If you’re tired of not having any money despite your best intentions, it’s time to take a step back and look at your spending habits. Just a few fixes here and there could lead to big savings.
Here are 13 ways you are blowing your money away:
1. Not Cooking for Yourself
You don’t have to avoid going out again, but by just learning to cook a few dishes you can save a massive amount of money. Just think — for the price of a meal at McDonald’s, you can get a pound of steak. For the price of one salad at a chain restaurant, you can make enough on your own to last several days. Mastering the art of cooking takes time and effort, but learning the basics is just a few YouTube videos away.
2. Recurring Credit Card Fees
Check your credit card statement closely and you might spot some odd transactions. Some businesses stealthily charge recurring fees, such as subscriptions, that you might not have been using for a long time. Pull the plug on these as soon as you can, because even a charge of a few dollars a month adds up over time.
3. Succumbing to Lifestyle Creep
Lifestyle creep is what happens when you receive a raise or a promotion. Your income rises higher, and so does your standard of living. For some people, lifestyle creep never ends, and they’re saving the same amount of money they did when they first started working. This extra money you make is seen as “free money” and therefore never used for the future. You have the right to treat yourself, but don’t let lifestyle creep take over.
4. Daily Coffee
Stopping to get coffee on the way to work is a daily ritual that’s hard to break, but whipping up some coffee at home is a great way to save money. A decent cup made at home can cost only 38 cents, which is sure to be less than whatever you’re paying at a café. There are different levels of sophistication for home coffee makers, but some ground coffee, hot water and a French press are enough for a satisfying cup.
5. Hidden Bank Fees
Some banks like to sneakily charge fees that might fall under the radar. If the amount of money falls below a certain amount, you might be charged. If your account hasn’t had any activity for a while, it might also be hit with a fee. Check the fine print of your account and review your account history to see if you’ve been hit with any of the fees. Some banks will refund the fees if you call them up and explain how you’re a long-term customer who wasn’t aware of the penalties.
6. Not Using a Credit Card
If you always pay your credit card bill on time, you should consider using your card for more purchases you were already planning to make in order to rack up reward points. Credit card companies make their money off of interest from people not paying their bills on time, so if you’re the type to max out your card then ignore this tip. Otherwise, use your credit card to earn flights, gift cards or cash back. Just make sure you’re disciplined about not missing a payment and you’ll reap the rewards.
7. Traditional Dates
“Dinner and a movie” is the classic date idea but it’s become played out. Or at least that’s the excuse you can use instead of saying that it’s just too expensive. Instead of a fancy meal and a trip to the movies, consider something a little more unique — perhaps a home-cooked meal, a hike, a picnic or a trip to the museum. During summer, a day at the beach would be perfect.
8. Not Using Libraries
It’s amazing how so many avid readers and movie watchers don’t go the library. Your results will vary depending on the quality of your local library, but odds are you’ll find an incredible selection of interesting materials that won’t cost you anything except for the taxes you already paid to fund the library. Many libraries stock the newest films as soon as they come out, and some even lend video games.
9. Under-Used Gym Memberships
There’s something comforting about having a gym membership, but if you don’t actually use it then get rid of it. If this is you, then don’t feel bad. Sixty-seven percent of people who have gym memberships never use them. Think about why you never go and consider doing some home exercises. A yoga mat and some workout videos might motivate you for a lot cheaper than a monthly gym membership.
10. Not Having an Emergency Fund
When the unexpected happens, you need to be prepared. This can be anything from a medical emergency to a layoff. By having an emergency fund valued at several months’ worth of expenses, you’ll avoid having to take out expensive loans. After a while you’ll hopefully be able to get back on your feet with no real long-term financial harm.
11. Wasted Energy
In the U.S. alone, about $130 billion is spent on wasted energy, according to a 2009 McKinsey & Company study. That could be why so many people seem surprised when the electricity bill comes in. Unplug devices you aren’t using, turn off your lights and look into how to make your home more energy efficient.
12. Avoiding Used Purchases
There are times when buying new makes sense. Plus, there’s something inherently satisfying about opening the packaging of a brand-new item. Still, going the used route makes a lot of sense when it comes to furniture, cars, kitchen supplies, video games and many other things. Shop around and you might find some gems for a spectacular price.
Drinking is the one thing many people seem to always find money for regardless of their budget, but there are alternatives to hitting the bars every weekend. Next time, try hosting or going to a house party. They’re often good fun and the BYOB aspect of it makes it easy on the wallet. There’s also the time-honored tradition of pre-gaming — safely, of course — before going out.
What are some other ways that people waste money with? What is something you would never “waste” money on?