Whether it is biting our fingernails, losing track of house keys or procrastinating; we all have some bad financial habits that we’d like to break. Often, we simply “accept” our bad habits without thinking about how they may actually be standing in the way of us living our lives as we want to. When it comes to making the most of your money, consider curbing some of these actions that may be taking a toll on your wallet.
1. Ignoring your bills: Just because you don’t look at them does not mean they don’t exist. Mail has this unfortunate way of piling up very quickly, so take a few minutes every day to sort through your papers to make sure you don’t miss bills or other important paperwork. Setting up automatic payments through your bank can make this process easier.
2. Maxing out your credit cards: When used correctly, credits cards are an effective and useful tool in helping you to make big purchases and build a good credit history. The key is paying off your balance every month. Be wary of spending up to your credit limit and just paying off the minimum amount each month. That is one way people fall easily into debt.
3. Not contributing to your 401k plan: It may feel like you have absolutely no money to spare, but investing in your company’s retirement plan is crucial to building a nest egg for the future. Start by talking to the HR person at your company and learning about your benefits. Then, try to contribute as much as your company matches since it is essentially free money towards your personal savings. Students: you may not have a 401k plan now, but after graduation, the earlier the contributions, the better off you’ll be financially long term.
4. Spending impulsively: It’s important not to be oblivious to how much money you spend on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. All of those receipts for gas, snacks, soft drinks and restaurants add up very quickly if you are not aware of how much you are spending every day. Start a budget to get a handle on your spending and to track those problem areas, like personal shopping and dining out.
5. Not having an emergency fund: Whether your car breaks down, you chip a tooth eating, or you get laid off – unexpected events can wreak financial inconvenience and havoc. Save regularly for a rainy day (experts recommend having 3–6 months worth of living expenses saved) so you will be covered if the unexpected happens.
6. Living beyond your means: With so many temptations from new electronic equipment, to new fashion every season, to “big” sales every other day at your favorite department store, it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly buying new things. Becoming a financially disciplined person is simply learning how to resist the urge to spend what you don’t have. Not everyone needs to keep up with the Jones!
7. Stop playing money mind games: What we say to ourselves and to others about our finances can have a big impact on how we interact with money. Watch out for statements like, “I’ve never had money, and I will never make any money,” “Shopping is my therapy,” and “But, I’ve always let my partner take care of our finances.” Be aware of excuses and negative talk that may keep you from feeling confident about being able to manage your finances.