Regina Lewis, Special forUSA TODAY
They say it takes 40 days to break bad habits and make new ones stick. So, what would wallet rehab look like?
Here's a 10-step, 40-day program:
1. GO COLD TURKEY. It's always amazing to me that when I forget my wallet or we get stuck in the house, somehow we always seem to survive. We find a few quarters under the car seat or get creative with canned goods in the pantry. How many days could you go without spending a single cent? Try for three to shock the system into awareness.
2. SHED COSTLY VICES. They say it's your favorite things that do you in. Whatever it is - cigarettes, beer, shoes - run the numbers. A heavy smoker can save $240 to $500 over 40 days. Giving up eating out can save hundreds of dollars.
3. PAY NOW, NOT LATER. Avoid spending this month and assuming funds will come in next month to pay things off. According to TransUnion, people who use credit cards create $5,000 in debt annually.
4. KNOW YOUR SCORE. It's the equivalent of weighing in. Know your credit score. It keeps you honest.
5. BE ACCOUNTABLE. Money "secrets" generally don't end well, especially if you're married. Have an open and honest dialogue about the real math.
6. DON'T EVEN LOOK. If you don't go to the store or search the web, you don't know what you don't have. Stores and websites are designed to lure you in. Willpower is fickle.
7. EAT SMARTER. Meal planning goes a long way in making sure you're not over-buying groceries. Try to brown bag it for lunch. At a savings of $10 a day, that's $400 right there. And hold the delivery. Cutting pizza delivery in half can shave $25 a week - another quick $100+.
8. LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. Guys get their hair cut a lot. Adding a week between trims could shave your costs. Ladies, touch up your roots at home: Savings factor over hitting the salon = 10X!
9. MANICURES MUST WAIT. At up to $40 every other week, over 40 days you'll save more than $100 if you do your own nails.
10. THINK: LESS IS MORE. In a popular TED Talk, sustainability evangelist Graham Hill notes that Americans have about three times the amount of space we did 50 years ago. Three times. So we've got triple the space, but we shop so much we need even more space. The result? Lots of credit card debt and, if my own garage and basement are any indication, a big mess. From here on out: Remember, less is more.