10 Ways to Cut Out Budget Sponges

We all have one or two (or 10) unhealthy financial habits we cling to, no matter how difficult times may get. We manage to convince ourselves these little indulgences are a necessity. The fact is, however, our financial and physical health would likely be greatly improved by ditching these budget sponges. What better time to make a clean break than at the start of a new year?

Diskonio has compiled a list of 10 ways you can cut your budget without entering a monastery.

1. Thank you for Not Smoking
Nicotine addicts with a pack-a-day habit see more than $1,600 go up in smoke each year, and that’s not even counting the medical costs associated with turning your lungs into the La Brea Tar Pits. Fill your face with nicotine gum, join a 12-step program, go to a hypnotist, stick on a patch — whatever it takes to clean up your act and boost your budget.

2. Cut the Coke
Forget dogs: Water is man’s best friend. Even if you buy pop by the 12-pack, you’re racking up hundreds of dollars yearly for this unhealthy vice. Cut out this liquid sweet and save close to $300 (or more for hard core fiends). Rather than buy expensive bottled water, however, invest in a quality water bottle and fill it from the tap.

3. Lovely Lattes
It escapes me why millions of Americans fork over $4 each day for a cup of caffeine. That adds up to more than $1,000 per year — without tip! Cut back to just three drinks a week and save roughly $650 per year. Better yet, consider brewing up a thermos full of homemade coffee and enjoy it throughout the day.

4. Shut It Off
Every evening I circle our office and turn off electronics. It drives me nuts to see all that energy being wasted, but many of us continue t leave our computers running all the time, simply because it’s more convenient. Next time you buy a computer, consider an Energy Star model, which uses only 15 watts per hour in sleep mode. (A typical desktop computer uses about 65 to 250 watts per hour.) The same goes for lights, power strips, etc.

5. Fine-tune Your TV Bill
You may have initially signed up for a basic cable or satellite TV package, but those bills have a way of slowly creeping up: HBO shows looks so interesting, you can’t see the sports you want on basic cable, and you might as well add more kid channels while you’re at it. Soon you’re shelling out over $100 per month for premium channels. Stick to the basic channels or, better yet, turn off the TV and read a book (from the library, of course).

6. FACs
It’s the end of the week and we’re sooooo ready to head out for a little Friday Afternoon Club. Unfortunately, happy hour prices have steadily snuck up until they’re not really all that happy. Invest that money in a club membership, gather at a friend’s house or make sure you stick to one happy-hour-priced drink. Extra benefit: You’ll avoid the high cost of a DUI (averaging $5,000 to $20,000!).

7. Use It or Lose It
Many of us start the year intending to hit the health club at least three to four times per week. By March, you could swing a barbell in a lot of gyms and never hit a soul. A one-year membership may seem cheaper in the long run but it’s best to try a month-to-month deal until you’ve turned those good intentions into a real lifestyle change.

8. Quit Driving Like a Jack Rabbit
It’s not a race. You can cut your gas budget by 30 percent if you stop revving your engine, speeding like you’re at Daytona and making jack-rabbit starts. Here’s an even better idea: Drive the speed limit in the city and 60 mph on the highway, then I won’t be the only one receiving dirty looks from speeding cars.

9. Cook!
Over-packaged, over-processed and over-advertised foods also are over priced. Sure they save time, but they’re a killer at the cash register. The closer a food is to its natural state, the less it tends to cost and the healthier it is for you. While you’re at it, bring lunches and snacks to work, instead of pumping money into vending machines and restaurant coffers.

10. Stop the Shoe Madness
Nobody needs as many shoes (or purses) as Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. Shopping for clothes and accessories shouldn’t be a form of entertainment. Find out what suits your shape and style and vow to shop only for classic styles that will look good next year.

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About the Author: Linda Clevenger

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