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Your day is filled with all kinds of choices. Many will save you money and over time can positively impact your long-term financial goals. On the other hand, a series of poor choices can jeopardize a successful financial future. Unfortunately, these choices can be hard to recognize, so here's a helpful guide.

Beware of Costly Food Pitfalls

Many poor money decisions relate to food, and topping the list is dining out too often. A more financially savvy choice would be to make most of your meals at home and consider restaurant visits for special occasions. To understand how much you can save, total your weekly restaurant receipts — you'll likely be shocked at the sum. Don't forget to tally your coffee stops as well, which can add up a lot more quickly than you might realize. Brewing your own cup of joe is sensible if you can't get it for free at the office.

There are also many less-than-optimal choices you could make at the supermarket, where items you didn't intend to buy often seem to call out from the shelves. If possible, create a shopping list and stick to it; you can also try limiting trips to the store. Two more helpful tips: sign up for free store loyalty programs that offer discounts and use coupons for things you were going to buy anyway.

In addition, when buying fruits and vegetables like watermelon and broccoli, don't give into the temptation of choosing precut and packaged varieties if you have the time to do the slicing and chopping yourself. Companies often charge a premium for doing that kind of work. Likewise, find ways to use frozen produce in recipes; those bags in the freezer section can be healthy, less costly alternatives to fresh items.

Use Guardrails for Spending

Using a credit card to make non-emergency purchases that you know you can't pay off at the end of the month isn't always the best choice. The interest charges you'll incur will essentially add to the price of your purchase, and the debt may limit your financial growth.

Try instead to limit your transactions to those you can cover, and to help you achieve a good credit score, use less than 30 percent of your total credit limit.

Be cognizant of impulse buys, which are even harder to pass up when the item catching your eye is on sale. Mull over the purchase for a while to gauge your actual interest since it may not have the same glimmer a few days later. Plus, you might even find that same item for a much lower price elsewhere.

Do Your Research

Some purchases are less exciting than others, like a new garage door or pest control treatment. Comparing prices or reading reviews can make all the difference. You're still making an investment of sorts, so it's worth taking the time to make sure you're getting a good product or service. You may even discover a great company that has a coupon you can use.

It's also easy to get into the bad habit of simply renewing contracts rather than comparing alternatives for expenses like cable, cell phones, gas, and electricity — assuming you can choose your energy provider. You should shop prices for these as well. If necessary, negotiate for a better deal. Mark your calendar to remind yourself to start the process again before the contract's term ends.

Perhaps it's no surprise that good choices often require more work than bad ones. Still, it's hard to argue that doing some heavy lifting isn't worthwhile for the sake of a healthy financial future.


This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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