You know that daily latte is a habit that might not seem expensive until you do the math and find that — whoa — $3 a day adds up to more than $1,000 a year. However, your coffee shop habit probably isn’t the only behavior that seems inconsequential, yet equates to big bucks over time.
In fact, you might be doing several things on a regular basis that are draining your bank account. Here are 11 common habits you need to quit if you want to save money.
1. Making Impulse Purchases
Most of us are guilty of buying things from time to time without thinking it through. In fact, a CreditCards.com survey published last year found that three out of four Americans have made impulse purchases. Some can be quite expensive: 16 percent said they spent $500 or more, and 10 percent said they spent $1,000 or more on impulse buys.
If this is a habit for you, figure out what’s triggering it. Men are more likely to make impulse purchases when intoxicated, and women tend to do it when they’re sad, according to the survey.
Another strategy is to give yourself a cooling off period before making a purchase, said Elle Kaplan, CEO and founder of wealth management firm LexION Capital. When her clients are tempted to make reckless purchases, “I tell them to put their credit card in the freezer. That way, they can’t go purchase a product until the card is thawed,” she said.
2. Leaving the Lights On
Remember what your mom used to say every time you left a room? Turn the lights off! If you’re not heeding that advice, you’re probably spending a lot more than you realize on wasted electricity.
According to The Energy Collective, leaving an LED light bulb on costs just 1 cent over an eight-hour period; old-school incandescent lights cost about 6 cents. “Pennies,” you say. But if you leave, say, five incandescent lights on for eight hours daily, you’ll end up paying about $110 a year.
3. Driving When You Can Walk
Raise your hand if you’ve hopped in your car to run a quick errand a mile down the road. The cost of driving those short distances — rather than walking — can add up quickly.
According to a 2015 report from AAA, drivers can expect to spend 58 cents per mile when all the fixed and variable costs of owning a car are factored in. That’s nearly $725 per month. Take this money-saving tip to heart: Walk instead of drive when you can.
4. Buying Only Weekly Needs at the Grocery
If you’re in the habit of running into the supermarket to buy only what you need for the next few days, you’re spending much more than necessary on groceries. “When shoppers buy only their weekly needs, they are forced to pay full price for 50 percent to 80 percent of what goes in their cart,” said Teri Gault, CEO of grocery savings website TheGroceryGame.com.
However, if you spend a little time checking your store’s weekly sales online or in its paper circular (typically by the entrance), you can stock up on nonperishable items or items that can be frozen when they’re marked down. Then, plan your meals around your stockpile and perishable items that are on sale each week, Gault said. Members of TheGroceryGame.com who use this shopping strategy report average savings of $523 a month for a family of four, she said.
5. Exceeding Your Wireless Plan’s Data Limit
You thought you were doing your wallet a favor by signing up for the wireless plan with the least amount of data. But you might be wiping out all the savings you thought you were getting if you’re regularly exceeding your data limit. For example, Verizon’s “More Everything” plan charges a minimum of $15 for exceeding data limits. The more you exceed your limit, the more you’ll be charged.
To avoid data overage fees, you can use the free My Data Manager app to track your data use and alert you before you go over your limit. It also identifies which other apps on your phone are consuming the most data. You also can visit MyRatePlan.com to find the right mobile plan for you based on the data you use.
6. Eating Out for Lunch
That daily fast food meal or sandwich you grab at a nearby café for lunch might not seem like it costs much. But Forbes reported in 2013 that Americans spend $936 each year on lunch. One of the best money-saving tips to spend less on lunch is to bring your own from home. To make it easy, just bring leftovers. Or at the very least, only eat at places that are offering impressive happy hour and lunch specials.
7. Wasting Food
If you regularly toss your leftovers or dump food because it went bad in the refrigerator before you could eat it, you’re throwing away money. The average American tosses $28 to $43 worth a food each month, according to the National Resource Defense Council. That’s $336 to $516 a year.
Money-saving experts advocate meal planning as a way to make sure you actually use all the food you buy. Free apps such as Pepperplate can help. Also, evaluate those bulk food purchases that seem like a deal but might be going to waste because you can’t eat all the food before it goes bad.
8. Paying Full Price for Online Purchases
A recent study by marketing firm Cartera Commerce found that 35 percent of consumers never pay full price for items online. However, it suggests that plenty of us still aren’t taking advantage of deal and coupon sites to get a bargain.
Before you make any purchase online, take the time to compare prices using sites such as PriceGrabber.com or browser add-ons from FreePriceAlerts.com to be alerted when a product you’re viewing online is cheaper at another site. Then, check for coupon codes from sites such as RetailMeNot.com and Rather-Be-Shopping.com to get a discount at checkout. Also, look online for discounted gift cards that you can use to score additional savings when you make purchases.
9. Exercising at the Gym
Physical activity can help you control your weight, combat chronic health conditions, make you feel happier, relieve stress and give you more energy. Plus, it can lead to higher wages because it can boost productivity, according to a study published in the Journal of Labor Research.
Working out at the gym can be pricey, though. The average cost of a membership is $58 a month, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute. Instead, take advantage of running trails or fitness DVDs from the public library to exercise for free. Or, your city’s parks and recreation department might offer a fitness facility membership that’s a fraction of what you’re paying for a gym.
10. Having Several Nightly Drinks
You’ve probably heard that a little alcohol can actually be good for your heart. At least, that’s what various studies have found. But if you’re tossing back several drinks a night, you could be hurting your health and your budget. Consumers spent an average of $445 on alcoholic beverages in 2013, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those earning $70,000 or more spent nearly $800.
Ideally, women of all ages and men older than 65 should limit themselves to one drink a day, and men 65 and younger should have no more than two, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drinking more than that will put you at an increased risk for high blood pressure, liver damage, certain types of cancer and other problems. So limiting – or eliminating – alcohol consumption could improve your well-being and your bottom line.
You’ve heard it a million times: Smoking is bad for you. But if the warnings that smoking can lead to lung disease and cancer haven’t convinced you to quit, maybe the high cost of your habit will.
Keep reading: 40 Mindless Ways You’re Burning Through Your Paycheck
The average price of a pack of cigarettes is $6.25, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. So if you have a pack-a-day habit, you’re spending nearly $2,300 a year on cigarettes. Plus, smokers pay $35 for related health costs per pack, according to the American Cancer Society, which adds up to almost $13,000 a year if you smoke a pack a day. Just think what you could do with $13,000 a year.