In this day and age, perhaps more than ever, spending your money wisely is essential to keeping you and your family financially healthy. If you’re like me, you probably plan a budget and think about your big purchases long and hard before you spend any hard-earned money. You probably don’t think you waste your money, but sometimes our everyday habits leak money without our even realizing it.
Are you wasting money? Take a look at this list to figure out what ways your money may be disappearing right out of your pocket.
Morning Cup of Joe
You stop every day on the way to work for your morning coffee and maybe that doughnut or bagel? That will cost you easily $5 even at a fast food or convenience store, let alone from a coffee barista. If you live in a city, it will probably be even more. You can have that same coffee and bagel by making it at home and taking it with you for about 75% less, if you allow yourself an extra 5 minutes in the morning to put it together. You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsey to do it and your savings every day will be about $3-4.
Someplace along the way you might have been told that generics or store brand items are not as good as the name brands. From foods to medicines, you shy away from them but you haven’t really done the research on them. If you buy a branded aspirin like Bayer when you could buy the store brand for less, you just wasted your money. Generic aspirin isn’t like Bayer, it’s exactly the same as Bayer. The difference in cost is several dollars for a bottle of 100. If you were to compare numerous items you use every day, you’d find that many generics are identical (or nearly so) and will save you money. My guess is that you can find ways to save $10/day on average if you try them and use them regularly.
I can’t tell you how many times I spy shoppers paying for items that I’m buying with a coupon, while they’re spending more on the same items. I never go shopping or dining out without looking first for a coupon or discount. Besides the paper coupons which have been around forever, now you can simply go online to search for discounts. I even use a coupon to have my hair cut. Spending a few minutes looking can save you big dollars. Shopping and dining out with coupons saves my family at least $50/week.
Buying Books, Music, and Movies
Why spend on media when I can go to my public library and borrow books, DVDs, and CDs for my entertainment free of charge? Just don’t be late returning them and you’ll save as much as $30 every time you borrow.
Paying Ridiculous Interest on Credit Cards
Paying 20-30% interest is crazy. First, my credit cards all have low interest rates (one of the important perks of having good credit). Second, I never keep any balances after my monthly bills are paid (unless I’m using a no-interest promotional rate for a specific reason), and if I can’t do that, then I just won’t use credit cards. If I can’t even earn much more than 1% interest at the bank, then I’m certainly not going to waste my money on interest payments. Savings here can be easily $10-20/month if you carry a balance and negotiate/switch to a lower interest rate.
Getting Paid Ridiculous Interest on Savings
The flip side of that coin is the measly interest on your savings that I mentioned. But you’re still wasting money if you don’t shop around for the best interest rates. Online banks and credit unions tend to have the better rates, and if you have a decent-sized savings account, it can make a difference. Some people even leave their savings in a no-interest account, such as one attached to their checking account or that they use through a savings app. If you need to have such an account (for example, I have a no-interest savings account that’s required for a monthly checking account bonus), just remember to transfer your accumulated savings to an interest-bearing account every month or so. Every little bit adds up.
Your average homeowner buys all sorts of yard and home equipment that may not be used very often, from snow blowers and hedge trimmers to drywall sanders and paint sprayers. For the truly occasional instances, consider renting equipment from your local home store. For the more regular seasonal items, consider lending and borrowing amongst family, friends, and neighbors. Not only will you save money buying half as much equipment, but you’ll also save on storage space.
Water in a Bottle
I wish I had thought of it and patented it! Who ever thought you’d be paying dollars for water every week when you can pay pennies to get it from the faucet? Just not buying that case a week will save you $3-4. If you buy it on the road or at an event like a ballgame, that bottle may cost you $3-4 by its lonesome self. Multiply that by your family members and, well, you get my point. Invest in a good reusable water bottle and get it from the tap.
Buying Everything New, Never Used
Ever think thrift shop, flea market, eBay, or garage sale? On many an occasion you will find a treasure, one that was rarely or even never used. Looking for secondhand bargains is not only a good idea, it’s fun and an adventure. Unless there’s a specific reason you need pristine new, think of how much you can save. Pennies on the dollar are the most usual prices charged.
You can negotiate prices when shopping, especially for big ticket items such as appliances, carpeting, and cars. In today’s market, most stores have items they want to sell quickly to make room for brand new items and will negotiate prices. Just ask, and see what happens. That floor sample television might save you $50-100 off the already reduced price if you try.
Buying Stuff You’ll Never Use
We are all guilty of this, aren’t we? I have sweaters I bought in 2005 that I have never worn. I spend good money and I have good intentions, I just either forget about them or styles change and I don’t feel it any longer. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you never use it. So take some time before you make that purchase to decide if you really need and want it. Savings here I can’t even calculate!
Getting a Huge Tax Return Every Year
You’re kidding, right? You like getting a fat check of your own money without any interest, that you’ve lent to Uncle Sam, and now after months and months he sends it back to you? If you got a check for $2,400 then you could have had another $200 every month in your pay, to put in a savings or investing account. Wouldn’t that have been better? Now I’m not talking about small returns, or occasional large returns because you weren’t sure of your tax burden, but if it’s a big one every year, you’re wasting your money. Each April, I try not to owe anything and get no refund, making my pay maximized and my taxes simple. It just takes a little advanced planning and common sense. Giving my money away at 0% interest has no appeal for me.
Subscribing to Too Many Magazines
I read magazines at the library, the doctor’s office, on airplanes, and online at virtually no cost. Spending my money on what will soon pile up and be recycled sounds like a silly thing for me to do. I stopped wasting my money on them years ago and have saved hundreds of dollars over the years.
Playing the Lottery
Maybe you join the office lottery pool once in a great while when the jackpot is large (and your chances of winning are lower). Or maybe playing the lottery is your “investment strategy” and you invest $10, $20 or more every week in tickets. Statistically, your chances of winning are ridiculously small. And even worse, if you were to win all that money at once (despite your careful daydreaming), you probably wouldn’t manage it very well or you’d already be wealthy…so like most winners you’d end up wasting it. Stop buying tickets and really invest that money to see some results.
It’s 2015, and we’ve known for at least 50 years that smoking is bad for you. Not only are you wasting an ever-increasing dollar amount on a pack of cigarettes, but you’re also buying major health costs down the line. Of course it is difficult to quit, but making a small investment in one of the many cessation programs can not only save you money, it can save your life.
Ordering Lots of Channels
If you haven’t cut the cord yet, you may have a bloated channel package. Subscribing to lots of pay channels can bring us some great programming, but how much can you realistically watch? And wouldn’t some of that TV-watching time be better spent on something more productive? Decide which pay channel (yes, singular) is most important to you and stick to that one, or better yet, get rid of all the pay channels, or get rid of the cable/satellite altogether.
Those are just a short list of the many, many ways your money may be wasted every day. It’s just too easy to remain blissfully unaware of all the ways we throw our money away, but it can be so profitable to open our eyes and make a few simple changes.
Which ways do you waste your money? What changes are you ready to make?
Image courtesy of scottchan at freeditigalphotos.net (with changes)