(MCT) — One former smoker saved "hundreds of dollars" in just a few months by going tobacco-free, according to the folks at Consumer Credit Counseling Service. At the other extreme, a friend of mine has paid more than $500 so far this year in bounced check fees created by poor planning and other bad habits.
The message: Our vices and bad habits can tax our bank accounts. Procrastination, poor planning and impulse shopping often sabotage our financial goals. Here's a list of bad habits and money-saving solutions:
Take-out dinners. "Without a meal plan we constantly are scrounging the cupboards for easy-to-prepare (more expensive) food or going to the store last minute or to the quick-serve restaurants," said Jim Parfitt of www.ChangeJarSavings.com. In contrast, thoughtful meal planning saves money through several steps. A menu plan requires an organized shopping list, which saves time and money at the grocery story, Parfitt said. And finally, a well-stocked cabinet and a full freezer diminish our appetite for fast-food.
Disorganization: "One bad habit is not being prepared, which can cause a waste of time and money," said Sherry Stauffer, who teaches community classes about coupons. "I always start out by telling those who attend that the first thing in couponing is being prepared." Known as the coupon lady of Fort Myers, Fla., (fortmyerscouponlady.blogspot.com/), Stauffer spends four to five hours preparing for a shopping trip. Her research pays off. She spends only $160 a month on groceries, which represents a monthly savings of $300. Her preparation includes a review of store promotions, a hunt for coupons (online and in newspapers) and constant research about prices.
Laziness: Clothing stains and bounced checks have common ground, according to Holly Santiago. Failure to take proper action can lead to unnecessary expenses. For instance, if you don't repair your clothing or remove stains promptly, wardrobe replacement costs will increase. Likewise, when we're too lazy to balance the checkbook, bounced checks could lead to unnecessary and expensive bank fees, Santiago said.
Impulse shopping: In a recent e-mail, Natasha Maddox, a maven shopper, shared strategies for dealing with bad credit-card habits with me. "If you are having problems with debt, only bring your credit card with you when needed," Maddox said. Stashing away the credit card reduces the risk of identity theft and impulse purchases. With easy access to plastic, we're more likely to adopt a grab-and-go shopping strategy.
(Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of the "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money" — a coming-of-age memoir about money — and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's "10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," both available on Amazon.com.)
(c) 2009, The Miami Herald.