Fix Your Leaky Wallet

It comes as no surprise to half of you reading this that sticking to a budget is a Sisyphean endeavor. And now there's proof!

According to a poll by American Consumer Opinion, half of the 3,136 people surveyed said they do not always stay within their monthly budgets. What's more, the higher the income level, the more likely people are to blow the monthly stipend. Those with incomes in excess of $100,000 more frequently broke the bank (58.9%) compared to respondents with an annual household income of $35,000 or less (43.3%).

Here's a hypothetical example of someone (we're not naming names!) with a small leak in her cash flow:

Money Leak Annual Cost
$7 a day at work on lunch/snacks $1,800
Not shopping around for best car insurance $200
Missed tax deductions and credits $600
Useless tools, clothes, or trinkets $400
Rarely watched premium cable stations $120
Ignoring employer 401(k) match $1,000
Neglecting to refinance the mortgage $2,400
Accepting credit card's interest rate $400
College savings in tax-unfriendly account $200
Ignoring medical flexible spending account $150
TOTAL $7,270

See how easy it is to walk through life, trailing frivolous expenditures and missed opportunities? There are many ways -- big and small -- to leak cash. Seems a shame not to at least try to tame your cash flow. But how can you stay on top of it all?

By making just a few small sacrifices -- and paying a little more attention to the bigger money items -- you can amass a nice chunk of change in just a few months. Folks on our Living Below Your Means discussion board have all kinds of ideas. Check out this compendium of tips.

What to do with all that extra dough? Glad you asked. Fellow Fool Tim Beyers would probably take that money and turn it into a trip around the world. He has five great tips on traveling luxuriously on the cheap. Tom Gardner would no doubt invest an extra $1,000 and turn it into $1 million smackaroos. Me? I think I'll go couch shopping.

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