Sometimes the best way to save money is simply to stop wasting it.
Unnecessary expenses can eat away at your bank account without providing you any real benefit. Taken one by one, these everyday spending errors might seem small, but they can add up to thousands of dollars wasted each year.
What follows are seven examples of how people waste money every day — and how you can avoid these bad habits.
1. Paying ATM fees
Many people often pay several dollars for the privilege of withdrawing their money from an ATM. This may be convenient, but it’s unnecessary. There are multiple ways to avoid this charge.
A simple solution is to carry more cash so you don’t have to worry about finding an ATM. You also can ask for cash back when you make a debit card purchase at a supermarket or a drugstore. Just be sure that there isn’t a fee attached.
A longer-term solution is to move your checking account to a new bank. Choose one that has numerous branches and ATM locations so you can make free withdrawals more easily. Or, choose an online bank that will let you use any ATM and will waive or reimburse you for ATM fees you incur.
2. Not unplugging idle electronics
The typical household contains numerous gadgets that have the potential to draw electricity — and increase your utility bill — when they’re idle. Many are consuming power even when you believe they’re turned off, reports The New York Times.
Devices you should unplug when not in use include:
- Coffee machines
- DVD players
If turning several devices on and off each day seems like too much trouble, plug several devices into a single power strip. That way you can turn all the devices off at once by turning off the power strip.
3. Not using a gym membership
At the start of a new year, many people decide to lose weight and improve their fitness, only to lose their resolve in a few weeks. If you aren’t going to be a regular gym user, the cost of membership likely won’t be worthwhile.
There are cheaper ways to stay fit. Perhaps you would use an exercise machine or weights in front of your TV more than you would visit the gym. It also costs nothing to keep a pair of athletic shoes under your desk at work so you can take a walk during your lunch break.
For more ideas, check out:
- “Don’t Pay to Lose Weight — Get Paid Instead“
- “7 Free Apps to Help You Get Fit in 2018“
- “9 Best Low-Cost Exercises for Weight Loss“
4. Paying for services you don’t use
Businesses sometimes offer you a discount if you pay a membership fee up front. This might sound like a good way to save a few bucks, but the monthly or annual fee could continue long after you’ve stopped using the service.
For example, if you have a computer problem, you may decide to pay a monthly fee for live access to technical support. Once your problem is solved, you may never need to call for help again, but your monthly fees will continue draining your bank account unless you cancel your membership.
To find recurring expenses you may have forgotten you’re still paying, you can use a company like BillCutterz or comb through your financial records yourself. We detail both options in “How to Cancel or Slash Costly Memberships, Services and Bills.”
5. Subscribing to magazines
It’s tempting to subscribe to your favorite magazine when it’s on sale. The problem with this is you may not have time to read each and every issue. Watching unread magazines pile up is like watching money fly out the window.
Before you buy a subscription — whether to a printed or online publication — ask yourself:
- Will you truly read the magazines?
- Are the magazines something you would otherwise purchase at a newsstand?
- Are you averse to reading magazines for free at a public library?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” perhaps you don’t need a subscription.
6. Wasting food
Up to 40 percent of the food in the United States is never eaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Much of this wasted food ends up in garbage dumps, which effectively means you could be literally throwing away hundreds of dollar a year.
There are plenty of ways to stop this waste, though, from reconsidering bulk purchases to making your groceries last longer. For more ideas, take a look at “13 Easy Ways to Cut Food Waste and Save Money.”
7. Stopping at convenience stores
Convenience stores are handy when you’re in a hurry, but you pay a premium for the easy access.
You’ll typically spend less if you take the time to visit a grocery store. That may require planning ahead.
Start by thinking about your convenience store trips. Say you most often stop there for a quick drink like a bottle of water or soda. Keep those drinks on your grocery list so you always remember to pick some up when you’re at the grocery store. That way, you’ll always have it on hand at home and can get in the habit of taking one with you when you leave.
Better yet, buy some reusable water bottles and fill them with tap water or soda that you buy in 2-liter bottles. You’ll save even more money.
Are you guilty of routinely wasting money on a particular expense? Share it with us by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.