Identifying the “Ghost Workers” In Your Budget

Ghost Workers – Have Any?

Ghost workers? What does that have to do with personal finance?  Ghost workers are products of fraud or oversight that result in monies paid to workers who don’t exist, or multiple deposits under different names paid to one person. In 2016 alone, countries like Tanzania, Nigeria, and the Philippines all suffered huge financial losses due to ghost worker corruption.

Chances are, there aren’t literal ghost workers in your personal budget, but there are always subtle ways that money slips away when it doesn’t have to. Eager toghost-workers find out how to identify the “ghost workers” in your own budget? Let’s get to it!

Check those Subscriptions

Subscriptions-based services continue to increase in popularity and variety. It’s no longer limited to the Sunday paper. For a seemingly indiscriminate amount per month, you can get coffee, razors, meals, date night ideas, pet supplies, and workout clothes delivered right to your door.

“Subscription box sites are considered a niche market, but a recent study says these online retailers have grown nearly 3,000 percent in the past three years. Visits to the sites of online subscription retailers topped 21.4 million in January, compared with 722,000 visits in January 2013, says the report from Hitwise, a division of Connexity,” according to Kat Fay in a March 2016 article for Internet Retailer.

While these subscriptions aren’t going anywhere soon, how do you as the consumer protect your budget? Each of these services can add up quickly, even with the option to skip a month. Let’s face it, it’s hard to remember to “skip” on five or six services. If you simply must keep a subscription, set a reminder on your phone or jot it down on the calendar so you can remember to assess it each month. For all the other ones, take a hard look at what you truly use, and nix the rest.

Write it Down

Are you a victim of the Target phenomenon? You walk in insisting you just need hangers and dog food, but come out with far more, and those mall purchases add up fast. One way to gain perspective on Target runs and the like is to keep a running total of all non-essential items that you purchase within a set amount of time. It could be over a month, three months or even a year. A visual list, whether paper or digital, will quickly make you realize just how fast those Target runs add up, and have to power to make you think twice before adding another video game or cardigan to your cart.

Perhaps your list is quite revealing, and you realize how much escapes from your budget each month. To take it a step further, impose a “shopping ban” on yourself, nixing the purchase of non-essentials like extra clothes, gadgets or décor for a set amount of time. As you train your brain to honestly evaluate your motive for buying, it will help you avoid unnecessary purchases and shopping simply because you feel like you deserve it.

“Ultimately, an easy way to tell if a purchase is impulsive is to ask ‘Did I plan to buy this, or did I get the urge to buy it just now?’ If you didn’t plan to buy it, you’re probably experiencing an impulse buying urge. By putting that product back on the shelf and refusing to purchase it, you’re doing something to help yourself. You’re rejecting the idea that by purchasing that product you’ll be happier, better respected, or more complete. In so doing, you’ll not only get to keep more of your money, but you’ll become a smarter consumer and possibly a happier person,” said Ian Zimmerman for Psychology Today.

DIY Luxuries

Everyone has those few luxuries that are hard to give up, and in today’s western culture, it can seem like all of culture is built around luxuries. However, an abundance of luxuries a healthy budget does not make. What are ways that you can save on small luxuries? What about purchasing a coffee maker to cut down on coffee house runs? What about looking for one or two homemade item that you can make at home to save money, like detergent or bath salts? DIY laundry detergent is a perfect item to try out, and if the formula works for you and your family, it can help you save all throughout the year.

Each of these small steps will move you closer each month to meet your savings goal, and police those “ghost workers” in your own budget. What will you try out this week?

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