As Americans, we have learned so many ways to use and abuse our money just by what our culture not only accepts, but encourages. Not all of us are guilty of it, but most of us are! We throw away money just by making poor financial decisions whether it's due to lack of education on these subjects or just plain laziness.
I've adapted a list I found at USA Today - '20 Ways Americans Are Blowing Their Money'.
Consider how you cut back on wasting your money in the following areas:
1) We are paying too much credit card interest!
According to the article, the average credit card debt per household is $15,270. WOW! This really blows my mind. If you were talking to Dave Ramsey, money management expert, he'd tell you to cut that credit card up. I, personally, like having a credit card for online purchases and receiving cash-back, but here is the key: ALWAYS PAY OFF YOUR BALANCE EACH MONTH. My credit card companies do not make money off of me, because they don't charge fees and I never pay them interest. I will admit, there was a time in my life when money was harder to come by and I didn't pay off the full balance. What I would tell my former self is "do NOT charge it if you don't already have the cash for it."
The article also had a good point: "The 39 percent of Americans who carry credit card debt from month to month often need help affording expenses such as unemployment, college expenses for a child, and out of pocket medical expenses. If you carry an unpaid balance, it's worth considering whether you're a consumer who needs assistance, or if you're simply spending beyond your means."
2) ATM, Credit Card and Overdraft Fees
Most ATM's charge an extra fee if you withdrawal cash from one not belonging to your bank. Sometimes you're even charge DOUBLE fees from your own bank as well as the other one. I recommend either using a bank that will reimburse you the fees charged by other banks or only use your bank's ATMs.
Many credit card companies charge an annual fee just for being a customer but there are MANY credit cards available that do NOT charge that fee. Use a "free" one instead!
Regarding overdraft fees - it's simple math. Don't spend more than what you have. Keep track of your expenses so you don't try to spend more money than you have in the bank! You can avoid those pesky fees all together!
3) Unclaimed Tax Refunds
So many people who should be receiving tax refunds from the federal government are not claiming them. If you have to pay a small fee to get help with this, do it. They'll help you find other deductions/credits that you might not be aware of. Or do your own research! Keep up with available opportunities to save on taxes!
4) Unclaimed Property
I am guilty of not knowing about this until recently. I'm not sure how it works with other states, but I know in Texas, there is about $3 billion of unclaimed property due to people like you and me - utility overpayments, insurance payments, etc.
If you live in Texas, go to claimittexas.org and look yourself up! If you have something to claim, claim it! Get your money back!
5) Wasted Food
I know I'm guilty of this one too! We so often waste food, especially at restaurants, and that equals wasting money. The National Resources Defense Council said that Americans waste $165 billion annually by throwing away food. Get a doggie bag for your restaurant food, eat your leftovers at home!
This one is pretty simple. So much money is wasted in casinos and playing the Lottery. Think about your chances - pretty slim right?! That means all of your losses are money you could have been spending on something like bills or saving.
7) Cell Phone Overages
Don't you feel like cell phone bills are getting ridiculously high?! I sure do! They know that most everyone can't live without one so they keep raising the prices. There are companies out there (like Metro PCS) that offer cheaper plans than some of the other large companies. I know that's hard for you folks that live in the country since only certain providers work out there.
But something you can control, is not going over the monthly plan that you pay for. I know too many people that use too much data, text too much or use too many minutes and are charged outrageous fees for the overage. I know that for AT&T, you can dial *DATA# and they'll send you a text with your current usage. There are other codes so look them up for your provider!
The article gave statistics that I have to share on this one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American consumer dedicates 1% of all their spending to alcohol. And the national average of Americans' income spent on cigarettes is 14%! Wow! Work on limiting/eliminating in both of these areas. If it's an addiction, get help. Help your body, your overall well being, your wallet and those that love you and depend on you having good health.
9) Unused Gift Cards
Use those gift cards that your grandparents gave you! Don't let them sit around collecting dust - that's like wasting cash! If it's to somewhere that you'll never go, sell them! You can sell them and lose just a small % of value on the following websites:
And many more! Just research it!
10) Title loans/Pay Day Loans
Let me just say this - NEVER get a title or pay day loan!! Those companies are there to take advantage of you - they charge super high interest rates and you end up paying over 100% interest. I knew someone who took out a $200 title loan and over time, paid a total of $2,000! Why would you give $1,800 to someone else for free? ...that's what you're doing with a title or pay day loan.
11) Unused Gym Memberships
Eek! I'm guilty of this one too! How many of you have purchased a gym membership and then gone at least a couple of months without using it? Talk about throwing away money! Either use your membership every month, build your own little gym at-home, do workouts at home like Tiffany, talks about here, run outside or join your community's recreation center if they have one. I talked about joining ours here! Our annual fee is the same as most people's monthly gym membership fee.
12) Speeding and Traffic Tickets
Unwanted. Frustrating. Expensive. BUT, it's the law. I'm a fast driver so I know how slow speed limits can be frustrating, but it's the law and we're required to follow it. It's your own fault if you get a speeding/traffic ticket. Do what you can to avoid them.
13) Not Doing Research on Utility/Cable Providers/Rent
Do your research when signing contracts with companies that provide your electricity, cable, satellite, internet, etc. And READ THE FINE PRINT! Also ask a ton of questions. These companies are tricky and have somewhat of a monopoly in most areas, but negotiate a price, don't just give in. We recently signed up for satellite internet that we HATE! They told us the data usage was larger than it really is so we can't watch Netflix anymore without using up all of our data. And we're stuck in a contract that would cost a lot of money to get out of. If you're not in a co-op or required to use a certain company, find the cheapest electricity provider and change it when the contract is up. It'll save you money!
Most people pay way to much in rent (if you don't own right now)! Forget the fancy amenities and focus on finding a house/apartment in a safe, modest area. I think our materialistic sides play too large of a roll in this area and get us into expensive contracts that deplete our bank accounts!
14) Daily Coffee Fix
I'm going to offend some people here - it's not personal! Such a large percentage of the country has to have their daily coffee fix at expensive coffee retailers like Starbucks. I know the drinks taste great, but remember how much you're paying annually for that coffee. $5-6 a day can add up to $2,000 annually! Buy a coffee machine for your home, find recipes to jazz up your drink, try a cheaper coffee joint.
15) Wasted Energy
My husband is constantly having to remind me to turn off lights in our house. Think about all of the electronics you have in your home that are sucking electricity and raising your electric bill:
And the list goes on and on...
When you go out of town, unplug most of your electronics. When you leave a room, turn off the light.
I hope these help you rethink some of your spending/living habits. Consider ways that you can stop wasting money! We've all got areas to improve!