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11 Bad Spending Habits You Need To Break

by:
Paulette Thompson

Bad habits—we’ve all got ‘em! But sometimes, we might not even be aware of our own bad habits, or how much money they could be costing us. So we’re here to shine a light on some bad spending habits you need to avoid. Abandoning each will help thicken your wallet, and as an added benefit, dropping these habits will be healthier for you too! So in no particular order, here are our 11 bad spending habits to break!

11 Bad Habits to Break to Save Money

1. Smoking

Health benefits aside (and we won’t lecture you on that front), the cost of cigarettes quickly adds up. If you’re a regular smoker like 20% of Canadians, you may be shocked by the amount you’re spending if you actually do the math. (One pack of cigarettes a day at an average price of $11 per pack equals $4,015 a year!) Now think about everything else you could do with that money and ask yourself if you can forgo the nicotine fix.

2. Making Late Payments

Credit cards have many traps, and one is the late payment! The fees for late payments have continued to rise over the years, and while there are instances when you may simply not have the money, often it’s just forgetfulness. And who wants to pay $30 or more just for a slip of the mind? Never miss a bill again by setting up automatic payments online, or add reminders to your phone so that you’re notified before the due date. (Most bill payments require at least a couple of business days to be processed, so to be safe, set your reminder about a week before the payment is due.) 

3. Frequent Dining Out

Dining out can get expensive, and it's only getting worse. Even fast food, which we often think of as a quick and cheap meal fix, can get pricey. Canada’s Food Price Report says Canadians can expect an increase of almost 60% to the cost of food when dining out—that's an average increase of more  than $200 per person. The good news is the cost of food at the grocery store will not be affected, and it's usually much healthier too, so it's win-win!

4. Buying Coffee To Go

We know there’s nothing better than a good cup of coffee in the morning (sometimes, it's the only thing to get us out the door), but our caffeine cravings come with a price tag. So, rather than swing by the drive-thru at Tim Horton's, Starbucks, or McDonald's, you can purchase these favourites from the supermarket, brew them at home, and then bring them to work in a thermos. (You can also try purchasing different brands, beans and roasts to change things up.) Skipping purchasing beverages on-the-go can put an average of $3.25 back into your savings every day, and it saves time too thanks to no line-ups! 

5. Drinking Too Much Pop

Pop is generally way overpriced, whether it’s a couple of loonies at a gas station or vending machine, or a ridiculous three-plus dollars at a restaurant. Rather than give in to the urge and extra sugar, stick to water. While bottled water can also get pricey (not to mention it's bad for the environment), you can buy a sink filter (consider it an investment!) or a simple water filtration pitcher to pour your own water and take it to go.

6. Paying Minimum Balances on Credit Cards

We understand that if you’re struggling financially, minimums may be all you’re able to pay. And it’s tempting to do just that, as most credit cards only require about 1-3% of the balance to be paid each month. But this will cost you a fortune in interest in the long run. (Don't believe us? Use our Debt Calculator to see exactly how much interest you'll pay.) Always try to pay more than the minimum, but if it’s not possible based on your current monthly budget, consider cutting costs like negotiating a cheaper internet and cellphone plan, or other debt repayment strategies such as the snowball or avalanche methods, which may get you out of debt faster.

7. Buying Name Brand Groceries

Is there really that big of a difference between Kleenex tissues and the store brand kind? Not really! It’s usually simply out of habit or ego that we reach for the name brands we know and love. However, buying generic or private label brands can really make a difference on your supermarket bill. Financial guru Dave Ramsey crunched the numbers, and reveals that switching from name brand foods to generics can shave about $1000 off your annual food budget! Of course, you don’t have to go completely generic—everyone has their favourites—but consider the items where it really won’t make much of a difference to you, but it will to your budget.

8. Paying for Unused Services or Memberships

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, purchase a gym membership, and now find you’re rarely using it? Well, if you're anything like 65% of the rest of the population, this will sound familiar. If that's the case, you should consider getting rid of the membership and commit to another activity you can either do at home by looking at a YouTube video, or you can do yourself outdoors. Check out the Globe and Mail’s free (or cheap) ways to exercise for other great ideas. Also, consider getting rid of magazine subscriptions. How often do those go unread, while you surf the web on your phone instead? Cancel them and you'll save some trees, too.

9. Purchasing Movie Theater Concessions

Movie ticket prices aren’t getting any cheaper, but where theaters really make their money is on concessions. Popcorn, soda, and snacks can more than double the cost of your date with the silver screen. Consider giving them up, or just purchase a small popcorn and ask for a courtesy cup of water. (And if you’ve just gotta have those peanut M&Ms, buy them in advance from the store.)

10. Giving In to the Kids

It’s hard when they look up at you with their big eyes—or start throwing a tantrum. But overindulging the kids can throw a wrench into an otherwise healthy budget. (Plus it can be damaging to your child's future financial habits and expectations.) Don’t be afraid to say no, and be mindful of the precedents you set when you treat or reward your child. Also, make it a habit to teach them the value of shopping around or waiting for something to go on sale. Explain that you can buy one chocolate bar from the vending machine now, or two for the same price at the grocery store later.

11. Shopping Online (Too Much)

While you can often find bargains online—especially on sites like Kijiji where people offer gently used or worn items—online shopping can also be dangerous. When you’re physically in a store, you have time to think about whether you really need to make a purchase. But in the online world, it’s just a couple taps and boom! You've bought five items you don't really need, and might not fit properly either. To avoid the online shopping temptation, delete retailer apps from your phone, block their sites on your computer, and unsubscribe from their newsletters. (And do not click on those shopping ads that just magically show up on your Insta feed!)


There you have it. Did we touch on a few bad habits of your own, or want to share any in the comments? Whether these hit home or not, if you think you’re in a financial rut and are looking for some free advice from an expert, or are considering debt repayment strategies like a Debt Consolidation Program, we're here to help! Call us at 1.800.267.2272 to book a free, confidential counselling session with a certified credit counsellor and we can get you where you want to be, financially!

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Topics: Saving Money

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