Updated: 8/3/2012 1:25 PM ET|
6 habits that will make you broke
Even some well-intentioned practices like clipping coupons can result in your spending more. But if you know the dangers, you can find ways around them.
It's still a week until payday, but your checking account is almost empty already.
Where did all your money go?
We all have our black holes, those money pits that seem to magically make our cash disappear.
Here are six bad habits that will make you broke, and how to break them:
1. Window shopping
It can be fun to browse the aisles to see what's out there. We all have our weak spots, like home goods, electronics or clothes -- even if you don't like to go to the mall.
You don't even have to leave the house to window shop anymore; catalogs, the Internet and commercials advertising the latest sale can be just as tempting.
Window shopping is a bad financial habit that takes some discipline to break. Staying away from stores and not requesting catalogs or email updates from your favorite retailers are good places to start. Before buying that latest item you pine for, ask yourself two questions: Do I need it? Can I pay cash for it? If your answer to either or both is no, walk away.
2. Carrying lots of cash
You know that paying with plastic is bad, but carrying lots of cash can be a bad habit, too. Cash can give you the feeling of having extra -- fun money that's just sitting there.
Carry only enough cash for what you need, and leave the rest at home. Avoiding plastic is great, but budgeting is just as important when paying with cash. If you like the green, try budgeting your cash using envelopes: one for groceries, one for entertainment, etc.
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3. Saving your information with vendors
Those online shopping sites are so considerate to save your address and credit card information -- some even have one-click ordering buttons, so you can buy something in just a second. Yet making buying so easy also makes it very dangerous. Not only does easy shopping make you broke if you're prone to impulse shopping, it also eliminates the feeling of spending money, because all you do is click.
Don't allow vendors to store your credit card information. Avoid signing up for emails and catalogs if those tempt you to shop when you really shouldn't. It can be great to know about a sale, but if you didn't need anything, it's just another temptation.
4. Clipping coupons you don't need
We're all feeling the pinch in this tougher economy, especially when buying groceries. Clipping coupons is downright trendy lately -- but is it really a good habit? Sure, getting 50 cents off that package of cookies or that brand-name detergent is a discount, but you may be surprised to find that your grocery bill isn't going down despite all your clipping. The truth is that buying generic brands that are just as tasty is often cheaper, and coupons can make us buy things we didn't plan for.
Start with a grocery list for the week, then look at your clipped coupons. If you can use one, great, but try supermarket brands too for the best bottom line.
5. Shopping with your emotions
It was a rough week, or a good one, or you want to reward yourself for losing a few pounds, so you go shopping. You earned that new dress, that new gadget, that big pie -- it was on sale, too. Letting your mood dictate your buying decisions is the quickest way to go broke.
Sober up before you go shopping. Do you need these items? Can you afford them? Be honest with yourself. Reward yourself by doing something that doesn't cost you, like taking a nice bath or spending time with loved ones.
6. Not planning ahead
It's Tuesday, you're tired, and you have no idea what you'll make for dinner. A great night for takeout, right? Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's estimated that the average family of four spends more than $4,000 a year on eating out -- a very expensive habit that will leave you broke in a hurry.
When you make your grocery list, make a menu for the week at the same time, so you always have ingredients for a meal. If your week is hectic, try cooking on Sunday and freezing meals for the week. Plan for lunches the same way. Not only will you save money, you'll also eat healthier by avoiding fatty restaurant food.
The bottom line
It takes some discipline to break these bad habits. With some planning and restraint in avoiding tempting situations, you can break your bad spending habits -- and maybe even find you have a little extra cash at the end of the month.
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