We all have our financial priorities, and they’re all a little different. We’ve all got those splurges that some people might think of as wasting money, but that are important to us and we’re going to keep doing them. They’re just part of our regular expenses each month. And that’s fine. But no one is perfect at budgeting, and there’s a good chance you’re wasting money far and beyond those little splurges you allow yourself. And in the long-run, these little money wasters can really add up and cause you to fall short of the financial situation you’d like to be in. Here are just a few things you might be wasting money on (and what you can do instead)!
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Okay all, I know what you’re going to say here. “Erin, Starbucks is not a waste. Coffee is what gets me through the day. Coffee is life.” I’m not saying you can’t have your morning (and afternoon) jolt. I’m just saying that maybe a daily Starbucks latte isn’t the way to get it. First of all, you’re talking quite a price jump from your basic coffee to the fancy latte you know you’re usually opting for. There’s also this crazy thing where people make their own coffee at home. I do it every morning and I never have to go without my caffeine! And because I’m not picky about name brand, I buy the generic brand k-cups in bulk, and they come out to about $.25 per cup. So even if you’re just getting the basic $3 coffee from Starbucks, you’re still spending $90/month to my $7.50/month.
Grocery shopping is pretty much a necessity. There’s really no way around it! But there are definitely ways to improve your grocery shopping habits to help you save dollars. For me, the biggest one has been meal planning. I used to head to the store with no plan at all and just buy all the food that I liked. And then two weeks later, half of it would get thrown out and I would do it all over again. What a complete waste of money! I don’t plan every single meal now, but I plan a few meals for the week and also pick up a few things I can make if I’m feeling lazy or don’t have much time (think frozen pizza). If you’re throwing food away at the end of the week, you’re wasting money! So make a list of what will actually get eaten, have a few extra non-perishables in the house, and you’ll notice your grocery bill shrinking!
Right now my favorite meal planning tool is this meal planning notepad!
This used to be a huge culprit for me. When I was married, my husband and I would order takeout several nights per week, and didn’t really realize how big of a financial hit we were taking because of it. Now that I’m living alone, I simply can’t afford to do that anymore. Now I cook my dinners at home and save the eating out for an occasional dinner out with a friend rather than ordering delivery on the regular.
I’m a big offender of picking up a bottle of water at the cash register when I’m out shopping. Or buying a bottle of water at the gas station when I’m on my way out of town. But I have perfectly good water at home. I also have tons of water bottles and travel cups, meaning there’s no reason I should have to buy bottled water! I’m sure I’m not the only one here. You’re especially wasting your money if you’re buying the packages of bottled water regularly instead of just drinking the water from your tap. Even the cost of a filter will be far less than the cost of pack after pack of bottled water in the long run.
Not Shopping Around
You should be shopping around for purchases big or small. If I find a piece of clothing or an electronic that I want, I look around online to see if I can get it elsewhere cheaper. I also check out sites like Retail-Me-Not, where you can find a coupon for most stores. Or Ebates, where you can get cash back for shopping online almost anywhere! You just start at their website and find the store you want to shop at. You shop and check out like normal, and then Ebates sends you a check. Really can’t go wrong there!
You should also be shopping around for your repeating monthly costs such as car insurance and cable. Check around online and see if you can find somewhere with a lower price, or simply call your current company and ask if they’ll lower your monthly cost, or you’ll be finding a new company. Trust me, it works!
Credit Card Interest
You guys, credit card debt can be so evil. If you’re paying a lot of it, you’re wasting money. Please just stop doing that to yourself. It might seem like it makes sense to throw purchases on your credit card because you get the reward points, or put the new TV on the credit card because you really don’t have the cash right now, but will soon. Undoubtedly what ends up happening is the credit card bill comes and it suddenly seems like a better idea to pay only the minimum payment and save yourself some money that money. But you’re not really saving yourself money because it’s going to be even more expensive when you ultimately do pay it off! Start saving for the big purchases. If you want to use the credit card to get the reward points, limit yourself to spending only what you have and pay it off as you go.
I used to spend so much money on clothes. I would go to the mall and a few hours later, I would be several hundred dollars poorer. And so many of the clothes I purchased weren’t long-term pieces. They were trendy pieces that I looked at for all of ten seconds in the store and put little thought into, and sometimes didn’t even try on. Many of those pieces have only been worn a few times before being donated. A few were never worn at all. I’ve made some major changes to my clothing-buying habits since then, and it saves me lots of money!
Buy Staple Pieces – If I’m not at work (or sometimes if I am at work and I have no meetings) I’m wearing a v-neck t-shirt. I have a lot of cute clothes in my closet, but that’s almost always what I gravitate toward. Most of them are plain. I had two plain v-neck t-shirts for the longest time, and those were the two shirts I wore just about every weekend. It sounds boring, but that’s honestly just my preference!
Buy Used – There are so many places to get great used clothing if you’re in the mood for something trendy! A few times each year my good friend and I pick a local thrift store and spend an afternoon there. We each come away with a cart full of new pieces and spend less than $100. It’s great! They’re mostly trendy pieces and aren’t going to last the next 5-10 years, but they were also $3-$7 each. Another great option is online consignment shopping. My favorite online option is thredUp. They have tons of great pieces at a super discounted rate!
P.S. If you sign up at this link, you get $10 to spend there for free!
We’ve all been there. You’re heading to Target because you need shampoo. It’s always Target, isn’t it? You think you’ll be in an out in 5 minutes and spend no more than $10. An hour later you’re leaving the store with $100 worth of stuff, wondering how you’re going to explain it to your spouse. And also wondering what the hell happened. I mean, you only picked up a few things, and they weren’t even that expensive. It happens to the best of us! But those little impulse purchases over and over again are definitely going to add up. I find that shopping off a list helps keep me on track, even if I’m literally only getting one or two things. I also work really hard to talk myself out of those purchases. If I’m at Target, I’ll undoubtedly find myself in the book section. Whatever it is, I remind myself that I don’t actually need that item. Because, spoiler alert, I have way too many books already.