The end of every year spawns a good amount of reflection on our actions, for better or for worse, that impacted our personal lives and finances over the last 12 months. And sometimes we find ourselves cringing at our misconduct, especially when it comes to our monetary habits.
Through our partnership with Discover Card, we’ve created a path of reform for the seven financially fatal sins that so many of us are guilty of committing each year.
Real Estate Envy
In larger cities, where real estate is at a premium and it’s all about location, it becomes easier to talk ourselves into paying too much, but there’s a reason why landlords in those cities require proof that you make 40 times the monthly rent on an apartment.
Rent alone should not cost you more than 25% of your monthly salary. If you factor in utilities, it should be 33% of our monthly income. When we find yourself trying to justify spending more on the great apartment in the perfect location, don’t forget to consider how much of your remaining monthly budget is eaten away by things like your cell phone bill, groceries, and transportation costs.
Short Term Greed
At any point this year did you find yourself saying, “Hey, I’ve got at least 30 more years before I retire. 401(k), more like bore-oh-one-k”?
The longer we wait to start preparing for retirement, the more difficult it becomes to acquire enough in savings and investments later in life. If you’re in your 20s, you should be saving at least 10 percent of your current income for retirement and putting it into either an IRA, 401(k), or 403(b). Aside from putting money into a savings account, it’s equally important to take advantage of the retirement savings plans offered by your employer. Some companies even offer 401(k) options to their interns as well.
Wrath of the Credit Score
Any time you want to purchase a house or a car or apply for an apartment or bank loan, your credit score is checked. This three-digit number carries enormous weight in the decision of whether or not you get what you want. And It takes very little time for an identity thief to completely ruin your credit score.
There are plenty of sites that allow you to check your score for free or will monitor it for you at a nominal monthly fee.
Pro tip: Make sure to check different credit reports (Experian, Equifax, FICO and TransUnion). While one report might leave you feeling like a credit superstar, the others could still be impacting your interest rates. Some credit card companies actually offer a feature that includes your credit score with your monthly statement.
While you may think you’re saving money by purchasing the $50 jacket over the nicer $300 coat, you’re likely going to end up paying in the long run. If you skimp on the quality of the products you buy in order to save money now, you’re going to have to replace items more frequently and in the long run end up paying more. No one is suggesting you pull a Carrie Bradshaw and pay $1,000 for a pair of Manolo Blahniks that you don’t need, but go ahead and spend a little extra for the genuine leather boots that you’re going to wear every week.
Buying lunch can be an alluring temptress. Do you order the burger, sushi, ramen, or pastrami on rye? But the average American spends between $1,050 to $2,125 annually on going out to eat. If you head over to the local sandwich shop across from the office every day and buy a lunch combo for $10 and tell yourself that you’re saving money by not ordering from the trendy sushi place around the corner. The truth of it is though that’s $50 a week. Spend less than half of that on the groceries you need to make the lunch that you bring to work.
Your eyes are always bigger than your refrigerator and your paycheck. When you shop hungry, you’re susceptible to the tricks that grocery stores implement (i.e. putting basic everyday items like milk in the back of the store) that target weak-willed shoppers. Not only is it bad for your wallet but science shows it’s also bad for your waistline. In a study, hungry shoppers bought more high-calorie foods than those who were well fed when they went food shopping.
$250 might seem like a lot of money to spend on a unlimited monthly transit pass, when you have a perfectly convenient car. But when you look at the cost of gas (California, New York, Alaska, and Hawaii are over $3.25 per gallon), wear and tear on your car, parking, tolls, and not to mention the frustration of sitting in traffic, the 1 hour train ride that cost you less than $5 will not only be better for your budget at the end of the month, but it will also save you a few gray hairs as well.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this piece stated that some cities require proof that you make 40 times the annual rent. You must make 40 times the monthly rent.