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25 Things Millennials Waste Money On

Author: Kailey Hagen | February 20, 2020

Sad woman holding up wallet with money flying out.

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We all waste a little money sometimes…

But what we waste our money on varies a little from person to person and generation to generation. Older generations poured a lot of money into cable, fabric softener, and a wardrobe full of fancy business clothes that most millennials (myself included) just don't see a use for anymore.

But we have our own things, and given the crushing student debt problem in this country, it's probably a good idea to reduce our spending in some of these categories so we can start putting our money toward the things that count. Here are 25 places you may want to start cutting back.

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Cup of coffee with spoon, beans, and sugar.

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1. Coffee shops

Let's get this one out of the way first. Is a coffee really worth $4 a cup? It might seem that way on a morning when you're rushed and you've got a long day ahead. The trouble is when you're paying $4 every day, that adds up pretty quickly. If you buy a $4 coffee seven days a week, you're now spending $1,460 on coffee per year.

Try limiting how often you buy coffee from coffee shops. You could start making coffee at home instead, which is more economical. Some coffee makers today are programmable so you don't have to worry about lacking the time to make it. Just put your mug under the coffee maker, set the timer, and pick it up before you walk out the door. Or you could try skipping coffee altogether for even more savings.

ALSO READ: Americans Sorely Lack Savings Yet Still Spend a Fortune on Coffee

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People toasting wine glasses over a big meal.

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2. Dining out

Dining out is so much faster and easier than cooking at home. Plus, you can try all kinds of things you probably wouldn't make on your own. But just like the coffee, it adds up quickly. A lunch here, a dinner there, dessert and drinks and a tip and before you know it, you're pinching pennies for the rest of the week to cover your bills.

If you're trying to save money or free up more cash to spend on other things, consider cooking at home more. This doesn't have to take a lot of time. You can try simple one-pot recipes or spend a day prepping your meals for a whole week.

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Takeout boxes full of various foods.

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3. Takeout

Takeout might be slightly cheaper than dining out, but it's still a lot more expensive than cooking your meals at home. If you're really craving a particular takeout meal, see if you can find a copycat recipe online and make it for yourself instead. You'll save yourself a little money and you won't have to wait around for the delivery guy.

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Couple preparing meal together.

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4. Meal kits

Meal kits have grown in popularity over the past few years because they let you try new homemade recipes while reducing the need for grocery shopping and cooking prep. If you're opting for a meal kit over dining out or takeout, you're moving in the right direction, but it's still not as cheap as cooking your own food from scratch.

Find a few simple recipes online and keep the ingredients on hand so that you can quickly whip them up if you don't have the time for anything fancy. You can also hold onto your old meal kit recipe cards if you want and try to replicate them yourself.

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Young woman giving cash to cashier in grocery store.

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5. Too many groceries

Bet you didn't realize there were so many ways to go wrong with your food choices, did you? Another problem some millennials have is buying too many groceries, especially produce and other items that don't have a long shelf life. If you don't use them in time, you have to throw these foods away and then it's basically like you're throwing money away.

Only buy as many groceries as you plan to use within the next few days. You may have to start going to the store a little more often to get your produce items, but that's better than letting them rot in your fridge.

ALSO READ: The Top 5 Brands Millennials Love Most

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Young women using smartphones.

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6. Cell phone data

It seems like everyone has an unlimited data plan these days and you might need one if you routinely stream videos from your phone. But if you actually look at your cell phone usage, you might realize you use less than you think. You don't use data when you're connected to a Wi-Fi network, so you really only need it when you're traveling somewhere that doesn't have Wi-Fi.

Consider scaling back your data plan if you realize you don't need as much as you originally thought. Most cell phone providers will alert you if you are approaching your limit so you can upgrade your plan if need be. You probably won't notice any difference in your cell service every month, but you'll definitely notice it in your monthly bill.

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Couple holding tablet watching TV.

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7. Streaming services

Streaming services have overthrown cable as the go-to source of entertainment. They became popular because they offered a variety of content at a more affordable price and without the annoying contracts of cable. But as more and more streaming services entered the market and people kept subscribing to them all, it's now possible to spend just as much, if not more on streaming services than you once did on cable.

You can save yourself a little money by canceling the subscriptions you aren't using at the moment. You can always subscribe to them again later if they release a new show that you like. You might be able to save even more money by sharing passwords with your family and friends.

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Two women window shopping.

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8. Clothing you don't need

We want our clothing to represent our unique style and it gets boring wearing the same thing over and over, so millennials tend to favor cheaper, more disposable clothing than items built to last, with a few key exceptions. Spending $15 or $20 on a shirt might seem like a great deal, but when you tear it a few months later, you'll probably spend another $15 or $20 to replace it, and that can start to add up.

Rather than packing your closet with clothes you won't wear, try mixing and matching what you already have to create new outfit combinations. If you are going to buy new clothes, consider purchasing them secondhand or wait until there's a sale or you get a coupon so you don't have to pay full price.

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A pack of cigarettes with one sticks out of the bunch.

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9. Cigarettes

Cigarettes are bad for your wallet and your health. There's no way around that. You're spending hundreds of dollars per year on the cigarettes themselves and in a few years or a few decades, you'll probably pay thousands of dollars or more to deal with the health consequences that arise from chronic smoking.

Make a resolution to kick the habit. Consult with your doctor if you're not sure of the best way to quit. Try reaching out to family and friends for support too. If you need a little extra motivation, keep track of how much money you're saving for every pack of cigarettes you skip.

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A person using an electronic cigarette.

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10. Vaping

Vaping has widely been promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking. The recent spate of lung injuries reported in the news is giving some cause to doubt this, but even if we ignore any possible negative health consequences, vaping is still just costing you money without offering much in the way of benefits. You're better off avoiding it and kicking the habit altogether.

ALSO READ: Trump Wants a New Agency to Oversee Tobacco Products

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Young woman driving car and smiling

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11. Ridesharing

Ridesharing services are especially popular among millennials who live in cities where many don't own their own car because it's cost-prohibitive. There's nothing wrong with using a ridesharing service if you're going a long way or you have a lot of bags with you, but for the average day, consider more affordable options like walking or taking the subway or bus. Not only are these options better for your wallet, they're also better for the environment.

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Woman filling car with gas

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12. Gas

Millennials' love of travel means that those who do own cars can end up spending quite a bit on gas. You may not be able to avoid driving altogether, especially if you live in a rural area, but you can reduce your gas bill by driving only when necessary, combining errands, carpooling, and checking which gas station near you offers the cheapest gas. When you're in the market for a new vehicle, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric car.

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Four friends at concert.

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13. Live events

Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than things, and as a millennial myself, I understand that. But memorable experiences don't always have to cost a lot of money. Rather than going out to a concert, you could have your friends over for a game night or go for a hike in a nearby state park. These experiences can be equally memorable and they don't have to cost you anything.

That's not to say that you should never spend money on live events. Just be discerning about which events are worth it to you and make sure you prioritize your basic expenses and your savings goals ahead of this discretionary spending.

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Hawaii coastline with teal waters, beach, and city.

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14. Travel

Travel is another experience that's a high priority for many millennials. But before you make any plans, you should do your research and look for ways to travel more affordably. Use any travel rewards points you have on your credit card, travel at off-peak times, and consider driving instead of flying if you're not on a tight schedule. Taking a little extra time to run through your options could save you some money without forcing you to sacrifice anything you wanted to do.

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We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Man pouring supplements out of bottle.

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15. Health products

Juice cleanses, a variety of supplements, and superfoods are popular among millennials looking to remain fit or improve their overall health. It's up to you to decide if it's worth spending your money on this sort of thing, but whatever the ads might tell you, they're not essential to your wellbeing. Good old-fashioned diet and exercise will do the trick if you're committed to it.

ALSO READ: 8 Factors That Determine Your Financial Health

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free weights in a gym

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16. Gym memberships

Gym memberships aren't always a waste of money, but they are if you don't use them, which is unfortunately all too common. Avoid locking yourself into an expensive gym membership until you've thought seriously about how often you plan to use the gym. You should also explore the other options in your area to see if there's a more affordable gym that offers the equipment and classes you're interested in.

Exercising without a gym is also possible. You can walk or run outdoors, go biking, or do a workout video from the comfort of your living room. This is the most affordable way to go if you can stay motivated enough to stick with it.

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Plastic water bottles in different shapes and sizes.

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17. Bottled water

Bottled water leads to plastic waste and it's also more expensive than just bringing a bottle of water from home. Make a habit of taking a water bottle with you wherever you go so you don't have to stop and buy one. If you're concerned about the quality of your tap water, consider investing in a filter for your sink or a water bottle with a built-in filter so that you can refill it anywhere without fear of contaminants.

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Woman kneels in wedding dress holding bouquet.

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18. Weddings

I got married last year and though my husband and I did everything we could to keep costs low, it still cost us close to $8,000. Some people spend three or four times as much. You can keep your costs down by setting a budget, limiting the guest list, and seeking out opportunities to save money, like making your own invitations or purchasing some of your decorations secondhand.

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Women drinking alcohol.

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19. Going out with friends

It costs more money to drink at a bar than it does to drink at home, but if you're with the right crowd of people, you can have just as much fun in either place. Consider hosting a party at your house instead or trying new activities that don't cost you money, like playing a sport or picking up a new hobby.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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Woman holding a smartphone and a credit card with contemplative look on her face.

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20. Things on social media

People pay social media influencers big bucks to try to convince you that their product is popular and you need it in your life. Then there are all the ads on social media where advertisers are blatantly trying to get you to buy something. It can be pretty tempting sometimes.

Installing an ad blocker on your internet browser can reduce the number of ads that you see every day so you aren't as tempted to buy. You should also force yourself to wait at least a day or two before buying anything you don't need so that you have time to think about whether it's actually worth your money.

ALSO READ: Is Social Media Driving You Into Debt?

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Dog in pirate costume.

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21. Things for your pet

High-end pet foods, clothing, and toys are probably more for you than for your pet. Obviously they need some type of food, a bed, and a toy or two to keep them happy, but you don't need to go overboard. It's just costing you money. Be realistic about what your pet actually needs and set aside the money you would have otherwise spent on clothes and toys for a pet emergency fund in case they need to see a vet.

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A delivery man with packages at the door.

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22. Next-day delivery

It used to take weeks for people to ship things across the country, but now we get impatient if it takes more than a few days. So impatient, in fact, that some of us are willing to pay even more money for companies to ship our items to us by the next day. Unless you absolutely need the item by tomorrow, you're better off skipping these extra shipping costs and just waiting a few extra days for your item to arrive.

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Credit card machine terminal processor.

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23. Credit card interest

Millennials aren't the only generation struggling with credit card interest. It's a problem among all ages. Any money spent on credit card interest is essentially money wasted because you don't get any benefit in return. Plus, what you're paying in interest will likely outweigh what you're earning in rewards. If you keep charging items to your credit card, your balance might even grow over time instead of shrinking.

Use a 0% introductory APR card to temporarily halt the growth of your credit card balance and put all your spare cash toward paying it down. If you don't want to open a new credit card, put all your extra cash on the card with the highest interest rate first until that's paid off. Then, move onto the card with the next-highest interest rate and so on. But be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all of your cards to avoid late fees.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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A woman holding a coffee and looking at her smartphone while walking.

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24. New smartphones

Smartphone manufacturers are releasing new models all the time with better cameras, more memory, and better battery life. But these phones are expensive and it doesn't really make sense to get rid of your current phone if it still works. Hold onto it until it breaks and then get a new one. Consider buying a used phone online if you aren't willing to pay the cost of a new one.

ALSO READ: Apple's iPhone Will Dominate Smartphones in 2020. Here's Why

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A man looking unimpressed in graduation outfit with a dollar sign as the tassel on his cap.

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25. Too much student loan interest

Few millennials could afford college without student loans. When choosing your repayment plan, it's tempting to go with the one that offers the lowest monthly payment because it lets you spend more now. But if you're trying to get rid of your debt faster and pay the least in interest overall, you should choose the plan with the highest payment you can comfortably afford and pay extra whenever you can afford to do so.

You should also pursue any student loan forgiveness programs you qualify for, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and watch out for opportunities to refinance your student loans to get a more affordable rate.

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Confused man question standing in front of chalkboard with question marks drawn around his head.

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How many of these things have you wasted money on?

I consider myself to be pretty frugal, but even I've wasted money on some of the things on this list. We're all guilty of it from time to time. But by making a few simple changes, we can free up more cash to use for debt repayment, saving for retirement, a large purchase, or doing other things that we enjoy. Consider making some small lifestyle changes today and see what kind of a difference they can make for you.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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