Without us noticing, our repetitive daily habits burn a hole in our wallets and drain our bank accounts. And they are keeping us from building wealth.
Considering that 69% of adult Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account, we are spending too much of our hard-earned money. Taken to the extreme, these bad daily habits could put us into a position of financial weakness, or after decades of overspending, push back our retirement. If you're looking to be more mindful of your spending, review these 15 daily habits that drain your savings.
1. Buying a Morning Cup O' Joe
Though dropping $3 bucks (or more) for a coffee may not seem like a lot of money, that expense adds up over time. $3 a day is $15 over five days, or $60 bucks a month. If you were to invest that $60 instead of spending it on coffee, assuming a 7% rate of return, you'd have over $10K in 10 years. Are those expensive designer drinks worth $10,000 (or more) every decade?
2. Drinking Caffeine
Even if you're not a coffee drinker, caffeine is a stimulant that is highly addictive. Energy drinks and sodas often contain caffeine, and this daily habit adds up over time.
Energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster can cost close to $4 a can when grabbing them on the go. If you need a caffeine fix in the morning, brewing a cup of coffee at home costs around $0.25, or a cup of tea can cost even less.
3. Eating Out Everyday
Restaurants are huge budget killers, with the meals costing around $13. On average, Americans spend almost $3,000 a year eating out (or in the age of COVID-19, getting takeout), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The daily habit of eating at home can save people a tremendous amount of money. You can prepare homemade meals for about $3 to $4 a person. To save time, double the recipe so you'll have leftovers.
4. Bad Driving Habits
Bad driving habits can easily decrease gas mileage in your car. Aggressive driving can cut your gas mileage by up to 30%. For example, accelerating up to stop lights, weaving in and out of traffic, and constant braking will lead you to the gas station more often.
Better driving habits include adhering to the speed limit and coasting up to stoplights rather than accelerating to them. Removing extra weight in your vehicle can also help improve gas mileage and use your cruise control when driving on the highway.
5. Watching Cable Television
Your cable TV service is probably expensive. Most cable companies start their television service packages at $60 a month, but many subscribers pay $100 or more for movie and sports channels.
For under $50, buy a digital antenna to watch network television stations in crystal-clear high definition. Use streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to access movies and your favorite cable television channels and shows. Or to watch the big game on a channel that you do not get, go over to a buddy's house.
6. Drinking Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is usually not cheap, especially at bars and restaurants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Americans spend about 1% of their gross income on booze, including beer, wine, and other hard liquors. This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars every decade.
If you drink alcohol, consider challenging yourself with a dry week once a month. Or, when out socializing, pick a beer instead of expensive cocktails or wine.
7. Using an ATM
Using ATMs not affiliated with your bank will cost you an average of $4 per transaction. To avoid paying these fees, only use your bank's ATM. And when you do, take out enough cash to last you a while. Or, consider getting cash back at grocery stores and other retailers when using your debit card to make a purchase. That's a free cash withdrawal!
8. Not Using Your Gym Membership
If you have a membership to a gym, use it. According to Healthline, the average cost of a gym membership is $58, though memberships can cost more in high-priced cities like New York City or Los Angeles. If your gym is closed due to COVID-19, consider canceling your membership and using that money to build up your savings.
9. Playing the Lottery
“You can't win if you don't play.” But even if you do play, the odds are you still won't win. For instance, the odds of winning the Powerball drawing in Tennessee was 1 in 292.2 million recently. This means you have a much better chance of being killed by a lightning strike (1 in 2.3 million) or being struck by a falling airplane part (1 in 10 million).
10. Trashing Leftovers
By throwing leftovers into the trash, you're effectively throwing away money. Make it a habit to eat leftovers for lunch and keep a box of freezer bags in your pantry to freeze food before it goes bad.
11. Buying Name-brand
As we make more money in life, upgrading our spending is all too attractive. Lifestyle inflation is a killer, and buying name-brand is one way many people spend more as their salaries increase.
Store or generic brands are often just as good as their name-brand counterparts. With food or medications, check the ingredients list. You might find that store brands include the exact same ingredients. In fact, generic medications are typically 80% cheaper than the same name-brand drugs with the same active ingredients.
The king of all bad daily habits, smoking is hugely addictive and costly. The National Cancer Institute said the average cost of a single pack of cigarettes is $6.28, which adds up to almost $2,300 if you're smoking a pack every day. But if you live in an area like New York City with a high tobacco tax, you could spend more than $10 a pack, skyrocketing the cost of cigarettes.
13. Shopping When You're Hungry
If you're in a grocery store when you're hungry, then you are more likely to overspend. Instead, shop for groceries when you're not hungry, like after a meal rather than before it. Make sure you have a shopping list, and you stick to it.
14. Always Picking up the Tab
If you're always the type of person who offers to pick up the bill at bars or restaurants, then you're burning a hole in your wallet. It probably makes you feel good to pay the bill, but can you truly afford it? The next time you're out for a group dinner, split the bill or take turns picking up the tab.
15. Being Brand Loyal
With nearly 9 out of 10 consumers professing brand loyalty, many people are overspending. Whether you're in a grocery store, department store, or online store, see what's on sale before making your purchase.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.