It’s Monday morning and once again you hit the ATM on your way to work. But, by Wednesday afternoon you’re broke again… You’re frustrated, but not shocked.
Because your unmonitored spending habits are slowly eating away at your budget. You carefully watch your spending, yet it seems like your money is held hostage by a wily magician and caught up in a disappearing act.
The only real “disappearing act” to your cash is wearing a blindfold when it comes to day-to-day expenses. Note – we said “expenses” and not necessities. To get a handle on these wallet-drainers, let’s look at the most common pitfalls.
1. That Morning Brew/Afternoon Pick Me Up
It doesn’t matter if it’s the premium coffee purveyor or its more prevalent and discounted cousin. Your morning caffeine ritual is costing you big time:
Obviously the $4 latte isn’t the only threat to your budget. Even the “premium” brews from the less expensive drive thrus add up. The two most popular spots for “affordable” coffees can still cost you $20 – 40 at the end of the month. And that’s only for a five-cup a week habit. If you need a 3:00PM “boost” for an afternoon lull, you’re doubling that amount.
Even if your morning jolt of choice is a soft drink, smoothie, or fresh juice the outcome is still the same.
How to Fix It: Even buying premium bean coffees will cost you less. Stocking up on your favorite soft drinks will cost you less than the company vending machine. You don’t even have to go “cold turkey” – just cut down to a few days per week.
2. Paying Too Much at the Pump
Even with a short commute (or relying on public transportation for most of your daily travel needs) you can risk paying way too much for gas. Not taking the time to find the best-priced gas station is going to hit your wallet pretty hard.
Gas prices can vary from .15 to .40 per gallon – and if you’re running on empty at a “premium spot,” e.g. an off ramp of the expressway, you’re paying way more than you need too.
Running on a low gas tank also means that sediment from the gasoline is settling in the bottom of your tank. Over time, it’s going to hurt your filter.
How to Fix It: Use www.gasbuddy.com or other popular smart phone apps to find the best deals. You could also become a member at a “big box” store that offers fueling services.
3. Banking and Service Fees
Banking fees are also “spending fees.” Meaning you’re penalized for spending and using cash. If you find that your frequent trips to the cash station are coming with a little “price tag” of $2.50 – $4.00 per month from your bank, you’re accumulating expenses that you don’t need to.
If you’re in a pinch and use an out-of-network ATM, then congratulations! You just cost yourself anywhere between $2.50 – $4.00 per transaction.
How to Fix It: Use a debit card that doesn’t come with fees. Also, ask your banker if they can raise the amount of ATM withdrawals you’re allowed each month, or if there is another type of banking program you can enroll in to cut the fees.
4. The Cost of Convenience
Our days are busy and long. Taking time for a healthy lunch might not be in the picture, but a carry out salad or rice bowl will at least tide you over until the time you get home.
The good news, you’re not starving. The bad news is you’re paying for a lot for convenience foods.
It all adds up: Carry out lunches and dinners, delivery fees, eating out, tipping your wait or counter person. An average lunch out can cost between $9 – $13. That’s close to $50 per week…
How to Fix It: Brown bag it a few times per week. If you do order out, choose dishes that will make good lunch or even dinner leftovers. You could also look into the services that deliver fresh ingredients to you to cook at home.
5. Not Saving Receipts
Even if you’re paying cash for a packet of mints, not saving the receipt doesn’t mean it was “free.” Whether you’re using a debit card, credit, card, or cash, all those receipts account for spending that might not be essential.
How to Fix It: For just one week save every receipt from every purchase. Look where your money is going and see what spending patterns emerge. From there you’ll have an idea of where to cut.
Need cash? Here’s how to get a title loan using your car’s title.