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15 Things We Need To Stop Wasting Money On

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Aug 23, 2014 at 12:00PM

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How many of these things could you cut down on? You may be surprised at how much the savings can add up.

Do you wish you had more money to save for your future? Or, better yet, do you make excuses for why you're not saving, like "I can't afford it"?

Many people waste money every day without even realizing it. Either we pay too much for goods and services that should cost a lot less, or we buy things we don't really need at all.

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Here are some of the most common things Americans waste money on. While I'm not saying you should cut out everything, the point here is to get you thinking about just how much money you spend that you don't really have to. How many of these things apply to you, and how much extra money would you have to save if you cut out just half of them?

1. Credit card interest – If you owe $10,000 in credit card balances at 20% interest, you're paying the credit card companies $2,000 per year just for the right to owe them money.

2. Eating out – I'm not saving you should never eat out, but cutting out one meal every other week can save a married couple more than $1,000 per year. Try eating out for lunches instead of dinner to save some money; the food is similar and often half the price.

3. ATM Fees – There is no good reason (other than laziness) to use another bank's ATM to get your money on a regular basis. You'll wind up paying their fee, plus a fee from your own bank, which combine to roughly $5. If you do this once a week, that's $260 per year in unnecessary fees.

4. Bank fees – The same can be said for overdraft fees, and checking account fees. Overdrafts are just silly and irresponsible, and there is almost always a way to avoid checking account fees, such as signing up for automatic bill pay or having your paycheck directly deposited.

5. Fancy coffee – Buying a $5 latte every weekday morning can add up to over $1,200 per year. If you insist on your gourmet coffee, try buying their regular coffee instead, then adding your own milk and sugar. The savings could really add up over a year.

6. Cable TV packages and "bundles" – Do you really need 400 channels and every single movie channel? Even if you answered yes, try calling your cable company's cancellation line and telling them your bill has gotten too expensive and you're thinking of leaving. You'll be amazed at some of the deals they can offer.

7. Buying a round – When you go out with your friends, it does look cool to buy a round for the table – for about five minutes. Then everyone forgets, and you're $50 in the hole. Is it really worth it?

8. Brand names – Do you really need $30 designer underwear? I'm not saying to always avoid name-brand products. After all, I love my Under Armour gym clothes, and no other manufacturer's product compares. All I'm saying is to try out the "generic" equivalent first...

9. Smoking – It is 2014, so I'm going to assume that by now you know smoking is bad for you. And even if you live in one of the areas of the country where it's "cheap" to smoke, that pack-a-day habit will cost you nearly $2,000 per year.

10. Bottled water – Buy a pitcher that filters water instead, and save a bundle while creating less plastic waste. Good for the environment and your wallet.

11. Turn off the lights – How much does it cost to leave a light on overnight? About a quarter, depending on where you live. This sounds cheap, but if you leave a few unnecessary lights on every day, this can really inflate your electric bill.

12. Subscriptions and memberships you don't use – Do you still get magazines in the mail that you don't read? How about the gym membership you bought right after New Years' Day that you haven't used in months? Get rid of the excess!

13. Rental car insurance – Check your cardholder agreements, but if you paid for your rental car with a major credit card, odds are you have all the coverage you need.

14. "Convenience" fees – So many businesses charge convenience fees these days. For example, if I want to buy movie tickets online instead of in person, it costs me about $2 per ticket. For some concert and sports tickets, this fee can go well into the double digits. Buy in person and save that money.

15. Wireless plans – Do you really need a plan with unlimited minutes anymore? In this era of texting and social media, who actually sits on the phone for hours at a time? See if you are paying for services you don't need and eliminate them from your plan.

Now, this is not meant to be a list of "rules", just things you should be aware of. I'm not trying to ruin your morning latte or get you to cancel a gym membership you actually use. I am, however, trying to make you think about how all of these things add up.

Remember, nobody's perfect...I'm guilty of four of these myself (Starbucks White Chocolate Mochas are addictive!). One of the main reasons to have a job and earn money is to enjoy it, but in moderation. How many of these things do you spend more money on than you should?

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