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I Can’t Believe How Much These Small Purchases Are Costing Me Every Year

I Can’t Believe How Much These Small Purchases Are Costing Me Every Year

Have you ever stopped to add up all of the tiny, seemingly inconsequential expenses that we accumulate daily, weekly, or monthly? A few dollars here, a few dollars there add up to big bucks at the end of the year. You will be shocked at how much those unnecessary expenditures are leaching out of your wallet.

1. Make mine a grande.

Your Starbucks habit may be costing you big time. I paid $4.59 for my last Grande latte (Cinnamon Dolce is my favorite). At that price, five days a week, you’d be spending nearly $100 per month, or $1193.40 per year at Starbucks. And that’s just the coffee; throw in a muffin a few times per week and you’re looking at $1500 per year.

What this could buy: With that amount of money, you could buy a new laptop or some living room furniture or maybe a cruise for two.

2. Roll that money up and smoke it.

If you’re still one of the smokers among us, you might as well just roll your money up and smoke it. Though the cost of your cigarette habit will vary by location, from around $5 in Kentucky to $14 in New York, any way you look at it, it quickly adds up. With the average smoker in the US consuming just under a pack a day, you’re spending around $50 per week—that’s $2600 per year. Want to kick the habit? Here are some great tips.

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What you could buy: That would pay for a family vacation. Disney anyone? Or maybe you’re more of a big screen with surround sound and gaming type. You could outfit a family room nicely—every year.

3. The salon habit.

Love that straight, smooth look? If you go to your salon for weekly blow out, at an average of $25 a pop, you’re spending $1300 a year. If you’re a Brazilian blow out consumer, those will set you back another $800 a year. Is smooth hair worth that much to you? Maybe. Maybe not.

What you could buy: You could spend that money on a massage every other week instead or some really fabulous outfits or a bunch of great shoes.

4. Watch those pesky bank fees.

Are you still paying a monthly maintenance fee? Better check your statement. There are so many free checking accounts without fees; it’s foolish to pay that $12 per month when you don’t have to. Also, did you know that most banks now charge a “statement fee” to mail your monthly statements? It’s usually only $2 or so, but that adds up. Get it via email and it’s free. How often do you hit the ATM? According to recent statistics, the average ATM user will hit an ATM 8 times a month. If that ATM is not at your personal bank or if you get cash back at the grocery store, you’ll pay an average of $3 per transaction.

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Some banks charge $5–7 for replacement card and shockingly a few banks are now starting to charge for a “human teller” service. Seriously, $8 to deal with a live person. Even without counting the ridiculous human teller fee, you could be paying more than $500 a year in completely avoidable fees.

What you could buy: With that $500, I could buy a gym membership or maybe better a few stocks and a session with a financial planner.

5. Take another look at that cell phone plan.

According to some recent studies, as many as 80% of cell phone users are overpaying on their plans, especially smart phone users. That’s crazy. Check your usage over a few months. You may be able to downgrade your voice minutes, or you may be paying for voice or data overages. Either way, you’ll save money by “right-sizing” your plan.

You may be surprised by how much you can save by getting an unlimited minute plan or by switching carriers. Smartphone users are overpaying an average of $10–20 per month according to the studies, and if you have several smartphones in your household, it’s even more. That’s $200–500 a year.

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What you could buy: That extra $200 could buy a nice shiny new device or something really cool, like an activity tracker or GPS watch.

6. Keep your hands off the merchandise.

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, the average American spends $200 a month on impulse buys, the biggest offenders being clothes and shoes, toys, technology and checkout counter items. These frivolous purchases are most often triggered by sales, discounts, pacifying children’s wants and convenient placement by retailers. If it’s on sale, but you didn’t need it, then did it really save you anything?

Shopping online can help avoid checkout line temptation, but the instant gratification can cost you even more. The lesson? Stick to your list, wait until the next trip, or impose a 24–hour waiting period. Ask yourself if the $2400 a year is truly worth the payoff.

What you could buy: Instead of shoes you don’t need, another cute sweater, yet another device to add to your collection, more toys to clean around or junk food that adds pounds, perhaps you’d rather buy a comfy new mattress, a new kitchen table, or a terrific stereo. Or you could pay off the credit card bill for last year’s impulse buys.

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7. A dollar and a dream.

We are lottery-hungry here in America, more so than any other country in the world. And while the average American spends about $200 a year on lottery tickets, $4 per week, the poorest Americans spend nearly $12 a week, totaling more than $600 yearly. Since your odds of winning the lottery are somewhere between 175,000,000 and 200,000,000 to 1, it really is a terrible waste of money. In fact, your odds of being struck by lightning, having identical quadruplets, or being killed by a flesh eating bacteria are more likely.

What you could buy: While $200 doesn’t buy much, it does buy some dinners out, a designer bag, a new suit, or a great dress.

8. Brown bag it.

A recent survey cited that 70% of American workers go out to lunch at least twice a week and spend an average of $10 a pop, coming in at around $1000 a year. And for those who go out every day, that number comes in at $2600 each year. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be brown bagging it.

What you could buy: With the money you’ll save by packing your lunch, you could buy a brand new refrigerator full of food. You could use the extra money to buy organic or if you prefer to invest it in yourself, take a professional development course or college course.

However your money is leaking out of your wallet each month, you might want to consider how else you could be spending it. At least be conscious of where your money is going. And something else to consider: if you reclaimed even $100 per month and invested it, even conservatively, you would accumulate nearly $40,000 over the next 20 years and that number would double each decade.

Featured photo credit: Money – Savings via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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