12 Classic Bad Money Habits—and How to Bust Them

bad financial habitsEveryone is guilty of a bad habit or two.

But it's not your addiction to Candy Crush or your refusal to recycle grocery bags that worries us. It's the habits that damage your finances—from overspending to procrastinating about paying bills—that set off our alarms.

In fact, we're so committed to helping you change your less-than-stellar money habits for the better that we're featuring a series of articles this month that specifically examine the science, psychology and strategies behind behavior change.

And what better way to kick off the series than with a month-by-month guide to financial self-improvement for the whole year? That's why we asked six LearnVest Planning Services Certified Financial Planners™ to pick 12 of the most common bad money habits that they see (one for each month of the year)—and then offer their expert advice for breaking them in 2014.

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

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  • Ell

    Seriously? Did you forget about the public library? Not only for books, but if there’s a movie I’m dying to see that isn’t on Netflix right now, it’s the first place I check. You may have to wait for it if someone has it out, but free in a few days is more appealing to me than $5 right now (and nothing permanent to show for it).

    • Kitsu

      But not all public library systems are up-to-date, or even have a decent selection. My own public library seems stacked towards obscure and quite dusty writer’s works, and we have no multimedia to speak of.

    • Carolyn Yu

      LOL I thought the same thing! The library has free WIFI too!

      As with all financial/money issues, the key is to live below your means and limit debt.

      I would try to first cut back on insurance costs as they have always been one of the major issues in this country. For healthcare, you’re on your own, but for car insurance you can definitely find some budget rates. Aim for $25~ month (check Insurance Panda)​… for car insurance there’s really no need to get an expensive policy from places like GEICO, Allstate, etc… a minimum policy is enough for most situations. You can use the saved money to expand your bank account or pay off your debt.

      Also, you need to make sure you don’t have outrageous interest payments or anything like that…. that’s just throwing money away. So, you need to limit your student loans, mortgages, credit card, bills, whatever… If you MUST be in debt, you need to do it the smart way (and not the way that leads to huge interest payments every month).

  • Thrifty Writer

    My public library is great with e-books and audiobooks – you can borrow them for 14 days and you can put holds on books that are out.

  • Tony

    You dont actually “save” $500 by cutting back from buying 2 lunches a week to only buying 1 lunch a week. You actually save $500 less expenses to make your own lunch. To make the $10/purchased meal at home will probably cost you $4-5 to make in supplies, so your annual savings on 1 meal in vs 1 meal out comes out to $250.

    Of course thats assuming $0 loss in expired groceries and does not include the cost of the time suck that is food shopping, prep and cleanup.

    Eating in vs eating out really only starts to make a difference when you aren’t single. With larger groups, you are less likely to have groceries expire before
    they can be used and you can buy larger “bulk” items to achieve some
    scale reducing the cost of each individual meal. A family of 2 can see that savings increase to at least $500 while a family of 4 could probably see the per meal cost reach $3 with very little in lost groceries so a total savings of $1400.

    • alana

      Awesome points!

  • RNN

    Now if only I could break my boyfriend of these habits! We’re talking about moving in together at some point, but he complains he’s too broke to do it right now. This is a guy who eats out lunch every day and spends huge amounts on video games! I’m not going to tell him to cut back on the games, but I wish he’d get back in the habit of packing a sandwich…

    • Beast

      Where’s he living now, his mother’s basement?

  • C

    In California gift cards don’t expire,unless it’s given to you by the company it’s for it’s against state law,and if it has less than $10 on it a store has to cash it out if you ask them to

  • AnheuserBuschCU

    Great to see! These will be much easier to accomplish, one step at a time.

  • alana

    It’s not as easy as just “not eating out.” Cooking every day takes time and money and unless you are a good enough cook to make soba noodles with sautéed shrimp or a food truck quality Cuban sandwich you will never eat what you bring in. Just look in your office fridge and you’ll see tons of expired lunches people don’t really want to eat. Life is short, eat what you like, just maybe use a coupon when you can or cut back somewhere else.