Everyone has habits. Some of them are good, some not so much. For instance, the habit of walking 30 minutes a day would be a good one. So, too, would be the habit of good money management. That’s a wonderful habit. On the other hand, overspending is a terrible habit – so bad that most people won’t even talk about it. Beyond this, there are four other bad habits that could be easily costing you several hundred dollars a month.
Are you and your family in the habit of eating fast food several times a week? You know this is bad for your body. It not only does bad things to your waistline but also to your wallet. Suppose, for example, that your family of four is eating at fast food spots two times a week and that each visit costs between $27 to $30 – or an average of $57 per week. That’s $228 a month you could save by creating a new habit of not eating out. Instead, you could prepare some meals in advance for those busy nights. Then instead of paying $60 twice a week to enjoy the convenience of fast food, you would cut this to maybe $10 a meal – and the food would be better for your family, too.
Girls’ or guys’ night out
If you’re a woman do you hook up with your gal pals a few times a month? Or if you’re a guy, are you meeting your buddies regularly for a couple of drinks? If so, you’re probably racking up a bar tab of anywhere from $40 to $60 per night out. What you could do instead is make a new habit of creating your own appetizers, buying your adult beverages and watching movies at one of your homes – instead of out howling at the moon. In 30 days this could save you $160 and you should still have a great time.
ATM and other bank fees
How many cash withdrawals do you make a week? If you make just two at non-network ATMs (those not owned by your bank) you’re probably paying a charge of $2.50 or even more every time. Do you have one of those types of checking accounts where you are charged a fee whenever your balance drops below some amount such as $5000? This could be an additional $7 a month. You may also be paying a maintenance fee for your savings account. You could drop this habit very quickly by going to a new bank that doesn’t have those kinds of fees. It’s likely that you can find one that doesn’t charge you when you use another bank’s ATMs and doesn’t tack on extra charges to your checking and savings accounts. This could save you as much as $66 a month.
Buying off your list
A fourth bad habit that can cost you money is buying off the list when you do your grocery shopping. Today’s supermarkets are great at offering impulse items at the door where you walk into the store or at the end of their aisles. If you are in the habit of falling victim to impulse purchases, you need to create a new one, which is to make a list of what you need and then never deviate from it. This is something we actually need to work on. We often go to the store for bread or fresh produce and then leave with a cart full of stuff we had never intended to buy. If you can learn to say “no” to those tempting items or add-ons, you could save as much as $200 a month. If you’d like more tips on how you could save money on your groceries, here’s how one woman does it – as well as why to buy in bulk at discount warehouses like Sam’s Club.
Lending money to family members
Are you in the habit of lending money to family members? Economic times are tough and many Americans are turning to family members and friends for loans instead of going to the big banks for money. If you expect the money to be repaid, the key is to treat any loan to a family member or friend as a business loan and keep the emotions out of it. If you treat a loan to friends or family members as a business transaction, you can keep yourself from damaging an important relationship due to money. You might feel inclined to help out one of your loved ones with money but it’s important to communicate openly about your expectations of repayment so that no one is left in the dark. Here are a few steps you could take if you want to provide financial support to a friend or family member.
1. Don’t expect to be repaid. If you’re going to loan money to a family member, assume you’ll never see it again. That’s not to say you won’t. It’s a matter of expectations. If you don’t expect repayment and the loan isn’t repaid, you won’t be angry or disappointed.
2. Expect repayment to be slow. The number one reason why people get loans from family members and friends is because they can’t get a loan somewhere else. Unfortunately, when friends and family members borrow money they don’t view the loan as seriously as if they had gotten the money from a bank. What this translates into is that they may feel more casual about paying you back.-
3. Do a checklist. If you plan on lending cash to a friend or family member, put together a checklist of questions to answer before you make the loan. This can include “has the person asked you for money before?.” “If so, was it paid back?” “Were you paid back in a timely manner” and “how likely is it that you will be paid back this time?” And be sure to ask the person who is requesting the loan how he or she plans on paying back the money. This is critical because most people will have good intentions but their income is already tied up in paying their other obligations so how do they intend to pay you?
4. Write out a contract. Last but not least, write out a contract holding the both of you accountable. This can eliminate many of the problems linked to loaning money to friends or family members. Make sure that the contract includes the question of payments, especially what will happen if the loan goes unpaid.
The problem with trying to make a new habit is that it isn’t easy. Conventional wisdom says that it takes the average person between 21 to 28 days to build a new habit. But this may be an urban legend as there is research showing it could take as long as 66 days. This means that if you were to make a resolution about not eating fast food it could be nearly nine weeks before that new habit becomes fully ingrained. And this assumes you don’t get distracted at some point and forget it. Fortunately, there are experts who say it’s possible to build habits faster. In one project called “tiny tasks,” people executed three tiny little tasks each day for five days. The idea behind this was that it taught them the process of creating habits. Once they knew how to create a habit, they could then leverage the little habits into larger positive changes in behavior. As an example of how this works, if your goal were to do 10 push-ups a day you could start by doing just one each day for five days. This would help you create the habit of doing push-ups and you might then be able to move on from one a day to the 10, which was your goal.