Stop Throwing Money Away: Don’t Let Your Cash End Up in the Trash

No one really would be throwing money away on purpose, would they? I mean that would be just crazy. You work pretty hard for it and then just spend it on nonsense or literally just toss it away? Never, right? Err, ah…wrong.

Trash can represents throwing money away

It can happen easily, especially when you are unaware of some of the ways that your money is slipping through your fingers right now. Generally, the things I’m going to share with you here are not huge expenses when they stand alone. However, if you add all of these little things together, you can be throwing away hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year without even knowing. Once you become aware of these bad money habits, you can take action to change them. Small adjustments to your behavior can result in big savings.

One of my favorite old songs is a 1964 ditty by the band The Searchers called “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” (“’cause you might need it someday!”). Just substitute money for love and you’ll get the subject of today’s post.

Ways to Stop Throwing Money Away

1. Stop paying full price…for anything!

You can just aimlessly go around shopping and paying for things at the “whatever” price that happens to be on it or you can really try to get a better deal. How? You can look online for discounts, check for coupons and promo codes, use a frequent shopper or loyalty card, or watch and shop when you can actually get a sale price. And then there’s this one: negotiate!

You can negotiate on many items (particularly big ticket stuff) because there’s a lot of wiggle room in those prices. That’s why cars and house prices are always negotiable. But it’s not only those things that you can ask for a discount on and guess what? Sometimes the sellers will move on it, especially when they really, really want to make a sale. Ask and ye may just receive!

2. Stop paying bank fees

This idea covers everything from paying fees to your bank, late fees on paying bills late, to not taking advantage of ways to avoid the payment of fees. Paying fees and interest on your credit cards or just paying a late fee for keeping your Redbox movie rental too long is so very sad and costly. Is that you?

Banks in particular are tripping over each other trying to get and keep your business. That’s why if you are paying fees of any kind at your bank, you are tossing your cash in the trash!

What’s your bank’s policy on checking account fees? Many banks have done away with charging you for overdrafts these days and offer free checks as a courtesy. Even better, don’t use checks when you can use bill pay through your account and pay faster and easier without paying for a stamp.

Banks may waive monthly fees for new customers during a promotional period, but will then charge as much as $10 or $12 per month if you don’t meet certain balance requirements. Be aware of these terms and conditions so you can maintain a balance that won’t incur fees. If you can’t meet the requirements, talk to a banker about switching over to a free checking account or walk across the street and switch to a better bank.

3. Stop avoiding a budget

If you don’t have a budget, your money is controlling you rather than you controlling your money and there is no doubt that you’re throwing money away, and you don’t even know it! Bet you don’t think about that one, right?

Who do you think can control your money better, you or no one? Yeah, of course you already know: you would do a better job. The lack of a budget is admitting that no one is controlling your hard-earned money. No one, nobody, zippo, zilch, and nada… Not even you!

There are many types of budgets, and many budgeting tools, so you can probably find one to fit your style. Just get started!

4. Start participating in your company’s 401(k) or stock purchase plan

When your employer offers you matching funds for your contribution into a retirement plan, you simply must take advantage of it. It is free money and who can rationally not take it? Unfortunately, many people fail to do it or wait and wait until they think it works better for them and that just costs and wastes money, a.k.a. throwing it away. At the very least, invest in the percentage that your company is matching in your retirement. And investing in a stock purchase plan where you receive a discount on company stock is more free money you don’t want to miss.

5. Stop throwing money away by smoking

Besides the obvious health issues here, smoking is just a plainly ridiculous way to throw your money away. Think about it: $8-$10 bucks a pack and you smoke 1, 2, or even 3 packs a day? That’s literally thousands of dollars that you are seeing going up in smoke without a thought! If your friends or your spouse and kids don’t tell you, let me say it: get help if you need it, but stop!

Vaping may be better than smoking, but it still costs money and research suggests there are still harmful effects. It’s time to quit for both your health and your wallet.

6. Stop throwing money away by dining out way too much

Dining out is a treat and who doesn’t want to do it now and again? But when you are doing it so often that you are smashing your budget to pieces and you could be saving by simply preparing food at home that costs about one third of what it costs in a restaurant, you are throwing money away. Save your restaurant trips for special occasions and make regular home cooking your way to save.

This goes double for all those delivery services that bring you restaurant food. If you must get takeout, pick it up yourself and avoid the extra costs.

7. Stop buying lottery tickets

This is a no-brainer here. Buying a lottery ticket once in a while may be fun, but buying them every day and in multiples and actually counting on winning is borderline insanity. You are doing almost the same thing if you just pour lighter fluid over your money and then light up! The odds of winning are ridiculously stacked against you, so don’t go spending on them and then counting on that bonanza anytime soon. If you must play your game of chance, try entering online sweepstakes instead…at least they’re free.

Oh and let me add just one more thing: stop gambling in general. A harmless bingo game at your local church once in a while for a bit of fun is ok, but a weekly big deal card game with your buddies where you risk hundreds of dollars? Or regular online sports betting? Noooooo. I don’t need to say anymore.

8. Stop paying sales tax when you don’t have to

I really hate paying sales tax. Sales tax can add up over the year, especially in places such as Chicago, New York City, and other large cities. In Chicago for example, sales tax is a hefty 10.25% and in NYC, it is 8.875%.

If you live near a state with less or no sales tax, go there to shop. Then there are, thankfully, many states offering tax-free shopping weekends (especially during back-to-school time). That can be a great time to make any major purchases so keep an eye out for any opportunities like that to get goods tax-free offered several times a year.

9. Stop throwing money away by shopping at the wrong time

Both grocery and non-grocery items follow the same basic cycles of what goes on sale every week, month and year.

Examples include clothing becoming dirt cheap when transitioning from one season to another. Learn to buy your summer clothes at the end of the season and not in March or when there is overstock on items at the store and you can get them for big discounts because of it.

Waiting for a sale is another way to stop paying full price, and many categories have particular times of the year when it’s better to buy. Everything that you buy has prices that vary by season, gets reduced at some point during the season, and eventually is sold off and that timing occurs over and over again every year!

10. Start doing your homework

Doing some research before you buy, especially on big ticket items, is the best way to avoid throwing money away!

Reading reviews helps you get the best info in knowing what you’re getting before you purchase something. With the beauty of the internet, you can often find out if something is a huge waste of money without having to find that out the hard way. You have the ability to read about nearly anything these days. If you don’t do the research, you may be throwing your money away. Just be careful when you check the reviews that they are legitimate and reliable. There is some safety in numbers, too, so look for multiple opinions whenever you can.

11. Start reducing spending when your income decreases

When you continue spending as you always have when your income can no longer support it, it means that you’ll have no choice but to pay interest, late fees, and other penalties because the money just won’t be there. A large part of responsible money management skills includes living on less than you make, including times when your income takes a nose dive. Try to live on less than you earn, whatever that is. Or…

12. Stop increasing spending as your income increases

Did you get a pay raise? A bonus? Great! Don’t feel like you have to go out and spend it as though it’s burning a hole in your pocket. Save some of that hard-earned money, whether it is to put it in a savings account or to collect for an unexpected expense. Having more money than you need is a very nice problem to have. But being smart with your money means that saving for a “rainy day” is necessary.

13. Stop throwing money away by paying for more than you need

This can be obvious or sometimes not so much. Do you buy the really large box or bag of something just because it may save you a cent or two per ounce? That’s good only if you will actually use that much of something. Not much harm if it is something you can store and use over time like laundry detergent, for example, but what about fresh foods? If you wind up throwing something away because you didn’t or couldn’t use it before it expired? See the point?

Or more commonly this happens with things like mobile phones. Maybe you’ve got a mobile phone plan that is more than you need, a cable plan that you don’t really need, or heating vents open in rooms that you don’t use in your house. These would all be examples of paying for more than you need. What can you get by with while still living comfortably? This is a question worth asking yourself to avoid throwing your money away.

14. Stop always buying new

There are so many ways you can get secondhand things these days including online and in-person shopping. Sometimes, you can even find “used” things to buy that are actually new. I cannot tell you the number of times that I’ve gotten clothes with the tags still on from a consignment shop. Buying things used isn’t nearly as scary as it used to be. In fact, it can be a very rewarding treasure hunt! Consider it a fun challenge to find something used and save your money by doing so!

15. Start fixing things

One thing that comes to mind is caring for your car. Keep it in great shape and you can literally save thousands over just a few years and not have to replace it. Tires need to be inflated properly and oil changes done as per schedule to protect your investment.

At home, don’t rush out and buy something new right when something breaks. Take some time to investigate it first. Check to see if there is a repair video on YouTube to help solve your problem. There are so many things that turn out to be an easy fix with just a little time and effort invested. You don’t need to have a degree to make routine fixes on many household items so try it before you replace it! Fix it, make do, or do without. Just don’t use a butter knife instead of a screwdriver to install a ceiling fan!

16. Stop throwing money away by impulse buying

Don’t be guilty of this. It is better to have a waiting period before buying most things. There’s a reason why the checkout lanes at stores look the way they do with pick-up items that appeal on impulse: it works. Most people are suckers for an impulse buy, so you are not alone.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to throw money away if you aren’t careful and intentional about how you spend it. Just think about each of these items (and any others you can come up with), and make a plan for how you’ll handle them in the future.

Even better, make a plan for all the money you’ll save by changing some of your habits. Put it away for your emergency fund, pay down high-interest debt, invest it for the long term, or save it for a specific goal.

Are you guilty of throwing money away? How and why? Can and will you stop it and if so, how will you do it?

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