Most of us scoff at the idea of just throwing money away. However, you might actually be doing just that — every day. There are a number of practices, seemingly commonplace, that result in wasted money each month.
If you are trying to figure out what has happened to your budget, and trying to pinpoint where your money is leaking away to, here are 9 common ways that you could be wasting your money:
- Credit card balances: Anytime you carry a balance on your credit card, you are paying the price in interest charges. Interest is money you pay for the privilege of borrowing. Stop carrying a balance, and you will find that you have more money in your pocket.
- Interest rates and fees: Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate on your credit card. In some cases, especially if you are a good customer, you can get a reduction of 2% to 3%. You can also call your bank to ask for fees to be waived. My bank waives one overdraft fee each calendar year — just for the asking. It never hurts to ask if you can have fees waived if you are late once or twice on a payment.
- FSA mismanagement: Your Flexible Spending Account (unlike the HSA) is a use it or lose it situation. If you aren't paying attention, and if you don't use all the money in your FSA each year, you leave that money on the table, and it's wasted.
- Cell phone: Rather than pay for a plan that you rarely use, consider your cell phone usage and your true needs. I have a prepaid cell phone service, and my husband uses an inexpensive pay as you go plan. Our phones aren't fancy, but they fit our needs and they cost a lot less than the smart phone and $100 a month plan my brother has — and rarely uses. Consider things like Virgin Mobile prepaid phone options as a way to save considerably on your monthly bill. Resource: Save Hundreds On Your Cell Phone Bill.
- Car maintenance: The rules are changing with car maintenance. First of all, check the manufacturer's recommendations for the octane level of your fuel. There's no need to spring for the premium 93 grade when 89 will do just fine. Check the requirements, and don't pay extra. You should also look at other maintenance recommendations for your car. Some cars can go 5,000 or more without an oil change now. Don't pay extra for maintenance you don't need.
- Interest free loan to the government: Instead of using your tax refund as a sort of savings account, adjust your withholding so that you aren't getting so much back. Instead, watch for a bigger paycheck and use that money to invest or improve your life another way.
- Late payments: Get organized and be sure that you pay on time. Late payment fees and missed payment fees do more than just impact your wallet; the impact on your credit score can result in paying more in higher interest on auto and home loans.
- Subscriptions you don't use: From superfluous cable channels to a magazine you don't read, subscriptions can cost you. Evaluate your regular subscriptions, and get rid of those you aren't using. From Gamefly to Netflix to that investment newsletter, cancel unnecessary subscriptions and save.
- Failure to shop around: If you aren't shopping around for the best deal, you are wasting money. Regularly shop around for insurance rates, major purchases and more. Do a little research online, and see if you can get better prices on things you buy regularly as well as occasionally.
What are some common ways that you or people you know are wasting money?