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List of 63 Good & Bad Personal Spending Habits (Identify Yours!)

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Check out this list of spending habits to find out which of your own are bad spending habits, and good spending habits you’d like to adopt.

A habit is something that you do almost involuntarily. It’s so ingrained in your life routines, that you might not even know you’re doing it at all.

woman with shopping basket making decision at store, text overlay "are your spending habits good or bad? Spending habits to adopt and ones to give up"

Which means you might be derailing your personal finances on autopilot.

OR, you could build up your financial life, practically on autopilot (if you adopt the right ones).

I challenge you to do a spending habit audit by reading through this list of spending habits – both good and bad ones – and identifying your own personal mix.

Which habits are you doing repeatedly, day in and day out, that are costing you money you’d rather not spend?  

Use this list of spending habits to become aware of your personal spending habits that need to change, plus adopt new ones.

Let’s get started.

What is a Spending Habit?

So that we’re on the same page, here’s my own definition of a spending habit:

A spending habit is the repeated and sometimes involuntary routines and practices you have around using money to purchase experiences, services, and things.

You can have good, bad, or neutral spending habits. We’ll go over examples of each kind.

Types of Spending Habits

There are 5 types of spending habits:

  1. How You Do Your Spending
  2. Where You Do Your Spending
  3. Amounts You Spend
  4. Spending & Shopping Triggers
  5. What You Do Before and After You Spend Money

Some of these habits are considered “good spending habits”, some are considered “bad spending habits” and some are simply neutral (neither good nor bad).

Here’s some guidance for how to tell where your spending habit lays:

  • Good Spending Habits: These are spending habits that in some way help your overall financial picture.
  • Bad Spending Habits: These are spending habits that in some way hurt your overall financial picture.
  • Neutral Spending Habits:  These are spending habits that neither hurt, nor help, your overall finances. They just are what they are.

While some spending habits are rooted firmly in the “good” or “bad” category for everyone, others may be good or bad depending on your personal financial situation.

We’ll go into this in a bit more detail later with examples. For now, let’s just list out lots of spending habits.

List of Spending Habits

I’m going to break down this list into the types of spending habits we briefly discussed above. I’ll use “I” so that you can more easily identify with the statements (or know that it doesn’t describe you at all).

Whether or not they’re good or bad spending habits depends somewhat on what they do to your personal finances.

Again, some of these habits are good for everyone, and some are bad for everyone; but there are many that can be good or bad – it just depends on your personal financial situation.

1. How You Do Your Spending

  • I spend on both my credit card and with cash.
  • I only use a debit card and cash.
  • I mostly use only cash.
  • I like to spend everything on my credit card for the reward points and/or cash back.
  • I setup automatic payments for any and all bills that I can.
  • I pay my bills by hand each month, meaning there is no automatic payment setup.
  • I use printable cash envelopes to spend my money, by category.
  • I have separate checking accounts for different categories of spending in our household.
  • I routinely use loyalty reward cards at the stores I shop.
  • I never sign up or mess around with loyalty reward cards.
  • I tend to spend more/less at a store if I’m shopping with friends.
  • I tend to spend more/less at a store if I’m shopping with my partner.

2. Where You Do Your Spending

  • I tend to shop more online than in brick-and-mortar stores.
  • I’m loyal to specific stores with my spending.
  • I like to buy used items as much as possible.
  • I only ever buy new items.
  • I shop at certain stores because I have loyalty cards and earn points/cash back with them.
  • I tend to splurge much more on vacation than I do if I was home.
  • I tend to spend more on experiences rather than things.
  • I tend to spend more on things, rather than experiences.
  • I spend about the same on experiences and things.
  • I like to do several smaller trips each year rather than one big vacation a year.
  • I like to do one big vacation a year or every few years, rather than make smaller trips to several places.

3. Amounts You Spend

  • I never spend more on my credit cards than what I can pay off within the grace period to avoid interest.
  • I have a set amount of spending money for myself each month.
  • I spend whatever is leftover after all my bills are paid.
  • I tend to have enough to spend throughout the month, because I pace my spending.
  • I run out of money to spend before my next paycheck (here are simple budgeting tips).
  • I come up with an amount I’m comfortable spending for the holidays, and I basically stick with that.
  • I typically spend way more during the holidays than I ever think I will (here are holiday budgeting tips).
  • I tend to buy less items, but the items that I do purchase are more expensive and higher quality.
  • I tend to buy lots of stuff that are cheaper in price.
  • I know about how much I have to spend for the week, and I keep that in my head.
  • I write down how much I have to spend each week (here’s how to fill out a budget sheet).
  • I have tried a no-spend challenge before (here are some free no-spend trackers).
  • I routinely do no-spend challenges to keep my spending in check or to save up for something, or to pay off more debt (freshen up your challenges with these new no-spend challenge ideas).
  • I spend more/less when my kids are in the store with me.

4. Spending & Shopping Triggers

  • I tend to spend money online when I’m bored (here’s tips on how to stop spending money online).
  • I sometimes go shopping at stores when I’m bored.
  • If I have a coupon for something or for a store, then I’m much more likely to buy something.
  • I get groceries after we’ve been eating out a few days and there’s just nothing left.
  • I go grocery shopping on the same day each week.
  • I tend to buy more when a store is having a sale.
  • I tend to plan ahead of time for big purchases.
  • I tend to wait last minute to decide on big purchases (research, cost-compare, etc.).

5. What You Do Before and After You Spend Money

  • I plan out how I spend each paycheck.
  • I plan out how much I have to spend each month.
  • I make a list of everything I’m going to buy before going to the store, and I mostly stick with it.
  • I scan most of my receipts to get reward points and cashback (such as through ibotta or fetch apps, both of which I use).
  • I return a lot of the items that I buy (serial returning).
  • I comparison shop online to get the lowest price.
  • I comparison shop when I’m buying something at a store.
  • I rarely comparison shop for a better deal.
  • I track my spending using a daily spending log.
  • I keep all my receipts, and track them in some way (not to mention use them sometimes to return an item).

I’ve given you quite a list to run through.

Now, let’s look at what we know are considered “bad” spending habits for just about everyone.

What are Bad Spending Habits?

What makes a spending habit a “good” one or a “bad” one sometimes just depends on your own personal situation.

Then again, some spending habits? Are rooted firmly in the “good” or “bad” category for everyone.

You can tell that a spending habit is bad for you because it makes you feel guilty, or gives you a cringe-feeling in your gut when you do it.

Another way to tell if a spending habit is bad?

Habits that repeatedly and consistently hurt your finances are bad spending habits.

Examples of Bad Spending Habits

Here are some examples of bad spending habits.

  • I hide money from myself because I can't trust myself to not spend it all.
  • I don’t monitor or even check my checking account before I go shopping/throughout the month because I’m too afraid of what the balance might be.
  • I keep charging things that I want to have (not need) on my credit card, even though it has a balance that I can’t reasonably expect to pay off in the next several months.
  • I’m married or in a partnership, and one of us routinely does not know what the other has spent.
  • I use shopping as a cure for boredom.
  • I’m married or in a partnership, and at least one of us is not routinely checking the checking account balance before spending money.
  • I don’t (at least) periodically track my spending to see if I’m spending where my priorities are.
  • I tend to buy more when I’m out shopping for friends, and end up regretting some of the purchases.
  • I sometimes buy something that doesn’t end up working for me, but I rarely get around to taking it back for a refund.
  • I don’t tend to time-release my spending, meaning, by the end of the two weeks or by the end of the month, I’m stuck waiting for my next paycheck before I can spend more.

Good Spending Habits Examples

Let’s move onto some good spending habits – take these examples, and adopt the ones you think will help you most!

Hint: some of these will even help you train yourself to spend less money.

  • I pace my spending so that I have enough cash to spend on what I need, and on what I (reasonably) want, throughout the month.
  • My spending system – from the wallet I use and the checking account I have to the credit card – is organized and works seamlessly.
  • I get rewarded in some way for what I spend (whether that’s through credit card reward points and you pay it off each cycle, loyalty reward cards, grocery store receipt apps, etc.).
  • I comparison shop big-ticket items, and give myself enough time ahead of the purchase occasion to do so.
  • I never spend more on my credit cards than what I can pay off within the grace period to avoid interest.
  • I come up with an amount I’m comfortable spending for the holidays, and I basically stick with that.

Figuring Out Your Personal Spending Habits

And finally, let me help you a bit more in case you haven’t figured out your personal spending habits yet.

Answer the following questions, and see what you uncover.

  • Do you tend to spend more online, or in actual stores?
  • Do you tend to spend more on the weekends, during the week, or about the same?
  • Do you use certain spending as a reward for things?
  • Do you emotionally spend to make yourself feel better?
  • Are the habits you spend on giving you the same amount of joy that they used to, or have they just become part of the routine?
  • How much convenience spending are you doing, where you could have planned ahead to avoid, instead?
  • How many times are you stepping foot into a store, or going to an online store, throughout the day? Do you think reducing the number of trips to stores would reduce your spending as well, or not?
  • Are you spending money to make you feel better? Is it working? How long does the “better” feeling last?
  • Do you tend to purchase more by cash or when you use your debit/credit card?

Habits are what we do repeatedly, day in and day out, and they can cost us money we’d rather not spend (or don’t realize we’re spending). SO, if you want to spend less, then doing a spending habit audit should really make an impact. This list of spending habits will help you to not only identify your own types of habits around spending your money, but should give you a kick-start in adopting some new ones. You know – the good kind.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.

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