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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are Your Bad Habits Wrecking Your Budget?

At some point, I had two part-time jobs, one in the morning and a different one in the afternoon.  With about 45 minutes between the two and a short commute, I would often stop at a fast-food joint during my break.  This (bad) habit not only was not bad for my health, but it also did serious damage to my weekly budget.  Like mine, there are many bad habits that may seem small at first glance, but can accumulate large holes in a tight budget.  Here are some examples:
- Coffee: even a cheap coffee at Tim Horton’s is at least $1.60 each time.  At only three times a week, it’s already almost $5/week…. how much would that be at home? less than 50 cents per week.
- Going over on your cell phone plan limit: it often seems like answering a call or making one is a necessity.  However, many of the calls we make are either non-urgent, or non-important.  Just today, I texted a friend to know if she wanted a shirt I had received but was in a color I didn’t like.  I could have called her from my home line (we have one); I could have emailed her.  Certainly, her answer was not urgent – I was not in a rush to get rid of the shirt, and my friend was not in dire need of an extra shirt.  Keep your cell plan basic, and use free communication methods for anything that is not urgent.
- Snacks: you are hungry going to class but you are late so you don’t make breakfast and buy a pastry first chance you get; or you didn’t think you’d stay on campus this late, and didn’t pack enough food.  Buying instant snacks can be expensive.  The solution is to plan better, and to have emergency snacks in your bag: granola bars; an apple; fish crackers.  Even stopping at the grocery store to pick up a bag of mini-carrots, crackers and cheese will be cheaper to a meal on campus AND will provide more than one meal.  The same is true of your water bottle or your coffee mug; if you leave your drinking container at home, having a drink of water next to you will cost you.  Make sure a water bottle is part of your normal pack at school or wherever you go.
- Forgetting your bus pass: if you use the bus to commute but keep forgetting your bus pass, or you leave your bus pass (or student card if that is your bus pass) at home thinking you won’t need it, you are most likely going to have to pay for the bus if there is a change of plan.  Tie your bus pass to your keys or to your cell phone so you always have it with you.
- Chucking tubes and bottles before they are completely empty: yes, it’s a hassle to get the last drops of shampoo out of the bottle, but if you take the time (add water, shake a lot, and use) for every bottle of every product you use, you will save the equivalent of a full bottle each year or so.  This goes for most beauty products (yes, that last bit of toothpaste too), most soaps (including dish detergent), and the last crumbs of cookies.  I cut in half the tubes of hand lotion and find that there’s a full 3-8 applications left in the tube, holding on to the sides (you can close the tube once it’s cut by inserting one half into the other half).  You can most likely use the disposable razor one or two more times before throwing it out.
- Returning your library books late: I am guilty of this, especially that once in a while, I misplace a library book so even though I’m not forgetting to return it, I can’t return it on time since I can’t find it in time.  I’m trying to find a system that works well for our family, such as having a bag where all books go as soon as we are done reading them, but it’s a struggle (however, I know my library fees are lower than the cost of the all the books we get to read for free so I’m in the clear).  I often spend $20+/year on library late fees.
Of course I could go on and on about habits and how they cost us extra money but you get the idea.  Once way to identify these bad financial habits is to track ALL spending for a week (just write it down in your daily planner) and review what can be eliminated or at least reduced.  I’ve made rules with myself: I do not go to fast-food outlets alone (only with a friend, and then it’s an ‘outing’ that I appreciate); I keep snacks in my desk at work so I never have to go out for a snack; etc.  Find your own bad habits and fix them.

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