Let's start with the obvious: If you’ve ever waved your credit card in the bartender's direction saying, "I’d like to buy a round of drinks for the house" under the veil of too many vodka martinis, you may be guilty of committing budget murder.
And you're in good company.
Nearly half of Americans are emotional spenders, extending their purchasing power far beyond what they can actually afford, according to a 2017 study by NerdWallet. About 67% of millennials blame emotions, citing stress, excitement and sadness as reasons why they couldn’t pass up that splurge.
But keeping feelings in check will really pay off in the long run, so that money you didn't spend on random cabs and drinks can go toward the stuff you're really saving up for — travel, tech gear, grown-up furniture, a new wardrobe, a spa day or massage, and all the other purchases that sober-you needs.
"The extreme emotions are what causes us to overspend," Sean McQuay, NerdWallet's credit and banking expert said in a phone interview. "The times we’ve needed retail therapy due to sadness or celebrations are both manifestations of how you end up spending a lot of money. The phenomenon is nothing new, but now we’re putting numbers behind it."
From using credit to being impulsive, here are some of the quickest ways you can ruin your budget this weekend.
Avoid these common slip-ups, and you'll end up with more money in savings — to spend on stuff you actually want.
1. Paying with a credit card — not cash
The love-hate relationship consumers have with credit cards is one reason for the massive debt plaguing many cardholders: It's exciting to earn rewards and easy to overspend — then forget to pay your card.
Evidence suggests people have a harder time limiting spending when they pay with plastic — because it feels effortless.
While McQuay pointed out that, sure, credit can be helpful to make ends meet (and build credit history or get reward points), debt is a big problem when it's not need-based and hurts your credit score by raising your utilization ratio.
Blame the impulse buy.
So leave the card at home and spend only cash. It can be a more tangible reminder that your $60 restaurant dinner may have been a slip-up worth not repeating. On a card, it's easy to forget — an empty wallet is tangible.
And it's best to ignore what others are doing. Just because your one friend loves big restaurant bills because it's a chance to rack up credit card points, doesn't mean you should get sucked in.
"When it comes to spending, try to keep in mind the long game," McQuay says. "Keeping up with the Joneses is a common problem where you will see what someone else your same age has and make comparisons."
Don't get on the "hedonic treadmill."
2. Succumbing to the temptation of the impulse buy — or snack
Impulse buying goes hand-in-hand with credit card abuse, as 84% of Americans admit to making a spur of the moment purchase, according to a 2016 survey by CreditCards.com.
Nearly half of all impulse buys are for ourselves, with 61% of those purchases being made by those between the ages of 18-29, the survey found.
This is arguably no surprise: The danger of the impulse buy is demonstrated clearly when you look at food and drink prices at movie theaters, sporting events or concerts.
Sure, a cold brew goes great with those overpriced concert tickets, but somehow one $12 beer turns into three and you’ve spent a small fortune in a matter of three hours.
Business Insider broke down the cost of movie theater concessions, finding movie chains like AMC and Regal generate almost 30% of overall revenue from food and drink, even though snacks account for only 4% of total expenses.
BI found markups for food and drinks at one local theater were up to 19 times more than what it would normally cost for the same item.
Wondering where you will overpay for beer when you hit the ballpark?
Fortune reports Cubs, Phillies and Red Sox fans pay the most — $7.75 a beer — in the report, while Indians and Diamondback fans pay only $4 per brew.
Simply put, you are way better off smuggling in your own snacks — or (if you're a stickler for following the rules) just eating a real meal ahead of time.
Always eat before shopping, too: Hungry people are more easily tempted into unplanned purchases — of even non-food items.
Finally, online purchases can be inspired by impulse, too, so set a time limit before you begin shopping, Forbes recommends, to hopefully keep the damage at a minimum. And remove any saved cards from favorite websites.
Having to dig through your wallet for your card each time may prevent you from bad buys.
3. Getting stuck paying weekend prices for home improvements or repairs
Like travel, services often cost more on weekends: High demand and all that.
Now, if the Great Sea emerges from your bathroom pipes, paying weekend service call rates for a plumber is probably worth it. But if you can possibly wait until the weekday to have something repaired — or installed — you could end up saving quite a bit of cash.
For plumbing problems, one place to start is by turning off the water. Next, research fees: Home Advisor reports the average hourly rate for plumbing services ranges from $45 to $150, and an HVAC call runs from $75 to $180.
For less dramatic problems, you might be able to Google and DIY a solution: A good reason to own basic tools, like wrenches and snakes.
In general, how can you save money on repairs?
Before hiring any contractor, the Federal Trade Commission suggests consumers obtain written quotes from several professionals, check the contractor’s reputation and reviews online and know the lowest bid doesn’t always equate to quality.
But by shopping around you are more likely to save money — because you can choose a professional who is at a happy medium balancing price with skill-level and positive reviews.
Remember: Sometimes your budget just falls apart. So don’t freak out if you get off course.
Wrangle what you can control — such as discretionary spending and emotional credit card use — and always shop around to get back on track.
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