We waste money on stuff all the time. There are often times when it’s a problem of “over buying” – we spend money on food we don’t eat, on clothes we don’t wear, and products we will never really use. However, there’s also the problem of buying things we really don’t need or have to buy since we can find a free or lower cost alternative elsewhere. Below I’ve found 20 things we waste money on and provide examples of where you can get the same product for free or reduce your overall cost.
Food and Drinks
- Bottled Water – Tap water is just as clean as bottled water in most cities. Save the environment and your budget by using a refillable water bottle at home. If you are hesitant to drink your city’s tap water, you can always check out their Water Quality Report, you can see an example of the one for Phoenix here.
- Coffee – How much is that daily $4 Starbucks habits costing you? If you go to Starbucks 5 days a week, that’s over $1,000 a year. You could literally save thousands of dollars by skipping your morning Starbucks coffee habit. Instead, make one at home before your leave for work, or grab coffee at the office. My office also provides tea and hot chocolate too. Why pay for it when you can get it free!
- Candy – Most of the food we eat already has added sugar, so why eat more with candy? If this is an indulgence you can’t quit, try limiting yourself to a small piece once a day.
- Name Brand Groceries – Brand name products are only more expensive than generic or store brands because of the advertising costs that go into promoting them. Most store brand products are actually manufactured by the same companies that make the name brands, so they cost less but quality is comparable. Try the store brand and you will still eat well, but for less.
- Alcohol – The price of alcoholic drinks at a restaurant can be four or five times as much as the cost the restaurant pays. Consider indulging only for special occasions and opt to make drinks at home instead.
- Food Delivery – Occasionally when you are completely strapped for time, you may want to have lunch or dinner delivered. However, most places tack on a premium for the service. Consider making meals ahead and storing them in your freezer, so that when you need to grab something to eat in a hurry, you can conveniently do it at home.
- Cable – The trend is picking up to cut the cable cord. With so many other options out there like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and just a regular old digital antenna, the desire to pay $100 or more a month for cable is declining quickly.
- Cell Phone Service – Everyone complains about their cell phone bill and service. There are a lot of alternative lower cost plans out there, like Cricket, Republic Wireless, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile. I personally prefer using the pre-paid provider Cricket at $30 a month because I like to have a local store I can go into if I have questions or need help.
- Utilities – Electricity / Gas / Water – There’s no way to not pay utilities if you’re living on your own (unless you’re living in an apartment that actually pays for utilities). However, there are some ways to save if you pay attention like raising or lowering the temperature in your house by a few degrees, changing to LED lightbulbs, and turn off or unplug electronics when not using them.
Entertainment and Travel
- Vacations – Deals for hotel, airfare, car rentals and more can be found if you put in some time and effort to shop around. Don’t settle for the first price you see, check around for the best deal. Try some of the new vacation alternatives out there too, like Airbnb or using Uber instead of renting a car. Before you buy, search for promo codes!
- Gas – You (usually) can’t stop driving if you need to get to your job every day, but you can save more on gas. I love the app GasBuddy, which shows you the gas stations nearby with their prices. So, while you’re out or even before you venture out and need to fill up your car, you can ensure you’re getting the best deal. Even more economical, if you can, try alternative modes of transportation – walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation.
- New Technology – Do you really need the brand new iPhone? Or do you go out and buy the latest and greatest TV, appliance, or other electronic device as soon as it hits the market? Instead of splurging on the latest tech product, know what you already have, and see if you can get by without throwing good money on technology that will be out of date in another 6 months.
- Books / DVDs / Music – These items can all be found at your local library. In an era of needing to have something now, people often forgo the library since you often have to wait for your turn to check something out. However, these are all free at the library and if you aren’t going to read/watch a book or movie over and over again, what’s the point of buying it? The library also allows you to check out e-books and download music for free, which is the ultimate convenience in the digital age.
- Magazines – If you have a habit of picking these up at the cash register counter, you need to stop that habit right now and get a subscription. There are so many free ways to get subscriptions to the magazines you read using loyalty points or signing up through deal sites like ValueMags.com.
- Manicure/Pedicure – If you like getting a manicure or pedicure every week or so, considering doing it yourself and only getting the professional job for special occasions. It makes the beauty treatment feel more special when you only indulge once in awhile.
- Haircut – I know some people swear that there is nothing better than getting a professional haircut from a cutting edge salon, but most of the time it really isn’t worth the money. If you can, opt for a low cost haircut or trim every few month instead of shelling out $100 or more every couple of months.
- Shampoo & Conditioner – Research has shown that we actually wash our hair too often. Switch to washing your hair every other day and you will spends less on replenishing your shampoo and conditioner less often.
- Gym membership – Do you have a gym membership that you rarely, if ever, use? Cancel it already! There’s nothing worse that being stuck with a monthly payment for something your don’t use. Try spending the money on an activity you’ll continue, or consider investing in a good pair of running shoes.
- Cigarettes – Smoking is not bad on your wallet, but also extremely bad for your health. Unfortunately, it’s a habit that can be hard for people to break. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, with the average price between $6-$8 in the US, that amounts to about $2,000-$3,000 a year, not including health related costs most people that smoke have. I can’t stress the importance of quitting this habit for both your health and your bank account.
- Gambling – The odds of winning big playing the lottery or slots in Vegas are pretty slim. If you bet a few dollars every so often that’s one thing, but wasting money every week thinking you may win it big. Odds are not in your favor!
- Credit Card Interest and Payday Loans – Debt can cripple you financially, especially if you have any kind of consumer debt like credit cards or payday loans. This type of debt generally comes with very high interest rates that make it difficult to fully pay off the balances. Every time you keep a balance, the interest accrues and you are just wasting money.
This is just 20 things we waste money on, that we can easily get for free or find low cost alternatives for. There are always different ways to save money, but most people don’t like to spend the time looking or don’t want to change their behavior. Hopefully providing the list above will help you find some new ways to save money. Although some of these things may not save you a lot, they will put you in the mindset of saving, which helps start the habit of saving money. Happy saving!