Penny Foolish: How 6 Tiny Money Leaks Cost Me $1,702 Annually

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How much could I save by just adding up the little things I fail to do? Oh, more than $1,000 a year. But more than likely, I still won't do them.

I hate it when I see people waste food. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been that way. Lucky for me I love leftovers.

Another pet peeve of mine is carelessly wasting money on things that can be easily prevented. But while I’m very careful about not wasting food, I still have a lot of work to do when it gets down to plugging my other money leaks.

I recently did a quick audit to see where some of my biggest leaks were coming from. Then I evaluated my odds of repairing them. Here’s my list…

1. Buying lunch at work

My (lame) excuse: Hey! Every once in a while I get hungry at work. Besides, who has time to make and pack their own lunch?
Short-term impact: A grilled cheese sandwich here, a bag of chips and a cookie there – add it all up and I’m currently averaging about $10 per week at my workplace cafeteria.
Long-term impact: $500 annually, assuming my appetite doesn’t get bigger between now and then.
The obvious solution: Pack my own lunch the night before.
Odds of this actually happening: 50/50.

2. Overpaying for satellite TV

My (lame) excuse: Although I watch the same 25 channels 99.5376 percent of the time, one day I may want to watch something on one of the other 1,746 channels I’m paying for.
Short-term impact: I pay about $20 per month extra for the additional satellite channels I watch 0.4624 percent of the time.
Long-term impact: $240 annually.
The obvious solution: Dump the extra channels and resign myself to the fact that I’ll miss a show I really want to watch 0.4624 percent of time.
Odds of this actually happening: Although this one’s a no-brainer, the answer is slim and none. This is yet more proof that people make irrational money decisions all the time.

3. Paying almost all bills by snail mail instead of the Internet

My (lame) excuse: My wife pays the bills, and she insists on paying them the old-fashioned way because she “doesn’t trust computers.” (Don’t say it, I know.)
Short-term impact: On average, she writes about 10 checks per month for bills that she could pay online or automatically.
Long-term impact: $60 annually, assuming 50 cents per bill (for the price of the stamp, envelope, and check).
The obvious solution: Well, short of finding a second spouse – which I still believe is illegal in most states – somehow convince my wife to start “trusting computers” and pay our bills online.
Odds of this actually happening: I stand a better chance of being hired as a back-up singer and off-stage cabana boy for Lady Gaga.

4. Paying to use the express lane when it’s not really necessary

My (lame) excuse: Even though I’m on the road by 5 a.m. when traffic is still relatively light, it’s insurance against getting stuck in an unexpected traffic jam down the road.
Short-term impact: Over the past two months, I’ve “chickened out” and taken the express lane in the wee hours of the morning an average of twice per week.
Long-term impact: $402 annually, assuming the toll road rates don’t go up – which they will.
The obvious solution: Look fear in the eye and bypass the express lanes at 5 in the morning.
Odds of this actually happening: A near certainty. After evaluating the long-term impact, I’m already feeling braver. Wait, I changed my mind.

5. My insatiable addiction to iTunes

My (lame) excuse: Why listen to some corporate radio station with a puny playlist of 400 songs – half of which I don’t like – when I can listen to my own personal music library?
Short-term impact: Last month I spent almost $100 – although that’s not typical.
Long-term impact: I expect to spend about $500 annually, give or take $100. Okay, okay. Give $100.
The obvious solution: Limit the monthly growth of my iTunes collection by 80 percent.
Odds of this actually happening: One chance in three. My intentions are good here, so I’ll try my best, but this is easier said than done.

6. Not replacing the weatherstripping on my front and back doors

My (lame) excuse: I live in Los Angeles, not Moscow. How much energy can I really be wasting?
Short-term impact: I’m not sure, but the U.S. Department of Energy says weatherstripping pays for itself within one year via reduced energy costs.
Long-term impact: Based upon the data from the Department of Energy, I’m guessing less than $20.
The obvious solution: Get off my butt and weatherstrip my external doors.
Odds of this actually happening: 99 percent. I know – it’s ironic that the money leak with the lowest financial impact will be the one most likely to be fixed.

As you can see, if I’m successful in plugging all of these money leaks, I could conceivably end up saving $1,702 per year – or more! Unfortunately, the odds are I will continue to be penny foolish and let most of these leaks just keep on draining the hard-earned money from my wallet.

Well, that is, unless Lady Gaga happens to come a-calling.

Stacy Johnson

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