smart spending

How much do bad habits cost?

Overspending © sheff/
  • Yearly cost: $1,200
  • Savings after 30 years of compounding interest: $94,870

"Human beings are simply wired to spend," says Jean Chatzky, author of eight personal finance books and head of the online financial literacy program Money School. "Our brains get a lot of pleasure out of rewards that we can have right now and very little, if any, pleasure out of waiting for things."

That may partly explain why the U.S. savings rate is currently a dismal 2.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Research shows that overspending isn't just fun; it's easy to do without noticing. According to a survey from the life insurance and capital management company Country Financial, more than 1 in 5 respondents said they spend more than they earn for at least half the year, but only 9 percent classified themselves as living beyond their means.

"If it's a minor problem ... then track your spending for a little while. You'll see where the holes in your budget are and should be able to stop yourself," says Chatzky.

Keep in mind that overspending costs you in the long term, too. Exceed your paycheck by just $100 per month -- the equivalent of a modest date night -- and you'll rack up expenses of $1,200 per year.


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