Everyone is guilty of a bad habit or two. But when it comes to behavior that hurts your finances — from overspending to procrastinating about paying bills — it’s important to break those bad money habits before they break you. Here are some common bad habits and tips to take control of your finances.
1. Makin’ It Rain Too Often: We all do this. Spending more than you make is easier than you think — a few treat yo’ self days here, an impulsive shopping spree there, and it can all add up. You might even be doing it without realizing it, dipping into savings, borrowing from BFFs or using credit cards. You can get away with overspending for a few weeks or months, but sooner or later, your hole-digging spending habits will catch up with you. Keep your spending within your monthly income so that you’re living within your means, and use the extra money to pay down your debt.
2. All Flash, No Cash: Who doesn’t love credit cards — buy now, pay later! But there’s a caveat: You’re less likely to pay your credit card bill for items that you’ve already consumed or used, especially if you’re guilty of #1 or don’t pay your bills in full each month. So while most of us don’t do it, start carrying cash. Use those dollar bills to make everyday purchases like groceries, gas, clothes and entertainment, and you will see that credit card balance go down.
3. That Basic Budget Life: Budgeting may sound boring, but it’s harder to avoid financial disasters without one. Understanding how much money you have coming in as well as going out is the first step to truly keeping a good spending plan. Don’t worry if you’re not a spreadsheet junkie; there are plenty of solutions already built for you. Using a free, personal finance management budgeting app like Mint can help you build a successful budget by tracking your spending (and seeing how much you really spend on happy hours each month).
4. Tardy to the (Bill Paying) Party: If you’re frequently late with most bills, you’re probably spending 10 percent more each year than you should. And if you’re constantly late with some bills, like credit card payments, the credit bureaus are probably taking note and dinging your credit score. Pay on time. Whether or not you’re living paycheck to paycheck, a little organization can help keep you on track. Approximately 30% of Mint users miss a monthly credit card or bill payment every year, and mostly it’s because they simply forgot. Set up calendar reminders through your email or phone to alert you when bills are due.
5. Not Saving for a Rainy Day: From car repairs to a job loss, surprise expenses are a given. Having the money to cover them isn’t. An emergency fund provides a crucial crutch when things go wrong. You should set a goal to save three to six months of living expenses. Can’t swing that much? Even having a few hundred dollars in savings can give you a cushion to pay for those unexpected costs (or even a last-minute, much-needed vacay) without having to reach for credit cards.
Old habits die hard, but you can do small things to manage your finances better. The side benefit: You’ll have more money for the things you really want — whether it’s a house, a savings account, or a new fall coat.
What are your best money habits? Tweet them @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)