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25 Unnecessary Wastes of Money You Don’t Think About

25 Unnecessary Wastes of Money You Don’t Think About

Some money-saving tips are obvious, like flying coach, cutting back on eating out, or ditching expensive bad habits like smoking. Some ways are uncommon enough to be impractical for consistent savings like choosing cheaper hotels on vacation or buying a used car rather than a new one — great advice, but it’s not going to help keep your monthly expenses in check.

In fact, you may be wasting money in extremely common but often overlooked ways. Here’s a list of 25 things you probably didn’t know you could save on and how you can stop wasting your money one them.

1. Buying brand name products

Store and generic brands have to be one of the most underused ways to save money across a range of products. From food, to skincare, to over the counter medicine, chances are your local grocery or drug store has a store brand for them or sells a generic version. Check the labels; in most cases, the ingredients are pretty much identical, but you don’t have to spend money on the big brand names.

Also, if you have prescriptions, you can sometimes ask your pharmacist for the generic version of your medications. They work just the same as the brand name, and can save you quite a bit of cash if your co-pay is high.

2. Paying someone else for simple car repairs

Basic car maintenance is something fewer and fewer of us learn, perhaps due to our increasingly busy lives and the preference for someone else to do maintenance work. But, assuming you own a car, money is flying out your wallet if you take your car to a shop for every little complication. Several of the simpler car problems don’t take a professional mechanic to fix, and even routine maintenance tasks can be performed at home. The great thing about the Internet age for car-owners is that there are all sorts of easy and helpful instruction videos out there.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can just start whacking at your engine with a socket wrench, but you definitely have more ability to tune up your car for cheap than you think you do. Start here.

3. Grocery shopping when you’re hungry

Or when you have all the time in the world. Avoid these two scenarios when taking a trip to the grocery store at all costs. If you shop for groceries when you’re hungry, even just kind of hungry, you’re more susceptible to buying extra stuff you don’t need or that you’ll waste later. Same goes for a leisurely grocery trip. If you make your trip when you have other errands to do and only a certain amount of time to do them, you’re less likely to spend time exploring all the isles and picking up more food than you originally planned on buying.

4. Buying a snack at the gas station “every now and then”

The quotation marks are there because “every now and then” usually means you just don’t keep track of all the little snack purchases you make on the go. All those bottles of soda and chip bags you pick up when you’re filling up the tank or making a stop at the drug store add up. Make a rule that you have to track all of those little snack purchases and you only get a small allowance of them per month. Get in the habit of bringing plenty of fluids and a snack or two with you whenever you go do errands or anything else that might bring you near convenient snack-filled temptations.

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5. Taking expiration dates as law

For some of the more perishable foods expiration dates hold more authority, but you can usually tell this by the funky smells or colors that develop when they start to go bad. But an expiration date on a food item isn’t the be all end all, assuming they have been stored in a cool, dry area. The most obvious case of this is pretty much any dried good, such as cereal, uncooked pasta, and dried beans.

Several foods that usually go bad when their labels say they will, such as raw meat or bread, can be stored in the freezer before their expiration date if you don’t think you’ll make it in time and be perfectly fine when you thaw them again. You can also use online databases to look up the actual shelf-life of certain foods and compare it to what the label says.

6. Paying for cable

Cutting the cord might seem like something only super savvy Millennials and tech whizzes can do without sacrificing a few of their favorite shows. But there are a bazillion TV and movie streaming services and other non-cable options out there now, the quality and variety of which will only keep growing in the years to come. Pretty much any streaming service is cheaper than paying for cable or dish, and you don’t get stuck with all the extra channels you never watch yet still have to pay for.

You can’t sit there and surf channels aimlessly any more, of course, but it’s not like doing that made your TV experience fantastic anyway.

7. Only using credit/debit cards

Convenient? A bit. Ignorant bliss? Definitely.

If you almost exclusively use your card to pay for things, it’s a lot easier to spend more than you intend to because you aren’t seeing the money. You just press some buttons and boom, purchase made. You might not be so liberal with your funds if you had to watch the cash leave your wallet. If you use mobile banking or money management apps to keep on top of your finances while still using your card, and it’s working, keep doing your thing. For the rest of you, you might want to consider weekly or bi-weekly trips to your bank or ATM and withdrawing a fixed amount of cash for your spending.

8. Your bank in general

Banks and everything to do with them are just money-vacuums in general. Take a look at your accounts and card fees and see if there are any better options than what you currently have. Try your darnedest to use ATMs for your bank only, as using another branch’s machines typically racks up unpleasant fees.

Better yet, ditch the bank altogether. Try a local credit union instead.

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9. A drafty living space

If you pay heating and cooling bills, you might be paying more than you need to due to inadequate insulation. If you can afford it, you can install more airtight windows and maybe a door or two as well. But effective insulation can be achieved without entirely replacing your windows in most cases. Start here and here.

10. In-game purchases

As a semi-recovering Candy Crush addict, I know how hard this habit is to break. But those $1 or $5 purchases here and there WILL add up, and you’ll suddenly be looking at your bank statement with a whole lot of shame and regret. Remove your credit card info from any sites or apps where you play games, and if you get really frustrated by a level you just can’t seem to beat, Google a how-to guide. (After finding some really effective ones for Candy Crush, I feel really dumb about buying those power-ups.)

11. You don’t keep your tires properly inflated

Yes, some tires with a little too much wiggle room can actually worsen your car’s gas mileage. Keep your tires properly inflated and you’ll save money on gas you didn’t even know you were losing. Set up a regular alert on your phone or write them down in your calendar so you don’t forget to check.

12. Couponing (irresponsibly)

Coupons save you a little money, yes, but if you’re couponing just for the sake of it, or convincing yourself you were totally going to buy those things on that discount site, you’re still wasting money. Don’t use coupons as an excuse to buy things you normally wouldn’t, even if it’s just an extra $5 to your usual purchase. You’ll end up doing it a lot more frequently than you intended, when you could be focusing on coupons and discounts when you actually need them.

Stick to coupons for the things you already buy. The exception to this is if you’re making an expensive but necessary purchase that you don’t regularly have to make, such as a car repair you absolutely can’t fix yourself, and you’re able to find a special coupon or discount for it.

13. Paying full price for clothes

Some cities have really great thrift stores or, for the pickier people, consignment shops. If there aren’t any near you, you can find plenty of sites that sell gently used, good quality clothes, as well as let you sell your own. Plus, by buying better quality clothes that have been gently used instead of cheap new clothing, your stuff will probably last longer. Cheap clothes break and tear, and then you have to buy more.

If you insist on buying clothing or shoes brand new, you still don’t have to pay full retail price. Chain stores usually mark up the price of the clothes they sell so that you pay significantly more than what it cost to make the items, giving the stores a hefty profit. Rather than paying the full price, find the items you really want and keep an eye on them. They’ll eventually be discounted or the store will have a sale that includes the item, allowing you to buy it at a better price. This is also a good way to weed out things you don’t actually love enough to buy, since you’ll have time to think about whether or not you really want the item while you wait for a discount.

14. Skimping on health and hygiene habits

You think it won’t happen to you, but it will. Your dentist isn’t just having a power trip, you really do need to maintain your teeth’s health or you’ll be paying for dental work in the not too distant future, and that can get painfully expensive. Not washing your hands, alcohol and junk food habits, and just not taking proper care of yourself in general will all come back to bite you, no matter how invincible you think you are. Weigh the potential medical bills against the temporary inconvenience of adjusting to new habits and make the smart choice.

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15. Pricey personal care products

We think we’re savvier consumers now, yet many of us continue to buy a bunch of chemical-filled crap to slather on our faces and bodies in the hopes that it will fix wrinkles (excuse me, “fine lines”), firm our skin, or brighten our complexions. I know it doesn’t work, you know it doesn’t work, so stop buying into it. Do you even know what you’re rubbing on yourself anyway? Take a look at the ingredients lists on your personal grooming products. I bet you can recognize maybe four or five if them without using a search engine. Opt for products with less ingredients that you can actually pronounce — and own up to the fact that some of your own habits are contributing to your skin/hair/body odor issues.

16. Unnecessary laundry junk

Dryer sheets? Toss ’em. Fabric softener? Throw it out. You need neither; in fact, you might not even need that toxic goop you put in your washing machine either. Plenty of cheap and easy homemade laundry detergent recipes can be found online, as well as replacements for dryer sheets such as reusable dryer balls. Or better yet, skip the dryer as much as possible, line-drying works just fine.

17. Energy drinks

If you have an energy drink habit, it’s time to kick it if you want to save money. Those things aren’t cheap, and chances are you eventually have to start drinking more than one a day to keep the buzz once you begin to tolerate them. If this habit is due to poor sleep, think of the money your sleep habits are costing you as an extra motivator to change them.

If you get a normal amount of sleep but still feel exhausted enough the next day to require energy drinks, make an appointment with your doctor. There are a number of health issues that could be causing you to feel drained, and one trip to the doc will be worth it if you can find out how to fix it.

18. Disposable razors

Disposable razors lose their sharpness pretty quickly (or get too clogged up with deodorant and other product residue), so you end up buying them pretty frequently. However, there are non-disposable razors that don’t cost a ton and once you’ve purchased it you only need to replace the blade itself, which you can usually buy in bulk online for super cheap but excellent quality. They are a little bit sharper than disposable razors because they’re designed to last more than five days, but don’t worry, these aren’t the long single blades you see in old-timey barbershops in films and TV, they’re the same shape you know just minus the whole disposable part.

And ladies, these razors are labeled and marketed for men, but they’re not gender exclusive. The companies are just marketing them as an old-fashioned manly-man thing rather than a save-money-and-the-environment thing. Don’t be fooled, you can totally use them.

19. Not carrying a re-usable coffee cup

Some places (maybe even most) add the cost of the disposable cup to the price of their drinks, since after all they don’t get those cups for free. If you’re a frequent coffee or other beverage purchaser, invest in a reusable to-go cup. You’ll typically get a “discount” for using it, when in fact you’re just not paying extra for the paper or plastic cups.

20. Buying individual coffee drinks in general

Get yourself a decent coffee-maker and make the coffee yourself to save big bucks over time. A lot of coffee machines now have the ability to preset your brew, so you can program it the night before to start brewing your coffee before you even wake up. Now you can’t claim it’s too much work!

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21. Making more than one trip to the grocery store per week

A good way to make yourself stick to a grocery budget is to not allow little trips to the store throughout the week because you ran out of one or two items. Chances are you’ll end up getting something extra half the time, and a routine of more than one grocery store trip per week indicates you’re not properly tracking your grocery consumption and adjusting what you buy and when you buy it to fit your habits.

22. Buying several different cleaning products and wipes

With a couple exceptions like wood and certain upholstery materials, you don’t need to buy a specific and often pricey product for every different surface in your home. It’s easy to find recipes for DIY all-purpose cleaners on the cheap like this one, as well as homemade cleaning products for specific surfaces if the need does arise.

23. Not taking advantage of qualifying discounts

This is especially good money-saving advice if you’re a student. Student and college discounts abound, they just might be hidden. Just because a company or establishment doesn’t explicitly advertise student discounts doesn’t mean they don’t have any; ask an employee, or, if you’re making a purchase online, use a search engine to see if there are any student discounts or programs you weren’t aware of. This goes for other person-specific discounts, such as military or senior discounts.

24. Pre-sliced or individually-packed anything

Your pre-cut meat and cheese are likely costing you way more than if you just bought these foods whole and cut them yourself. And really, individually packaged food in general is usually more expensive than making something similar yourself. Even things like snack bars aren’t difficult to make, and the bulk ingredients will feel like a steal for the amount you can make with them.

25. Disorganization

Being disorganized has cost you money at some point. Losing chargers and cables, misplacing expensive jewelry, forgetting where you left your keys and having to pay a locksmith to get into your house or car. If the mess itself hasn’t motivated you to declutter and get organized, link back on all the times you lost or misplaced something and ended up spending money in some way because of it. Then think of how many of those times you ended up finding the missing item later and realizing you spent that money for nothing. Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

Featured photo credit: Throwing Money Away/Bruce Evans via secure.flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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