Everyone has heard of the latte factor – how your daily vice can become a long-term financial burden if you don’t keep it in check.  The concept got a bad rap for concentrating on small behavioural changes instead of looking at the big picture.

Related: Does your spending need tending?

The latte factor concept isn’t completely misguided.  Hey, if a latte really makes your day then go for it.  But what about the more subconscious habits that are a constant drain on our finances?  The ones we don’t really get enjoyment out of but we just do it anyway.  Small changes do add up to big savings.

Before my wife and I got married we lived across the street from a Tim Horton’s and every weekend we would walk over to Tim’s for breakfast.  It didn’t cost much: $10 or $12 for two coffees, two bagels, a muffin, and a yogurt.  Sometimes we ate there on Saturday and Sunday.  This was our equivalent to the habit of buying a pack of cigarettes a week.

Going out for breakfast just became part of our routine – a subconscious habit.  I’m not sure how we finally broke this habit (I’m guessing children) but now we eat breakfast at home for about $2 a day, including coffee.  And guess what?  The bagels and coffee are just as tasty at home, without the lousy staff and faulty lids to complain about.

Related: What’s busting your budget?

Something as simple as changing our weekend breakfast habit saved us over $500 a year.

I used to think it was impossible to save more money or to cut back on our expenses but when I took a closer look at how we were subconsciously spending money I was able to find big savings with a few small changes in our routine.

Meal Plans

We’ve all come home from a busy day at work without giving a second thought to our dinner plans.  So what do we do?  Stop for take-out on the way home from work, or head out to a restaurant for a quick (expensive) meal.

Instead we spend a few minutes a week to create a meal plan which has helped us break that habit and save hundreds of dollars per month.

Budgets

Most of us find the budgeting process tedious and think that as long as we pay ourselves first we can do whatever we want with the rest of our paycheque.  My problem with this approach is that I’m more likely to squander money on little things that have subconsciously become a spending habit.

Related: What could you do with $5 a day?

By tracking your expenses for a few months you’ll get a good sense of your spending habits and then you can develop a budget to keep your expenses in line.

Spending

Canadians love debit cards, even if we have to pay up to $14.95 a month for the privilege of using them.  Even after I got my finances under control I still used a debit card for my everyday spending out of habit.

Then I discovered rewards credit cards, which work just like a debit card except you’re the one getting paid in the form of cash back or travel rewards.

Just make sure to pay off your bill in full every month and don’t overspend just to earn more points.  I’ve earned more than $800 per year just by replacing my debit card with a rewards credit card.

Create healthy money habits

We all have our vices, and I’m not saying you need to eliminate the things you enjoy.  But it’s important to understand the difference between healthy routines and bad money habits.

Small changes to your subconscious money habits can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.


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