What’s your worst money habit?

by Nick on March 2, 2012

On Fridays I like to leave a little something to think about over the weekend.  Today it’s your worst money habit.  You know, those one or two things that you just haven’t been able to avoid wasting money on.  They can be spending problems, retirement issues, saving problems or particular debt habits.  So take a few minutes to think about what this is in your life and how you can finally kick the bad habit to the curb.  And if you really want to impress me (and “old you”) take that wasted money and pay down debt or invest it – that’ll be a “stop wasting and start making money” discount doublecheck! 

OK – Worst money habit:  What’s mine?
I’m a recovering restaurant-aholic.  Back when I was first monitoring my finances I realized that I was pretty out of control when it came to restaurant spending.  I was spending hundreds of dollars per month on restaurants.  Even worse, I was taking restaurant eating for granted, not savoring the food or experience.  I’d like to say I’ve “recovered” because I have quite a bit of distaste for restaurant spending, but I’ll always have that urge to splurge.  And thinking of myself as a “recovering” restaurant-aholic reminds me that restaurant eating should be the exception and not the rule.

How I got addicted to restaurant eating
I bartended for six years during undergrad and grad school.  During that time I got a lot of good free food.  Then, when I first moved to NYC I lived alone.  I also worked and worked out a lot, leaving little time to the day not spent in the gym or at the office.  So I got pretty lazy when it came to shopping and eating.  Popping into the diner on the first floor of my building was just easier.  Also hitting up one of the dozens of restaurants around my office for lunch with other people in the office was a way of life.  Next thing I knew I was eating at restaurants or getting takeout almost every meal. 

How I realized I had a problem
My now-wife moved here shortly after I did.  (Yes, we lived together before marriage…).  We were both working and making some sweet cash and had a pretty tame (yes, I meant “lame”) standard of living (aside from restaurants apparently) so we didn’t think there was a problem – every month our (separate) balance sheets improved. 

Then we decided to track our spending and, like I mentioned in the post on how to budget when you’re broke, we quickly realized I had a problem.  (Notice the bold.  She didn’t have a problem – I did.  Are all women “Lean Cuisiners” or is it just her?  Seriously, she could be totally full off of one of those little dinners and completely happy.  I could have nine of them and be gnawing at the boxes…)

How I keep it in check
In many ways, I’m like a puppy.  Pat my back and give me a treat and I’ll love you forever.  So in addition to budgeting an amount for restaurants (and stopping when I got there) I make sure not to spend it all in one trip.  I make sure to go to at least one restaurant per week by going to cheaper places.  I also have a work allowance for restaurants when I take customers out so I’m able to get a fix that way too, haha.  Allowing myself those treats generally keeps me in check.

Other common problems
In my neck of the woods restaurants are one of the worst offenders.  Others I hear a ton about are taxis, cigarettes, estate planning (also a problem for me), payday loans, credit card spending, not saving for retirement and being too risky with investments.  Are any of these yours?  A former coworker spent $40 per day taking a taxi back and forth to work instead of the $4 it would cost her to take the subway, for example.  Crazy, right?  She was making six figures, so it wasn’t putting her in the poor house, but we’re talking about $10,000 per year in taxis!

So what’s your worst money habit?  And what do you do to keep it in check?  If you don’t know, track your spending this month.  Write down every penny you spend and on what.  Chances are there will be something you spend a lot of money on that you can’t figure out why or what you’re getting out of it… that might be yours.

Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!

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Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Infant March 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

Hello, my name is Steve and I am a restaurant addict. I'm right with you on that one, but I am still in the throes of the addiction. Thankfully here in Thailand we can go out to eat for less than $10 for a family of 3. So, I doubt I'll be getting on the wagon anytime soon.
My recent post A Tax on ALL Sinners

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Kooz March 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I always buy lunch. Well, not always (sometimes there are functions I attend where lunch is included), but the point is, I never make or bring a lunch. I could save thousands each year if I did.
My recent post Top 5 Reasons I Deserve My Man Card

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Paul March 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I am right there with you. I love restaurants! Trying a new beer, eating a great meal, and no clean up! I NEED HELP!!! No not really, I try to keep it in order. I make my lunch everyday, and save where I can. My Fiancé and I will order out maybe 1-2 times per week. Thank goodness she loves to cook.
My recent post Run Forest…Run

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tlpinspw March 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

My worst money habit is probably losing track of when bills are due. I use Mint, but I simply have grown too used to thinking I can use online Bill Pay to get something paid quickly. Back in the dark ages, before the Internet, I actually kept all paper bills in one place, and spend one short period a month to write checks to get the bills paid. It was easier when it wasn't convenient (sounds crazy, huh?)
My recent post Why Rosetta Stone Works: Immersion

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BalancingMoney&Life March 6, 2012 at 3:24 am

Hobbies…. definitely. Triathlon can be insanely expensive, and since both hubby and I participate, it adds up fast! Add that to travel… and we spend too much.
My recent post Compulsive Shopping – Curbing the Urge to Overspend

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Nick March 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

Wow! Those are some crazy prices over there… Adding a zero is pretty standard practice over here, although we're more of a Panera Bread family than a steakhouse clan, so we can still eat for under $25. Adds up though at $25 even…

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Nick March 8, 2012 at 4:38 am

Yep – cooking a little extra at night and taking leftovers might be the easiest way to do it. Also don't discount PB&J – a very underrated lunch…

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Nick March 8, 2012 at 4:39 am

Oh man those beers add up, don't they… making lunch everyday is HUGE though. And actually loving to cook is worth a lot of money – she sounds like a keeper!

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Nick March 8, 2012 at 4:41 am

It does sound crazy, but it makes sense – we try and automate as much as we can just so we don't miss something. But now we get a bill and assume it's on auto-pay or that we'll get to it online and it'll sit there. Fortunately we've been able to avoid any late pays but I'm sure you're not the only one who loses track. Maybe it's time to go back to the dark ages!

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Nick March 8, 2012 at 4:43 am

Wow – maybe combining the both to spend a week around triathlons can save a few bucks… I couldn't believe how much good running shoes cost when I looked into it last. And those bikes are so expensive, too! But at least your hobbies are healthy ones… if you were both smoking two packs a day I'd be a bit more concerned…

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