Do you ever get annoyed with those success stories of people who have paid off thousands of dollars in debt in a small time frame or became a millionaire at age 30? Do you feel like they have some magic secret that you can’t get your hands on? They might just have learned what expenses are “worth it” and what expenses are a waste of money. Educating yourself about simple lifestyle changes can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars in a year. Here are 10 ways that you may be wasting your money.
- You don’t shop sales.
If you consistently paying full price for your purchases, you’re wasting your money. Almost everything goes on sale. Groceries constantly go one sale, and buying ahead at sale price can save you a ton. If you’re curious how to do that, check out my post, “A Day in the Life of My Grocery Budget.” I buy most grocery items at least 50% off. If I weren’t shopping sales, I would probably spend about $150-$200 more per month!
Non-food items go on sale too. Before you pay full price, check to see if that item might be on sale somewhere else, even on the internet. Some items also go on sale seasonally, so you should do your research.
Linens tend to be least expensive during “white sales” in January. Holiday décor is usually 50-75% off immediately after the holiday. Furniture stores tend to have sales surrounding summer holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day. I could go on and on. It might seem hard to wait, but if you can, waiting could save you hundreds of dollars.
- You forget to cancel subscriptions.
Have you ever signed up for a service or product subscription that was free or discounted for the first year and forgot to cancel it later? A lot of magazines, web services, video/music streaming, and cable services require you to sign up for automatic payment.
If you’re signing up for a free trial or a discounted first year, planning to cancel after the promotion is over, make sure you cancel! An easy way to do this is to create a phone reminder or a calendar appointment just before the cancellation deadline. Forgetting could cost you ten bucks or hundreds of dollars. No matter how much it costs you, you’re wasting your money if you’re no longer using the service.
- You don’t eat leftovers.
To some people, eating leftovers is a fate worse than death. They view it as “used” food. Honestly, eating leftovers means you’re not wasting your money that you spent on groceries. It also means that you don’t have to cook as many meals or buy as much.
If leftovers freak you out, consider making foods that taste as good or better then next day. A few of these foods are chili, pot roast, and soups. These kinds of foods get more flavorful after they rest. You could also consider transforming leftovers by repurposing them. One of my favorite ways to repurpose leftovers is to buy a rotisserie chicken (or bake a whole chicken) and then use the leftover chicken meat in chicken pasta, chicken soup, or chicken tacos.
If you’re simply not willing to eat leftover food, then you should work hard to find recipes that make just enough portion-wise for one meal for your family.
- You don’t eat at home.
Speaking of leftovers, it’s hard to eat leftovers if you never cook in the first place. Eating out frequently can seriously waste your money. I love eating out as much as the next guy, but my husband and I probably only eat out three times a month. We spend an average of about $50 per week on groceries. If we ate out twice a week, we’d probably spend $50 or more just for those two meals!
While eating out is fun, making it a constant lifestyle is essentially ingesting a good portion of your money. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. “Do I want to eat my money?” If you really track how much you spend on eating out, you might decide it’s worth it to cut back and pocket that extra money. When you do eat out, take a to-go box and eat the leftovers. Otherwise, you’re wasting your money!
Even ordering in can be less expensive than eating out. My reasoning here is that when you eat out, you’re more likely to order an appetizer, soft drinks, or dessert. If you order takeout, you’re less likely to give in to the impulse to order more than you need.
When you cook at home or order in, you’re probably less likely to over eat and fill up on empty calories like bottom-less fries or six glasses of pop. Cooking at home also allows you to eat less fried food, preservatives, and sugar because you know exactly what is put in your food.
- You’re wasting paper products.
Okay, hear me out. No, I don’t think you need to go as far as homemade, reusable toilet paper. Did you know people do that? They do. However, you might not realize how much you’re wasting with paper products.
My husband and I realize that we’d actually be saving money if we bought a microwave cover instead of covering dishes with paper towel. A microwave cover can be found for a dollar or two, and you just clean it off when it gets splattered. Otherwise, you’re literally just throwing paper towels away every time you heat something.
I remember when Ryan and I were first married and on a super tight budget, he came to me once asking, “How many squares of toilet paper do you use per visit to the bathroom?” “PERSONAL!” Was my response. We laugh now, but it really made us think about using what was needed and nothing more. I’ll leave it at that.
Big messes? Clean them up with a cleaning rag instead of tons of paper towel. Being smart about how much you use is not only good for the environment, but it helps you avoid wasting your money.
- You drive like you’re in an action movie.
Okay, I’m not saying that you’re swerving all over and driving over one hundred miles per hour, but thinking about how you drive can save wear on your car and help you get better gas mileage. If you’re the type to gun it then slam on your breaks, try to become a “coaster.” While you might feel like you’re driving like a grandma, Grandma’s got good gas mileage and a care with minimal repair. Just saying.
My husband can testify that I have room to grow in this area. He’s constantly being a backseat driving and telling me to coast. I will say, though, that since I’ve started thinking about how I drive, our gas costs went down because we’re getting better gas mileage. You might save just a little on gas, but not having to replace your brakes and transmission as early will save you big. You go, grandma.
- You’re buying cheap clothes.
Wait, what? You’re probably thinking I’m crazy. Maybe you thought you were saving money buy shopping for cheap clothes. While you should look for sales and deals on your clothing purchases, I’m warning you not to buy clothes that are cheap in quality. This kind of clothing is poorly made, rips easily, and wears quickly. For example, a sweater bought at a supermarket is probably more likely to pill and wear than a higher quality sweater bought at a department store.
If you’re only paying $14 for a pair of pants, but you’re needing to replace them twice a year because they’re worn out, you need to invest a little more in your clothing. If you invest in quality clothing items, they can often last for years. You’ll look better, and you’ll spend less time and money replacing things. Finding the happy medium between price and quality can be difficult, but will pay off.
- You’re wasting water, gas, and electricity.
Wasting your money can be literally dumping it down the drain. If you’re paying a water bill, think about how much water you might be wasting. Simple changes in habits can make a big difference. Don’t leave the sink running while you brush your teeth or wash dishes in the sink. Take shorter showers and don’t run the shower until you’re in it. Don’t leave the garden hose running if you’re not using it. Only run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full.
Concerning wasting gas and electricity, think about using your dryer less and setting your thermostat slightly warmer in the summer and slightly cooler in the winter. Minor adjustments may not affect your lifestyle but may save you considerably in heating and cooling costs. Unplugging electronics and appliances when they aren’t being used is another great way to cut the cost of your electric bill.
- You have a cable subscription, but spend your time watching Netflix.
My personal opinion, cable seems like a luxury that most people don’t need. However, if you are going to subscribe to cable services, don’t spend all your time watching Netflix! Cable can cost anywhere from $40-$150 per month! If you’re seriously convinced that you want to invest that much in your entertainment each month, then utilize your service.
I think it’s funny that so many people have cable subscriptions, but spend most of their time watching Netflix or Hulu. If you cut out that cable subscription and utilized only Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, you’d be looking at a cost of $10-25 per month versus $40-$150. Let’s say you’re spending $80 per month for cable, that’s about $960 per year. If you’re spending $11.99 per month for Netflix, that’s about $144 per year. Is cable worth the extra $800+ to you? Think about it. You might just be wasting your money.
- You’re buying all of your Christmas presents in December.
Once again, hear me out. My mother-in-law is a big inspiration for me on this one. She always insists that we share Christmas wish-lists with her before Thanksgiving. Why? Because she is smart and knows that she can find items on our lists for much better deals on Black Friday. Even if Black Friday isn’t your jam, you can certainly shop sales throughout the year to save money on gifts.
Leaving all gift purchasing to be done in December can lead to impulse buying, not to mention stores being out of stock of items you’d like to purchase. Planning ahead allows you to make gifts, purchase personalized items, or generally purchase gifts at better prices. If you plan, you’ll also avoid ever paying priority shipping in order to get a gift to come in on time. Worse, you’ll avoid wrapping up a piece of paper with an IOU for a gift that hasn’t come in the mail yet.
Save yourself the hassle and shop for Christmas gifts throughout the year. You won’t be wasting your money on last-minute gifts that your loved ones don’t really want. Christmas will be less stressful, gifts may be more meaningful, and costs can be cut considerably.
You may be able to stop wasting your money in some of these key areas by simply adjusting your lifestyle. When you stop spending money passively, you have more money to spend, save, and give intentionally.
If you’re interested in finding a way to get debt-free quickly, check out my post, Debt Recovery Step 1: Admitting the Problem.
What are some of your great money-saving tips?