All too often, it’s easy to overspend. Sometimes, our emotions get the best of us. In other cases, we just can’t resist the shiny object calling to us from the store shelf.
In situations where we truly need to spend — rather than just making a luxury purchase, or an impulse buy — we can still end up paying way too much for that item or service we need.
Here’s a look at some things we routinely spend way too much on, and some painless ways to cut back.
The worst time to shop for a funeral is when most of us do it, right after a loved one dies, when grief can cloud our judgment. And the best way to avoid handing off such a burden to your loved ones is to be clear about your funeral wishes — or better still, make the arrangements yourself — well in advance.
For more, check out “5 Steps to Managing the Costs of a Funeral.”
It’s madness: The average American wedding cost $33,931 in 2018, according to a survey by wedding website The Knot.
Many brides and grooms set out to be frugal, but fail once the planning gets underway. So, the first and single most important step to prevent overspending is to stop and think: What will make the occasion memorable and meaningful for you and your guests — versus what’s just a costly expectation?
Then, have a conversation about where you could better spend the thousands of dollars you save. Travel? Down payment on a house?
Want more ideas? Check out “10 Amazing Yet Affordable Wedding Venues.”
3. Diamond rings
You’ll notice we didn’t mention engagement and wedding rings in the weddings section. That’s because jewelry is an overspending category unto itself — and diamonds may be the most marked-up item on this list.
Like planning for funerals and weddings, buying diamonds is fraught with danger because it’s yet another emotional purchase. If we try too hard to save money, we feel like we’re being cheap.
But here’s a secret: Diamond prices are often negotiable, even at major chains like Zales and Kay Jewelers. For more tips, check out “16 Outrageously Priced Products — and How to Save on Them.”
4. New cars
Buy a new car, and it will start to lose its value the minute you drive it off the dealer’s lot. Think about it: Would you spend a boatload of money on anything else that becomes worth so little so quickly?
So, it almost always makes more sense to buy a gently used model instead. For more tips, check out:
Perhaps you don’t cook much, and you don’t have the time or space to grow your own fruits and vegetables. You can still save money on food.
For example, skip the soup and salad when you eat out. They’re not only expensive for what you get, they’re also not nearly as good for you as you think.
And don’t be afraid to learn to cook. You can save big and still eat well. If you can read, you can cook.
For more tips, check out “The 27 Absolute Best Ways to Save on Food.”
The fact is that we’ve all overpaid for clothes because we liked the label. So, there’s a good starting point for saving on clothes: Don’t buy brands, unless you’re absolutely certain you’re getting the quality you’re paying for.
For more, check out “10 Tips to Spend Less on Clothes.”
While experts offer all kinds of conflicting college advice, they seem to agree on one thing: Spending more than you can afford to attend a big-name school isn’t smart. Like buying clothes, you need to look beyond the pricey labels.
Start by checking out the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
8. Workout gear
You can easily spend $100 on a pair of name-brand leggings to wear at the gym. And it’s possible that the hype is correct — they do make your butt look cute. But you could instead buy a very similar pair of leggings at Ross Dress for Less, Kohl’s or other discount clothing retailers for a fraction of the price.
And, really, at the end of the day, it’s the workout that will make your butt look cute. You won’t need a pair of overpriced pants to do that.
9. Cosmetics and razors
And speaking of looking cute — it can be easy to spend like a supermodel on beauty products. Chanel’s foundation makeup can sell for $45, and most of that cash pays for the honor of having an item in your makeup bag with that famed double-C logo on it.
But you might find a very similar Maybelline or other drugstore brand product at Walgreen’s for something like $10.50. Once the makeup is on, no one knows where it came from.
And whether you’re shaving your legs or your beard, no one admiring your close shave will know whether you used a heavily advertised cartridge razor or a virtually identical no-name brand for less than half the price.
Why would you ever pay $1,000 for a purebred dog when you can get one practically free from the Humane Society, while saving a life at the same time? Find your local animal shelter online, and you usually can page through photos of adoptable animals online.
When selecting eyeglass frames, don’t be blinded by designer logos. Sure, you can go to a high-end store and pay $500 for frames. Or you can go online and pay as little as $50. Online options like Warby Parker let you pick out a number of different frames and try them on at home — with free shipping to boot.
12. Insurance and warranties
We’ve all heard the expression “Better safe than sorry.” However, you can spend a lot of money insuring yourself against any possible calamity, and insurers prey on fear.
When you think about it, many things that can go wrong can be fixed for less than the premiums. Cellphone insurance, for example, is something for which there are often cheaper alternatives.
For more, read “9 Types of Insurance That Might Be a Waste of Money.”
13. Credit cards
You have the potential to rack up big savings on credit cards by investing just a few minutes of your time. But too many of us sign up for a few cards and never look back, paying large annual fees or high interest on a balance. Or, we cut them up because we think those pieces of plastic got us mired in debt.
But wisely used credit cards can help you claw your way out of debt. Reward points are like free money, and balance-transfer offers can reduce your interest rate to zero for many months. The problem is finding the right card. A good place to start comparing rates and benefits is the Credit Card section of our Solutions Center.
Have you overspent on one of these things because tradition or emotion or other people’s expectations got the best of you? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Gael F. Cooper and Kari Huus contributed to this post.
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