You probably know that your daily latte adds up to more than $1,000 a year. Your coffee shop habit probably isn’t the only behavior that seems inconsequential, yet equates to big bucks over time, however. In fact, you might be doing several things on a regular basis that are draining your bank account.
Click through to learn what is making you poor so you can break your bad money habits faster.
Making Impulse Purchases
Most of us are guilty of buying things from time to time without thinking the purchase through. In fact, a CreditCards.com survey published in 2016 found that five out of six Americans have made impulse purchases. Some can be quite expensive: 25 percent said they spent $500 or more, and 17 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 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.
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 1 cent over an eight-hour period; old-school incandescent lights cost about 6 cents. “Pennies,” you might say. But if you leave, say, five incandescent lights on for eight hours daily, you’ll end up paying about $110 a year.
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, so slash your car costs instead.
According to a 2017 report from AAA, drivers can expect to spend $706 per month when all the fixed and variable costs of owning a car are factored in. Take this money-saving tip to heart: Walk instead of drive when you can.
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 savings expert Teri Gault.
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, however. Then, plan your meals around your stockpile and perishable items that are on sale each week, Gault said.
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 to get alerts before you go over your limit. It also identifies which apps on your phone are consuming the most data. You also can visit My Rate Plan to find the right mobile plan for you based on the data you use.
Learn More: 35 Secrets to Saving More Money This Year
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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the average American spends more than $3,000 a year on meals out.
One of the best money-saving tips to spend less on meals is to bring your own lunch. It will help you feel more energized at work, too. 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.
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. According to a 2016 Guardian report, Americans waste $160 billion of food annually.
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. Instead of tossing spoiled food, freeze and preserve it before it goes bad.
Paying Full Price for Online Purchases
According to the site Big Commerce, 48 percent of female shoppers and 29 percent of male shoppers frequently search for coupon codes to get discounts. If that’s you, congratulations. If not, you’re probably spending more than you should to shop online.
Before you make any purchase online, take the time to compare prices using sites such as PriceGrabber or browser add-ons from FreePriceAlerts 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 and Rather-Be-Shopping 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.
Click to Find: The 9 Sites for the Best Online Coupons
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 a survey from 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.
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 $515 on alcoholic beverages in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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.
The average price of a pack of cigarettes is $6.15, according to a 2017 MSN article. 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 an extra $13,000 a year.
Keep Reading: 50 Mindless Ways You’re Burning Through Your Paycheck
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.