Coming Up Short at the End of the Month?

By Diana Palmieri

Looking at your account balance in your checking account, do you ever say, “Wow, I thought I had more money than that. What happened?” I have been there, too, and thanks to online banking and serious tracking, I figured out how money was running out of my wallet. Do you know why it runs out of yours? You’d be surprised! Here are the few tops things to consider as to why this might be happening to you.

ATM Fees

I can’t tell you how many times I tell my husband not to withdraw money from an ATM that is unaffiliated with our bank. If you use an ATM that is not owned by your bank, not only will you be charged a fee from said bank that owns the ATM, you may be charged a fee from YOUR bank, too. This can add up to about $5 on average per transaction.  Although I understand that the bank uses these fees for upkeep, I don’t want to be the one paying for it! Another helpful hint is when you use your debit card at a grocery store, take the cash back option. There are no fees involved in that.

The Starbucks Run

It is very easy to walk into Starbucks every day and drop about $8 on coffee and a snack.  This $8 adds up to $56 a week, then $224 a month, topping out at $2,688 a year. If you took that $224 a month and added it to a growth fund, you could have yourself a very nice little egg to hatch at retirement. I personally brew my own coffee and drink it out of Starbucks container every morning (I also love coffee from a percolator–it has to be hot!). I can forgo the snack. 

Gym Memberships

The New Year is here and, much to every local gym’s delight, they are swamped with new memberships in January. Can you say cha-ching? By the time March rolls around, the gym is counting on you giving up on your resolution and not returning.  Unfortunately, you signed up for the pay by month amount for $45, and you can’t drop out for a year. If you decide to drop out, they can charge you a termination fee. You think again and say, “I may go back.”  While this inner conversation is going on, the gym is still debiting $45 from your checking account. This is, again, what the gyms count on and how they make their money.

Eating Out

I know when I go out to dinner, between the glass of wine and an entrée, I am out $35.  Add my husband in, and that’s another $35.  Before you know it, it’s another year, and that all adds up to another $1,680 in the restaurant’s pocket.  If you add a night of takeout, let’s say Chinese food, at about $35 for the family, you do the math. I knew folks who got takeout or ate out almost every night, and they could not figure out why they were always short on cash. I explained to them if they went to the supermarket and spent $100 a week on food (they had no kids at the time) and cooked at home, think of how much they could save. 


I live in New York, and a pack of cigarettes cost about $8. If I smoked a pack a day, that would cost me about $224 a month, and $2,688 annually. I quit smoking about 17 years ago, and for the sake of my health I am glad I did. I never dreamed a pack of cigarettes would cost $8, so I am also glad for the sake of my wallet. 

Buying Magazines at the Market

Most magazines on the newsstand cost on average about $4.99. You are on the checkout line at the market, so “What’s the big deal?” you say. “I will just buy it this week.” Then there you are a few weeks later and say, “Wow. Look at that article. I must read it. I’ll buy it just this one more time.” And the cycle continues. If you really like the magazine, sign up for a subscription. Magazine companies are dying for subscribers and will give you a great price; some even throw in an extra year for free! There are also great deals online, or consider a Kindle subscription. The same goes for newspapers.

I could go on and on about things we all spend money on without thinking twice. Using the examples of cutting out Starbucks, eating out once a week, and cigarettes, then adding that all up, you could save $7,056 annually! If you took $7,056 and stuck it under your mattress (just saved principal, no earnings), you could save up about $141,000 in 20 years. Imagine if you invested it and stuck it in a growth fund.

Everyone has different wants and needs. I get that, but if you find yourself scratching your head at the end of the month and wondering why you’re short, think about modifying some spending habits. Experiment: Take an envelope and stick $30 in it. Give one to your spouse. On the envelope, each time you make a purchase, even a candy bar, write it down. Compare notes with your spouse at the end of the week. I am sure you both will be very surprised at what you spent it on!


Diana Palmieri is dually registered with Vanderbilt Securities LLC and H Beck Inc., which are unaffiliated. Securities offered through Vanderbilt Securities LLC, member SIPC/FINRA/MSRB. 



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