smart spending

How much do bad habits cost?

Procrastinating © wavebreakmedia/
  • Yearly cost: $600
  • Savings after 30 years of compounding interest: $47,435

We're wired to overspend, but we're also naturally inclined to put off things we don't want to do until it's too late. Witness the hordes who don't sign up for their 401(k) plans even though they get matching contributions from their employers. Even modest procrastination comes at a cost. Lose $50 monthly to an unused gym membership or grocery coupons that never got clipped, and you'll lose $600 per year.

"If the cost of procrastinating something is high enough, you won't do it," says Dean Karlan, an economics professor at Yale University and co-founder of the goal-setting site,

One way to avoid procrastinating, Karlan says, is to make the cost of skipping that to-do item so high that you won't avoid doing it. Sites such as stickK and apps such as GymPact allow procrastinators to attach a financial reward (or punishment) to their goals. But for incentives to work, Karlan says you have to want to change first.

"There is some needed self-reflection for any true behavior change," he says. "It doesn't have to be superdeep and intense, but there does need to be some 'aha!' moment."


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