3 Money suckers to avoid this year

There's no better time to change financial habits than at the beginning of a new year. Now is the time to change and start saving that money for what's important.

As we leave the holiday season behind, we’re all wandering around with lighter pockets and heavier credit cards. It’s also the season for making resolutions, so with your recent spending sprees in mind, perhaps you’ll consider making a few changes in your financial habits for the coming year. The problem is, it can be hard to pinpoint where all that money goes. Pay day comes every two weeks, shouldn’t you be able to last those 14 days without going in the hole?

If you’re at a loss for how you can improve your spending habits, take a look at these five money suckers to avoid. If you’re making one of these key mistakes, it’s time to make a change.

1. Resist supermarket traps

You’ve probably heard you shouldn’t go shopping hungry, and you already know that shopping with coupons is a good idea, but there’s a lot more to the supermarket shopping game than that. These stores have a whole slew of marketing tricks up their sleeves.

Don’t shop from aisle end caps. These will be displays of a single item highlighting its “sale” price. Marketers are betting you’ll take the shortcut and grab an item off the end, rather than taking the time to walk down the aisle. In fact, that end cap item likely isn’t the cheapest option. Take that extra time and you’ll be able to comparison shop between a number of products and prices.

Once you’re in the appropriate aisle for the item you’re looking for, don’t just go with the first brand you lay eyes on. Big brand names pay extra to get their products placed at shopper eye level. Looking above or below that height will get you a wider variety of choices.

Generic products will come in plainer packaging than those that are name brand, but a lot of times there’s little or no difference between them. DailyFinance.com cited consumer expert Andrea Woroch who said, “Buying generic brands is one of many ways to combat escalating food prices. Before grabbing the first item that attracts your eyes, look for less-gaudy house brands and compare unit prices.”

2. Avoid eating out

Going out to eat can seem like a simple solution to a lack of ingredients or motivation to come up with a meal yourself, but it can seriously hurt your finances (and your waistline) in the long run. Spending just $25 extra a week on eating out adds up to $1,300 in the course of a year.

So, instead of eating out every day during your lunch break, take a sack lunch twice a week. Or, try shopping websites like restaurant.com which offers reduced prices on gift certificates if you buy them ahead of eating out. Some restaurants offer texting services that will alert you when there are special deals going on, or you can check out chow.com which lets you know what kind of lunch or weekly specials various restaurants have. Change up your date night routine and eat in or take a picnic to a favorite park rather than going to that same old expensive eatery.

3. Lower your fee payout

Everything has a fee — from your credit card to your homeowner’s insurance. These fees can get really bad if you don’t pay them on time or don’t keep your account information up to date. Some credit cards have expensive penalties added if you’re even a day late making a payment. And you don’t want to have your car or home insurance cancelled because you lost a bill one month.

Setting up automatic withdrawals can reduce your risk of neglecting an important payment. You should also set up overdraft links between accounts so if you run short in your main account, your check or payment won’t bounce, incurring yet more fees.

You could also look at upping your deductible on your insurance. Women’s Health Magazine explained, “The average annual bill for homeowner’s insurance was $804 in 2006. However, by raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000, you could save up to 25 percent on your premium.” Do the same with your car insurance and Sam Belden, vice president of Insurance.com, said you might save $371 to $457 per year.

Changing your financial circumstances isn’t easy, especially when you have long-held habits to contend with. But, making a few simple changes today could save you hundreds of dollars in just one year’s time. What do you want your finances to look like this time next year?

Katie Nielsen

Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.