6 Money Habits We’ve Normalized (And Why It’s Time to Stop)
We all pick up bad habits. If we keep those bad habits long enough, they become normalized. It feels normal to drink too much, eat too much, spend too much.
Over time, a lot of us have normalized some bad financial habits. These habits sort of creep up on us. Before we know it, they’re part of our lives.
And they cost us money. So much money. Month after month after month, our bad financial habits cost us money.
Here are six habits many of us have normalized, and here’s what we all could be doing instead.
1. Having Credit Card Debt
Americans owe roughly $1 trillion on their credit cards. And credit card debt is the most expensive kind of debt, with your credit card company just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates.
A website called AmOne can help you fight back. If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, it’ll match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.
2. Spending More Than We Make
It’s too easy to overspend. There are too many temptations, especially with so many purchases available at a click of a button. It requires a lot of discipline not to spend too much.
We’ve got another way to help you stop overspending: Stop overpaying for things.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Target and are about to overpay? That’s what this free service does.
Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.
Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.
In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.
You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.
3. “Investing Is Too Scary.”
Ooooohhh, investing, so scary. Golly, it sounds so intimidating.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t even need much money to get started — and you can even get free stocks (worth up to $200!) if you know where to look.
Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.
Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.
What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.
4. Just Guessing About Our Budget
Don’t want to budget? Try the budget for people who hate budgets.
The 50/30/20 method is one of the simplest ways to get your spending in check. No 100-line spreadsheets or major lifestyle changes required.
Here’s how it works: Take your total after-tax income each month, and divide it in half. That’s your essentials budget (50%). Take the rest, and divide it into personal spending (30%) and financial goals (20%).
Let’s break it down: That’s 50% for things like utilities, groceries, medications, minimum debt payments and other essential spending. Then there’s 30% for fun: Thai takeout, your Netflix subscription, dressing up a skeleton on your lawn for Halloween.
That leaves 20% for your financial goals, like additional debt-reduction payments (anything above the minimum monthly payment) along with retirement savings and investments.
5. Never Changing Our Car Insurance
When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?
You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.
A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.
Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.
Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.
6. Assuming We’ll Never Retire
Too many of us assume that retirement is a pipe dream. And sure, there are going to be challenges. Unless you’re a teacher or police officer, most of us don’t have pensions anymore.
To retire comfortably, you need to steadily funnel a healthy percentage of your wages into a 401(k) account — it’s literally one of the smartest things you can do for your future. And if your employer matches each contribution, that could mean hundreds of thousands of extra dollars in your account when you retire. It’s free money!
But if you can’t take advantage of this employer benefit because you need all of your paycheck every month, a company called Lendtable will give you the cash.
We know it sounds too good to be true. But if your employer has a 401(k) match program, this is money they already have earmarked for you. By using Lendtable, you’ll be able to unlock that free cash.
Let’s say you make $50k a year and your employer matches your 401(k) contribution up to 4%. If you put $0 in your retirement account this year, you get $0 from your boss. If Lendtable gives you the 4% of your salary your employer is willing to match, you get $2,000 from your boss, minus Lendtable’s share of the profit. (This comes from the extra money you’ve earned, so there’s no sacrifice on your part.)
It takes three minutes to answer a few questions about your eligibility and sign up for an account.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. When it comes to bad habits, he’s an expert, really a grand master of sorts.