Creating a budget is one of the best ways to get your financial situation in order. Whether you’re trying to pay off debt or are saving for a specific goal, budgets are a critical tool to help achieve your goals. But if your budget and checking account aren’t adding up, there’s something wrong. What could it be?
The problem lies in buying things that aren’t allotted for in your budget. These blind spots can be killers that stop any progress you’ve made and set you back into the debt spiral. Luckily there’s hope for your situation!
Consider looking at these budget-killing purchases below and see if they might be the culprit. If you see something that you’re just not willing to give up, we’ve also got a few tips for how you can keep your favorite things without blowing up your finances.
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Coffee shops and takeout lunches
One of the first things people argue about is whether or not your daily Starbucks is contributing to your debt or lowering net worth. To some extent, it’s true. Think of that daily $5 latte or $7 sandwich as a slow leak from a pipe. The steady dripping from the crack in a line might not seem like a big deal now but it creates a bigger problem later on if not fixed.
If you find yourself coming up short at the end of the month, look at your daily food habits. Are you heading out for lunch every day instead of bringing one from home? What about that happy hour you and your coworkers do every night?
Having these instances mess up your budget doesn’t mean you need to stop getting that vanilla soy latte. Instead, incorporate it as an expected expense for your budget. If you’re spending $5 every workday (5 days a week), that equals $125 a month. You can either start making your own coffee for much less or simply add that $125 into your monthly budget and see if you can make it work.
Your gym membership
How much money have New Year’s resolutions to get in shape cost us? Probably more than we want to admit. A gym membership can be anywhere from $10 to $100 per month and is a serious budget killer, especially if you’re not using it.
If you’re one of those who think you’ll get around to going back to the gym someday, then you’re just throwing money away. Cancel your membership now and start the habit of working out for free. There are thousands of free youtube videos that cover everything from yoga to workouts that simply use your body weight for resistance. Once you’ve developed the habit, you can consider rejoining the gym.
Don’t let the “ideal you” cost “current you” a lot of money.
Microtransactions in apps
Microtransactions are especially nefarious budget killers. Some have reported being shocked at credit card bills that are hundreds of dollars solely due to microtransactions! While you might think that $0.99 here and there is no big deal, you’d be surprised how much it adds up.
If you’re not willing to give up your gaming, consider instead using a prepaid debit card or gift card as your payment method. That way, you’ve allotted a set amount of money to the habit that you can’t go over and will prevent surprise bills from hitting your mailbox.
Bottled water is a problem for both your checking account and the environment. The worst part of bottled water is that needing it is entirely preventable! Having a reusable water bottle handy will drastically reduce your surprise expenses and help reduce plastic waste in our ecosystem. If you’re worried that a reusable water bottle might be too clunky to carry every day, there are collapsible models available that can fit into your pocket or bag and be ready when you need a drink.
Finding the budget killers in your own life can be a rude awakening when you’re trying to get out of debt. Use the tips above to help rework your patterns so that you don’t fall into that end-of-the-month money scramble ever again.