Isn’t the idea of being debt free wonderful? Yup, it’s pretty amazing thinking that one day there is a big fat zero on that line of credit.
Until that day arrives there is nothing else to do but work hard towards paying down that debt and finding ways to cut sneaky expenses that keep you from making any progress.
You’ll be surprised how many little things we do on a daily basis that can add up to become expensive habits.
Below I have listed 7 habits that may keep you from making that all longed for progress towards financial freedom.
1. Collecting Items
If collecting something specific is your hobby and you regularly purchase items to expand your collection, you may want to take a look at how much money you are spending on your hobby.
I love books. I love to read and you can’t step into any room in my apartment without finding a bookshelf (except for kitchen and bathroom for obvious reasons such as moisture and grease).
Going to a bookshop used to be my refuge, my time to unwind, relax and pick up a handful of new books to read. It became so out of hand that I started to spend up to $100 each time I went into a bookstore.
The books would pile up, because I bought them faster than I could read them. It was a waste of money.
In order to save some money I replaced my trips to the bookstore with trips to my local library.
If you are a collector of records or maybe you love to buy clothes, for example, this easy switch is not really an option. Instead, try to limit and reduce your trips to the record store or favorite shop to, perhaps, once a month.
Make it a special occasion, something that you plan carefully and have a chance to truly look forward to.
Your hobby will take on a whole new importance, if you treat it with a little more admiration and it’ll save you a good chunk of money.
2. Eating Out
It can be very difficult to fit everything into your busy schedule. You need to work. Maybe you have children; they need love, attention and help in becoming acceptable members of society.
Then your doctor told you to start exercising regularly (who needs sleep anyway?). You don’t want to abandon your hobby. And, oh yeah, there is still your relationship with your significant other.
It’s a lot to organize and handle, so you take a few shortcuts like picking up dinner from your favorite pizza place once a week and maybe some Greek and Italian food on other days to mix it up a bit.
And before you know it, you have blown through your entire month’s worth of grocery budget in one week, because take-out is expensive.
Make a meal plan instead. Sit down with all the members of your family that are capable enough to operate a stove and come up with a schedule. Everyone has their designated day for being in charge of cooking or at least meal preparation.
Go grocery shopping once a week. Use leftovers for lunches and cook in bigger batches to freeze for quick and easy meal options on especially busy days.
3. Second Car
Having a car can be great, until it isn’t. Until you realize two cars would really help out your family more than one. Until the expenses of both vehicles eat up your hard earned money and makes it virtually impossible to save anything.
Getting rid of that second car can free up a lot of money that can be used to pay down your debt.
It will take some time getting used to having to organize the use of one vehicle among two or more members of the family.
Take advantage of your city’s public transportation. There are also the options of Uber and Lyft, if taking the bus is out of the question. A $40-ride once in a while is still a lot more affordable than regular car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance to the vehicle.
If ever the use of two cars at once is absolutely necessary, renting a car for a day or two is also an option.
In the long run you will do yourself and your bank account a great favor by becoming a one-car household.
4. A “We deserve this” Attitude
You work really hard. You put in overtime, work on weekends and show initiative. You make the money, so you deserve what you want.
This attitude is supposed to be positive. It’s supposed to encourage self-care, but it can quickly turn sour as you apply this sort of thinking to everything you see and want, regardless of your actual need.
I have a friend, who used to have a job that earned him a lot of money. He once told me that during his time at this job he spent more money than he does with his current job.
He said he was so miserable during that time and used the explanation of “I deserve it” to compensate for how miserable he felt.
He eventually quit that job, got himself a new one that paid less money, but he is saving more money, because he doesn’t feel the need to have to make for anything any more.
I’m not saying quit your job and get one that pays less. Rather find out why you have that need to constantly treat yourself. What is missing or what is not making you quite happy that makes you believe buying something would make up for it.
5. Keeping up Appearances
Sand beach, blue skies, novelty pineapple drink in one hand and documenting everything via social media with the other hand. Sounds about right?
Or maybe you really feel like you need that pool in your backyard? Or that house in the suburbs that usually comes with the backyard?
Why? Because everyone does it, buy it, show it off, too. If you don’t keep up you might end up losing out on something. Yes, you would: a great potential for debt.
Society can put a lot of pressure on us to conform and become one of the masses, even if that means throwing yourself into debt.
Make smart decisions when it concerns your life, future and finances. Find out what works for you and what is important to you. You are reading this article, so debt reduction is a priority.
Don’t be fooled by the masses. As Carrie Fisher said it best: “find your bliss, find what makes you happy”.
6. Our Way of Thinking About Money
How we think about money is important when we are trying to break old habits that aren’t working.
We tend to focus on our actions, but if our thought process towards money doesn’t change, any improvement will be a very long and difficult uphill battle.
For example, yes, you have accepted the fact that you are in debt and now you are working on changing that. You made adjustments, you cut out expenses and you save every penny that is not going towards your fixed expenses.
But how caught and restricted do you feel now? You may worry constantly about the fact that you need to get yourself a new winter coat or pair of pants that actually fit.
In your attempt to reduce your stress about money you are creating more.
Don’t punish yourself for having made unwise financial decisions. Acknowledge and learn from your mistakes and work on fixing them.
There is no need to sacrifice everything in life in order to pay your debt. Instead make smart decisions when it comes to spending your hard earned money.
7. Our Ignorance of How a Budget Really Works
The first advice anybody will ever give you on the subject of sound financial decisions is to make a budget.
The kind of budget that is written out in pen/pencil in a notebook or created on a spreadsheet on your computer.
Don’t try to kid yourself into thinking that you have it all figured out in your head. You don’t and you won’t be able to keep it all up there, not with your busy schedule and all those little extra expenses that you and your spouse make and forget to tell each other.
Recently I have written a series of articles to help readers get started on creating a budget. I explore various methods of budgeting, from cash envelopes to cashless envelopes and glass jars. Have a look and get motivated to start your own budget.
Every one of us, who is dealing with debt reduction is looking to find ways to cut unnecessary expenses to save a little more money to put towards those down payments.
It can be extremely difficult to stay motivated or to find ways to cut expenses you haven’t even thought about, but that are burning big holes into your wallet.
But never give up hope, with the steps I have listed above you are sure to find ways to save a bit more money.
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