9 Small Expenses Killing Your Budget

Man with no money
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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 seem to work? Here are some small expenses that might be the culprit — and some ideas for cutting down those costs.

1. Food

Woman scraping food off plate into trash bin.
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Food is among our 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 can sap your savings.

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 food freshness. 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.

2. Snacks and other daily treats

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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.”

3. Lapsed promotional offers

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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

Gas station
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Gas is a major expense for many Americans. Reduce your monthly gas costs by combining errands, carpooling, taking public transportation or using some hypermiling tricks.

As we explain in “5 Easy Ways to Cut the Rising Cost of Gas,” the right smartphone app can go a long way toward cutting your costs:

For example, GasBuddy.com can help you uncover the lowest price in your area. And such savings can be large. I have found that prices in the area near my Colorado home can differ by as much as 19 cents per gallon from one gas station to another.

5. Sales

Pedestrians walk past sale signs on store.
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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 bow to the temptation, it will only be a matter of time before your spending plan lets you know you’ve done wrong. Instead, set aside funds now for the next time the item goes on sale.

If you just can’t resist the urge to splurge, at least check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.” You’ll learn tips that can save you cash almost every time you buy something online.

6. Pampering

bath time
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Every now and again, some of us 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.

7. Banking fees

A woman holds a bandaged piggy bank
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Over the past few years, numerous bank fees have materialized out of thin air. There is a good chance you now pay for account maintenance and paper statements, just to name two. Fees for overdrafts and ATM use also have increased.

However, you should not have to pay these costs. As we explain in “12 Ways to Avoid Paying Irritating Bank Fees,” doing a little homework now can save you money for years to come:

Comparison shopping does not need to be time-consuming. Make a list of the features and services that matter most to you and compare costs for those at several institutions by phoning or going to their websites. For some pointers on changing institutions, check out: “How to Switch Banks in 5 Steps.

Ready to save money? Visit our Solutions Center and find the right bank account for you.

8. Cellphone use

Cell Phone Sticker Shock
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Unless you have an all-inclusive, unlimited cellphone 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 “5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Cellphone Bill.”

9. All the random ‘extras’

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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. To start weaving your safety net, check out “9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money’s Tight.”

Which budget busters have you struggled with? Sound off in comments below or 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.

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