You likely have a set of financial goals. Whether they’re bigger goals, such as having an emergency fund, putting money aside for retirement or buying a house, or smaller ones, like paying off the remainder of your credit card, we can assure you that there’s one way to reach them faster: by breaking some of your most expensive habits.
From dining out to not turning off your computer monitor, small changes in your everyday life can actually have a larger impact than you might think. And if anything, saving some money by tweaking your habits will only put you closer to your financial goals.
Here are 11 expensive habits you might consider breaking if you’re serious about saving money:
1. Wasting Food
It’s so much easier to go out and grab something instead of preparing a meal, especially when you’ve had a long day. But, if you commit to setting aside one day a week to plan out your entire week’s menu, it’ll keep you from flailing about at dinnertime. The Vintage Modern Wife Blog has a great printable template you can use to make a plan so you don’t end up throwing away most of your groceries.
If you want to eat out one night, it’s easy enough to add it to the weekly calendar. That way, you don’t end up buying food that goes to waste.
2. Paying For A Gym Membership
Sure, there are tons of perks associated with a gym membership. But it’s no secret that these monthly memberships cost a pretty penny—most are between $35 and $100 a month, depending on the type of gym.
Plus, how often are you actually visiting the gym? Is your membership fee really worth it?
Consider working out at home instead. There are dozens of free workouts available on YouTube that will get you sweating, without breaking the bank.
3. Eating Out
People in the U.S. spent over $782 billion on food and beverages at restaurants in 2016. That’s an average of $28.55 per check, so it makes sense that this would start to add up quickly. Of course, it’s okay to go out every once in awhile. But you can save money quickly if you cut down on the number of times you eat out per month.
4. Shopping To Boost Your Mood
No matter how bad your day was, mood-boosting binge-shopping shouldn’t be your coping mechanism. Sure, it can temporarily put you in a better mood, but it can also quickly become a costly habit.
Instead, try other coping mechanisms like taking a walk or watching your favorite Netflix series with friends or family.
5. Skipping Out On Contributions To Your 401(k)
It’s easy to put off contributing to your 401(k). Maybe you’re in between jobs or don’t feel like you have the extra money to stash right now.
But if you’re in the habit of skipping your 401(k) contribution, you could be missing out on free money from your company by way of an employer match. You’re also neglecting to use the power of compound interest to boost your retirement savings.
This handy calculator can help you figure out how much it might really be costing you to delay your savings, and can give you that push to start contributing, even if it’s in small amounts.
6. Not Holding On To Receipts
Sure, it can sometimes be a challenge to hold on to every receipt you’ve ever been handed. But if you don’t, you could be throwing money away. A lot of times, if you want to return something to a store, you’re going to need a receipt that shows when you purchased the item, how much you spent and the type of payment you used.
And if you plan on writing anything off for tax purposes, you’ll also need those receipts handy.
7. Ignoring Financial Statements
It’s so easy to avoid your credit card statement or bank statement, especially if you know you’re not going to like what you see. But by making sure to set aside time to review both, you’ll be saving yourself in the long run.
Forbes recommends reviewing your statements for recurring expenses and asking yourself if these services are really worth paying for. If you’re not getting use out of it, then cancel it. It’s also good to look for any charges you don’t recognize. And if there are, make sure you dispute them.
Plus, if you ignore your statements, you could be paying just the minimum balance on your credit card bill, which means you’re throwing away hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest each year. Check your statement, pay the bill in full and move on.
8. Wasting Energy
You might think nothing of leaving your phone on the charger all night, or simply leaving your laptop open when you’re done working, but these gadgets are considered “energy vampires,” and can end up costing you more than you think. Unplugging chargers, turning off your monitors and using a power strip are all ways you can save energy, which in turn saves money.
You can also cut down on your water bill with this handy tool that reduces the amount of water your toilet needs to flush—you could save up to $60 a year! Or, consider whether solar panels are a good fit for your home—you can save thousands over the long run.
9. Throwing Things Away
Before you throw away anything that might have value, ask yourself if there are any other options. Maybe you could make a little extra cash by listing the item on Craigslist or in a local Facebook sellers group? Another option could be to donate the items. That way, you can write off that charitable donation on your tax return. Just make sure you write down what you donated and ask for a receipt.
10. Drinking Socially
Usually, when going out for a few drinks, there end up being other expenses you need to factor in, including Uber or taxi fares, parking, a possible appetizer, gratuity and, yes, the actual drinks. To help offset the cost of going out, try taking advantage of happy hours, bringing a set amount of cash with you or eating before you go out so you’re not tempted to order food, too.
11. Not Negotiating
You can literally negotiate anything—when was the last time you asked for a raise or some extra vacation time? When was the last time you negotiated your cell phone plan? What about your car insurance rate?
It’s a good idea to periodically assess your finances and consider how negotiating can help you achieve your goals. Sure, no one likes to ask their boss for more money (it’s super awkward!), but all she can do is say no. And, you’d be surprised how much money you can save just by picking up the phone and asking for a better deal.