Say “No” to Late Fees, Overlimit, and Overdraft Charges With a 30-day Money Diet

There’s no doubt about it – late, overlimit, and overdraft fees are an expense nobody needs. The final provisions of the Credit CARD Act means those fees are going to be lower – if you’re late with a $15 minimum payment on your credit card, they can only slap you with a $15 fee. And in most cases, credit card companies and banks will both be limited to charging $25 per incident. Still… they’re still a money drain you can do without.

Why do they happen in the first place? Because sometimes paychecks are a bit short, or they arrive on the wrong day of the month to pay those bills on time.

What you need is a cushion, so when the due date arrives before the paycheck, you can still pay your debts on time.

A 30-day money diet can give you that cushion.

You may not enjoy it, but anyone can do without a few things for 30 days. And, it may be hard to admit, but almost everyone spends money on things they don’t actually need.

For instance: Beverages. How often do you stop for a coffee, or grab a soft drink from a machine at work? Maybe you have a hot dusty job and stop for a beer on your way home from work. Do you deserve it? Yes, you probably do, but to get off the merry-go-round you can do without for a few days. Even at $1 per working day, saying “no” means saving $20.

Tobacco is another huge drain on a budget… and I’m not going to tell you to quit if you don’t want to. But cut back.  See if you can change a pack-a-day habit to a 5-packs-a-week habit. You’ll save about $40 a month.

Do you treat yourself for a hard week at work by going out to dinner or a movie – or dancing at a night club? You may deserve it, but stop for 4 weeks. Instead, plan something fun to do at home, or get together with friends.

Next, look at your grocery budget. If you’re buying any kind of snack foods or soft drinks, you’ve got a place to cut. Buying one less bag of chips a week would save about $20. While you’re at it, why not plan one or two “meatless” meals per week?

What about gasoline? That stuff is like liquid gold, and yet most of us waste it without a second thought.

For one month, plan your errands to avoid unnecessary trips. Go over that grocery list before you leave home, and then check it twice before you leave the store so you won’t have to go back because you forgot the bread.

See how many things you can accomplish while you’re out instead of making one trip for groceries, one to drop off the dry cleaning, and another one to pick up the kids from school. If there’s an errand you can put off until the next time you’re going that way – put it off. The bonus: more time for you.

Clothing is one item you can cut completely for 30-days. Unless a big hole just popped in your last pair of sox, you probably have plenty of clothes to keep you covered for 30 days. If you have kids, they probably do too. So just because those tank tops are on sale for $3 doesn’t mean you need one. Even if you can just put it on your credit card, walk on by.

Now plug another huge hole: Impulse purchases. When you go to a store, go with a list in your hand, and don’t buy anything that isn’t on that list. Unless, of course, you forgot to write down milk and your family can’t do without it.

Retailers are expert at placing impulse items in strategic spots. But you don’t need that candy bar or that magazine. You’ll get along fine without that little mini-lint roller or the cute lighter shaped like a fishing pole. Honest.

Keep track of your savings each day and week – then tally it up at the end of the month. And don’t forget to give yourself credit for any fees you used to pay. Then give yourself some kind of (inexpensive) reward for getting off the merry-go-round.

You might just find that it’s so much fun to have money left at the end of the month that you’ll want to keep at it until you have a whole month’s worth of money ahead… wouldn’t that feel good?

Author: Mike Clover

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