There is a good chance you have resolved at some point in your life to kick a bad money habit. Maybe it is shopping when you are bored, making impulse purchases or even trying to time the market.
Instead of taking the negative approach of trying to eliminate a behavior, try to make a positive change by adopting a good money habit. That’s what these money experts did. Here are 10 money-saving tips they have incorporated to spend less, take control of their finances and save thousands of dollars.
1. Put Purchases in Perspective
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, creator of the Making Sense of Cents blog, asks herself before making a purchase how long she would have to work in order to pay for it.
“Thinking about a car, a house or even small purchases such as clothing this way can really make you debate how badly you need an item,” she said. “This has helped me save thousands of dollars.”
A similar approach is to ask yourself whether a purchase will take you closer to or away from your goals, and whether it’s the best value for your money. “This question-habit eliminates any need for budgeting or self-discipline by replacing it with awareness that occurs at the point of spending,” said Todd Tresidder, financial coach at FinancialMentor.com. “Your spending will drop and your savings will increase automatically without any sense of deprivation or scarcity.”
Related: 30 Fast Tips For a More Frugal Life
2. Pay Yourself First
To save money, you have to make it a priority to pay yourself first, said Barry Choi of the Money We Have blog. Getting into this habit is “incredibly easy if you simply set up automatic withdrawals and sync them with your pay cycle,” he said. “This way, your money will go right into your savings account without you even noticing it’s gone.”
3. Brown-Bag Your Lunch
When Grayson Bell of Debt Roundup was knee-deep in debt, he stopped eating out at work and started bringing lunch from home every day — something he still does now because it’s become a habit. Bell calculated that he saved about $125 a month by brown-bagging his lunch, and he put that money toward his debt, which is paid off now.
4. Walk Everywhere
“I learned at an early age how to get around walking or with public transit in a city, and it saves me a ton of money,” she said. According to AAA, the annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle is $8,698. So walking rather than driving can save you thousands.
If walking to work isn’t an option, you still can save money on transportation by carpooling. Esther Kim, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, joined a carpool with her colleagues at ForUsAll, which offers 401k plans for small companies. With everyone pitching in for gas and parking, carpooling is cheaper than public transportation, Kim said.
6. Eat Leftovers
Americans waste a lot of money on uneaten food that gets tossed — about $28 to $43 a month, according to the National Resource Defense Council. That’s why it pays to learn to love leftovers. Julie Rains, founder of the Investing to Thrive blog, said that her habit of repurposing leftovers for lunch has saved her $5 to $7 a day.
7. Get Cash Back
Paying only with cash is a good way to make sure you don’t spend more than you have. But if you’re responsible with credit, you should make it a habit to get cash back on your purchases by using a cash rewards credit card or shopping on websites that let you earn back a percentage of the money you spend on purchases, said Brent Shelton, a shopping expert with cash-back site FatWallet.com.
“Cash back adds up much faster if you just make sure it’s part of your purchasing routine,” he said. Motivate yourself to make it a money-management habit by setting a goal to earn a certain amount of cash back each year.
8. Refuse to Pay Full Price
One way to save money is to refuse to pay full price for anything, said Karen Hoxmeier, owner of deal site MyBargainBuddy.com.
“Make it a goal to get some sort of discount on everything you purchase, whether it is groceries, a haircut or the latest tech gadget,” she said. “Taking the time to research pricing, compare options and looking for ways to get it cheaper will save lots of money.”
9. Give Yourself Time to Think About Purchases
To avoid impulse purchases, Jim Wang of personal finance blog Wallet Hacks said he has gotten into the habit of making himself wait 48 hours after seeing something before actually purchasing it. This gives him time to go home, research the price and decide how much he really wants the item.
“About half the time I end up buying it online where it’s cheaper; the other half, I forget about it,” Wang said. “If I forget, then I probably didn’t really want it that badly.”
10. Challenge Friends to Come Up With Cheap Fun
If you’re trying to save money, you don’t have to give up going out with your friends. Instead, challenge them to come up with free or cheap activities, said Tana Gildea, author of the “The Graduate’s Guide to Money.”
“Peanut butter sandwiches on the top of a mountain one summer evening after a hike is about as cheap as it gets, and you’d be surprised how great a PBJ tastes after you have climbed a mountain,” she said. You could also fly a kite in the park or have cheap beers around the neighborhood pool rather than pricey drinks at a nightclub.
“I promise, the crazy things you end up doing will be more fun and more memorable than another burger at another joint,” Gildea said.