February 2 is Groundhog Day. According to North American folklore, if the groundhog (a large rodent, not a pig) decides to emerge from its burrow on this day, spring will come early. But if it retreats again, winter will continue for another six weeks.
In the UK, we’re more familiar with the film of the same name, in which Bill Murray’s grumpy character is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he changes his ways. So the term ‘Groundhog Day’ has become a kind of shorthand for repetition.
There are lots of things we do ‘on loop’ without thinking – but if they cost us money, they’re best tackled sooner rather than later. Here are 8 habits to cut out right now…
1. Forking out for a daily coffee
A couple of quid won’t break the bank, but 261 days’ worth of the stuff will cost you £522 a year. You could buy a decent coffee machine for your home with a lot less – or just make it when you get to work. Save yourself the time and money.
2. Buying ‘bags for life’ at the supermarket. Every time you go.
The bag for life is meant to be reused (the clue is in the name). But I always forget to take them with me and just buy more, which costs up to an extra £1 per visit. A little forethought could save me somewhere in the region of £70 a year, I reckon.
3. Allowing fruit to rot
Is this one just me? It’s hardwired in us to eat fruits and vegetables, and so I instinctively buy these colourful fruit bowl fillers, only to throw their rotting remains into the ‘food waste’ bin a week later.
4. Overestimating how much parking time you’ll need
Granted it’s less expensive than underestimating your parking time but there’s no need to go to other extreme. If you’re going to be in town for an hour there is no point paying for three, or even two.
5. Paying only the minimum off your credit card each month
Setting up a direct debit to cover your credit card’s minimum monthly payment is a good way to make sure you never get stung with fees. But going on auto-pilot like this means your balance isn’t going to get cleared any time soon. Pay the maximum you can afford each month instead and get the debt cleared. (It will be quicker still if you move it to a 0% balance transfer deal).
6. Buying supermarket sandwiches for lunch
At between £2 and £3 a pop, just for a sandwich, the cost of convenience really adds up at lunch times. Saving money here means preparing lunch at home, which requires planning, which requires thought… but at least the last two are free though.
7. Driving without ever checking your tyres
Driving on under-inflated tyres will cost you more in fuel. It’s well worth setting aside 15 minutes every two weeks or so to check them. I did recently and found I was getting roughly another 20-30 miles from a full tank when they were inflated properly.
8. Letting the tap run while brushing your teeth
That stuff isn’t free, you know.
‘The brain is a jungle’
Behavioural change specialist Seven Suphi works with individuals and businesses to help them change the way they think, act and work. She says we form habits because, fundamentally, we are human beings and we want to preserve energy. So if the brain is a jungle, says Seven, then the habits we form are paths we create in order to navigate this jungle as simply and quickly as possible.
The good news is that habits are breakable. But in order to quit them we first need a compelling reason to break them and then need to think about the change in a positive way.
In the case of a daily coffee, for example, the compelling reason could be: “It will save money and time and decrease my caffeine intake” and the change, as a positive, could be: “I will have £600 extra this year to spend on whatever I want!”
Try this with your own habits and say goodbye to Groundhog Day for good – whether that small furry mammal retreats back into its burrow or not.
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