On Fridays I like to leave a little something to think about over the weekend. Today it’s your worst money habit. You know, those one or two things that you just haven’t been able to avoid wasting money on. They can be spending problems, retirement issues, saving problems or particular debt habits. So take a few minutes to think about what this is in your life and how you can finally kick the bad habit to the curb. And if you really want to impress me (and “old you”) take that wasted money and pay down debt or invest it – that’ll be a “stop wasting and start making money” discount doublecheck!
OK – Worst money habit: What’s mine?
I’m a recovering restaurant-aholic. Back when I was first monitoring my finances I realized that I was pretty out of control when it came to restaurant spending. I was spending hundreds of dollars per month on restaurants. Even worse, I was taking restaurant eating for granted, not savoring the food or experience. I’d like to say I’ve “recovered” because I have quite a bit of distaste for restaurant spending, but I’ll always have that urge to splurge. And thinking of myself as a “recovering” restaurant-aholic reminds me that restaurant eating should be the exception and not the rule.
How I got addicted to restaurant eating
I bartended for six years during undergrad and grad school. During that time I got a lot of good free food. Then, when I first moved to NYC I lived alone. I also worked and worked out a lot, leaving little time to the day not spent in the gym or at the office. So I got pretty lazy when it came to shopping and eating. Popping into the diner on the first floor of my building was just easier. Also hitting up one of the dozens of restaurants around my office for lunch with other people in the office was a way of life. Next thing I knew I was eating at restaurants or getting takeout almost every meal.
How I realized I had a problem
My now-wife moved here shortly after I did. (Yes, we lived together before marriage…). We were both working and making some sweet cash and had a pretty tame (yes, I meant “lame”) standard of living (aside from restaurants apparently) so we didn’t think there was a problem – every month our (separate) balance sheets improved.
Then we decided to track our spending and, like I mentioned in the post on how to budget when you’re broke, we quickly realized I had a problem. (Notice the bold. She didn’t have a problem – I did. Are all women “Lean Cuisiners” or is it just her? Seriously, she could be totally full off of one of those little dinners and completely happy. I could have nine of them and be gnawing at the boxes…)
How I keep it in check
In many ways, I’m like a puppy. Pat my back and give me a treat and I’ll love you forever. So in addition to budgeting an amount for restaurants (and stopping when I got there) I make sure not to spend it all in one trip. I make sure to go to at least one restaurant per week by going to cheaper places. I also have a work allowance for restaurants when I take customers out so I’m able to get a fix that way too, haha. Allowing myself those treats generally keeps me in check.
Other common problems
In my neck of the woods restaurants are one of the worst offenders. Others I hear a ton about are taxis, cigarettes, estate planning (also a problem for me), payday loans, credit card spending, not saving for retirement and being too risky with investments. Are any of these yours? A former coworker spent $40 per day taking a taxi back and forth to work instead of the $4 it would cost her to take the subway, for example. Crazy, right? She was making six figures, so it wasn’t putting her in the poor house, but we’re talking about $10,000 per year in taxis!
So what’s your worst money habit? And what do you do to keep it in check? If you don’t know, track your spending this month. Write down every penny you spend and on what. Chances are there will be something you spend a lot of money on that you can’t figure out why or what you’re getting out of it… that might be yours.
Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!
Like what you see here? Tell your friends by sharing it with one of the buttons below. Post this to Facebook or Tweet it to help your friends and family, too. And don’t forget to send me an e-mail or comment to say hello. I love hearing from you.
Also, please join our recently-started Facebook community where I hope to build a place where we can all share thoughts, successes and support. And don’t forget to follow me on twitter where you’ll find most of the posts, random thoughts by me and more. See you there!