Are These 11 Expenses Draining Your Wallet?

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You see an advertisement on television about that dream home or car you wish you had, or that getaway that would provide the relief you need. Then, suddenly, reality sets in before you’re overwhelmed by your daydreams. Your desires and your bank account are not a match made in heaven.

In fact, many people live meager paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by. Or maybe some have an abundant income but no idea how to manage it. If you are stuck on either side of the spectrum or smack dab in the middle, there are ways to make your money work for you.

Don’t know where to start? Keep the receipt for every expenditure you make for a month. At the end of the month, take a closer look at where your money went. What you find will more than likely surprise you.

Here are some budget busters to keep an eye out for:

1. Emergencies

Whether it’s a layoff, unexpected medical bill or mechanical failure of your vehicle, financial emergencies are no fun and can mean life or death for your budget. However, if you plan ahead and allocate a few funds for each category, your financial emergencies can become a thing of the past. (See: “9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money’s Tight.”

And then there are the so-called emergencies — sudden expenditures you can do without. Don’t confuse the two, and save your emergency funds for the real thing.

2. Electronics

Are you a gadget junkie? Maybe you have to have the latest and greatest iPhone or tablet? If you haven’t planned for this expense, your budget will be sure to let you know. And if you must have a particular gadget, consider buying a refurbished version.

3. Groceries

Do you shop using a meal planner and coupons, or do you just grab whatever you desire at that moment? It’s so simple to do: You head to the store with a few things in mind but end up spending $100 or more. That’s where discipline comes in.

Another word of advice: Never head to the store hungry, or you will be tempted to leave with every item that whets your mental appetite. (Take a look at “9 Tips to Cut Your Grocery Bill by Up to 50 Percent.”)

4. Dining out

This one is especially a problem if you spend tons of funds at the grocery store each month but end up dining out more than you actually cook. Another trap are office lunch dates, which have the potential to wreak havoc on your wallet if they become a part of your daily routine.

My advice: Put the tips from “15 Ways to Cut Your Fine Dining Bill in Half” to good use if you insist on dining out.

5. Entertainment

The guys or girls are heading out for a night of fun, and you are all for it. What a perfect opportunity, especially considering that you’ve had a long week at work and your kids are driving you nuts. But there’s only one problem: Your bank account is on the brink of going into the red. Be wise and say no.

Even if you have to make up a lame excuse to prevent being ridiculed by your friends, it’s worth salvaging your budget. (Check out “14 Ways to Have More Fun for Less Money.”)

6. Lavish travel

Heading out of town for the weekend or for an extended excursion? If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, now is not the time to splurge on five-star hotels and first-class flights.

Here are 10 ways to get free lodging.

7. Apparel

Addicted to fashion? Well, those new heels you’ve been eagerly waiting to get your hands on have finally gone on clearance, and you just have to have them. But if your budget says no, it’s wise to leave them at the store.

8. Pampering sessions

While your body may need a little TLC each month, heading to the spa or hair salon once a week has the potential to be deadly from a financial perspective.

9. Cable

Instead of signing up for the most expensive plan, try basic cable. Or even better, cut cable altogether and go for much cheaper alternatives, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix. See how you can stop paying for cable right now.

10. Gym memberships

Being healthy and fit definitely have their perks, but spending way too much money to reach your fitness goals makes no sense.

Why not ditch the gym and search for inexpensive or free courses or exercise at your community recreation center instead? Or try the great outdoors; a little fresh air won’t hurt.

Take a look at “DIY Fitness: 10 Tips to Get In Shape Without the Gym.”

11. Housing

Did you drastically underestimate the costs associated with that new home or apartment? Are your housing costs much more than you can reasonably afford? Does the expression “house rich and cash poor” sound familiar?

The next go-round, be conservative and leave as much wiggle room in your budget as possible for unexpected monthly bills and maintenance and repair costs (if applicable). Before you apply for a mortgage or lease, use an affordability calculator to gauge what you can realistically contribute toward housing expenses each month.

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  • grandmaguest

    Sometimes I am astonished by the number of people these days who don’t know the difference between a “need” and a “want”.
    They think they “need” cable TV, a cell phone, a new car, new clothes, etc. Nope people….those are “wants”! You “need” a sensible place to live, a sensible (used?) means of transportation to and from work, and reasonable (not steaks nor out of season fruits and veggies or ready made) food. Even fast food is not a “need”.
    Way to many have the mentality of “I want what I want, and I want it right now”. Yes a cell phone is nice, but if you’re living paycheck to paycheck find out the cost of a “gasp” land line compared to a cell with all the bells and whistles that everyone has. Or get a prepaid cell and only use it for actual talking. I actually enjoy not being attached at the hip to a phone. And yes I hear it all the time I might have an emergency and need it….well how many times have you had a real emergency where you had to call 911 in the past couple of years. The same goes with your kids. Did you know that you can get phones that you can eliminate texting and internet. Some you can even program with only family numbers and 911.
    Come on people… can do it. I have faith in you!

    • Jason

      I agree with you on most of these but not the cell phone. Cell phone plans don’t have to be expensive, even for smartphones. I use Cricket which is a prepaid subsidiary of AT&T. Unlimited talk, text, and 500 mb of data is $35 per month and that includes all taxes. Even that is on the high side for me because I am currently job hunting and spending lots of time on the phone with recruiters and potential employers. For the last year my wife and I have have averaged $25 per month for two smartphones.

      I have two options for a landline at my current house. Comcast wants $34.95 + taxes and fees for a landline and that is a discounted rate for 6 months. AT&T wants $20 + taxes and fees and it isn’t even a landline, it is a docking station with a mobile phone SIM.

      • grandmaguest

        That’s a great rate for 2 cell phones. Unfortunately out where I live I don’t get AT & T cell service. But my house phone is through a little rural company (I’m sure you’ve never heard of it) and runs me around $30-31 and that includes everything. Most people that I’ve talked to spend around $100 or more a month for cell service.
        Just call me old fashion but if they are using food stamps or even just barely getting by without, then it just amazes me to see how many buy disposable diapers (they are awfully expensive) and have cell phones that do everything but drive the car! Of course I’m being sarcastic here…but….

        • Jason

          I agree that $100 a month for a cell phone is too much and I know many people that pay that much. Often they either don’t know about prepaid options or are seduced by the “free” phone offered by the big carriers. The don’t seem to realize that the cost for that “free” phone is built into their monthly bill and that they are spending $40 to $50 extra per month instead of just purchasing the phone themselves.

          I also think that $30 a month is too much to pay for a landline. It seems to work for you but I could never pay that much just for voice minutes. The $25 per month I mentioned above was for the two of us but required more than just two devices. We had a simple Nokia feature phone that I picked up used on Ebay for $15 that we used as our home phone. It has a SIM from LycaMobile (which uses T-Mobile’s service) at a rate of $0.02 per minute and the balance never expires as long as the phone was used at least once every 3 month. $30 x $0.02 per minute = 1500 minutes. I know people that talk that much per month but my wife and I combined don’t use even half that many minutes per month.

          Our $25 per month system:
          “Home phone” on LycaMobile (T-Mobile) at $0.02 per minute
          2 smartphones on AirVoice (AT&T) $10 monthly plan for usage away from home (talk / text / data)
          FreedomPop (Sprint) mobile hot spot for my data at work. 500 mb per month free

          We also have wifi at home so mobile data is only used when we are away from home or work.

          • grandmaguest

            I’m impressed. The only thing that reaches me (and not always) is Verizon. Perhaps, when service is better out here in the boonies (of Kansas) and more reasonable I might try what you do.
            For now, the only way I can even have internet (unless I want to pay $$$ for dish service) is to also have a landline. Out here you have 1 choice. Phooey. I checked into broadband with some kind of antenna thingy and the cost was the same as I get for 20 but was much slower speed at only 2 (whatever its called mega something or other) in fact they didn’t even offer anything close…I think they went up to 4 or 6. So as you can see I’m pretty much stuck. Hopefully someday before I kick the bucket I’ll be able to have something closer to what you have…..wishful thinking…..but thanks for giving me all the information. I hope that even if it doesn’t help me, it might be beneficial for others who read it.