10 Spending Habits That Can Leave You Broke

I’m all for treating myself to some of life’s luxuries, but I won’t splurge to the point where it starts to hurt my finances.

Sadly, for a lot of Americans the latter is true.

In fact, the average US adult spends $1,497 a month on nonessential items, according to a recent survey conducted by OnePoll. That’s roughly $18,000 a year on things we can all do without.

The survey revealed that the average person spends about $20 per month on coffee, as well as $209 on dinners at restaurants and $189 going out for drinks with friends.

Survey respondents said they spend an average of $91 per month for cable, in addition to $23 for streaming movies and TV shows. Music streaming services averaged $22 a month, while other apps added $23.

Even the cost of health club and gym memberships was significant, averaging $73 a month, including classes.

One interesting finding was that Amerians make an average of five impulse buys per month – for a total of $109. But, the irony is the majority (58 percent) feel there are other important things they can’t afford…hmm.

The truth of the matter is we all have bad spending habits we need to work on. Today I’m going to walk you through 10 of the worst spending habits that drive financial experts wild.

The good news is that all of these can easily be fixed…

Bad Habit #1: Keeping All Your Money in One Account

I’m always surprised when I hear someone say they only have one bank account. Physically separating your money is the easiest way to set and stick to a budget.

Here’s what you should be doing: 1) Rename your checking account your spending/depositing account. Tie this account to your debit card. 2) Open a second checking account and designate this one to your bills.

Calculate your average bill tally from the 1st to the 15th, and from the 16th to the end of the month, and transfer that amount to your bills account every two weeks. This will stop you from overspending on your debit card because you’ll have already covered your bills.

This two-account setup will save you a lot of time and money by automating your budgeting.

Bad Habit #2: You’re always searching for deals

This might sound counter-intuitive, but searching for sales can sometimes set you further back. Out of the top ten reasons cited for overspending, two include sales: discounted items or “one-time only” flash sales that typically lead to more spending. The expression, I can’t afford not to buy it, couldn’t be more true.

Bad Habit #3: Not Saving “Found” Money

Did a rebate you sent in months ago finally come in? Did someone buy you a coffee unexpectedly?

“Found” money often gets wasted. Anytime you find unexpected money, transfer that money to your savings or bill accounts. You’ll be surprised how much this adds up with minimal effort on your part.

Bad Habit #4: Having Too Many Subscriptions

You sign up for a one-month free trial and before you know it, you’ve gone 6 months without realizing you’ve been paying this whole time. Too many people pay for monthly subscriptions they never use.

Review your credit card statements monthly and highlight any subscriptions you’re not using anymore. Cancel these as soon as possible or mark the next renewal date on your calendar so you know when to cancel.

Bad Habit #5: Keeping Up with the “Smiths”

It used to be you were trying to keep up with the Joneses. Except back then, it was just your next-door neighbor. Now, in an era of social media and 24/7 news cycles, everyone is your neighbor when you turn on your phone.

Don’t subscribe to this keeping-up temptation. What you see being portrayed online is not always a true portrayal of someone’s day-to-day. Set realistic expectations for how your life should look.

Bad Habit #6: Being Too Passive

How many items of clothing in your closet do you own that still have tags on them? Returning items. Calling your cable company to get a better rate. Negotiating a bank fee. These things all take time and a little bit of effort. But it’s time and effort well spent.

A twenty-minute phone call with your internet provider, could save you $15 a month. Multiply those savings by 12 and you’ve saved $180 a year from one phone call. It’s tempting to take the path of least resistance when it comes to your money, don’t do it.

Bad Habit #7: Paying fees

Fees are something I won’t tolerate. Bank fees, ATM fees, maintenance fees, they all add up and they’re all negotiable. If you look at your bank statements and notice you’re paying a significant amount in fees, you need to stop this immediately.

Write down all the fees you’re paying on a regular basis and choose at least three to slash. You might have to threaten to switch providers or change banks, whatever you need to do to get the fee waived.

Bad Habit #8: Not Automating Your Bills

Everyone should be doing this nowadays. If you’re still getting bills in the mail, there’s a good chance you’re forgetting to pay those bills some months or your payments are late.

Use your bills checking account to pay your bills without having to think about it.

You’ll save the hassle of having to remember and you won’t have to worry about paying late fees and other penalties.

Bad Habit #8: Wasting Food

The number-one money-waster is throwing away leftover food. According to a recent study, part of the reason for this phenomenon is that people are bad at reading food labels. Food date labels like “best before” and “sell by” are largely unregulated in the US.

84% of consumers discard food near the package date at least occasionally, says the study. Among date labels assessed, “best if used by” was most frequently perceived as communicating quality, and both “expires on” and “use by” as communicating safety.

Over one third of participants incorrectly thought that date labeling was federally regulated, and 26% were unsure.

Bad Habit #9: Thinking a Budget Means “No”

When you think of the word “budget” what comes to mind? For most people, they think a budget means they have to say “no” to everything. You can’t save for a vacation, if you’re saying yes to brunch with your friends. You can’t save for a new car, if you’re saying yes to new clothes every month.

That’s not necessarily true. A budget doesn’t mean no, it just means you need to start prioritizing your money.

Think of a budget as a pecking order for where your money goes. Whatever is left after the important nuggets get covered can go toward the less important “non-essential” wants.

Bad Habit #10: Ignoring Your Daily Habits

And just because you have a monthly budget, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily aware of all your day-to-day expenditures. If you want to quickly assess your weekly spending habits, run a 10-day budget.

Notice how many small things you didn’t realize you needed to budget for. You want to do this once a quarter for a few reasons.

First, it helps alleviate the paycheck effect, where you get paid and then spend your full paycheck two weeks later. Second, you’ll pay attention to daily fluctuations in your spending and be able to make adjustments as you go.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The Daily Reckoning