5 Dumb Ways You’re Wasting Money Without Realizing It

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Even if you’re rich, wasting money is criminally stupid. Sit down for a minute and think of all the things you could do with the money you waste that would otherwise make life better for someone else. If that doesn’t grab you, then think of what you could do with the money that would make life better for your own future self. Oh, yes, lovely and young as you are today, you are going to have a future self who might very well wish he or she had more money in the bank.

If even that isn’t enough to make you reconsider your ways, think of how hard you worked to earn that money (trust fund babies may leave the room now), and then picture yourself doing that work for free because what you’re essentially doing is throwing hours’ or weeks’ worth of salary right into the trash. Really. Picture yourself putting cash money into a trash bag, and watching it being driven off down the street in a garbage truck. Insane, right?

However, you may not realize how much money you re actually wasting. Here’s five signs you need to curb your spending before you send more cash to the dump:

1. You Buy New Stuff Just Because It’s New

You’re the guy in line at 2 a.m. on the day the new iPhone is being released. But guess what? There’s always going to be a new iPhone coming out. And a fancy new fill-in-the-blank. Commerce is what makes the world go ’round. If companies stopped creating new versions of things to sell, they’d go out of business. However, it doesn’t mean you have to buy into the super-hype and rush to get everything the minute it hits the shelf.

It’s not just electronics. The new car smell is still hanging in the air and you’re at the dealership again looking at next year’s models? Cars depreciate 11% the minute you drive them off the lot, and lose 19% of their value in the first year. You don’t get your money’s worth out of a car until you’ve driven for a while.

2. You Sale Shop for Things You Don’t Need

It’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, or Free Shipping Day, and you’re right out there among the rest of them. Fighting your way through the crowds — real or virtual — to get your hands on stuff you never knew you wanted. You hate to miss one of your local department or computer store’s special sales (nearly every weekend), and you never pass up two-for-one coupons for things you don’t even need one of. “But look how much I’m saving!” you say. But look how much you’re saving if you keep your wallet in your pocket.

What’s that you say? You only shop at discount stores, dollar stores, and places with Barn, Depot or Warehouse in their names? Look how much I’m saving! Yep, you’re saving what it would have cost if you’d bought the same things at high-end establishments. But if you don’t need them, then you’re not saving a cent no matter what you paid for them. Plus you’ve got to figure out where to put everything when you get it home. You want to wind up living like someone on Hoarders?

3. You Pay Fees to Use a Credit Card or Checking Account

You’re handing over money to a credit card company so that you can pay interest on the money you owe them? What a deal! There are a few exceptions when the program rewards will more than pay the fee, but generally, paying an annual credit card fee is dumb. There are plenty of credit cards with no annual fee. Get one.

The same applies to having accounts at a bank that charges a monthly checking account fee or a fee to visit a teller instead of an ATM. Do some research and find a bank that will accommodate you with no fees for a minimum deposit you can live with.

4. You Don’t Use Loyalty Cards at the Stores You Shop at Regularly

Rail as you might at the insidiousness of grocery and other stores that extract personal information from you and track your purchases in exchange for giving you discounts, if you regularly shop at a store that offers special pricing to customers in its loyalty program and you don’t take advantage of it, you’re over-spending at that store by 20% or more every time you shop there. Unless you’re in a witness protection program, it’s absolutely worth the savings to give your local supermarket your address and phone number and let them keep tabs on the brand of butter you buy.

5. You Eat Out More Often Than You Eat at Home

If your breakfast comes in a Styrofoam container, your lunch is delivered in a plastic box, and you’re choosing dinner from a menu, you’re spending way more than you have to. You can’t help it if you’re on the road, but otherwise, you can eat as well or better at home for a lot less money, even if you barely cook at all. Tax and tip alone add about 25% to the price you’d pay if you bought the food yourself and just nuked it. If you actually know how to cook, there’s sort of no excuse.

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