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10 daily bad habits that keep you in debt

Sure you're trying to get out of debt, but it's the little things you do every day without thinking that conspire to keep you there.

By Smart Spending Editor Jun 12, 2013 4:35PM
This post is by Danielle Warchol from

not a partnerIt’s hard to get out of debt. Sometimes it’s easy to feel that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to pay off all your debt and expenses. While you might have reassessed your finances and figured out how to begin paying down your debt, it’s important to understand how to minimize debt in all areas of your life. For instance, you might not even realize that you have a variety of daily habits that are keeping you buried in debt despite your best intentions. The following are a few of the more common ones.

Image: Cash register (© Hill Street Studios/Blend Images/Getty Images)1. Spending more than you have

It’s easy to spend more money than you have whether it’s by writing a check, swiping a card, or willfully ignoring the decreasing amount of money in your bank account. Just because you have money in your bank account, it doesn’t mean you have to spend it as it many times has already been allocated for other recurring expenses. Fooling yourself into believing that if there is money in your bank account at the moment that it’s OK to spend it is an action that will continue to keep you in debt.

2. Impulse purchases

Impulse purchases are one of the worst habits keeping you in debt. You might really want to stop and get that pastry or that new tech gadget or piece of clothing, but actually buying those items on a whim is contributing to your debt. If you tend to make impulse purchases on a daily basis, you should take steps to seriously curb this habit so that you don’t put yourself into even more debt.

3. Buying things you already own
Buying things you already own is also contributing to your debt problem. Do you need to buy lunch or dinner at a restaurant or takeout place when you have food in your house or apartment? Do you need to buy coffee when you can make it at home? Do you need to stop and pick up more clothing when you have a closet full of clothes with the tags still on? Stop buying things you already own and focus on using what you have. If you find that you are purchasing things without realizing that you already have them, it might be time to declutter your house.

4. Buying things you don’t need
Buying things you don’t need is another problem for anyone already in debt. As with buying things you already own, the problem of buying things you don’t need just contributes to wasting money you should be saving. When you make a new purchase each day, reassess whether or not you really need that item. Instead of buying it without a second thought, take a moment to determine whether or not you’re wasting money on something you don’t actually need.

5. Using credit when you have cash

Sometimes the problem with spending too much money is that it’s easy to swipe a card and figure out how much was spent at a later date. When you carry cash, you’re limited to the amount of money you can spend on one purchase. While it’s great to have a credit card for emergency purchases, using one for everyday items could be the reason why you’re racking up the bills. Try only using cash for daily purchases so you can limit how much you buy and reassess what you’re buying.

6. Not tallying how much you spend each day
While some people may consider this a burden, tallying your daily purchases is a good way to recount how much money you’ve spent in one day. Chances are you’ll find that you’re spending a lot more money than you need to be spending each day. This can help you figure out how to eliminate money from your daily spending habits.

7. Not putting money aside

Putting a little money aside each day is a great way to help your debt problem. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of money. It can be anything from spare change in your wallet to a dollar a day. A small amount goes a long way when it comes to saving and anything you can do each day to contribute to paying down your debt is worth it.

8. Not budgeting
Budgeting isn’t only for monthly or yearly financial plans. You can set a budget on a day by day basis. This might seem like a hassle for some people, but it’s a great way to keep you from overspending or wasting money on impulse purchases.

9. Not being consistent
Not being consistent with your money habits is another big reason why you’re still in debt. It’s easy to make a huge deposit into your savings account one month, but to not save for the other 11 months. Consistency will help keep you on track with your savings plan.

10. Not knowing how much money you have
One of the worst things you can do to your finances when you’re in debt is not knowing how much money you actually have. If you’re not aware of the amount in your bank account, you run the risk of spending money you don’t have. Knowing how much money you have will allow you to keep better track of your spending habits and help you steer clear of falling even deeper into debt.

More from

Jun 24, 2013 6:50PM
I've been in debt since I was in my early 20s and I'm now 34. I'll be finished paying off my last credit card next month. I'm really proud of myself for controlling my spending habits. Seeing all the numbers go down also helped motivate me to start working out again to see the numbers go down on the scale. I've lost 13 pounds :)
Jun 24, 2013 4:41PM
Gee, really. The #1 reason of  "spending more than you have" will get you in debt?
It can't be rocket science. No one would know how to spell it.

Jun 24, 2013 8:03PM
Imagine if you will. To keep busy and have people interaction many seniors have or still work part time as tellers in a bank. Every branch I worked at has an employee break room with hotplate, microwave, sink, refrigerator and coffee maker. The bank supplies coffee, tea, cocoa, cups, plastic wear, powdered milk, sugar and sugar substitute. The older workers bring their lunch, use the bank provided coffee tea etc. We always have money in our pockets, know how much we have to pay bills, how much in savings etc. Now, the younger full time managers who make way more income than we part timers come in every day with Starbucks coffee and pastry for breakfast as well as go to lunch everyday and most times to dinner at a restaurant. They tell us old timers they can not seem to save a dime. Rather than get into an argument, we all say " Things are different today than when we were young". The hell it is different, it's using common sense about where you spend money. 
Jun 24, 2013 7:07PM

Our government needs to read this, because they don't know how to handle OUR MONEY!!!


Enough said!

Jun 24, 2013 8:41PM
Could it be that since Regan deregulated everything, which then quickly consolidated to eliminate competition, we make the same wages while prices keep going up?   Every time the economy starts to pick up the oil companies jack the price of gas. $100 a month for a cell phone, $100 a month for cable, $100 a month for car insurance, $600 a month car payment, $400 a month food, $25 per meal to eat out,  Our dollar is now worth a 1970's dime.   Minimum wage then was $2.25 per hour, to keep up with inflation the minimum wage should be $22.50 per hour.   
Jun 24, 2013 5:53PM
every money person in the world tells you if you have savings to pay off or put it towards you creditcard debt...this is where murphys law steps in...the minute you empty your savings and pay down your credit something bad will happen and then your omly recourse would be to use your credit to pay for you have nothing but debt...just keep making your payments and keep putting money away if you can...eventually you will be out of debt and still have more in savings...good luck
Jun 24, 2013 6:02PM

"Do you need to buy coffee when you can make it at home?"


Why on Earth would anyone drink store-bought swill???

Jun 24, 2013 6:17PM

Another worthless MSNBC article.   You state the blatant.


#6 is absurd!

Jun 24, 2013 9:54PM
They left out taxes and the working class paying for the welfare class! 
Jun 24, 2013 7:12PM


Irresponsible or NO money management discipline at all.  Every family has some like this.   

Jun 24, 2013 8:12PM
Actually, re-occurring bills is what get most people in debt. Like Car insurance, property taxes, Food, Bills like these are never paid.
Jun 24, 2013 6:23PM
do you mean spend more than you have will keep you in debt?   now that's news.  msn strikes again, frinkin' morons!!!
Jun 24, 2013 11:12PM
The writer has a gift for stating the obvious.  What is being left unsaid is that we have become, over a frighteningly short period of time, a country where the new majority feels they are entitled to a certain standard of living, whether they are willing to work to achieve it or not.  As Tocqueville so elequently put it, "democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury."  We are already there. 
Jun 24, 2013 8:06PM

Watch out for impulsive spending. it may seem like a good idea to buy whatever it is at the time but that will come back and bite you in the wallet. Lesson learned for me.

Jun 24, 2013 9:51PM
The writer forgot smoking. The idiot teabaggers making the political comments forgot "starting needless wars" and "giving tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy while starting stupid wars that benefit them."
Jun 25, 2013 12:50AM
I've been in terrible debt since 2006. I owe Capitol One 1,000; Pay Day Loans 1,500; and my bank 297.00. I know it's nothing to a lot of other people, but it's quite a bit for me. I live in the 3rd poorest county in the US. I make 7.25 an hour and by the time I get paid it's already owed out. Sometimes I can't even afford to make it to work or eat on lunch break. I have lived in foster homes till I was emancipated in 2003.  I was never taught about managing my finances or anything along those lines. I hope God gives me the ability to succeed in life here soon. I'm almost 30 and my life has always been depressing. I always wanted to experience the college dorm life; going out to eat with friends; being financially secure and not constantly worrying about money or bills. Thank God for life though. 
Jun 24, 2013 8:09PM

So... Spending more than you have keeps you in debt... What's next in breaking "duh" news? Experts claim high probability of exposure to water as leading cause of wetness?!?!  This just in... A major study finds that the #1 cause of obesity and weight gain is overeating...

Jun 24, 2013 9:59PM
Jun 24, 2013 8:32PM
Jun 25, 2013 12:21AM
Is there anyone here who didn't already know these things? I was hoping to gain some valuable insight, apparently not from the rocket scientists @ MSN.
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