Often in personal finance, we talk about the things you should start doing, without giving consideration to the things you need to stop doing in order to get started on the healthy habits. These bad habits are the ones that unbeknownst to you could be getting you into financial trouble (or off course) to begin with. So read on for 4 bad money habits you should kick to the curb stat.
Note: If you need help holding yourself accountable with new habits you’re trying to form or those you’re trying to break, check out Lift.do, an awesome app and website that makes breaking habits and forming new ones fun and interactive.
1) Throwing down your credit card for impulse purchases. A lot of us (myself included) use our credit cards to pay for things in order to earn points with the intention of paying off the balance at the end of the month. This is great in theory, but where people get into trouble is using the credit card without – you guessed it – tracking. If you’re going through the month using your credit card for dining out, gas, entertainment, clothes and more with the intent of paying it off in full or even just throwing extra towards the balance, this can get you into trouble. Not only are you unaware of where your money is actually going, but without some sort of structure or dollar limit to stay within, you’re likely puling money away from funding other goals that are more important to you. Set a max dollar amount that you can use your credit card for each week or month and ensure you have the funds to pay it off from your bank account (without pulling from other savings goals).
2) Paying the minimum towards your consumer debt. While we’re on the topic of debt, many times I see people paying just the minimum amounts due on their debt or putting a little extra towards each payment. While it’s great that you have the habit of paying your bills on time, paying the minimum is going to feel like it’s a never-ending hole to climb yourself out of (not to mention – it’s likely going to cost you way more in interest). Make it a habit to target the highest interest rate balance first and throw any and all extra money towards that payment each month. The highest interest rate is typically the one that is costing you the most and therefore the balance you want to wipe out the fastest. From there, target the next highest interest rate and so on.
3) Not putting money aside for emergencies and / or retirement. If you don’t have an emergency fund set up, now is the time to start. If something did go wrong and you found yourself hit with a medical bill, car repair or more – it could wreck havoc on your financial life. In addition, though it seems a way off – retirement will likely come, and even if it does look different then the type of retirement your parents are envisioning for themselves, you’ll still want to have a cushion that will help to support you and your dreams. The best way to break this habit is to begin savings in small amounts on a systematic and automatic basis. That means automatically transferring money into a savings account during each pay period or each month and “setting and forgetting” it. This will get you into the habit of paying yourself first.
4) Ignoring your employee benefits. Employee benefits booklets are not the most riveting read around, however, they’re full of useful information to help you lead a more financially savvy life! It’s important to understand the health insurance options available to you along with disability and / or life insurance coverages. If your employer is providing the option for you to participate in some of these programs and you’re choosing not to take advantage, that’s essentially saying no to someone offering you a parachute before you jump out of a plane. It’s protection. They’re offering it. Take advantage. In addition, flexible spending accounts and employee stock purchase programs are important to evaluate. Also, if there’s a 401(k) match available through your employer, ensure you’re contributing at least enough to take advantage of the full match (it’s free money!). Habits can be both easy and hard to form or break. That’s what makes them difficult to hold onto at times. Remember to start small, choose one thing at a time to tackle and celebrate wins along the way. Want more information on taking control of your financial life? Get on the Workable Wealth Insider List for instant access to 9 Steps to Workable Wealth, a guide to getting in your best financial shape yet!