Common Ways We All Waste Money – And How to Break the Cycle

Have you ever sat down at the end of the month to review your budget only to find that you spent way more than you should have with nothing to show for it? Maybe you are in debt, or you simply spend too much. In the first case, it might be worth considering some of the best debt relief options to help you clean your slate financially and move forward. But if you fall into the second category, then you might need to take a careful look at your spending and saving habits.

Money saving

According to a Business Insider report, an astonishing majority of Americans waste money. Of more than 2,000 Americans surveyed, eighty percent admitted to wasteful spending. Do you know how much money you waste each month? Here are a few common ways we all waste money – with some suggestions on how to course-correct.

Paying Full Price

With an abundance of sales, coupons, rebate apps, and rewards programs available, there is no shortage of discount prices. With so many options for saving money, it is wasteful to pay full price for anything. Check out what programs are available where you shop, download one of the many free apps that offer coupons or cashback savings, and watch your mailbox and email for coupons and sale announcements.

If you want to avoid the overwhelming solicitations that can come with providing your personal information, consider setting up an e-mail account specifically for shopping. Most stores will allow you to only provide an e-mail to register for rewards programs or coupons, so using a special e-mail specifically for this purpose will keep your personal e-mail safe from the excess and spare you from those annoying robocalls.  

When you need something that you cannot find on sale, consider using a credit card that gives you cashback or rewards points for every purchase. So long as you make sure to pay the balance off each billing cycle, you will still benefit from the purchase even if you had to pay full price in the store.

Purchasing in bulk is another way to get a discounted price. This is a great option for dry goods and toiletries that have a long shelf life or are non-perishable. Toilet paper, trash bags, uncooked pasta, and rice can cost much less per unit when purchased in bulk than smaller packaging. However, avoid purchasing perishable goods in bulk unless you are confident you will freeze it timely or use it before it goes bad to avoid waste.

Buying Name Brands

Most consumer goods have a generic version of comparable, if not identical, quality. There are generic versions of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, skincare, groceries, and cleaning items. Always check the label to compare ingredients; however, even a slight variation in the ingredients may be worth the savings. The generic version is usually much less expensive than the name brand. Even when the two products are priced competitively, remember that every extra dollar spent on the same item is waste.

Clothing is another consumer good where paying for a brand name can cost a lot. Avoid wasting money by shopping for clothing that fits well, is of good quality and comfort, and meets your needs. Shift your focus from who makes it to how it makes you feel. Often, there will be a much less expensive option to meet your needs than the name brand. If the idea of purchasing an off-brand garment makes you nervous, keep in mind that no one will know or care who made your clothes.

Inefficient Homes

If your home is drafty, you are wasting money. Spend a few dollars to replace the seals under doors and around windows to improve your home’s insulation and cut down on heat and air costs. To keep utility bills down, invest in energy-efficient appliances and install a smart thermostat for better temperature control when you are home and away.

One of the simplest ways to avoid wasting money in your home is to turn off electronics and unplug appliances that are not in use. Leaving a lamp on all day just to avoid coming home to a dark house at night is a quick waste of money. Instead, use a timer or install smart lightbulbs that you can control from your phone. Unplug your phone charger and other small items when you are done using them. Though having things plugged into outlets only uses a little bit of energy, every penny it costs is money wasted.

Paying for the Privilege of Spending

Why pay for the privilege of spending money? Spending money is enough of an expense without having added fees tacked on. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees and if there is a fee to pay online or use a credit card, then write a check and put it in the mail or drop off the payment in person. Avoid ATM fees or overdraft fees.

Using a credit card for reward points or cashback is a great way to benefit from spending money; however, make sure to always pay more than the minimum toward your credit card bill to reduce the amount of interest you pay on your purchases. It is best practice to never use a credit card for anything you do not have the cash to cover and to pay your credit card balance off every billing cycle.

Impulse Buys

Never shop without a plan. Whether you are grocery shopping or picking out new clothes at the mall, always take a shopping list and stick to it. If something is not on the list, it stays at the store. Even your fuel purchases should be planned, giving you the opportunity to shop around for the best price. There are plenty of free apps like GasBuddy that will tell you where to find the cheapest gas.

Food is one of the most common impulse buys. Whether it is extra snacks in the grocery cart or a food court break at the mall, retail food purchases can be a sneaky source of wasted money. To avoid impulse food purchases, always have a plan for food. Eat before you go to the grocery store so you are not shopping hungry. Keep a quick snack in your purse or car to keep you full and focused during a mall venture. Have your meals planned with quick variations available so you can confidently drive by your favorite fast food joint without feeling the need to pick up dinner on the way home. 

Smart Spending

If you’re caught in a cycle of excessive spending, it’s never too late to change your habits. By cutting out these few common money-wasting behaviors, you’ll make significant strides toward a financially-secure future.

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