NEW YORK (MainStreet) — For a sense of the strange relationship U.S. consumers have with money, note that according to the fourth annual TIAA IRA survey, saving for a vacation is a priority for three times as many Americans as saving in an IRA account.
Only 18% of adult actually stash money in an IRA, even though it offers some significant tax benefits to Americans saving for retirement.
And that's just one big money mistake consumers make regularly. We asked to hear some others:
Trish Sare, owner of BikeHike Adventures in Vancouver, Canada, says her daily tea habit was breaking the bank. "I wound up cutting the Starbucks specialty tea out of my daily expenses," she says. "When I did the math and figured out that it was costing me $700 year, that woke me up. I now buy the Starbucks teabags at the grocery store and make that same specialty tea at home. I even carry a thermos with the tea to the office every day so that I can now have two or three per day."
Bitten by the savings bug, Sare says she is ready to cut off her cable company and switch to Apple TV. "That will get rid of a hefty bill," she says.
Erin Conrad, content developer at the online discounter CouponPal.com, says she was able to shed some bad money habits by tracking spending. "Not keeping track of spending is one of the worst habits people can have," she says. "If you don't keep track of where every cent goes, you're bound to overspend, often on silly things." Conrad suggests using an app such as Toshl or Mint to help document purchases and expenses. "By also factoring in your income, you can better budget your money, and possibly even pay off debt or put some aside in savings," she says.
Eating out and excessive trips to the grocery store are popular money wasters. "It absolutely drives me crazy when I tally up how many times my clients went grocery shopping and ate out," says Mindy Crary, a financial planning coach and founder of CreativeMoney.biz. "One client I worked with a few years ago actually went to the grocery store alone 30 times in one month. When people get organized around grocery shopping and make it a goal to only go one or two times per week, they end up saving hundreds of dollars every month."
"Just establish two days per week that you go to the store, and keep a list to add to until that day comes. It almost completely eliminates impulse spending," Crary advises.
Other toxic habits lead to excessive bank fees. "It's estimated that 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and have less than $1,000 in the bank," says Tyler Griffin, chief executive at Prism Money, a consumer bill payment advisory service. "That's a pretty fine line to walk, especially considering the fact that overdraft fees cost Americans nearly $32 billion last year as banks raised rates to an all-time high of $30 per incident."
Randy Hopper, vice president of credit cards at Vienna, Va.-based Navy Federal Credit Union, says consumers too often open credit cards on an impulse. "Many consumers are too quick to open up new credit cards for retail deals, or simply because they like the sound of an offer," he says. "This can lead to difficulties tracking monthly bills, missed payments or inactive accounts, which over time can damage credit." Hopper recommends being judicious in opening and closing credit card accounts.
"Consider what type of credit card is best for your situation, and then go with that," he says. "Have the discipline to avoid opening a card on an impulse, simply because you think the initial points offer sounds good."
— Written by Brian O'Connell for MainStreet