Here are 26 Everyday Things You’re Wasting Money On Without Realizing It

Survey after survey finds that many people live paycheck to paycheck without an emergency fund. They complain that they don’t earn enough. However, eight out of every ten admit throwing away hard-earned cash on unnecessary purchases.

Take a look at this list of 26 everyday things you might be wasting money on without realizing it. It’s time to revamp that wasteful spending to save money and get your finances back on track.

1. The Latte Factor

Automatic Millionaire author David Bach noticed that people wasted thousands of dollars over a year on daily trips to the coffee shop without paying attention. So he coined the Latte Factor phenomenon to draw attention to the actual cost of that cheap latte or cup of coffee over time.

For example, a medium latte or cup of coffee costs an average of $4.00 at your neighborhood coffee shop. If you have one cup five times a week for a year, you’ll spend $1,040. Add in a $5 breakfast sandwich or cookie, and you’ll more than double your total costs.

Cut the trips to once or twice a month, and you’ll save a significant chunk of change.

2. Cable Television

It’s easy to waste money on cable television when you don’t think about it. Especially if you’re watching it every day, however, it’s 2022, and cable is not required to stay connected to the world. Most people watch the same channels repeatedly, negating the benefit of having 200 plus channels.

You can save by cutting extras like premium subscription channels or canceling cable altogether. Some networks offer low-cost or free streaming services if you enjoy watching specific channels. Check out cable alternatives like Sling TV, Hulu, and YouTube TV. Carving at least $100 off your monthly cable bill could save you $1,200 a year.

3. Streaming Services

Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many more are rising as consumers move away from cable. However, most subscribers have an average of 1.65 entertainment subscriptions and use the service more than once a month. As a result, the average consumer can spend approximately $347 per year on subscriptions they aren’t using.

So, while streaming services are a great alternative to save costs from cable, be sure to see how many subscriptions you have and that you’re utilizing them. You might be wasting money without realizing it.

4. Extra Storage

Renting a storage unit may be a good idea in the short run to store items before a big move or home renovations. However, people who rent storage units tend to keep them for an average of 1-2 years without a need.

According to Consumer Affairs, the average price on a 5-foot-by-5-foot unit is $90 per month, with larger units costing more. So, in the long run, it could end up costing you more than $1,000 annually to not move your stuff as soon as possible.

5. Lottery Tickets

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 1.222 million. Yet, millions of people flock to stores to buy lottery tickets in the hopes of winning despite having a greater chance of being struck by lightning.

A 2019 Bankrate survey found that the average person who buys lottery tickets spends nearly $1,000 a year on tickets alone. So it’s pretty costly with only a slight possibility of a return.

6. Unused Online Purchases

There’s nothing wrong with online shopping. However, you may find yourself wasting more money than you realized once you add in shipping costs for things you don’t want anymore.

GOBankingRates found that 38% of survey respondents didn’t return unwanted online-purchased clothing because of expensive return shipping costs, and half kept at least one unused item from Amazon. As a result, online shoppers waste an average of $152 a year on purchases—just something to pay attention to.

7. Extended Warranties

Nowadays, you can find an extended warranty for just about anything–cars, computers, televisions, furniture, and so much more. However, consumer advocates don’t generally recommend buying extended warranties without researching.

Most manufacturers offer a limited warranty to cover significant malfunctions for the initial period of ownership. Also, you may be able to get extended protection by law or from your credit card company.

8. ATM Fees

Cash isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As much as we love the convenience and ease of using our debit cards, some places only take cash. And convenience trumps all.

It’s easy to get in the habit of using the ATM at the gas station or your favorite restaurant, but it’s costly. ATM surcharges range from $2-$5, depending on the location. Using a convenient ATM once a week for a year could add up to $112-$280 wasted. Plan your ATM withdrawals to save money.

9. Avoidable Fees

You’re paying enough for your bills without tacking on avoidable fees. On average, Americans spend almost $250 a year on overdraft fees and late payments.

Credit card companies charge upwards of $35 for a late fee along with a “higher penalty APR.” Utility companies charge a percentage of the bill. Lastly, banks typically charge up to $35 per overdraft, and lenders charge up to 5% of your mortgage payment for late fees. It adds up. So keep track of when your bills are due.

10. Travel Insurance

Nearly 30% of people buy travel insurance for trips. However, airlines and hotels are more flexible than ever due to travel restrictions and COVID uncertainty. Therefore, it’s essential to do your homework. Ask about refundable versus non-refundable costs for canceled trips before paying for insurance.

11. Credit Card Interest

It’s easy to overspend with a credit card. A classic study at MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that participants were willing to pay more just for using a credit card versus cash.

High-interest credit cards that you cannot afford to pay off every month can take over your budget in interest payments. According to debt.com, a $1,000 balance on a credit card can end up costing you $550 in interest if you only make the minimum payments over 62 months. That makes a $1,000 purchase cost $1,500. It’s not a smart money move.

12. Bottled Water

The average person, who buys bottled water, consumes 167 bottles of water each year. With an average $1.50 cost, they spend approximately $250 a year on bottled water. Therefore, the price of a high-quality water purifier can save you a few hundred dollars a year.

13. Entertainment

Dining out, going to the movies, miniature golf, and many more activities bring fun and enjoyment to our lives. However, they have a price. While there’s nothing wrong with going out, it needs to be within the budget.

When it’s not, look for some low-cost or free alternatives. For example, visit a local hiking trail, museum, or library. Also, consider cooking a meal with the family, playing games, or walking around the city just for the fun of it.

14. Movie Theater Food

It’s pretty easy for a large fountain drink and a bucket of popcorn to cost more than $15 at the movies. Of course, you don’t have to give up your trip to the movie theatre once a month, but skipping the drink or the popcorn can save you some money. The regular movie-goer can save up to $100-$150 a year by passing on the concession stand.

15. Wasted Groceries

The average family wastes nearly $1900 in unused groceries alone every year. Eggs, bread, lunch meats, cheese, milk, potatoes, fruit, and many more are common culprits. So it’s probably not realistic to say that we won’t have some wasted food.

Of course, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Instead, save money by using a grocery list, meal planning, and eating leftovers.

16. Sales

It doesn’t matter what it is. Buying something just because it’s on sale is wasteful. Now planned purchases don’t necessarily waste money. It’s the unplanned purchase of an item you didn’t want until the sale popped up that’s costly. So stick to your budget and sinking funds for big purchases.

17. Expensive Investments

More people are getting into the market but aren’t necessarily doing the work to understand their investments. As a result, it’s easy to waste money on high-expense mutual funds.

Take the time to learn how to invest. You’ll make informed decisions about your portfolio and may find a lower fee mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) more beneficial.

18. Upgrading your SmartPhone Annually

The latest iPhone sells for $1,000. It’s a big purchase. Not meant to be taken lightly. Paying an extra $30 or $40 a month to finance a phone through your service provider to have a new phone every year is wasteful and unnecessary. The costs add to nearly $500 a year, and the upgrades are minimal.

19. Excess electricity

It might not seem like much, but we use electricity for almost everything. However, we waste just as much as we use when we leave lights on after leaving a room, use incandescent lamps instead of LEDs, keep the water heater temperature beyond the recommended maximum of 120 degrees, and blast the A/C in the summer. Minor uses of electricity over time add up. You can save up to $400 annually by making small changes that you won’t notice.

20. Extra Personal Care Products

Every personal care product comes with the promise of making something better. Better skin. Better hair. Better nails. The list goes on. A 2017 survey by Skin Store found that the average woman uses 16 products on her face alone every day. So take the time to look through your products to see if you need them, and don’t buy new products until you finish the old ones.

21. Printed Newspapers and Magazines

Consumer spending on newspapers and magazines is rising. However, you may be surprised to learn that many publishers offer a limited digital catalog online or through their apps. In addition, your local library card might get you access to digital newspaper subscriptions for free. So check out your options before spending money on something you could get for nothing.

22. Too many cleaning products

We’re all cleaning a little more since the start of the pandemic, but there are a few products that could leave you wasting money. Air Fresheners, laundry detergent pods, automatic toilet cleaners, paper towels, natural cleaners, and grout cleaners, to name a few.

Avoid buying products just because they’re for a specific purpose. An all-purpose cleaner can cover many surfaces. Plus, you’ll save money when you stop buying air fresheners and laundry boosters. Those temporary gains in smell aren’t worth the costs.

23. Unused gym memberships

Americans spend nearly $400 million on unused gym memberships every year. If that includes you, it’s time to cancel your membership. Gym memberships range from $20 to $100 a month, costing members $240 to $1200 a year.

When not used, it’s considered wasteful and unnecessary. Instead, consider setting a goal to work out at home or go for a walk in your neighborhood five days a week. Once you’re exercising regularly, the cost of the gym membership may be worth it. But, unfortunately, today, it’s probably not.

24. Landline phone

Why do you have a landline phone? If you can’t think of a reason, you may not need it. Telecommunication providers often bundle internet, cable, and phone services. So while it initially seems like you’re saving money because you’ve bundled everything, you’re spending more for a service you didn’t need in the first place. Sure it’s only $15 more a month. But that’s $180 you could be saving in a year. So that home phone may not be necessary when you think about the actual cost.

25. Food delivery services

According to a recent LendingTree survey, more than 75% of Americans have used on-demand food delivery services at least once in the past year. Uber Eats, Door Dash, and other food delivery services offer consumers speed and convenience. However, they come with a cost.

The $5-$10 surcharges, delivery fees, and tips add up. On average, consumers spend nearly $2,000 throughout the year ($157 monthly). So, meal planning and picking up your food could save money with little effort.

26. Emergencies

Less than half of Americans have an emergency fund with three months’ worth of savings. The lack of protection makes emergencies more expensive as you pay for them with high-interest credit cards. While saving three months’ worth of living expenses can take some time, you can start with a smaller goal. Having an extra $1,000 to $2,000 in the bank can help you out if you need new tires, have a medical expense come up, or some other unforeseeable event occurs.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to settle into wasteful habits when you’re not paying attention. However, they’re bad for our wallets. Take a close look at these 25 items people waste money on without realizing it to start saving money today. Building the proper money habits now could save you thousands over the year.

More Articles from Wealth of Geeks

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Feature Image Credit: Wealth of Geeks.


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Theresa is the founder of the blog In The Game Investing. She is a personal finance and investing enthusiast, helping professional women take control of their money and investments.