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Top Ten Most Expensive Habits of Americans

By on December 8, 2015
Top Ten Most Expensive Habits of Americans

Americans have a bad reputation for being gluttonous, vice-ridden, lazy slobs who waste money left and right. While the overall image is unfair, we do have some habits that cost us big bucks over the course of even just one year, which need to go. Here are some of the top ten most expensive habits you can quit to improve your financial outlook.

1. Indulging in Vices That Are Bad for Your Health

Let’s cut to the chase: We all know that smoking, drinking and gambling are not the best habits. Aside from some of them being seriously bad for out health, they’re also bad for our wallets. A pack of smokes now costs between $5 and $12 (depending on where you live). A drink out with the fellas is relaxing, but those adult beverages can cost upwards of $9 each. Even your weekly $1 lottery tickets add up. These vices aren’t just taking away your well-being; they’re taking away your hard-earned cash.

A pack-a-day smoker can save almost $2,000 a year by quitting. Cutting out five $6 drinks a week can save you just over $1,500 a year. And even if you only buy one $1 lottery ticket a week, you’ll still save $52 by kicking that habit to the curb. Let’s not even talk about how much that daily or weekly Starbucks run is costing you. Find a cheaper DIY alternative or ditch the habit altogether.

2. Paying for Stuff You Don’t Use

That gym membership sounded so good at the beginning of the year when you thought you’d go every day, but you’ve only been there once since January and you’re still shelling out scratch for the membership. The banana saver you bought at the grocery store seemed like a good idea at the time, but you don’t use it. And that free trial of a streaming video site you thought you’d use all the time is just one more subscription sapping cash from your checking account every month. Cut out the stuff you don’t use from your life—whether it’s services, goods or memberships. If you can’t cancel or recoup your costs (such as with a non-refundable gym membership), see if you can swap or sell it to a friend for something you do need.

3. Carrying Unnecessary Debt

Did you forget to return your library books on time? Now you’ve got fines that mean you can’t check out any new books and have to resort to paying full price for the same books you could be reading for free. Your student loans are accruing interest as you read this, just because they still exist. Unpaid credit card debt is dragging down your credit rating and costing you money. Pay down your debts a little at a time without carrying more than you need to – your wallet will thank you.

4. Allowing Food to Go to Waste

The vegetable crisper is where good intentions go to die. Don’t make it a habit of buying food and letting it go to waste. If you know something will go bad before you can use it, cook it and freeze it – figure out a way to preserve and store it for later use. Use up your leftovers and anything that you can’t save. And get creative with your food choices to save your budget.

5. Driving When Unnecessary

Must you really drive that mile to the store just for paper bags? If you’re a true believer in conservation, consider walking, riding your bike or taking public transportation. Better yet, write out a list and make one big trip to the store every week or every two weeks instead of rushing out for every little thing on a daily basis. You’ll save gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. Some insurance companies even offer incentives to low-mileage drivers, further compounding your savings.

When you do drive, observe the speed limit and drive defensively. Doing so uses less gas per gallon and, again, saves unnecessary wear and tear on your car.

6. Procrastinating

We all love it, but not doing anything can cost money. For example, not canceling that free trial on time can cost you a month of the subscription price. Not enrolling in a cash-back program or price-matching savings fund offered by your employer means you’re losing money every month you don’t enroll. Don’t wait until the last minute to get things done: weigh the pros and cons, the savings and costs and do things today rather than some magical, far-off “later”.

 7. Putting Price Before Quality

We love a good bargain. Dollar stores are the perfect example of this. But sometimes paying a higher price means getting a better bargain. A good pair of boots that you pay $100 for and lasts 10 years is a much better buy than a $10 pair of boots you have to replace at the end of six months because they wore out. Just because something has a low price tag doesn’t mean it’s the most frugal option.  Conversely, a large price tag doesn’t always mean better quality. Do your research and be an informed consumer.

8. Not Shopping Around

Shopping around ties into being an informed consumer: Store A has the same item as Store B but at a 10% discount at the end of the week. It’s worth waiting until the sale at Store B starts and making a special trip to save that money. Shop around for purchases and services and try to get the best price and quality for the least amount of money: That’s frugality in a nutshell. Compare rates and prices to see what you can find instead of blindly trusting advertising.

9. Retail Therapy and Impulse Buys

Using shopping as a form of therapy when you’ve had a bad day is a costly habit that needs to go. If you don’t need it or it doesn’t enhance the experience of a hobby you already have, you probably don’t need it. Wait on purchases and consider what is necessary. Don’t pick up impulse buys at any store: advertisers and marketing experts are pros at getting you to buy stuff you don’t need, costing you tons in the long run. Put the impulse purchase back and think on it for a while. If you still want or need it in a week, go back for it.

10. Not Doing It Yourself

Your grandparents would probably be appalled that you’re buying your vegetables from a grocery store instead of growing them yourself and your dad might be disappointed if you can’t fix a clogged drain.

If you know how to do something or can easily learn and have or can cheaply get the tools and supplies, do it for yourself instead of outsourcing to a pro. And if you must call in a professional, ask questions and learn from them so you can do it yourself next time. Changing the oil on your car, for example, is a regular, easily performed task. Self-reliance is frugal.

Cheap does not mean frugal. Do some research and educate yourself so you can cut out some of the extras. All of these things –  the core behaviors of being frugal — will leave you with more money to do the things you enjoy.

Frugal Village

2 Comments

  1. Robert

    12/21/2015 at 8:09 pm

    How about having a car payment that is more than your house!!!

    • Kathy

      2/21/2016 at 11:38 am

      I paid cash for my car and 17 years ago and still driving it. It was 2 years old when I bought it.
      🙂

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