If you find yourself in need of some extra cash, the quickest way to get back some money is by taking things out.
These are the top 10 money wasters you’re probably not aware of. Cut them out of your life to save some quick cash.
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You’re Allowed Some Fun
Life wouldn’t be much fun if we only spent money on the essentials. When you spend discretionary money, you want to get something out of it, a fun evening, a new book, or something new for your home.
You don’t want to spend your hard earned money on stuff you don’t need that doesn’t add any value to your life. Those things are money wasters, and we sometimes buy them mindlessly. Knowing what the big money wasters are can help you avoid them.
You have to buy food of course but how much food are you wasting? It’s a lot, as much as 40% of the food in the U.S is thrown away which means $165 billion in the trash each year.
A lot of us buy “aspirational” food. Food we buy with good intentions, usually to eat more healthily, but don’t get around to cooking or eating before it goes bad. Or before we think it’s gone bad.
Food is one of our biggest money wasters, but luckily, it’s also one of the easiest to fix.
Make a meal plan each week and plan your meals around multi-use items. If you buy a bag of celery, don’t just use it for chicken soup and then leave it in the crisper to turn yellow and rubbery. Add it to salads and eat it for a snack dipped in hummus or spread with peanut butter.
Based on your meal plan, make a list of the items you need and stick to it. If you have trouble doing this, there are many options to select your groceries online and either have them delivered or pick them up from the store. Fresh Direct, Pea Pod, and Walmart offer these options.
Going to the grocery store multiple times a week is another reason food is such a big money waster. How often do you pop in “just to pick up one thing” and come out with a few bags worth of groceries? I don’t think I have ever only bought one item on a trip to the grocery.
You made your list, bought everything on it, and now you’re done. If you run out of something or need something else, you’ll just have to make do without it until the following week.
Have one night a week where you use up the fresh food you have that is about to go bad. Soups, stews, and omelets are forgiving ways to use up food that is not quite at its peak.
Don’t throw away food based on the date on its container or carton. Those are not expiry dates; they’re best by dates. The yogurt that is stamped with today’s date isn’t going to go off overnight; you can still eat it without getting sick.
Use your senses to judge whether or not a food is safe to eat. If it smells bad, throw it away. Is it covered in mold, throw it away. Is it a piece of cheese with a tiny spot of mold on it? Cut it away; there’s nothing wrong with the whole piece.
How you store your food can extend its life. Store opened dairy products like yogurt, sour cream, and ricotta upside down (make sure the lid is tight, so it doesn’t leak). Doing so reduces the amount of air that gets into the container which slows down the growth of the bacteria that causes these things to spoil.
Leafy greens seem to go slimy in the blink of an eye, but if you rinse them with water and wrap them in paper towels, they’ll last longer because the towels absorb excess water that makes the greens go limp and slimy.
If you don’t have room to grow your own herbs, you have to buy them from the grocery where they’re typically sold in far larger quantities than what a single person or couple can use before they go bad. To preserve your fresh herbs, chop them small and put them in an empty ice cube tray. Pour olive oil over the herbs and freeze. This is especially nice in the winter when fresh herbs are harder to find.
Don’t toss leftovers. Some people seem to have a real aversion to them, but as long as they haven’t been sitting in the fridge for days on end, they’re perfectly safe to eat, and some things even taste better as leftovers like tomato sauce and many soups and stews.
If you don’t like eating the same thing two days in a row, freeze the leftovers and eat them at a later date.
Whether they’re bank fees, ATM fees, or late payment fees, we waste a lot of money on fees, $329 on average each year. Paying fees is such a big money waster.
Switching from an old school brick and mortar bank to an online bank like Chime will go a long way to reducing the amount of money you waste in fees.
I’m not here to state that watching TV is a waste of money, but rather that there are much cheaper alternatives or completely free ones.
Thousands of hours of television shows and movies are now available via the internet. Here are some great options for watching TV:
1. Find Television Shows on the Internet
Specific television shows are even posted online for you to watch. For example, the latest episode of the Daily Show can be found at thedailyshow.com.
The only downside is that new episodes are quickly taken down, so if you really enjoy a television program, make sure to check when new episodes come out.
2. Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime let’s you can watch 40,000 movies and TV episodes, borrow kindle books at no price and get free unlimited 2-day shipping for any product you order off of the Amazon website. The cost is only $99 for an entire year, or roughly $8.50 per month. This is a lot better deal than you would get from your cable provider. You can even try a 30-day free-trial here.
Hulu.com is a website that hosts a wide variety of television shows and movies. The selection is enormous and even has international shows for you to choose from. You can upgrade to the Hulu Plus version for only $7.99 per month, further increasing your selection.
Compared with the cost of running cable television for roughly $30 or more per month, this is definitely a much better resource to help you get the shows you want to watch.
Similar to Hulu, Netflix offers TV shows and Movies for you to watch for $7.99 per month. Netflix makes it easy for you to connect their program to your television so you don’t have to watch it from a small computer screen.
This is probably my main resource for watching any type of video, and it’s completely free. It’s usually very easy to find a specific television show and episode by typing in its name in the search bar. Almost any show that you can think of will be uploaded on to this website.
If you’re trying to watch movies on Youtube, they can be quite difficult to find. This is probably better for those that prefer to watch television shows.
Interest is probably the most expensive money waster on this list, especially if you have credit card debt. The average rate of interest on credit cards is about 15%, but it can certainly go higher.
If you have credit card debt, paying it off should be your priority. If your credit score is good enough, apply for a balance transfer card. This will allow you to pay off just the principal without incurring additional interest.
Again, if your credit score is good enough, you may be able to get a loan from a company like Lending Club. You’ll still have debt, but it will be at a much lower rate of interest than what you were paying on your credit card.
If all else fails, call up your credit card companies and ask them to lower your interest rate. They won’t always agree, but if they do, it can save you a lot of money.
If you have student loan debt, consider refinancing with LendKey. You can refinance for a lower interest rate than you have on your current loan.
5. You’re Brand Loyal
There are some generic products that really don’t measure up to their name-brand counterparts; dishwashing liquid is a good example. No matter how much you squirt into a sink full of dirty dishes, you get no suds. Not to mention, you’ve used up half a bottle of the stuff to no effect.
But a lot of generics or own brands are just as good as the name brands and in some cases, superior and a lot less expensive.
Generic drugs are a great example, both over the counter and prescription. Recently on Walgreen.com, a 100 count 500mg bottle of Tylenol cost $10.49 while the same size and strength bottle of the generic substitute was just $6.99.
There is no difference in the active ingredients between generic and name-brand drugs as mandated by the FDA. You’re only paying for the name if you’re buying a brand rather than a generic.
6. You Only Buy New
Whether it’s furniture, clothes, books, appliances, or anything else, if you need a new one, you head to the nearest mall or big box store. But there is are so many places where you can buy all these things and lots of other things second hand.
Second hand can mean used but not always and even used items if they’re good enough to be sold, are often only slightly used.
The next time you need something, see if you can find it used because it will be vastly cheaper than buying it brand new. Check out thrift stores (especially good for clothes and small appliances), yard sales (great for kids clothes and toys), and your local Craig’s List, Nextdoor, and Facebook groups (great for furniture, exercise equipment, and large appliances).
When you give something a second life, you’re also helping to do your part for the environment. Every time you buy something used, you keep it out of a landfill.
There is no question that buying things on sale can save you money. But if the pleasure center of your brain lights up when you spot the word “Sale,” and you immediately pull out your wallet whether you need what is on sale or not, you are not saving money; you’re wasting it.
Stores are tricky when it comes to sales, and there is a lot of research dedicated to making people spend more money when they’re shopping.
BOGO, buy one get one, offers are a common example. Well, why would you pass up the chance to get something for free? Not all BOGOs offer a free one though, lots of times, it’s buy one get one for X% off.
X for X is another tactic you’ll see a lot. Buy 10 yogurts for $10. But you don’t need 10 yogurts, you need five. But you think if you buy less than 10, you’ll pay more than $1 for each one. That’s not always true though. Check the little label on the shelf under whatever it is you’re buying or the details on the sale tag. Often you can buy ever how many yogurts you want, whether you want one or twenty, for $1 each.
If you buy something you don’t need because it was reduced from $10 to $5, you didn’t save $5; you spent $5.
8. A New Hobby
Most of us have probably been guilty of this one. You’re all excited about a new hobby, you’re going to take up paddle boarding or golf, or cake decorating. So you buy aaalllll the stuff you’ll need to enjoy your new hobby. And admittedly, this is one of the most fun parts of starting a new hobby, shopping for and buying all the accouterments!
But sometimes the hobby just doesn’t stick. Maybe you didn’t have enough time to participate, maybe you didn’t really enjoy it, or maybe you weren’t very good at it. Whatever the reason, you’ve wasted money on all this stuff, and you have to store it now too.
There is nothing wrong with taking up a new hobby, and it can even save you money if it replaces things like going shopping, out to dinner, or to the movies when you’re bored. But don’t jump in with both feet.
Rent or borrow the equipment required for the hobby and try it out. That way if you don’t like it, you haven’t spent any money or a ton of money. If it’s too late, at least sell all that stuff you’re not using.
9. Buyer’s Remorse
This one can go hand in hand with Sales but not always. Think back to everything you bought over the last 30 days that wasn’t a necessity like food or gas. Can you list it all? I bet you can’t. Of the things you can list, do you regret buying any of them?
A lot of us are impulse buyers. We see something, and we want it, so we buy it. No more thought goes into it than that. Why do you want it? Can you afford it? Do you need it? You don’t ask yourself those questions.
But you’re going to start because buyer’s remorse caused by impulse buying is a huge money waster. Before you buy something ask yourself those three questions, why do I want this, can I afford it, do I need it?
10. You’re Disorganized
You bought a bike and a helmet intent on using them to get some exercise and maybe even cut down on your commuting costs. But life got in the way, and you never got around to riding much. But things are going to be different. You’re going to start riding your bike to work next week.
Only you can’t find your helmet. You know you bought one, but you have so much stuff in your house, attic, garage, shed, and storage unit, you can’t find it. So you have to buy a new one. That first helmet will turn up one day, but in the meantime, you’ve already spent money on a new one.
You toss your mail onto the kitchen counter after work every day and you’ve meant to go through it but haven’t gotten around to it. But on your last trip to the mailbox, you spot an envelope with a big red, “Final Notice” stamped on it.
It’s from the power company; your electric bill is three months overdue. You’ve been hit with all sorts of fees and late charges, and now they want a deposit and the bill paid in full, or the power is going to be shut off.
And the really galling thing is, you had the money to pay the bills (although it’s going to be tough to come up with the additional money for all the fees and the deposit)! You just forgot to pay the bills because they got buried under the avalanche of envelopes on the counter.
Being disorganized can cost you money.
11. Vampire Energy
There’s a silent killer among us, and it’s sitting right inside of your home. Vampire energy, also known as standby power or phantom energy, is a daily energy waster that bypasses the knowledge of the common American. This energy is referred to the energy that is wasted by electrical appliances just from being plugged in.
When your TV is turned off, have you ever noticed the red dot in front of the screen? This means that your television is still using power despite the fact that it’s not in use. The television consumes a large amount of energy just to be in standby mode.
The reason for this is that the television is a widely-used item. Being in standby enables your television to start-up at a moment’s notice. That’s not the only thing, however. Vampire energy can be emitted from everything plugged in, including cell phones, laptops and microwaves.
Statistics state that vampire energy may consume up to as much as 10% of your energy consumption.
Here are three key tips to help you avoid this dangerous enemy:
1. Unplug everything before you leave the house
This includes items that aren’t even plugged into anything else. Cell phone chargers that are not plugged into a cell phone are the worst, saying to still use 10% of the power it takes to use cell phone.
2. When something is fully charged, stop charging it.
When your laptop or cell phone is at 100% battery power and still plugged in, it still uses roughly 60% of the electricity it normally would. There’s no need to continue charging it.
Furthermore, leaving your devices plugged in at full charge will only reduce its battery life even more. Replacing your battery for your laptop can cost up to $80 depending on the model.
3. Use a smart power strip
These power strips may be a bit costly, but will definitely save you money in the long-run. They work to reduce the energy being wasted from appliances put in standby mode.
What’s best about these strips is that you can shut off all of your power in one fell swoop by hitting the power strip off button. You will be sure to notice a difference in your electrical bill the first month. Now there are power strips that come with an additional USB outlet as well. I found this great one here on Amazon for under $30.
4. Turn Off Your Lights
Last but definitely not least, make sure to turn out your lights. This doesn’t count as vampire energy since when the lights are out they don’t still suck away power, but turning them out before you leave the home or when you don’t need them can add an enormous amount to your savings.
Read about how vampire energy could be costing you $300+ per year.
12. Airplane Tickets and Hotels
Purchasing an airplane ticket or renting a hotel isn’t necessarily wasting money, unless you’re paying full price.
These days, with more credit cards than necessary available at your doorstep, there are plenty of ways to accumulate enough credit card points to get you a free airplane ticket or a free night in a hotel, or at least a significant discount.
A lot of these credit cards have huge sign-up bonuses. After spending a certain amount of money after opening an account, they will give you hotel points or airline miles just for making purchases using their card.
Here’s currently my favorite card out right now, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® . After spending $3000 within the first 3 months of opening account with this credit card, they will provide you with 40,000 travel points. These points can be redeemed for up to $400 toward your next travel purchase. Take a quick look below.
Here’s a quick glance at the card:
- After spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account receive 40,000 miles in points
- Earn 2X miles on all purchases
- The card has an installed chip which makes it easier for purchases abroad and at home
- Points can be redeemed for anything related to travel – hotel, flights, rent-a-car, etc.
- Redeeming your miles for travel credit gives you an extra 10% on miles redeemed
- No foreign transaction fees
- Free online FICO® Credit Score
The other card I fully recommend for travel is the Capital One Quicksilver Card. This card gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases, no matter what your points are used for.
The Barclay’s Card only gives you 2% cash back when redeemed for travel and only 1% in cash for all other purchases. Depending on how much you travel, the Capital One Card may be better for you.
Stop paying full price for something when you can get it for a discount.
13. Purchasing Auto Insurance When Renting a Car
You know those questions they always ask you about renting a car regarding if you’d like to purchase their auto-collision insurance? Well, thanks to credit cards, there’s no need. Many credit cards automatically include the added benefit of giving you collision-insurance when you rent a car at no extra cost.
The catch is that you MUST decline all insurance offers that the rental-car agency offers you. The insurance is actually quite good. By using a credit card to make a purchase, Visa is willing to insure you up to $100,000 in any major accident and $50,000 in injuries.
Mastercard and Discovery also offer collision insurance when renting a card. For more information on saving when renting a car, check 7 Steps to Save Up to 60% When Renting a Car.
14. Coffee (Sorry Starbucks Lovers)
I know that every man needs his coffee, but is there really a need to go to Starbucks or any other coffee shop and purchase a 12 oz. Coffee every day?
I know of people who purchase two of those Venti cups at Starbucks every 24 hours. Depending on the cost of the coffee, these can cost up to around $5 a cup. Purchase two of these a day and that’s $300 per month on coffee alone!
You could simply buy a new coffee maker for as little as $20 (or a used one for cheaper) and then go to the store and buy a few packs of coffee for the month, costing you maybe around $30 in total. After the first week, depending on the amount of coffee you drink, you will have gotten a return on your investment.
If you absolutely have to have Starbucks because they’re so tasty, I understand. You can check out my Monthly Giveaway Page where I sometimes give out free $5 Starbucks Gift Cards.
15. Credit Card Fees
You might be aware that your interest rate on your credit card is high. The thing that worries me the most is that you might not know on how to reduce your current rate or get it reduced to 0% for a short time.
This has to be by far the worst category to place your money into. Credit card interest rates are not only alarmingly high, but have the potential to increase your current debt at an alarming rate.
If you currently hold credit card debt and are sitting at 18% interest, the best thing you can do right now is either call the credit card company and ask them if they can lower your rate, or do a free balance transfer to another card. Often when you apply for a new credit card, they allow one free balance transfer to another card as a nice introduction bonus.
What’s even more is that some of these credit cards offer 0% APR on your interest for the first year from when you open a new account.
Another fee you might not come to think of is the annual credit card fee. This can be as much as $100, and credit card companies aren’t going to remind you when your 1-year anniversary of opening an account is near.
16. Spending More Than You Have at a Restaurant
I love going out to eat with good friends and to have a good meal. Yet sometimes eating at a restaurant can quickly put a damper on your wallet. Even the drinks alone can add a few extra dollars to your tab, making what seemed to be a nice evening out turning into a disaster for your financial situation.
Alcohol is by far the most expensive when a great alternative is drinking at your friends’ place for half the price. Getting drunk and calling a taxi to drive you home only adds more to your bill.
Obviously, the best way to save money from dining out is to eat at home, but we don’t want to have to sacrifice a nice evening with friends if we don’t have to. There are plenty of ways to actually save money at restaurants if you look and put a little effort into it.
17. Bargain Shopping and Cheap Items
There’s nothing wrong with looking for sales when going out shopping. In fact, it’s usually the best way to go. However, it’s usually a good idea to think about what we actually need before we buy it.
Before you swipe that credit card, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if you really need that item. If it’s just another useless object that will get thrown in your closet or be used only once a year, it might be a good idea to hold off even if it seems like a good deal. Most of the time you can find the same price somewhere else, especially without a lot of stores offering to do price-matching these days.
The one exception I can see to this is if the price of an item is so low, that you could buy it and resell it for a profit. I often did this with selling books during college, in which I made $600 in one semester with minimal effort. It
Another point to consider is that a lower price often results in a lower quality item. Durability is a very important factor to consider when making a purchase. If I’m going to buy a TV that will last for only a few years compared to one that will last me 20 for a 10% jump in price, I’m most likely going to buy the more expensive one.
18. Gym Membership
If you own a gym membership but find yourself not going to the gym, it may be a good idea to cancel it. Mark Lipanski, a personal trainer in Menlo Park, California, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009 that “about 12 percent to 15 percent of Americans own gym memberships, and of those, 40 percent actually use them.”
There are still other ways to work out, such as running outside, riding a bike or even cleaning around the house is known to burn roughly 150 calories per hour.
If you don’t want to cancel your membership, try finding a gym with a cheaper offer or getting a downgrade on your current membership.
When you’re guilty of these top 10 money wasters, you have less money for important things like paying off debt, saving for retirement, or treating yourself to something special like a night out once in a while.
And you’re not getting any pleasure or value out of all that wasted money, the money you’ve worked hard for. So many of these things are just habits; we don’t give them much thought, so we don’t realize just how much money we’re wasting.
But now you know, and that’s the first step to getting your wasteful spending under control.