With Black Friday and other spending pitfalls looming this holiday season, there's no better time to evaluate where your money is going before it's too late.
The following are seven habits you need to break so you don't go broke. Let the collective wisdom of WalletPop, Investopedia, helpsavemydollars.com and MSN Money provide instant salvation.
1. Buying books, DVDs and other media
Even cheap-listed by Amazon, most bestsellers are still running between $10 and $20. One book a week could cost you well over $1,000 for a year. Turn the page on this folly and get thee to a library! You can get your DVDs (up to $46 apiece for Blu-ray) there, too, for FREE. No Netflix needed either. And, as much as we love the daily newspaper and trashy gossip mags, it's time to bid adieu to the newsstand and access all of that stuff online. It's mostly -- ready? -- free.
For the same reason that a compulsive eater might not want to walk into a bakery for a look-see, why are you checking out that fancy dress when you neither need it nor can afford it? Ditto for cruising catalogs and your e-mail coupons. Get them out of your sight and off your computer screen. Then ask yourself if you need it and can pay cash for it.
3. Buying home fitness equipment
The average price of a stationary bike is $296.32 and $586.19 for an elliptical trainer, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. We all know it will probably gather dust or become a hanger to dry clothes on by Valentine's Day. You can forget the house calls from a personal trainer ($60 to $70 and hour), too. All it takes is a simple routine of walking, push-ups and sit-ups. Work up to 1 hour and 15 minutes of intense activity a week or 2 1/2 hours of moderate exercise, recommends the Health Department.
4. Stuffing your wallet with cash
This is almost as egregious as swiping that plastic everywhere you shop. Excess cash on hand burns a hole in your pocket. This isn't extra money. It's your money. Take care of it.
5. Drinking coffee out
Cafe visits for your daily Joe can add up to $150 per month and more than $1,800 a year. Brew it at home -- you can even get the fancy blends. Believe me, your barista won't miss you.
6. Not planning meals
My wife teases me for thinking about dinner before I even have breakfast. But a little planning will save you big bucks. We all know what happens when time crunch meets fatigue -- you go out to dinner or order takeout. A family of four spends $4,000 a year eating out, according to the Department of Labor. That number rises in metro hubs. Plan menus and have multigrain pasta and cans of real tomato sauce on hand when the going gets really tough. Add olive oil, oregano, garlic powder and salt to taste -- and you've got a fairly nutritious meal. Sprinkle parmesan for more protein. Some efficiency experts recommend making meals a week in advance on Sundays. It rarely works -- and your weekend will be lost in the kitchen. Just wake up knowing you have stuff on hand to put together a bag lunch if you go to an office, plus ingredients to prepare a simple dinner that night.
7. Having online vendors remember your payment information
It's one more hazard of our click-and-pay culture. Slashing the time to consider your purchase isn't a good thing. If you don't even have to log in your credit card info, it's far easier to cave to impulse. Pay each time as if it were your first. Type in the information. Breathe. Think. The next emotional buy you spare might be your own.
Seven deadly sins of spending