5 surprising financial habits you may want to reconsider

Illustration of a person's head filled with financial images and dollar signs
Illustration of a person's head filled with financial images and dollar signs Illustrated / Getty Images

Some financial habits are a given: Build an emergency fund, save for retirement, invest. But there are other financial habits you may have introduced into your life with the best intentions that aren't doing as much good for your bottom line as you may have thought.

Surprisingly, some of these habits can especially sneak in when you're trying your best to be frugal. "That immediate dopamine hit of saving a few cents that makes you feel like you're making progress toward your financial goal — like paying off debt or saving — can cost more if you do the math," Allison Sanka, an accredited financial counselor, financial coach and principal and founder of Journey Financial Wellness, explained in an interview with GoBankingRates.

There's no shame in making financial missteps along the way, but it's important to be open to reassessment. These are five financial habits you may be surprised to find out could be worth reconsideration.

1. Going out of your way to get deals

If you're driving miles out of your way to secure a small amount of savings, you might not end up saving that much after all. One example of this is "driving from store to store to save a few dollars on sale items versus shopping once a week at one store," stated GoBankingRates. But per Sanka, "any savings will likely be wiped out when you figure in the cost of your time, gas and wear-and-tear on your vehicle." The same principle applies to "driving to the next town to save 10 cents a gallon on gas," per GoBankingRates.

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That said, there's a case to be made against paying for convenience, like simply choosing the absolute closest gas station or getting groceries delivered instead of going to the store yourself, reported CNBC Select. Instead, there's a fine balance between going far out of your way and planning, which "can help you save money on all kinds of things," according to CNBC Select. For instance, you might look up gas prices online to see which station is offering the best price as opposed to just stopping close to highway exits and entrances, which "often charge much more than gas stations further away."

2. DIY-ing certain home projects

It might seem like it's cheaper to do it yourself rather than pay to bring in a professional, but that's not always the case. Though experts do generally cost more, that's "usually because they will get the job done well and, more importantly, right the first time," Lawrence D. Sprung, the CFP, founder and lead wealth advisor at Mitlin Financial, told GoBankingRates. "Home improvement projects where families do it themselves to save money, if not done correctly, can end up costing much more than anticipated in fixing the mistakes that were made," Sprung said in an interview with GoBankingRates.

3. Purchasing home warranty plans

According to The Washington Post, many people have a fear about fronting the cost of repairs, which can lead to purchasing an "expensive extended warranty plan you don't need or will have difficulty using." This opinion is backed up by other expert sources too. Per the Post, Consumer Reports has stated that "many extended auto-warranty policies are a bad deal" and that Consumers' Checkbook found in a review of home warranty plans that they "rarely are worth the price or hassle." Instead of paying for a costly warranty plan, you're "often better off saving the money you need to repair your car or fix appliances," making anticipated repairs from wear and tear another line in your budget, said the Post.

4. Paying for unnecessary insurance

Insurance might seem like an obvious way to protect your wallet, but in some cases, it's leading to unnecessary spending. In fact, according to CNBC Select's interview with Leslie Tayne, a debt-relief attorney at Tayne Law Group, some insurance products may go so far as being a "waste of money."

This largely applies to redundant insurance products because you already have coverage from another source. So for instance, it's not worth paying to get rental car insurance if "your typical car insurance has coverage that extends to a rental car," reported CNBC Select. Other examples are travel insurance if the credit card you're using to book already offers it and identity theft insurance if your credit card already has fraud protections.

But then other categories of coverage just might not make much sense, depending on the circumstances. Per CNBC Select, children's life insurance typically isn't worthwhile as "children don't usually have assets to protect," and even if there's a savings component, "the fees outweigh the rate of return." You might also reconsider collision insurance if "your car is older and not worth much," stated CNBC Select.

5. Buying in bulk

If you think you'll go through eight tubes of toothpaste in a reasonable amount of time, buying in bulk might make sense. But for many of us, it leads to unnecessary waste. If it's food you're buying in bulk, it could spoil before you're able to use it, leading to waste, whereas with other home products, it's not uncommon to forget about them when they're stashed away in the back corner of your cabinet.

This temptation might be especially present if you're a member of a wholesale club like Costco or Sam's Club and can get what seems like an impressive deal. But, according to Sanka, "studies show you end up spending more money than you would if you just purchased the items as you need them."

A similar principle applies when it comes to buying something just because it's on sale. "I see people in the frugal community buying things simply because they're 75% off or they have a coupon for it (sometimes a marketing tactic to get you to spend) even if it's not a need," said Sanka. "If you spent $5 on something you don't really need, you spent $5 too much."

Becca Stanek has worked as an editor and writer in the personal finance space since 2017. She has previously served as the managing editor for investing and savings content at LendingTree, an editor at SmartAsset and a staff writer for The Week. 

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