In other words, you'll strain your friendships and likely never see that dough again. Not worth it.
6. Not Setting Aside A Portion Of Each Paycheck
From now on, try to make daily saving a habit. "Too many people neglect saving because they feel like, 'What's the point?' if I can only put away $5 per paycheck," says Erin Lowry, author of BROKE MILLENNIAL: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. "But the point is to build the habit ... Lay down the groundwork for the behaviors you want to have in the future today, even if it means only tucking away a little bit." It'll add up, and you'll be so glad you did.
7. Shopping Online
There's no denying the thrill of online shopping, but the ease of that "purchase now" button truly can take a chunk out of your budget. "For how easy it is to purchase goods online, this is a huge area to take a look at," says Trevor Scotto, CPA, CDFA, financial advisor and operations partner with Fiduciary Financial Group. To save yourself from impulse buys, try leaving things in your cart for a few days. Or just avoiding the habit all together.
8. Buying Coffee Every Morning
Generally, there's nothing wrong with picking up a small cup of coffee on your way to work. But if you consistently dish out for fancy specialty lattes, then don't be surprised if you're #broke each month. "Spending $5 a day on coffee each morning (and sometimes again in the afternoon) can equate to roughly $100 a month ($1,200 annually)," Scotto says. Make your coffee at home whenever possible, and pocket those savings.
9. Forgetting To Pack A Lunch
If you can afford it, there's simply nothing better than popping out to a cafe for lunch. But for those of us trying to save money, it's not a good idea to "forget" your lunch every day. As Scott says, "Sometimes its tough to find the time to meal prep with how busy we are, but spending money on breakfast or lunch everyday can begin to eat away at your savings." Definitely not worth it.
10. Living Without A Budget
If you don't have a daily budget, it'll be way too easy to spend every penny you have. So make a point of budgeting, perhaps by using a budgeting app. "By building a budget with a reasonable amount of savings baked in, you are taking a step in the right direction," Scotto says. "Over time, you can become an expert at identifying what you should and shouldn’t be spending money on."
11. Not Working Towards Financial Goals
While you don't have to work towards your financial goals every day, it should be something that remains at the front of your brain. "I always advocate that my clients set monetary goals for where they want their savings accounts to be in one month, three months, or whatever time-frame they desire," Trent Silver, millennial career and personal finance expert, tells Bustle. "It is much more rewarding when you reach your goals."
Because let's be honest, there's no denying the pull of a fancy coffee or an online shopping spree. But if you want to keep yourself out of financial trouble, these things are definitely not something you want to do on a daily basis.
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