You know the obvious ways that procrastination can impact your life: the annoyed looks you get from friends when you’re late for dinner—again. The “we need to talk” meeting that your boss schedules because you’ve missed yet another deadline.
But what you might not realize is that you pay a bigger price for constantly putting tasks off—both in opportunity costs and in actual costs that impact your wallet.
Unfortunately, procrastinating is a hard habit to break, says Shari McGuire, a time-management expert and author of “Take Back Your Time: 101 Simple Tips to Shrink Your Work-Week and Conquer the Chaos in Your Life.”
“Some people enjoy the euphoric rush of a last-minute push to accomplish a task,” she explains. “Others get caught up in what’s called analysis paralysis, in which they overthink something and never get around to taking action.”
A third trigger? Self-sabotage. Basically, you’re fearful that you don’t have the expertise to complete a goal, and you put it off so that you’re not found incapable. In this case, “[you figure] not getting it done is better than trying and failing,” McGuire adds.
Regardless of the reason why you drag your heels, it’s time to get smart about the financial repercussions of poor time management. That’s why we’ve rounded up the top money consequences of procrastination to show—in real dollars—how it can wreak havoc on your wallet.
1. You pay your credit cards late.
This procrastination tendency is one of the worst things you can do to your finances for several reasons. The obvious one is that you’re slapped with a fee: $25 for the first violation, and $35 if you’re late a second time within the next six months.
But that’s not the only financial hit that results from being late to pay on your credit card. If you miss two consecutive payments, your credit card company can jack up your interest rate, which means you’ll be charged even more for any balance you carry from one billing cycle to the next.
If you have a card with an introductory offer for a 0% APR, the penalty can be even worse, says Bob Gavlak, a CFP® with Strategic Wealth Partners in Independence, Ohio. “If you’re late just once, all of a sudden your rate can rise upwards of 20%,” he explains. In fact, the median penalty APR, often applied to consumers who pay late, is a whopping 29.99%.
What’s more, you may keep feeling the effects of late payments years down the road through the impact on your credit score. More than one third of your score is determined by your payment history, which takes into consideration “delinquencies,” such as delayed payments.
Generally, if you’re more than 30 days behind, credit bureaus will be notified and you’ll have a mark against your report for the next seven years—and the bank can report a late payment even sooner if you’re a repeat offender. Ultimately, a lower score can translate into higher interest rates on a loan or mortgage down the line.
One line of defense against credit card kickback? Automate your payments to guarantee that you pay bills on time. McGuire also suggests adding a calendar alert on your phone to remind you of upcoming bills due. And if you do miss a payment, call your credit card company as soon as you realize the mistake, to ask if they’ll rescind the fee.
2. You buy gifts at the last minute.
It’s your mom’s birthday tomorrow, and you’ve somehow managed to put off getting her a present all month. So you pop into a store and grab the first cute (but expensive) cashmere sweater you see. You know that if you’d taken the time to hunt around online, you could have scored a better deal—but when you’re rushing to find something in the nick of time, comparison shopping falls by the wayside.
“People feel less price-conscious when they feel pressured to buy something quickly,” says consumer expert Andrea Woroch. “[Plus, keep in mind] that if you’re purchasing a registry item, most of the midrange priced gifts will already have been fulfilled, so procrastination means you may be left fewer choices.”
As soon as you’ve been invited to a party or realize you have a friend’s birthday coming up, identify a specific time to purchase the gift and write it in your calendar, suggests McGuire. If you still end up running short on time, RedLaser, an app that lets you scan an item’s bar code and check out prices offered by both online and in-store retailers, is a quick way to find the best deal on a certain item on the fly.
3. You don’t plan ahead when booking travel.
Admit it: You’ve been anticipating going on that Caribbean getaway for months—and now the trip is only three weeks away. You have to book fast, and you’re feeling the sticker shock.
As for that assumption that you’ll snag last-minute deals, don’t count on it, says Woroch: “Any time you are planning a trip, procrastination means you may pay more and get fewer options for flight schedules, preferred hotels and car rentals.”
McGuire recommends booking an airline ticket three months out, and your hotel and car two months out. Case in point: According to Kayak, an economy flight from Washington, D.C., to Paris starts at $1,243 if you purchase it three months in advance. It goes up to $1,575 a month in advance, and spikes to $1,987 if you want to leave in two weeks. Bottom line? Pre-planning could pay for a few hotel nights.