smart spending

5 bad money habits to kick for 40 days

fifty dollar bill and pink wallet
  • Save around $70 over 40 days by paying off your credit card balance each month.
  • Stop eating out and save almost $300 over 40 days.
  • One overdraft fee will run you $30.83.

The new year has begun, and as we all start our resolutions of ridding one bad habit, try to stick with it for 40 days to see a real change.

This year, consider putting a financial spin on your resolution to kick a bad money habit while you have the support of everyone around you.

Vowing to stop ignoring your 401(k), giving up your monthly budget for wine or staunchly refusing to put unnecessary items on your credit card could all be worthy money goals during this time.

But before you pick your poison, consider turning your short-term goal into a long-term, healthy habit.

"If you can do something for 40 days, you can most likely keep it ongoing," says Lora Sasiela, financial therapist and owner of the Financially Smitten blog.

Items that can damage your wallet and waist

The booze, cigarettes and fast food aren't doing you any favors. Giving up these bad habits for 40 days could save you money and preserve your health.

If you're a pack-a-day smoker, you'll save almost $240 over 40 days, as the average price of a pack of cigarettes reached $5.98 in 2012, not including local and sales taxes, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. If you live in an area with high taxes on cigarettes, such as New York City, expect to save closer to $500 over 40 days.

Giving up restaurants and fast food could save an extra car payment. The average consumer spends about $272 over 40 days on eating out, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2010 Consumer Expenditures survey.

Beer and wine are an extra $40, according to estimates from the Beer Institute, Wine Institute and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These vices may be difficult to give up, but remember, it's not forever, Sasiela says. It's important to stay realistic on what you can and want to give up.

"I think it's really important for people to really get clear on what their 'why' is," she says. "I think so often there are 'I should do this' goals, and they may not be aligned with what the person really wants."

Bad credit card and credit report behavior

People use credit cards to create an astonishing amount of debt each year. For households that use cards, the average was $4,996, according to a report by TransUnion released in November 2012.

"People will spend this month's lifestyle on next month's 'if-come,'" says Chad Carden, co-author of "Winning the Money Game: A Rulebook to Achieving Financial Success for Young People." "I will buy stuff this month, and I'm banking on that I'm still going to have my job (next month)."

It would take a cardholder more than 11 years to pay off $4,996 by making the minimum payments at an 18.9 percent interest rate -- and would ultimately cost about $3,000 in interest.

Pay down those cards with balances to get rid of that looming interest. Start training yourself to skip using a credit card for unnecessary purchases -- any items you haven't budgeted for. When you do use your card, make sure to pay off the balance each month.

And while you're using your credit card responsibly, start building good credit report habits.


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