Today’s post is from Azra at Ready For Zero. You can read more about Azra at the end of this post. I am done traveling so next week posts will resume as usual!
Nearly two months have passed since the beginning of the New Year, a time when many of us had resolved that 2012 is the year that we’ll make some serious strides in getting out of debt. The problem is that getting out of debt is never quite as fun or easy as getting into debt, and as hard as we try, sometimes, the same spending habits that dug us into the hole creep up on us.
In this article, I’ve identified four such vices that prevent people from getting out of debt, and ways in which you can stop them from getting the best of your finances.
Vice: Mini-Impulse Buys
In general, you’re not too lavish with your spending, but many times, the gum stand at the grocery store gets the best of you. A latte here, a pack of gum there, can add up to a lot of cash at the end of the month, and can keep you from getting out of debt as fast as you’d like.
How to combat this vice: Allow yourself one or two mini impulse buys (we’re talking the $5 or less kind) per week max to curb your habit and be more mindful of your purchases without feeling completely deprived. Every time you have an urge to make a quick little purchase, try to step back and wait 10 minutes. More often than not, your urge will have strongly decreased or disappeared all together. If your impulse buys are a little bit more predictable, you need to have alternatives that are readily available to you so that you can bypass the (not so) last minute purchase. An example would be to always have an energy bar or cup of yogurt in your gym bag so that you don’t ‘accidentally’ buy an expensive protein shake right after your workout. As a bonus, you can use our handy dandy ReadyForZero stickers to cover up your credit cards and remind you
Vice: Big Ticket Items
On a daily basis, you’re pretty good about making smart money decisions. In fact, you actually cut costs on all the little things (like coffee, soda, eating out, etc.). Despite all this, your net worth never grows because every 6-12 months you drop a whole lot of cash on a big purchase. These huge purchases have weighed down your finances so that you’re never saving money despite making lots of little sacrifices.
How to combat this vice: Take every item you bought in this category last couple of months, add up the total and plug it into this calculator with the total spent as the balance, your highest interest credit card rate in the APR field, and the amount you payed towards that debt in the payment field. That’s how much longer it’ll take you to get out of debt as a result of this purchase. Do this exercise each time you’re tempted in the future to see if it’s really worth the extra payments.
Vice: Social Spending
Do you constantly find yourself blowing cash on food and drinks to hang out with your friends? You’re extroverted butterfly who’s often the life of the party and you simply don’t like to say ‘NO” when friends ask you to do something with them.
How to combat this vice: The key to fighting this bad habit is in remembering the reasons why you hang out with them, and alternatively, why they like hanging out with you. I am willing to wager that money probably has nothing to do with it. So, keeping this in mind, there are a few little tricks that you can utliize to curb your spending. Bring a fixed amount of cash for the night and eat a little before your hang out. Then, when it’s time to order, you’ll be able to order an appetizer or share a meal with someone and the cash limitation will force you to stay within bounds. Better yet, initiate the plans yourself rather than waiting for someone to make them to have better control over the frugality of the outing. Be adventerous, try hole in the wall joints, or have them over for a fun night in. Opt for lunch vs. dinner plans and focus on the company at hand vs. the items available for consumption.
Vice: Sucker For Sales
Whether it’s that blender that’s 60% off or the pair of shoes that are buy one get one free, you have a hard time passing up on a good deal. You get immense pleasure out of finding amazing deals but many times, you end up buying things you don’t really need and spending more than you had intended.
How to combat this vice: If the lure of the deal is what’s so hard to resist, why not turn the table table against it and put your deal hunting talents to good use? Whenever you need to purchase anything, always start by make a list of all the items you need. Then, try to see how cheaply you can purchase the items. Use sites like Coupon Mom or Retail Me Not to find coupons for the items you need, and cross reference grocery store websites to get your weekly/monthly bills down. If you have a smart phone, use apps like Red Laser when you’re shopping items on your list at a brick and mortar store to see if you can find a cheaper deal online.
For me personally, the mini-impulse buys and the social spending are the bad habits that have a tendency to put a dent in my finances. I recently payed the entirety of my of my credit card debt towards the end of last year (wahoo!) and am now slowly beginning to experiment with using credit card to gather cash back rewards. Being disciplined, tracking my spending and following my own advice will be very crucial in making sure that I am successful in staying out of debt.
How about you? Do you have any vices that you’d like to get rid of in order to improve your finances? What are the techniques you use to help curb your spending?
Azra is the product marketing lead at ReadyForZero, a company that is dedicated towards helping you get out of debt faster on your own.
She’s happy that she’s finally out of credit card debt and is excited to be working at a company that helps people do the same.