25 Money-Saving Strategies That Are Actually Hurting You

Taking action to save money can be a great way to get your finances on track. But some of the ways we try to cut costs are actually harmful to our financial well-being. Here are all the money-saving strategies that can backfire on us.

1. Skipping college

College is expensive, so you may think the best plan of action is to skip it and save the money. That's the smarter move, right? Maybe not. Depending on your chosen career field, a degree can mean the difference of more than $1 million in income over the lifetime of your career. So while college is expensive, you'll also probably earn a lot more with a college degree, even considering the salary you miss out on during the years you are in school. (See also: My Kid Got Accepted to an Expensive Private College — Now What?)

2. Not participating in your 401(k) plan

Your paycheck is already hit with taxes, Social Security, FICA, and other expenses before you get your money. Your natural reaction may be to try to keep your paycheck as fat as possible by not contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. In the long run, this move is almost guaranteed to backfire. Not only are you hurting your own financial future, but 401(k) contributions are tax-advantaged, and if you keep the money in your paycheck, you are more likely to spend it. (See also: 5 Dumb 401(k) Mistakes Smart People Make)

3. Buying food in bulk

Food waste is a big problem, and this can be exacerbated when you buy food in bulk. It can seem smart to load up with bulk food at low cost-per-pound prices, but how many pounds of oats are you really going to eat before they go stale?

4. Not investing in yourself

Reducing expenses is important to stay within your budget and move forward in your financial goals. But obsessing over saving money can result in missing out on opportunities to better your life or invest in yourself. For example, you might skip out on spending $400 for a new suit or $1,000 for career training that would help you land job that pays $20,000 more per year.

5. Deferring expenses

Sometimes getting by cheaply now results in big expenses down the road. For example, you could buy a cheap house with lots of serious issues and benefit now from lower payments, but you may end up pouring money into it later to keep it livable or to get the house in a condition so you can sell it. (See also: 23 Hidden Costs of Buying an Old House)

6. Buying minimal car insurance

You can save money on insurance payments every month by purchasing minimal car insurance. But if you have an accident that results in major damage or injury, minimal insurance could leave you with big bills and cost you more in the long run.

7. Saving to spend

It feels good to save up some money and watch your savings account grow. But if you are saving up a big pot of money with the sole intention of spending it, having funds in a savings account can actually result in spending more money, not less. Examples of this include saving up for expensive items that don't retain value such as a recreational vehicle or new car.

8. Doing-it-yourself

You can save a lot of money doing projects yourself instead of hiring a professional, but DIY projects still cost a lot of money for materials, not to mention time and effort. And if you do something wrong, you may need to hire a professional anyway to fix your mistake. Before you take on a project, make sure it is worth doing. (See also: How to Keep DIY Projects From Ruining Your Life)

9. Buying items on sale that you don't need

Buying things on sale can be a good way to save money, but this only works if you need the items in the first place and will actually use them within a reasonable period of time. If you buy stuff you don't need just because it's on sale — no matter how cheap it is — you are wasting money.

10. Skipping meals

Skipping meals occasionally can save you money on food. However, this savings can be offset by reduced productivity and by the potential for making poor spending and financial decisions while hungry.

11. Eating cheap food

Eating junk food such as soda, chips, and fast food will provide your daily caloric requirements for a minimal amount of money, but you are likely to end up overweight and miss out on key vitamins and minerals that you need to stay healthy. If you want to find affordable healthy food, check out this list of cheap foods that are packed with nutrition.

12. Using coupons

How did using coupons end up on a list of money-saving strategies that can hurt you? Stores give out coupons for a reason. They know that coupons can lead you to buy stuff you normally wouldn't buy, and that results in more profit for the store. Using coupons for items you would buy anyway makes sense, but resist buying extra items only because you have a coupon. (See also: The 6 Shopping Mistakes Keeping You From a Great Deal)

13. Ignoring home maintenance

Sometimes you need to take on home repairs right away to avoid expensive damage. If you notice water leaking from a roof, or a leaky pipe, you might think that ignoring the problem costs no money while calling in someone to make a repair could cost hundreds of dollars. While it is true that repairs can be expensive, ignoring routine maintenance can be even more expensive down the road if more extensive repairs are needed for cumulative damage.

14. Supersizing

Why not pay 49 cents extra to upgrade from a medium size drink and fries to a large? This "deal" feeds into temptation and poor impulse control, and again, paying extra for something you don't need or didn't originally want is not a way to save money. This strategy can hurt your waistline as well as your wallet. (See also: 7 Effortless Ways to Prevent Budget-Busting Impulse Buys)

15. Leasing a car

The monthly payments for leasing a car are often lower than for purchasing a car, so it might seem like you can save money by leasing instead of buying. The problem with leasing is that you make all of the payments on the vehicle during the time when it depreciates the most, but you don't end up owning the car at the end of the lease. You end up with nothing! If you purchase a car, you can pay it off and go for years without making payments after you own the vehicle. (See also: What You Need to Know Before Leasing a Car)

16. Making minimum payments on credit cards

When is it good to pay more than you are charged? When your credit card bill comes. Making minimum payments on a credit card seems like a way to spend the least amount possible, but interest charges pile up and it can take decades to pay off a credit card by making minimum payments. (See also: All the Ways Minimum Payments Are Evil)

17. Repairing old appliances and vehicles

You can often repair an old appliance or vehicle for less than the cost of replacing it, which can seem like a good strategy to save money. But if the repair cost exceeds the value of the item, you might come out ahead by replacing it, even if it costs more in the short term. Instead of sinking money into an older item that has a limited life expectancy and will likely need additional repairs soon, you can apply the money toward buying a newer item that should be trouble-free for many years.

18. Hanging on to unneeded things because they are paid for

After you buy something, its value typically declines over time. This means that you will never be able to get your full money back by selling your things. So, you might decide to hang on to everything that you have paid for instead of selling it at a loss. This strategy may make financial sense, but you can end up with lots of clutter from things you don't use, and some items require costly maintenance. Even if it's paid for, if you don't use it, get rid of it.

19. Not boosting your productivity

For years, I used an old laptop that was barely functional. It took hours to accomplish things that should have taken a few minutes due to laggy performance and system crashes. I finally bought a refurbished laptop to replace my aging computer, and I was able to pay for it within a couple months due to increased productivity. (See also: How to Buy a New Computer Without Breaking Your Budget)

20. Skipping a worthwhile project to save money

Although it may seem like the best money strategy is to minimize expenses, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. For example, you could decide to skip the expense of seed packets, tools, and fertilizer to plant a garden. But a garden can pay for itself many times over with its produce. Plus you can reuse many garden tools and supplies for years after the initial purchase.

21. Skipping vehicle maintenance

You can try to save money by not getting regular oil changes and other routine maintenance on your vehicle, but this strategy will cost more than it saves. Keeping up with maintenance on your vehicle will extend its life, lower the likelihood of an expensive breakdown, and can make your vehicle run more efficiently so you reduce fuel costs. (See also: Bookmark This: Save Money With an Easy to Follow Car Maintenance Checklist)

22. Skipping vet appointments

Vet bills for routine vaccinations and checkups can be expensive, but skipping these appointments can be even more costly. Not taking pets to the vet regularly can result in more expensive treatments down the road, plus your pet's health can suffer. (See also: 8 Ways to Lower Your Vet Bills)

23. Wearing cheap shoes

A good pair of shoes is expensive, so why not save some money by getting cheap shoes instead? A good pair of shoes can last for years, while a cheap pair of shoes may only last a few months before wearing out. Buying a good pair of shoes can be less expensive in the long run, and you can walk all you want in comfort without getting sore feet or back pain.

24. Not having a comfortable bed

You can avoid some expenses for bedding through long-term couch surfing or by using a mattress forever even after it is worn out and no longer comfortable. But not getting a good night's sleep will lower your productivity and you are more likely to make poor spending and financial decisions when you have not gotten enough sleep.

25. Skipping medical and dental appointments

Visits to the doctor or dentist can be unpleasant and expensive, but you are better off taking care of your health the way you are supposed to. Failing to go for routine health screenings and teeth cleanings can lead to more expensive problems down the line. (See also: 8 Expenses You Should Never Cut)

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