We’re an action-oriented bunch, always looking to DO SOMETHING in order to achieve a goal. “What can I do to save money?” Try this: nothing! When it comes to money, the more important consideration can be what you’re not doing. As I survey the various habits and mindsets that I’ve developed, modified, and dropped over my years, I can see a pattern where halting an activity has been a massive boon to my overall well-being, including my balance sheet. In recent years, I’ve become the best version of myself (so far!), largely by ceasing some regular behaviors that were holding me back. I realize now how important it is to identify these problems and stop them.
Stop pining for the latest and greatest
I always wanted a super fast car. I’m a nerd at heart, and the hottest new video game always catches my attention. Seeing an amazing movie in the first week of its release was at one time a major source of excitement and anticipation in my life. The fastest, slimmest phone money could buy? Check. A graphics card that can render eyelash movement and still maintain 60fps? Yep. An eardrum bursting sound system? You bet. Anything to get my ooh’s and ahh’s!
One thing I’ve learned is that just by slipping a couple years behind, I can still have many of these things at a fraction of the cost. This realization started to sink in when I was broke but still wanted to play sports video games. I found Half.com carried the last year’s versions for less than $5 shipped to my door, when Madden and 2K and (back in the day) NBA Live all wanted 10X that amount during the current season. The same concept applies to buying used cars, being a bit behind the times on cell phone tech, and waiting until movies come out on the streaming service I’m already buying. Sometimes, it’s good to let a few obsessions go entirely. Adios, Porsche 911. I can afford you now, but I don’t want you no mo’.
Hit the brake on reckless driving
Speaking of fast cars – I used to drive as if I had that Porsche, but I was blasting down the highway in an old hand-me-down granny car. Didn’t matter, still broke 100mph. Got a few tickets. Had a few close calls. Paid eye popping insurance rates. Ragged the hell out of anything I drove and failed to maintain it properly all at the same time. Driving with reckless abandon is a great way to triple your automobile expenses, and even worse, it’s the most likely way to become seriously injured or just plain dead at an early age. I’ve had too many friends and family fall victim to someone’s negligent driving – either their own or someone else’s. It’s just not worth the temporary thrill, and it eats huge holes in your budget simultaneously. There’s a Zen to driving at a reasonable speed, keeping a safe distance, and wearing your damn seatbelt all the while. Find it, live long, and profit.
Curtail alcohol consumption
Of everything on this list, quitting alcohol was the hardest. It took the most painful health scare of my life and a long hard look at myself for me to finally stop the madness. I was pouring liquor down my throat and flushing $100’s down the commode. It cost me, big time, and I almost paid the ultimate price. And so I stopped. I’ll elaborate on this story some other day, but for now, if this topic hits home for you, check out reddit.com/r/stopdrinking for some support and ideas of how to quit.
Snuff out cigarette smoking
I smoked for three years and slowly built up to a pack-a-day habit. When a good job left little wiggle room for smoke breaks and offered opportunity for advancement, I decided that it’d be best to just stop entirely: to help my wallet and my professional image. In the many years since my final stogie, the cost of cigarettes has nearly tripled in my area, largely because of taxes. I know I was spending a lot then; I can’t imagine the weekly bill now! More than anything, I’m glad I quit because of how disgusting cigarette smoke is. Something you don’t fully realize until you quit is that if you smoke, you fuckin’ reek!!! I don’t plan to drop many F-bombs in my articles, but I can’t overemphasize how nasty a smoker smells: his clothes, his hair, his car, his house. It makes my normally-iron-stomach gag in revulsion.
Steer clear from recreational drugs
While we’re on the train of terrible health habits, I’ll briefly say that I’ve cut recreational drugs out my life as well. One concept I didn’t grasp in my youth was just how risky illegal drugs are. Whether you agree with the laws or not, violating them carries a true and tangible risk of ruining your life. And if you’re obtaining illegal substances, you’re probably getting your fix from less than savory individuals. I’ve read that the human brain doesn’t fully develop its risk analysis capabilities until age 25 or older, and my anecdotal evidence supports this theory. I simply cannot fathom the risks I took when I was younger, and I’m grateful to whatever mysterious force allowed me to escape my youth unscathed by the justice system. Oh and one more thing – drugs are expensive, yo.
Avoid convenient and impulsive consumption
Chances are, you have a sneaky, seemingly innocuous small spending habit. It could be a Reese’s here and there. Or maybe you like to get your coffee fix on the run. Perhaps a pack of gum won’t hurt the budget too much. Did somebody say McDonald’s? Ba-da-buh-bah-BAH! No, I haven’t had any Arby’s curly fries on a whim because they’re delicious and curly and the spiral ones are the best especially when you get a looong spiral crunchy savory and soft gem of a curly potato product – no, uh, I swear I never did that. Whatever it is, stopping in real quick at the gas station or the drive-thru can add up quickly.
Sometimes, that quick stop is mindless and you don’t even realize you’ve done it until the bottle, bag, or box is staring back at you empty and you ask, “Why did I do that??” And other times, you consciously make the decision as a little reward or pick-me-up or motivation. Fact is – these little habits that drip out of your wallet add up to an unrelenting leak that can sink your ship with all its treasure. Identifying and plugging my little leaks was one of the first tasks that I accomplished in the process of correcting my cashflow.
Stop binge eating
After being the chubby kid forever, I lost 50 lbs. Woohoo!! Not only did the aforementioned alcohol cessation help tremendously, but also I identified that I was eating way beyond my satiation point. I kept writing little notes in my savings idea list like, “The more you eat, the less money you have!” And it’s true, but what I failed to internalize was the idea of a stopping point. It takes a while for the stomach to send a telegraph to the brain saying, “Yep. Full. You can stop now.” So I made it a habit to consciously decide when I’ve had enough. I stop even though I’m not registering the full signal yet. Within 15-20 minutes, that satisfied feeling arrives, and I very rarely deal with the achy feeling having eaten a motherlode.
Control stress and anxiety
As evidenced by high blood pressure, I was once extremely stressed. I had chest pains. I couldn’t sleep. I felt overloaded and helpless, floundering under the weight of a busy personal life and a demanding job. So I stopped stressing. I make it sound so easy, right? But what I learned was that the stress was internal. Life is 5% what happens to you and 95% how you react to it. You choose to react with stress. Stress doesn’t occur externally; it’s entirely within your body and your brain. I’m not saying that I never experience stress, but I do react to its arrival with a few important steps:
- I recognize when stress building.
- I stop what I am doing.
- I leave the room.
- I either (A) meditate or (B) engage in physical activity.
This formula has worked wonders for me. I did a lot of reading and research to come to this routine. One of the key books I credit for my successful conquering of stress is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This approach to handling stress has allowed me the peaceful mindset and the stockpile of willpower to make lasting improvements in my life. Some of these improvements have come from self-reflection to realize the bad habits that made my life more difficult and more expensive. I stopped doing those things.
What are you doing in your life that you think you should stop?