How to quit 10 bad money habits that rob you blind

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Bad Money Habits and How to Quit

Our good habits carry us along almost effortlessly. That's positive. It lets us focus on the things that need our attention most.

But as you work to pay off debt, save and get your financial life on track, you'll probably find some old, counterproductive habits undermining your progress. They may have worked once, but now they're holding you back.

Dropping bad money habits makes it easier to power up your financial life. Following are 10 bad habits, and tips for ending them.

1. Carrying a credit card balance

Carrying a balance on a credit card is like walking down the street with a hole in your wallet and your money leaking out.

Here's why: Suppose you decide to pay off a $5,000 balance on a card charging 15 percent interest. If you only pay the minimum amount each month, it'll cost you at least $7,000 in interest and take decades.

Think what you would love to do with that $7,000.

Build a better habit: One approach to erasing the card balance is to devote every spare penny to getting rid of it. If you have other pressing debts, you'll need to make a plan for dealing with all of them. Here's how to kill your debt and write its obituary.

Keep the balance from building again by making it a new habit to pay off the entire bill every month — no exceptions ever.

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How to quit 10 bad money habits that rob you blind

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy


2. Failing to fund a retirement plan

There are compelling excuses to put off saving for retirement. But none will matter if you reach retirement age with little saved. And, if you don't take advantage of your employer's matching contributions, you're passing up free money every month.

Build a better habit: Imagine yourself at age 70. Or 80. Picture concrete details — how you'll look, your surroundings, how you're spending time and who is with you. The more real your future self is to you, the more likely you are to care for her or him today.

Start paying close attention to your retirement savings. If you can't bring your plan's monthly contribution up to your goal immediately, increase it by 1 percent a month. Once a year, check the performance of your investments and rebalance your portfolio.

Here are three online retirement calculators. Play around to set a goal and start saving aggressively:

3. Not shopping for monthly services

Hopefully, you comparison shopped before signing up for insurance policies. Same thing with phone, Internet and cable service.

But you may be missing savings if you're not checking prices again once a year.

Build a better habit: Put some energy into improving your financial life. Once a year, spend 30 to 60 minutes price shopping for monthly services. To make it easy, keep a list with each company's name, your account number and your monthly payment amount.

4. Paying for cable and landline phone

Cable prices are going nowhere but up. Free and cheaper alternatives make experimenting worthwhile. But will you get out of your rut and try something new?

Build a better habit: Before trying a change, just observe yourself and your habits. Record your viewing habits for a week or two to see how and if you're using the services.

Ditto for your landline. If you're able, drop the landline and use mobile phones only. If that seems too radical, refrain from using the service for one month — or even just a week — while you check out alternatives.

Some possibilities:

  • Drop the premium cable tiers; learn to love basic.
  • Find out if you'll pay less by bundling Internet and phone services with one company.
  • Get an all-inclusive mobile plan with unlimited text, data and phone.
  • Switch to Skype, Vonage or another cheap or free Internet phone service. Don't be scared of the new technology. It's easy to use.
  • Cut the cable and substitute sources like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Redbox and DVDs from the public library.
  • Try a free Internet service.
  • Find lots more tips at "3 Steps to Cut Your Cable Bill 90 Percent."

5. Ignoring coupons and deal sites

If you aren't using coupons and checking daily deal sites, you're spending too much. However, exercise discipline when bargain shopping so you don't sabotage your good intentions with impulse buys.

Build a better habit: Tackle bad habits in small bites. Try just one deal or coupon site. Money Talks News deals, for example, has new sales and coupons every day on clothes, shoes, electronics, tools and more.

Try one of these:

  • Check daily deal message boards like Slickdeals, LivingSocial and Woot for cut-rate prices.
  • Explore grocery store apps that deliver coupons and personalized savings to your computer or smartphone.
  • Grocery store receipts often have printed coupons.
  • Manufacturers' websites often have coupons.

6. Playing investing too safe

Safe investing is important. But there's safe, and there's too safe. Keeping all your money in no-risk accounts means inflation will rob you of spending power slowly but surely.

Build a new habit: Don't break all your bad habits at once. Pick one and focus. For instance, make managing your investments a priority. Learn your investing style by taking an online risk-tolerance quiz. Next, read up on the basics of investing. Then — taking your age and risk tolerance into account — take another look at your investments.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson tells how to invest in a mutual fund and how to get started in the stock market.

7. Getting hooked on lattes

That $4 latte is killing your budget. One latte a day each workday adds up to $20 a week — $1,040 a year. If you tip a dollar each time, you're spending $1,300 a year. There's surely something you'd rather do with that $1,000.

Build a better habit: Substitute new habits you enjoy for the old ones. A latte is a way of treating yourself, so find treats that don't bust your budget.

8. Living without an emergency fund

If you don't have an emergency fund, your life is a high-wire act with no safety net. Emergencies are inevitable. Life is full of them.

Build a better habit: Make a commitment to the change you want. Write it down and put it where you'll see it and allow it to reinforce your resolve. Keep the change at the forefront of your mind and tell yourself continually: "I can do this."

Commit and watch your savings build. If necessary, take on a few hours of extra work each week, whether it's overtime at work or watching neighbors' dogs.

9. Buying retail

Paying retail markup is like setting a match to a pile of cash. Smart buyers find ways to avoid it.

According to, a new car's value drops 8 percent the minute it leaves the dealer's lot. At the end of the first year, it's worth 19 percent less. After two years, it's worth 31 percent less.

One caution: There are things you should never buy used — pet food, blenders, hats, mattresses, underwear, swimming suits, vacuum cleaners, stuffed animals, tires and software, among them.

Build a better habit: If you feel pressure to keep up with your friends or neighbors, ask yourself what that's costing you. Stay out of malls and brand-name stores except when researching products. Read up on prices online so you know a good price when you see it.

Shop at wholesale clubs and bulk stores, garage sales, consignment stores, thrift stores, online auction sites and classified ads. You'll find especially good deals on used cars, refurbished electronics, jewelry, furniture, housewares, clothes, tools, books and sports equipment.

10. Using shopping as entertainment

You know people with compulsive shopping habits. Maybe you are one. Spending creates a high that's addictive and can severely damage your budget and the financial security of your family.

Build a better habit: Try a spending fast, remove your name from catalog lists, stay out of stores and hang out with friends whose idea of fun doesn't include shopping.

But if none of these habit busters works and you're still struggling with your shopping habit, you may need help. Debtors Anonymous is a free, nonprofit 12-step organization based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Do you have tips for breaking bad money habits? Share them in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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How to quit 10 bad money habits that rob you blind

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

Photo via Getty

Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

Photo via AOL

Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

Photo via Getty

Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

Photo via Getty

Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

Photo via Getty

Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

Photo via AP

Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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