Budgeting/Work/Life Balance

7 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong (Because You’re Doing Them Way Too Much)

By | Tuesday, June 12, 2018

This post is brought to you in partnership with Metromile.

You know how people are always saying things like “everything is fine in moderation!” and “too much of anything — even a good thing — can be bad!”? No matter how many times I hear that, I still want to do a lot of things — even “good things” — excessively.

It is easy to get to a place where you’re just doing everything “extra.” Sometimes we drink too much, order takeout too much, or go shopping too much, and all of these things are probably okay if you do them just sometimes. But when you do them all the time, they become way too expensive, and stop making sense as a part of your life. The problem with switching on and off between excess and its polar opposite, deprivation, is that it is stressful and often leads you back to where you started, flip-flopping between “never” and “always”  instead of settling comfortably on “sometimes.”

Striking this balance is more important for our physical, mental, and financial health than we realize. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Metromile, a pay-per-mile insurance company, to tell you seven things you’re probably doing too much (and how to cut back and live a less-excessive life that makes more sense for you).

1. Grocery shopping (Or really any household shopping).
As someone who works from home, I was given the tip to go grocery shopping daily (or however many days per week I want to cook) for ingredients to at least give me a reason to leave the house more if I don’t for any other reason during or after my workday. It is kind of a good tip in theory — provided that I properly budget and plan for daily ingredients to cook daily meals, it’s a great way to engage in a hobby I love (cooking new recipes) while preventing myself from going out and aimlessly doing things (things that probably cost money, like going for coffee or mindlessly shopping) just in an effort to leave the house. But guess what? I don’t budget and plan for it properly. And I do get distracted every time I walk into the store and see a different brand of cereal is on sale, or realize suddenly that I need Cool Ranch Doritos. Going grocery shopping too often is likely to cost you more money than it will save you. The amount of times-per-month to hit the supermarket is deeply personal and should be catered to your unique household (for reference, the average U.S. household takes 1-2 shopping trips per week, which seems like just enough). For me, the sweet spot seems to be once a week, or sometimes every two weeks if I do a bigger shop at once. But every day? Too much. Food shopping in moderation is the best way to avoid over-buying. Really, any and all household shopping should be done in more of a bulk-fashion than super often in small quantities. It saves money (as many can testify), and reduces the exposure you’ll have to buy more than you need.all of the items you see when you walk in a store and suddenly feel like you have to buy.

2. Checking your email.
If you’re one of those people who compulsively checks their email throughout the day, you might be doing yourself a huge disservice and distracting yourself from hours of possible productivity in other areas of your workday. There is plenty of research out there citing just how much time excessive email checking is cutting from your workday. For instance, one study showed that on average, “office workers receive at least 200 messages a day and spend about two-and-a-half hours reading and replying to emails, (over half of which are irrelevant to them) and check email about fifteen times per day.” And beyond just that, it is stressful to have to feel like you’re constantly on-call and needing to respond to every single email as it is coming in. Checking your email is obviously important, especially in the context of work. Checking it too much? A total waste. For the sake of your productivity, sanity, and even your health, closing out of your email and getting up from your desk chair often throughout the day for a little break is not just important — it is essential.

3. Using utilities.
It is the ultimate luxury to have central air conditioning, or a dishwasher, or an in-unit washer/dryer. (I think these three little things are the three biggest reasons I love not living in a big, pricey city.) But even though they’re wonderfully convenient, they don’t need to be used all the freaking time. The average monthly utility bill varies by state, but hovers somewhere around $100. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself in the shitty situation I was in last winter when I received a $650 utility bill. (Yes, you read that right: six hundred and fifty dollars.) It is costly and wasteful to overuse utilities, and we all know this; remember those funny little signs next to light switches in high school that said “how would you feel if someone turned you on and then left?” (Lol, pretty messed up but still some A+ comedy.) Point is, having these wonderful utilities at your disposal does not necessitate using them at every turn. Does your home get great natural light? Make it a point not to turn lights on until dusk. Have big windows? Open them up to let the breeze in, or maybe turn on a fan instead of cranking up the A/C. Hand-washing the few dishes in the sink instead of running your dishwasher for a half-empty load, or hanging your clothes to dry instead of running them through your dryer are all easy, accessible ways to lower your bills . (And by all means, pump up the air conditioning when it is 105 degrees out, and load up your dishwasher after a big dinner party leaves, and toss your clothes in the dryer if you have no clean, dry pants and you need to go somewhere in an hour. The point isn’t to live like a caveperson; it is just to be a little less excessive.)

4. Driving.
A tricky one if you’re in the suburbs like me, especially if you have a long commute. But driving even a little bit less can make a huge difference (especially right now, because gas prices are just…. yikes). The average car-owner spends around $1000 a year on gas alone, and that’s before all other car-related expenses. Even better than just the money you’ll save on gas (and all the good stuff you’ll be doing for mother Earth), being a person who drives sometimes but not all the time means you’re the perfect candidate for Metromile, which is a pay-per-mile insurance company. If you’re driving sometimes, but not too often, Metromile is a game-changer. Maybe you live in a city, and want to make sure you have coverage when renting a car or borrowing a friend’s, but can’t quite justify the expense of a blanket-policy insurance that offers way more coverage than you’ll ever possibly need by covering you (and charging you!) for miles that you’ll never actually drive. When you think about it (and trust me, I try not too, because I hate thinking about how much money I’ve wasted), it is just unfair to be paying for so much insurance coverage if you’re driving less than 12,000 miles per year.

I haven’t used the service myself yet (and I say “yet” because now that I work from home and drive essentially never, it is definitely something I’m interested in) but TFD team member Annie has in Seattle, and only speaks highly of it. Metromile is currently available in Arizona, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, Virginia, Oregon, and New Jersey, but if you’re located elsewhere, don’t worry; more states are planned for 2018, and you can even add yourself to a waitlist to be notified when Metromile is available to you! Three cheers for only being financially responsible for things we’re actually able to take full advantage of!

5. Paying for subscription and service packages.
Having a cable package or a subscription service is a totally great way to spend your money — unless it isn’t. A “good deal” isn’t “good” if you’re not actually using and taking advantage of it. In fact, so many people are wasting hundreds of dollars on subscription services that they signed up for on a free-trial basis, and simply forgot to cancel, but don’t actually ever use. The average annual savings of those who actually did cancel their unused memberships? Over $500! (Seriously!) This happens with everything from subscription beauty boxes (which, as discussed previously on TFD, can be a good thing if you’re actually using the products you receive in them), to Netflix subscriptions and cable packages that you for some reason keep even though you’re not at all a TV person.

A personal example: in my house, we don’t tend to watch any live TV at all, but had a default basic cable package that came free with our Internet. We used it every so often (I definitely don’t hate watching Wheel Of Fortune at the end of a long, hard day) but not often enough that we’d actually pay for it. So, when I noticed our channels switched up one day and we realized that our package had expired and automatically changed (and started charging us for it! The horror!) our first order of business was to call and figure out if we could either a) get back the free-but-basic deal we had before, or b) cancel it completely. (Full-disclosure: we haven’t made this phone call yet. This literally just happened.) But the point is: pay for what you use, and don’t pay for what you won’t. If you’re paying $100 a month for a premium cable package just because you like watching HBO, get an HBO Now account for like, $15/month. Paying for services you actually use feels so much better and more fair than paying for things that just sit there untouched month after month. Having “too much” just because you like knowing that it’s there is wasteful, and you should rid yourself of that mentality stat.

6. Negative self-talk.
It is one thing to be self-aware, humble, and always willing to call yourself out on mistakes in order to grow as a person. However, it is not a productive use of your time to be so hard on yourself that you are constantly speaking to yourself in a negative way instead of a thoughtfully critical way, reprimanding yourself for mistakes rather than learning and growing from them, and making yourself feel bad rather than making yourself feel empowered to be better. This isn’t just a nice thought — in fact, there are so many resources out there that confirm how detrimental to your health and productivity it can be to criticize yourself too hardly. Research shows that, “a self-compassionate approach can change the way your body responds to stress.” In one study, researchers gave participants a surprise public speaking task and public math task to make them stressed, and then measured signs of inflammation in their blood. They found that even when controlling for differences such as self-esteem, people who were more inclined to self-compassion showed a smaller physiological stress response.

Keeping yourself in-check is always good; treating yourself like dirt is bad. So, sure, tell yourself when you’ve messed up, be radically honest with yourself about your shortcomings, and do what you can to analyze what you’re doing and how you’re doing it in order to continue growing personally and professionally. But don’t talk badly about yourself too much — it does way more harm than good.

7. Washing your hair.
Say it with me, friends: If you’re washing your hair every day, you’re probably washing it too much. Obviously, everyone’s body is different, so this advice may not ring true for everyone. There are benefits to washing your hair every day for a select few, but there are benefits to washing less-frequently for so many people. Cleaning yourself is awesome, (do it daily, by all means! Do it twice daily if you really need to!) but lathering, rinsing, and repeating every single day might really just be costing you money you don’t need to be spending. If you suffer through the weird training period your hair goes through when you wean it off excessive washing, you’ll eventually get to a point where you feel comfortable going a few days (or maybe a week, depending on the length and texture of your hair) between washes. WebMD experts also agree that most people don’t need to wash daily (although some do, so remember that none of this is blanket-advice — you do you!) and the health of your hair will benefit from a less-frequent washing schedule. Your hair will feel better, and your wallet will be so grateful that you’ve stopped shelling out on more shampoo than you ever truly needed in your life. At some point with excessive hair washing, you’re just paying extra money to repeat a cycle that is going to cost you even more money. Booooo.

It is good practice to take a step back and examine the places in your life where you might be costing yourself money simply by doing something in excess. By cutting back the consumption of things that just aren’t benefiting you — from ordering too much takeout, to paying for insurance coverage you truly don’t need — you’re helping yourself become a more mindful participant in your financial life. Do what’s fair for your finances, and cut back on the “extra” so you can fully enjoy the “juuuuust enough.”

Image via Unsplash

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