1. Don't lease a car
In Suze Orman's words, "you should never, ever ever ever, lease a car."
If you lease, you'll sink your money into several years' worth of car payments and be empty-handed when the lease term is done.
Financing is a better option, but Orman says if it will take longer than three years to pay off the car, then it’s out of your price range.
Buying a used car is another way to go. Models that are just a few years old will have great safety specifications and the same audio-visual tech as a new car, at a fraction of the price.
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2. Don’t let spending get out of control
Even people who normally spend responsibly take complete leave of their senses when special occasions, tax refunds or bonuses roll around. Orman blames a lack of planning and self-control — especially when it comes to giving gifts.
“Challenge yourself not to buy any gift with a credit card … you're much more likely to purchase only what you can afford,” Orman says. She says holiday credit card debt in particular can linger much longer than the recipient will remember your gift.
Plus, friends and relatives would feel ashamed if they found out their gifts were beyond your means. "Time and love are the most valuable possessions you can share," Orman writes.
When you do shop, especially online, research prices and use tools to avoid overpaying for the items on your list.
3. Don’t skimp on car insurance
Car insurance policies include three key areas of coverage: for bodily injury liability per person, for total bodily injury liability, and for property damage you cause. Minimum coverage amounts in many states are, respectively, $25,000, $50,000 and $25,000.
Orman doesn’t think that’s nearly enough. "It will be a financial disaster paying out of pocket for serious injuries, loss of wages, rehab and such for the other driver (and their passengers) if you cause an accident," she says on her website.
WalletHub conducted a study saying that the minimum amount of monthly coverage costs the average American $60. It makes sense to shop around to find the best policy you can.
Raising your deductibles also can result in significant savings.
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4. Don't go without life insurance
About 4 in 10 adults have no life insurance, according to the industry research group LIMRA.
Orman says for parents in particular, life insurance is a product you can't afford to go without. It provides peace of mind, because it will protect your family if something happens to you and you're suddenly out of the picture.
And it's cheap: A healthy 40-year-old woman might pay less than $35 a month for a 20-year policy with a $500,000 death benefit. Orman recommends that you buy "level term" life insurance, meaning the premiums never change.
"C’mon Moms. (And Dads)," says the personal finance guru, on her site. "You can't tell me that less than one dollar a day is too much to ensure your family is safe no matter what."
5. Don't spend on things you don't really need
There’s no better way to kick-start your savings than by playing the need vs. want game.
The next time you're ready to buy something, ask yourself whether you really need it. Is it a necessity, such as medication, food from the grocery store or a solid pair of shoes for work?
Or simply something you want — like another drink at the bar, fast food for dinner again or a second pair of knee-high boots?
"If it’s a want, just walk away. If it’s a need, then buy it," Orman writes. "Try this for six months and you’ll be shocked at how easy it is and how much money you’ll save."
In a 2019 podcast episode Orman said mindset is an important part of knowing when to spend and when to save.
“You need to get as much pleasure out of saving as you do spending.”
6. Don't stay at a job you hate
Suze Orman says polls show that two-thirds of workers aren't really into their jobs. And if you're in that group, you're selling yourself short.
"Staying in a job you don’t like is disrespectful to yourself, and your loved ones," Orman says, on her website. "There is no way you can tell me that doesn’t negatively impact your relationships."
But quitting may not be the answer. Before you start looking around for a new opportunity, see if the job you have can be modified to address whatever it is that makes you unhappy.
Just don't ever frame it that way when you meet with the boss or HR. Instead, tell the management you'd like to talk about how your job might be "tweaked" so you can be more productive.
7. Don't take a tax refund
"If you’re getting a tax refund, you are making one of the biggest mistakes out there," Suze Orman says.
Why? Because you've essentially had too much of your pay withheld for taxes — and have effectively given the government an interest-free loan. When you're owed a $2,400 refund, you've allowed yourself to be shortchanged $200 per month throughout the year.
But surveys have shown that Americans love their tax refunds and eagerly plan out how they'll use the money each year.
Orman isn't backing down. In the past, she has called a tax refund "the biggest waste of money that you will ever get."
8. Don't waste money on coffee
Your daily stop to pick up a cup of dark roast or a cappuccino is a habit you need to break, the money maven says. It's a "want," not a "need," and it's costing you a ton of money.
"You are peeing $1 million down the drain as you are drinking that coffee," Orman once told CNBC (causing coffee drinkers across America to do a spit take).
Here's the math on that: If you're spending $100 a month, that's money that could grow instead in a Roth IRA — to roughly $1 million after 40 years, assuming a 12% rate of return.
But you love those fancy store-bought coffees? Get over that. "Every single penny counts" when you're saving for your future, Suze Orman says.
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