11 Smart Habits to Stop Literally Throwing Away Money
Correct me if I’m wrong… but if you found a $100 in your wallet you probably wouldn’t think: “Silly money, you belong in the trash can!” and proceed to put it there.
The sad truth is this is exactly what is happening every month!
We’re talking $1200/year at least! (Take a moment to think of all the things you could do with that money… okay moment over, time to get serious).
No, I don’t think you’re literally throwing away a $100 bill… BUT chances are you’re here to get a firm grip on your financial spending, and the habits below are easy ways to stop wasting money each month.
1| Pay Bills On Time
I know, this one should be a no-brainer, but when I started asking family and friends about how often they miss a payment, I was surprised how many of them have to pay late fees.
Not to mention our own water getting shut off once from my own disorganization around bills!
Late fees may just be a few dollars here or there, but that money isn’t going toward anything. It’s not credited toward your next payment. It’s not going toward the principle owed. You are paying for being tardy…
And who likes a reminder of being tardy!
Instead, sign up for automatic payments so you can’t be late. Some companies even reward you for automatic payments including some student loan companies!
For bills that don’t have the automatic payment option (or if you really enjoy doing things manually), set aside a day each month to pay all bills and track with a monthly bill tracker to not miss one accidentally. For example, the first Monday of the month my husband and I pay our non-automated bills.
It’s okay to pay your bill early to avoid nasty late fees.
2| Pay Off Credit Cards
Have you ever really dove into your monthly credit card statement and seen the interest charged for just that month? Then compare that to the monthly minimum payment?
Let me tell you… (whispers) they’re not much different.
Banks are a business and want to make money off you by collecting interest for as long as they can. And you let them!
Now is the time to stop throwing your money at them and pay off those credit cards as soon as possible. If you have a stellar credit card that gets you travel points, cash back, or rewards, then great, keep using it! But be sure to pay it off by the end of each month and avoid the interest pit.
3| Take Advantage of Free Stuff
Is there a free discount card at your grocery store? How about a $10 rebate on that gallon of paint you bought? Or a punch card for a free fifth oil change at the mechanics shop down the street?
Rewards cards, rebates, cash back apps, the list goes on and on!
All of these contain the ability to put money in your hands with minimal effort on your part… and yet, why are they so hard to take advantage of?
Look at these opportunities as your money you’re giving up on. It takes a readjustment of thinking, but you could be losing out on a nice chunk of change for things you’re already purchasing.
4| Save Spare Change
This might be the easiest one on the list because it doesn’t require you to DO anything! Simply stop throwing away money just because it’s in a smaller form.
Yes, spare change is annoying.
So, throw it in a jar instead of throwing it on the counter never to be seen of again. You might be surprised how much you can accumulate over the month.
One month, by scooping up my husbands stray coins he managed to come home with each day, I was shocked to see I had collected $70 in total!
Happy coin hunting little squirrels!
5| Budget and Stick to It
Oh yeah, time for that “B” word… Budget.
I’m sure you’re tired of reading how we need to budget, budget, budget. But it is so true, so here it is one more time.
If you understand where every cent is going you’re able to determine exactly how much is getting tossed aside each month. Didn’t realize you ate out so much? Asking yourself when did paying for 10 Redbox movies a month became a regular thing?
Budgets not only let you understand the PAST of where your money goes, the PRESENT of what you can currently change to improve your financial situation but most importantly plan ahead for the FUTURE and set S.M.A.R.T goals.
And reach them!
When it comes to forecasting budgets I highly recommend creating a running average of expenses from the last three months to figure expenses. Our expenses are always changing depending on weather, events, or life (you know how life goes…) and the most current snapshot works the best for us when planning.
Have a look at how we set up our budget, and you can today too
6| Use the Debt Snowball Pay Off Method
What is this Debt Snowball you ask? Well… the most glorious way to pay off those debts and stop giving all your money to interest.
Why is it so glorious you say? Oh, just… your monthly expenses don’t increase while you save thousands.
Every month I check in with our Debt Snowball Calculator and get giddy looking at the number of remaining payments and especially the interest we will save!
We’re talking some $20,000+ of interest SAVED over the course of 4 years.
But don’t just take my word for it, most calculators are free and available online. Just type in your principles, interests, and monthly payments and wipe up your drool after seeing your own numbers.
7| Ask Yourself “Do I Actually Need This?”
Sometimes we find ourselves justifying a purchase because “it’s just $10… why don’t you just get it.”
That’s ten whole dollars! How many minutes do you have to spend at your job (away from home) to gain back that $10?
Instead start asking yourself (and answering honestly), “Do I ACTUALLY need this?” If you pass up on it now will you regret it in a week? Month? Next year? If you can live without it, why not do just that.
Bonus: it’ll help you be clutter free and simplified in the process.
Ask this for products, subscriptions, memberships, anything that costs money. We pick up quarters we find on the sidewalk (or pennies for some of us)… why are we so quick to charge $10 in for a product we’ll use once?
What about that deal that’s just too good to pass up?
I’d like to tell you a story about a friend of mine… who sees a killer deal on toilet paper and wants to buy EVERY ROLL in the store (seriously, so much toilet paper). She argues she’ll use it… eventually… and it’s an amazing deal so she’s saving money. But does she actually need it all right now?
Maybe doing this for one product on occasion is okay, but it’s pretty hard to liquidate your stash of toilet paper when funds are tied up in bargain shopping.
To my friend I say, “Get it at a good deal, but only get what you need.”
8| Invest Early and Watch It Grow
I know I know… depositing money into investments and letting it sit there might be the last thing on your mind when you’re focusing on eliminating debt and making more money. But hear me out on this!
TIME is an investment’s best buddy. So start thinking about this early on.
Take a moment to Google investing early in life, and I promise you’ll be amazed at how investing a little early on can pay off WAY more than investing lots later. I’m talking $500,000+ more. Compound interest makes all this possible, and the earlier you start the more you’ll reap. So…
Let’s say it together this time: TIME is an investment’s best buddy.
But it’s still just sitting there, you say? It took lots of convincing and number crunching for me to hop on board too. And after much research, I was convinced investments make your money work FOR you (be the boss of your money, not the employee of it)!
Remember talking about that bad interest sucking your funds away? Well, this is the good twin that GIVES money to you. The cost to you? Your patience and time.
Homework time! Research which investments fit your financial goals and risk tolerance. Seeing real numbers can help motivate you to stop letting money slip by!
9| Stop Paying for Convenience
Quick. Simple. Easy.
Sometimes these words are our best friends… something we specifically look for. But is there ever a time when these “best friends” don’t really have our back?
Everything costs money, and paying for convenience is no exception. Whether it’s eating out, someone else mowing your lawn, or springing for the pre-portioned oatmeal bowls, we pay for things to be easier for us.
I challenge you to evaluate what can change in your life to reduce your convenience expense.
Now I’m not suggesting you have to spin your own yarn… nor am I saying everything made for our convenience isn’t worth the price tag. But think through what realistic changes could be made. And don’t be afraid to start small, so long as you start. Maybe it’s eating out only on weekends. Maybe it’s mowing your own lawn (Do I hear savings PLUS exercise?!).
Whatever changes you make I know you will start to see those monthly expenses go down and your savings go up!
10| Quit Buying Brand New or Brand Name
New cars lose 20% of their value the moment you drive them off the lot. On average that’s $4000 you spent on a sticker with the word “new”. (I don’t know about you, but personally, I prefer my stickers much cheaper).
New cars, clothes, furniture, etc. you will almost always pay premium price to have the title of being the first owner. But why do we do this to our bank accounts?
Instead, because we are financially responsible people, why don’t we let others pay that premium price for us and take advantage of the discount when they no longer want it.
Take clothing for example. There are many, many “second-hand” shops out there to explore. I’ve even found a never worn Calvin Klein coat with the original $250 price tag on it, and I paid $30. I’ve also purchased an Express silk skirt at Goodwill with the original tag saying $68, but I spent a whopping $3 (you can be sure I was making return trips to that store).
These finds are all over the place and begging you to take advantage of them!
Bonus skill: while you’re already on the adventure of shopping smart, seriously start considering what you just HAVE to have brand name, and what you’re willing to try generic. Sure… it might be outside your comfort zone, but perhaps that off-brand mac & cheese tastes as good as Kraft’s and is $2 cheaper per box. You know… just maybe…
11| Calculate Your Waste
Coming from a food industry background, calculating and monitoring waste is a measurement I can easily latch on to for tracking. So, what about this waste thing will ACTUALLY help you?
First off, waste is exactly what it sounds like: purchased items that end up as trash. That’s right, in the literal trash can. And, waste comes in many different forms: spoiled food never eaten, magazine subscriptions never being read, gym memberships not being utilized… and so on and so forth.
Second, this is a good tool to audit your spending and not as a constant running calculation. Once you determine how much you’re wasting and exactly on what, you can make the needed changes to reduce your monthly waste!
Time to Wrap This Up
The catch is that each of these habits takes time and a little sprinkling of effort. Just a little. For me personally, all of these habits have not only helped save money each month (to put towards some serious debt paying off), BUT we have learned to better appreciate the things that are already available to us.
I’d love to hear what all habits you have mastered to avoid throwing away money each month!
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