You shop discount sales, make decent wages and have swapped a few brand names for generic — but your bank accounts still aren’t where you’d like them to be. If this sounds familiar — or you’d simply like to have more funds stashed away for a rainy day — consider adding better financial habits to your goals for 2018.
Improving your economic well-being can be just as important as boosting your physical health. And, it’ll allow you to take care of any other needs more easily. Click through to see which bad habits to get rid of next year.
Using Out-of-Network ATMs
Withdrawing cash from any old ATM can seem worthwhile for the convenience, but it could also cost you a lot in the long run.
The average cost of using an out-of-network ATM is $4.69, which is 2.6 percent higher than the average found for 2016. If you switch to using ATMs affiliated with your bank once per week, you could save $243.88 per year on average. You can also move your checking account to a bank that refunds you for ATM fees.
Not Checking Your Bank Statement
If you don’t comb over your bank statements regularly, you’re likely to be less mindful of how much money you’re spending. And less mindfulness can easily lead to less saving and more spending.
You could also miss discrepancies, such as charges for items or services you never purchased. Over time, even small erroneous charges can really add up and facilitate unnoticed hacking. Many thieves start by taking tiny amounts to see if the account owner notices before stealing more.
Buying Coffee Every Day
If you’ve got to have your java, preparing it at your home or office instead of buying daily lattes could save you big time.
A 16-ounce coffee at Starbucks averages $2.10 per cup. Add whipped cream or sub almond milk for dairy and it’s pricier. If you stopped your daily Starbucks habit for 84 days, you could afford a main-floor ticket to a Yankees Stadium game, estimated USA Today.
Regardless, reserving barista coffee for occasional treats versus every day could save you over $60 per month.
Not Having a Budget
Only 41 percent of Americans use a budget, according to a U.S. Bank report released in 2016. And as some business gurus assert, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. You can’t stick to a budget that doesn’t exist. Budget specifics vary, but even modest efforts such as designating a monthly limit for food or recreation can go far.
If this seems grueling, shift your mindset toward creativity. If you overspend on entertainment, for example, find fun, affordable alternatives. Swap fine-dining for picnics, research free museum days and choose matinees or Netflix over evening films.
Putting Everything on Credit — and Not Paying it Off
Credit cards can bring major perks over debit cards, from changes for an improved credit score to an easier time having stolen card issues remedied. But using credit cards to fund everything can fuel huge financial burdens.
In 2017, Americans had an average credit card debt of over $6,879 per person, according to a study conducted by GOBankingRates. Unless you pay your credit cards off every month, you run the risk of hefty accrued interest. To maintain a good credit score, avoid spending more than 30 percent of your available limit.
Only Paying Credit Card Minimums
Another sure way to increase debt and money stress is to pay only the minimum required amount toward credit card debt each month. Most cards only require cardholders to pay up to 3 percent of the monthly balance.
Not only does paying that small amount leave you with more to pay later, but you’ll accrue interest. Interest rates vary by card but average over 15 percent nationally.
Seldom Dining In
Eating out is one of the most expensive habits. After two decades of analysis, researcher Eddie Yoon found that only 10 percent of Americans love cooking and 45 percent report hating it. Rekindling some level of culinary enjoyment is a powerful way to feed your pocketbook.
A 2016 Statistica report showed that Americans spend $16 to $30 per restaurant visit on average. If you dine out three times per week, that can add up to $1,560 per year per person in your household. A homemade dinner can easily cost a few dollars or less per plate.
Save money and your wellness by cutting back on the smokes or, ideally, quitting altogether. Collectively, Americans spend over $300 billion per year for smoking-related health problems, including premature death and effects of secondhand smoke exposure.
Find a method that works best for you, whether that’s cold-turkey quitting, behavioral therapy, nicotine patches or gum, or medication.
Driving Everywhere Solo
Driving everywhere might be convenient but it’s not cheap. In 2016, Americans spent an estimated $1,400 per year to fill their tanks, at an average fuel price of $2.15 per gallon. Families that use public transportation can shrink household expenses by $6,200 per year, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Other smart money-saving habits include biking, walking or carpooling to get around more often.
Paying for Unused Services
It’s easy to forget about those modest automatic charges for the gym, website subscriptions or an on-demand TV service you don’t use. Health clubs, in particular, are known to sell a lot more memberships than go to use. With gym memberships averaging $58 per month, according to StatisticBrain, this can really add up.
Go over your monthly bank statements, taking note of fees for unused services and canceling them pronto. In doing so, you might also catch services you canceled but continue to pay for.
If you’re wondering how to save money fast, you might want to slow your alcohol intake down. When dining out, it’s not uncommon to spend as much on alcohol as you do for food.
To save money, stick to moderate alcohol intake — or up to one to two servings per day — which is also better for your health. When dining out, consider having an after-dinner drink at home afterward rather than at the restaurant.
Not Shopping Around for the Best Deals
Ever notice that the sweet discount you enjoyed at the start of your cable or internet service increased incrementally, far more than you’d anticipated? Reading the small print on contracts and researching the best prices takes time, but it’s often worth it.
In 2016, Americans spent an average of $103 per month on cable TV according to an annual study by Leichtman Research Group — an all-time high that’s been steadily increasing. More than 800,00 people bowed out of their package by quarter two, mostly due to spiked pricing.
Save money by switching services — or even mediums, such as watching TV through the internet versus cable.
Having Too Little in Savings
In its 2017 Savings survey, GOBankingRates found 39 percent of respondents had no money stashed away in savings and 57 percent had less than $1,000 saved.
It takes money to save money, but not as much as you might think. Make conscious efforts to reduce expenses and put even modest amounts away into a savings account. Every time you get paid, consider placing a portion into savings. Many financial pros recommend aiming for a cushion that would cover your expenses for three to six months, should you suddenly need it.
Not investing in the stock market is one of the biggest regrets Americans had in 2017, found a separate GOBankingRates survey.
Investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds might seem like Latin to you if you’re not well-versed in finances, or unrealistic if you have a fair amount of debt. But even investing modestly — which isn’t as complicated as you might think — can help you get out of debt while cushioning your savings.
If you invested $100 per month for 40 years, you have an estimated $600,000 in your portfolio. Do so for 10 years, and you’d have an estimated $150,000, which is a whole lot more than zero.
Giving Up After a Mistake
Everyone makes money mistakes at some point. If you get caught up in thoughts of shame or self-sabotage, it can be easy to give up and perpetuate expensive habits.
But even if you haven’t maintained savings or manned a budget at all over the years or find yourself swimming in debt, there’s plenty of hope and progress to be cultivated. A recent study published in Personality and Individual Differences showed that self-forgiveness reduces procrastination. So forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Up Next: 50 Ways to Make More Money in 2018
About the Author
August McLaughlin is a Los Angeles-based writer specializing in health and wellness and the author of Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). With over 10 years of professional experience, her work has been featured by Huffington Post, DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, LIVESTRONG.com, Headspace and more.