One-A-Day Financial Detox: 7 easy steps to flush bad money habits and adopt healthy ones

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Full detox can be a big shock to the system. To break old money habits that are hurting your budget, make small changes gradually – that way, your improvements are more likely to stick.

  1. Sunday: Ditch unwanted subscriptions and other recurring costs. It’s one thing to identify and eliminate the expenses you know about, but what about the ones you don’t even notice? With automatic recurring costs, like subscriptions, it’s often a case of out of sight, out of mind – but the charges do add up, especially over time. Do a spending audit. This will probably involve examining past bank or credit card statements with a sharp eye – not unlike the way you would read food labels closely to zero in on hidden sugar and fat in your diet.

You can catalog unwanted subscriptions manually and then personally contact each company, one by one, to cancel the subscriptions you no longer want, but there are also free services that will take care of it for you, such as Trim and Truebill.

  1. Monday: Renegotiate your cable and phone bill. Your cable and phone may be necessities for living in the 21st century, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t overpaying for them. This is not a “set it and forget it” situation – utility companies regularly reformulate their cable and phone plans, so be sure to check in once a year to be sure you are on the most cost-effective plan for your particular usage patterns. Customer service will be happy to help you switch to the right plan for you, because it boosts customer loyalty. There is usually no charge for switching plans, and you could save hundreds of dollars a year as a result.

Another way to lower your cable or phone bill: Renegotiate. Believe it or not, many people have successfully negotiated a lower cable bill simply by asking for it. A few tips:

  • Be clear about what you want. If what you want is a lower monthly bill, rather than more channels for your current price, be clear about that.
  • Establish a rapport with the customer service rep before you start negotiating. Chances are, the person on the line with you has dealt with many challenging customer issues today and will welcome the chance to help a friendly customer.
  • Do your homework. If someone you know got a price break from the same company last week, mention it. If you know of a current promotional offering from a different company, be ready to cite those details.
  1. Tuesday: Eat all three meals from home today. Many of us fall into the habit of grabbing meals on the run, especially during the busy work week. We think we’re saving time, but our budget takes the hit instead. A little planning and time management can make all the difference. Get up ten or 15 minutes earlier to prepare breakfast and a sack lunch – even dinner if you plan to work late at the office. When you estimate your savings at the end of the day, you may discover that you not only had your least expensive but also your healthiest eating days in a while.
  2. Wednesday: Cut up all but two credit cards. Carrying many credit cards makes it hard to track your spending – and can lead to unmanageable credit card debt. Just because you qualify for more cards doesn’t mean having them is good for you! Simpler is often healthier, and that applies here too – so ditch all but two cards, one tied to your bank and one with a great points system. You’ll be better able to keep an eye on things, make your payments on time, and still build rewards.
  3. Thursday: Add 1% more to your 401K contribution, and if you don’t notice it’s gone, do another 1%. The more you contribute to your 401(k) and the earlier you do it, the more you’ll have when the time comes to retire. So, if you aren’t already contributing the maximum every year, bump up your contribution by 1%. Chances are, you won’t even notice – and it will be easy to contribute another 1%. Do it! Your future self will thank you.
  4. Friday: Make a weekend entertainment budget and stick to it. When it comes to money, “detoxing” can be as simple as being mindful about the small ways we “leak money” unnecessarily. Entertainment expenses can be a big culprit here, especially during the weekend when we’re relaxing and inclined to treat ourselves. A simple fix: decide on a weekend entertainment budget and stick to it. This may mean that movies are okay this weekend, but big concert tickets will have to wait until you’ve “banked” several weekends’ worth of entertainment funds. Balance expensive weekends with low-cost or free weekends at the local aquarium or a public park.
  5. Saturday: Clean out your clothes closet and delay new clothes shopping for a season (or two). There are more ways to stretch your clothing budget than bargain hunting. (Although that’s fun too.) Many of us have closets that are overstuffed with clothes we rarely wear. Do a closet purge – be ruthless and ditch anything you haven’t worn in a year or more. Paring down your wardrobe to fewer items that you truly want to wear will make dressing every day easier and more enjoyable. You may find yourself rediscovering classic, high quality pieces, which will make it easier to eliminate impulse buys and delay your next wardrobe refresh.

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