39 Mindless Ways You're Wasting Money in Every Part of Your Life
Even though you try to be careful with your money, you are probably wasting a lot of cash without even noticing. If you find yourself wondering where your money goes, see if any of these mindless money wasters are escaping your attention.
1. Superfluous presents
The easiest way to make sure you have a special occasion covered is to buy presents, cards, flowers, cakes, etc. Some special occasions merit this kind of spending, but it's easy to get in the habit of routinely buying small gifts that will quickly be forgotten and eventually get tossed. A quick note is a meaningful way to show you care — and it's free.
2. High-tech gadgets
Many people automatically get a new cellphone when their contract is up, or buy every new game console that comes out. But do you really need an upgrade? Instead, keep your working tech toy around until it starts to get glitchy.
3. In-app purchases
Those free games and apps are usually trying to sell you something. They make it easy to click and buy a way to beat a hard level of a game or add a new feature to your free app without really thinking about it. Resist!
4. Unused subscriptions
When you were hyped up about getting in shape for the new year, you subscribed to a fitness video channel and watched it a few times. But you are still paying $9.99 per month just in case you decide to get in shape later. Cancel that membership and start saving money.
5. Your morning coffee
Lots of people seem to operate on autopilot during their morning routine. They hit the coffee shop or maybe grab fast food for breakfast. They are blowing money every day before they are awake enough to notice!
6. Recreational shopping
Stores are intentionally designed to trigger buying and extract as much money from shoppers as possible. Walking around a store or mall just for something to do is likely to result in unintended spending.
7. Buying books
You may be in the habit of buying the latest book in a series from your favorite author as soon as you see it at the store. But you can get new book releases at the library for free, or get ebooks instead of paper books, sometimes for lower prices — plus you won't need to store the book after you read it. Another alternative is to find used books for a fraction of the cost of new books.
8. Buying name-brand everything
People like buying name-brand items and seem to do so without even considering generic alternatives. Sometimes buying name brands makes sense if it offers more features or higher quality, but often the generic version costs a lot less and you won't even notice the difference.
9. Convenience items
Individual serving containers and prepared food items are quick and convenient, but cost much more than larger quantities. With a little planning, you can get the same items and avoid paying extra. (See also: Here's How Much More You're Paying for These 6 Convenience Buys)
10. Making minimum payments
Credit card bills show the minimum payment you are required to make each month based on your total balance. Many people simply pay just this amount, but it can take over a decade to pay off a credit card making minimum payments. (See also: Fastest Way to Pay Off 10K Credit Card Debt)
11. Getting high interest credit cards
Credit cards often offer a low introductory interest rate and later bump it up significantly when the promotional period has ended. Check the interest rates on your accounts and do a balance transfer or debt consolidation loan to get rid of high interest balances. (See also: When to Do a Balance Transfer to Pay Off Credit Card Debt)
12. Opening high fee investment accounts
The good news is that you are investing money for retirement, but the bad news is that high fees may be erasing a lot of your gains and could delay retirement by years. Take the extra step to check out the expense ratio on your investment options and choose ones with low fees. (See also: Why You Should Invest In Index Funds)
13. Accruing late fees
With free autopay, you can pay your bills even if you don't bother to open them and avoid late fees.
14. Getting the extended warranty
When you buy a new gizmo, you will often be offered extended warranty coverage. At that moment, saying yes to protect your new toy can seem like the easy answer, but purchasing an extended warranty is often a bad deal for many items including appliances, electronics, and vehicles. (See also: 5 Times Buying the Extended Warranty Makes Sense)
15. Going along with the crowd
It is easy to get pulled into going to an expensive activity such as a concert or sporting event with friends, but make sure the cost is worth it to you before you commit to going. There are plenty of things you can do together that cost little or no money.
16. Keeping cable TV
Once you get signed up for cable TV or satellite TV, the bills just keep on coming every month unless you do something to make it stop. There are several cost-effective alternatives once you cut the cable cord. (See also: 3 TV Must-Haves Once You Cut the Cable Cord)
Some hobbies require continuously buying new materials and equipment. Replace expensive, resource-intensive hobbies with activities that are less focused on trips to the store to buy supplies. (See also: 25 Hobbies You Can Start for Under $10)
It can be easy to start a collection, but you end up buying things solely to own them and you need space to keep your collection.
19. Extra driving
One great thing about modern life is that you can travel effortlessly from one place to another by driving a car, rather than in a horse and buggy, but driving around is expensive. Save money at the gas pump by cutting down on unnecessary and inefficient trips.
20. Not changing your thermostat setting
If you use a "set it and forget it" approach to temperature control in your house, you are sending extra money to the utility company each month. Instead of leaving the A/C cranked up all summer long, turn the temperature up at night and when you are not home. Better yet, use a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature for your schedule.
21. Driving a big car
Sometimes having a big vehicle is handy, but most of the time when I see pickup trucks and SUVs on the road, they have no cargo and only the driver on board. Think about driving a small car instead of a large vehicle to cut your fuel bill and save on the vehicle purchase price as well. You can rent or borrow a large vehicle for occasions when you need extra capacity, or let someone else do the hauling.
22. Carrying extra stuff in your car
If you have extra junk in your trunk, you are paying to haul it around everywhere you go. Get rid of extra stuff you have accumulated in your car to get better gas mileage and improve your vehicle's ride.
23. Keeping your home lit up like Times Square
It is easy to remember to turn on the lights when you walk into a dark room, but it is much harder to remember to turn the lights off when you leave. Forgetting to turn off unused lights and electronics is running up your electric bill.
24. Dining out
It is easy to go through the fast food drive-thru on the way home or take your family out to a casual dining restaurant when you don't feel like cooking, but this costs a lot more than buying groceries and preparing food at home.
25. Up-sizing your orders
When you are offered an upgrade to a large drink and large fries for a dollar, it can seem like a no-brainer to say yes. You always want a good deal, right? But if you don't need a bigger drink and more fries, up-sizing is a waste of money.
26. Buying bottled water
Buying cold bottles of water is convenient, but you can easily bring water from home for almost free. Freeze your refillable bottles of water so they will be cold when you are ready to drink them.
27. Using vending machines
When you are hungry and there is a giant machine filled with snacks nearby, it can be hard to avoid putting money into it. With a little planning, however, you can buy snack items at the grocery store instead and save a lot of money.
28. Entertainment snacking
Many people are in the habit of eating snacks at the movie theater, at ballgames, after work, or when watching TV at home. Are you really that hungry, or are you just in the habit of eating something when some form of entertainment is in front of you? Because you can still enjoy whatever you're watching with or without the snack.
29. Always ordering a drink
When dining out or at meals at home, there is always an opportunity to get a drink. Most people opt for this choice. But are you actually thirsty? And if you are, what's wrong with drinking free water instead of soda?
30. Blindly following expiration dates
Most expiration dates on food are a suggestion rather than a hard rule. Use common sense rather than throwing out food based only on the "use by" or "best before" dates printed on food packaging. (See also: A Quick Guide to Expiration Dates and Food Safety)
31. Creating premature container waste
Is that empty food container really empty? Use a rubber spatula to get all of the peanut butter out of the jar before recycling it. You can probably get enough for one more PB&J sandwich.
32. Eating too much in one sitting
It's hard to leave only two cookies in the package or to leave a small amount of leftovers in a tupperware container for the next day. Most people will finish off a container of food, even if it is more than they want or need. But that small amount of food may be just right for a snack or to round out the next meal. Save it for later, and save money in the process.
33. Buying new furniture
Instead of automatically going to look at new furniture, check out much cheaper used furniture first at consignment shops and on Craigslist.
34. Buying disposable products
Would you buy something and then immediately throw it away after one use? That's exactly what you are doing when you buy disposable products. I try to minimize wasting money on disposable products by using cloth napkins and reusable rags instead of paper products, for example.
35. Using a storage unit
You have too much stuff to fit in your house, basement, attic, and garage … but not to worry — you can rent a storage unit. You're paying for extra room in order to keep things you aren't using. It can be a lot of work to get rid of extra stuff, but you will save money every month by avoiding that storage unit fee. (See also: 7 Reasons Why Self-Storage Is a Really Bad Idea)
36. Paying for DIY services
You might find yourself signed up for home services such as lawn care and pest control that you could take care of yourself, or perhaps no longer need.
When your car is dirty, driving through a car wash may seem like a good solution, but you can wash your car at home for a fraction of the cost.
38. Taking the kids to toy land
Will your kids really play with a new toy for more than a few minutes? Instead of mindlessly buying another toy, spend time playing with them and the toys they already have.
39. Pampering your pets too much
Last time I moved, I was embarrassed to find a box labeled "Dog Clothes." In addition to clothes, my dogs have lots of toys and accessories, too. I could have saved a lot of money if I had thought about what my dogs would actually use rather than impulsively buying things that looked fun.
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