10 Small Expenses Busting Your Budget

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Another day, another dollar — and for millions of us, one more failed attempt to budget.

Feeling puzzled because your budget doesn’t ever seem to work? Here are some small expenses that might be the culprit.

1. Food

In the average U.S. household, food is among the biggest expenditures. Of course, we all have to eat. But we also waste money on meals.

Spending $10 at lunch each day adds up to a whopping $50 per week, or $200 per month. It may not seem like much when you’re swiping the magic plastic, but this expense quickly adds up.

Americans are also notorious for throwing away food. As we point out in “12 Food Hacks That Will Save You Time, Money or Grief,” there are many ways to extend the shelf life of foods. For example:

Store tomatoes with the stem side down, because that’s where the air gets in the most quickly, and you’ll add shelf life to your tomatoes.

Adding shelf life to foods will also add more money to your savings.

2. Snacks and other daily treats

We all have indulgences. Perhaps you prefer a cup of joe each morning from Starbucks or a fresh-baked bagel from Panera.

You don’t have to abandon these tasty items, but indulging in moderation for your budget’s sake is worth a shot. Try to limit such treats to once a week, or even once a month.

Want to go for super-disciplined superstar-saver status? Limit your treat to once a year. Many places offer freebies on your birthday that allow you to indulge your sweet or salty tooth at no cost. We round them up in “23 Restaurant Chains That Offer Free Food for Your Birthday.”

Use the occasion to dig in to a guilty pleasure — and to celebrate all the money you have saved over the course of a year by not giving into temptation.

3. Lapsed promotional offers

How many times have you signed up for a free subscription or premium channel, only to notice charges on your statement because you forgot to cancel before the promotional period ended?

Steer clear of promotional offers unless you have a reminder in your smartphone or planner to cancel services before charges are applied to your account.

4. Gasoline

Even though gas is much cheaper than it was a few years ago, it is still a major expense for many Americans.

Reduce your monthly gas costs by combining errands, carpooling, taking public transportation or using some hypermiling tricks.

5. Sales

You’ve waited several months for a particular item to go on sale, and it’s finally 50 percent off. But one problem remains: You have to put it on your credit card.

If you give in to temptation, it’s only a matter of time before your spending plan lets you know. Instead, set aside funds now for the next time the item goes on sale.

6. Redbox

If you frequently visit Redbox, leave the storage container in a visible place so you won’t forget to return it the next day and incur fees.

7. Pampering

Every now and again, you’ll need to visit the salon or indulge in a day at the spa. There’s nothing wrong with unwinding on your downtime, but you should engage in pricey activities only if your budget allows it.

If not, see our comprehensive list of ways to trim the cost of haircuts.

8. Banking fees

Over the past few years, numerous bank fees have materialized out of thin air — for account maintenance and paper statements, just to name two. Fees for overdrafts and ATM use also have increased.

Until you can find a more cost-efficient alternative to the big-boy banks, such as a credit union, take a look at our list of ways to dodge banking fees.

9. Cellphone use

Unless you have an all-inclusive, unlimited plan, caps apply to minutes and data usage, and you’ll pay extra if you go over. Plus there are charges you might not be aware of until they appear on your bill.

If your cellphone bill fluctuates each month, take a moment to give the provider a call and inquire about more cost-effective options that may be available to you.

To learn more about other cellphone options, check out “How to Get Free Cellphone Service.”

10. All the random ‘extras’

Life happens and so do expenses, so it’s best to be safe and have a solid emergency fund. You can also hedge against the risk of running out of funds each month by incorporating some extra money into your spending plan.

Even the most frugal and financially savvy people are faced with unexpected expenses, so you’re definitely not alone.

Which budget busters have you struggled with? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.