Most of us work hard for our money, and the last thing we want to do is throw any of it away. Of course, every once in a while, things do come up — like that time you spent more than you intended to, showing your out-of-town friend a great time; Or, when you dipped into your emergency fund to cover a car repair — and this is okay.
It’s why building wiggle room into your budget is important. What’s not okay, is throwing away money on unnecessary fees, charges, and missed opportunities! Here are a few common ways you’re losing money without realizing it!
Number 1 — Throwing Out Food
When you’re throwing food out, you’re wasting money — plain and simple. We’re all guilty of it, even with the best intentions. Food waste is a huge issue in our society, and many people don’t realize the extent of it.
It might surprise you to learn that the average U.S. household throws out over $600 worth of food each year. Luckily, there are some simple ways to cut back on wasting food and money.
You can start by making weekly grocery lists, and before going to the supermarket, try to see if you don’t already have certain items. It’s also a good idea to organize your cupboards from time to time because you probably have stuff lying around in there that you aren’t even aware of. And you’ll find that a lot of it has already expired.
Number 2 — Restaurants and Takeout
It’s one thing to enjoy the occasional meal out, but if you’re not careful, eating at restaurants too often can result in a serious waste of money! The average American household spends over $3,000 a year eating out.
But did you know that in general, a restaurant’s food price is about three times its wholesale cost?
That’s a 300 percent markup! This means that for every $30 you spend, you’re paying $20 extra compared to what it would cost you to make these meals at home. If you’re throwing away loads of money on restaurants and takeout, consider scaling back.
Especially if you’re struggling to save, or have other financial goals to meet. You don’t need to go cold turkey, but if you cut your three restaurant meals a week down to just two, you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Number 3 — Bank Fees
What’s more annoying than paying to use your own money?
Well, that’s exactly what you’re doing when you spend $5 at out-of-network ATMs. And that’s not the only fee you’ll pay if you’re not careful! Bank accounts can carry a lot of different charges, including overdraft and maintenance fees that could add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
The good news is that you can avoid these charges entirely if you commit to better banking habits.
Number 4 — Unused Gift Cards
Check your wallet and drawers, and you’ll likely find a gift card, or maybe several, that you haven’t used. Don’t worry, it’s not just you: It’s estimated that more than $45 billion worth of gift cards are collecting dust!
If you have money to spend at retailers like Amazon — or companies like Visa or Amex — make an effort to use your card for things you already planned on purchasing. Also, keep in mind that some of these gift cards can have maintenance fees of up to $2.50 per month until the card balance hits zero.
So it’s best to use them sooner than later. If you got a gift card to a restaurant or store you don’t really like, sell it, or give it to someone as a gift.
But be mindful. Don’t give a steakhouse gift card to your vegan friend. They’ll know right away that you were just trying to get rid of the card.
Number 5 — Subscriptions
There’s nothing wrong with having subscriptions, but it becomes a problem when you pay for something that you don’t end up using! Subscriptions or memberships can entail any kind of membership or subscription service. From gym memberships to Magazines to Cable TV.
The point is, if you don’t use it on a regular basis, you’re wasting money. Before you sign up for anything, think about how often you’ll actually use it and whether there’s a low-cost or free alternative.
Number 6 — Overage Charges
Unlimited talk time and unlimited texting are pretty much standard these days, but data plans are still a steady source of overage charges. While fees vary, you can still easily pay $10 to $15 extra for every gig that exceeds your monthly limit.
If you do this consistently, you’re looking at an annual bill that’s hundreds more than you budgeted. You can easily fix this problem by finding a plan that matches your needs.
You might pay more upfront, but it will cost less than what you pay in penalties. You can also try to scale back by using WiFi more often and disabling apps that drain your data.
Number 7 — Skipping Your Research
If you want to stop wasting money, comparison shopping is very important. The last thing you want to do is buy some product on sale, and then find out that it’s crap. And this happens to many people regularly because they don’t research.
Before you make any purchase, take the time to read reviews and find the best product for a good price. This applies to grocery shopping too. I mean the comparison part.
You can usually find the same products at most grocery stores but some of them will charge double the price.
Number 8 — Using Coupons
Using coupons is one of the simplest ways to save money.
But, have you ever stopped to think that you might be wasting money by using them?
Your intent is to save money, but how often does this desire backfire and you end up not using the items you bought?
Or worse, you didn’t budget for them. Then to add to this, you just fill up your cupboards with junk and create clutter only to find expired products years later. The trick is to simply use coupons for items you actually need or are planning on buying in the first place.
Number 9 — Airline Surcharges
Travel fees are a great way to waste money, and they add up quickly. While there are costs that are mandatory, you can skip many by planning ahead. When the day of your flight rolls around, arrive prepared.
This is especially important if you’re flying a discount carrier, as they are infamous for tacking on fees for everything from seat assignments to checking in. So bring your own blanket, food, and entertainment. And pack smart.
Realistically, you won’t be able to carry on all the time, but there’s no excuse for showing up with oversized or overweight luggage, which can run you anywhere from $25 to $200 on domestic flights. Always check the weight of your luggage before you leave the house!
Number 10 — Keeping Up With The Joneses
How many times have you seen something that someone else had, and you instantly wanted it too?
We’ve all been there. It’s hard to escape the influence of others who live seemingly wealthy, free-and-easy lifestyles. And it’s really hard to escape the noise of all the advertisers who desperately want us to keep buying more stuff.
Sadly, many people live beyond their means. And constantly trying to keep up with others will only lead you to be broke!
So, next time you’re tempted by something your friends or neighbors have, take a hard look at your budget. If you don’t have the money for it, perhaps you shouldn’t buy it!