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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 September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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