Use a 7-day exercise from a financial adviser to stop mindlessly spending so much money
It's hard to walk far in any city or town in the US and not pass an enticing coffee shop, juice bar, or fast-food joint.
A small mental lapse could easily leave you $5 short every day, and giving into two cravings could mean $10 out the window within minutes.
David Bach, financial adviser and bestselling author, calls this the "Latté Factor" in his book, "Smart Couples Finish Rich."
"Society is now designed to help you 'latté' your future away," he writes. "There's no getting around it. Money is easy to waste. It's especially easy to waste on the small stuff ... The challenge is that the small stuff adds up — and before you know it, you've cost yourself millions."
To help combat the "Latté Factor," Bach suggests a seven day financial challenge, in which couples track expenses for a week (Bach's audience is couples, but this strategy can be used by anyone). The guidelines are simple: Write down every expenditure you make, no matter the size of the purchase.
For the strategy to work, you must promise yourself two things, he emphasizes:
1. You'll write down everything.
2. You'll spend as you normally do and won't drastically change your habits out of fear of what you may find. "Just be the wonderful human being that you always are and spend like you always spend," Bach writes.
After seven days of diligent recording, analyze your list and look out for simple things you can eliminate from your regular expenditures, Bach says.
If you completed the challenge with your partner, go over each other's lists together. "Start by sharing what you are going to start cutting out, not what you suggest your partner cut out," he advises. "Remember, you get more with honey than vinegar here!"
If your results are not particularly stunning, you still may discover a small, regular expense that could be redirected to your savings.
Once you've pinpointed an unnecessary daily expense, don't stop there. Do something with that extra cash — contribute it to a retirement account or other savings account so it can accumulate and grow into thousands of dollars over time.
"The reason this simple concept is so important is that if you can get yourself to believe you can find an additional $10 a day to put away in a retirement account, you can begin to take advantage of the concept called the 'miracle of compound interest,'" Bach writes.
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