10 Common Expenses To Avoid If You Want To Really Save Money
Published 2/23/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
When you're standing in front of the cash register about to make a large purchase for hundreds of dollars, it's easy to immediately recognize the high cost and the financial gravity of the situation. The price is high and it's easy to see how the large one time expenditure is going to hit your pocket book. But what about those pesky little daily expenses that we often take for granted? They are just as effective at draining money, but the only difference is that they usually occur over a wider span of time. Those type of silent and hidden expenses do add up quickly over a month or even a one year period. It's important to be aware of what some of them are so that we can learn to avoid these money traps and do a better job of pocketing the savings.
1) Bottled Water - Although I list this as my first money drain due to the consensus of many, it's actually one daily expenditure that I personally find to be worth the daily cost. While not necessarily healthier in terms of purity, due to the convenience and the healthy consumption habit the act promotes, I actually think drinking bottled water is worth the regular cost. However, there is a right way to do it and a wrong way. The right way is to buy bottled water in bulk supermarket 24 packs or in Costco's mega 32 packs. The absolute wrong way is to buy them in single units from a place like a 7-11 convenience store or a gas station where their unit price is the highest. Why buy a single serving Aquafina for $1 or more when you can buy a large 24 pack for $5 or less? My local grocery store frequently offers special deals for $3 or less.
2) Coffee - It's a common morning addiction but it's an expensive one. Coffee drinks from places like Starbucks are so addictive I'm occasionally convinced that they must drip extra caffeine into the java brew to get consumers hooked. I've managed to ween myself off them but many people still find coffee to be an integral part of their regular morning routine. If you spend only $1.50 for a standard cup of coffee per day during the business week, consider yourself relatively lucky since you're spending only $390 a year, comprised of 260 weekdays. What about those people like me who used to spend up to $5 a day on premium expresso drinks like my personal favorite - the white chocolate mocha? Premium coffee habits demand nearly $1,300 a year.
3) Alcohol - I'm not much of a beer or liquor fan, but many people are. If you hit the bars daily for a drink, at $4 a beer, that's $1,460 a year. Even if you only went a few times a week, the cost of multiple beers add up fast. Mixed drink and wine prices usually go for much higher. If you love your beer, try buying bulk packs. With wine, consider buying wine in a box. Maybe because I'm not a wine expert, but many boxed wines seem to taste the same as bottled ones. It's mostly just a difference of packaging in my opinion as a wine newbie.
4) Smoking - Cigarettes are not only bad for you, they are also very expensive. With local, state, and even the federal government enacting higher cigarettes taxes, the habit can only get more expensive over time. A pack currently costs around $4.50, which comes out to more than $1,600 a year, but many smokers don't just consume one pack - some consume multiples. If you're a current smoker, work hard to kick the habit. If not for your own health or family's well being, do it for your wallet's sake. It can be done - my dad kicked his fledgling smoking habit shortly before I was born.
5) Vending Machine Drinks and Snacks - Buying chips and sodas from vending machines will cost you. Depending on where the machine is located, you may pay $1 or more for each purchase. Do that once a day and that adds up to $365 per year. Can you really afford that? What you're paying for is the convenience of getting what you want, when you want it. Try to wait till you're at the supermarket where you can obtain the exact same thing for half price or less.
6) Frequently Eating Out - Going out to eat is my biggest and most substantial money drain. So far I haven't been able to cut the habit or substitute it with regular home cooking, which is the frugal living solution to meal planning. I pretty much eat out for both lunch and dinner at this time in my life. With lunch prices at work costing upwards of $8 or more and local eateries near my home costing $10 or more for dinner, that's $18 per day for meals, which comes out to more than $6,500 a year for food alone. That is way too much money being spent on meals for just one person.
7) Manicures and Pedicures - Manicures cost around $20 a pop. For women who are addicted to weekly manicures, that's more than $1,000 a year for nail service that you could probably learn to do at home yourself. Is a thousand dollars a year really worth the momentary pampering?
8) Underused Monthly Memberships and Services - There are many membership plans that consumers frequently sign up for but either forget to use or end up under-utilizing. By not taking advantage of the monthly services paid for, you're basically throwing good money away. The most commonly underused services include gym and fitness memberships, cable television services, and telephone plans. When it comes to telephone service, do you really need that land line anymore? What about your wireless phone plan - do you actually get close to using up all of your monthly plan minutes?
What about movie rentals? I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time - for just $16.99 a month you could rent three DVD's at a time as often as you wanted. But how often is that really? Scan your credit card statement for those automatic monthly charges you normally just pay and ask yourself whether you're getting your money's worth. How often do you go to the $50 a month gym? Cancel what you're not using. Underused services are financial drains that should be examined and reevaluated regularly.
9) Unnecessary Car Maintenance and Premium Auto Services - Unnecessarily frequent oil changes, car washes, and car detailing services - they all add up. Your car might be your baby, but your auto pampering may be costing you way too much money for a mere inanimate object that is likely depreciating slowly as I speak.
10) Credit Card Interest Charges and Fees - Using credit cards that offer rebates and cash back rewards may help you maximize your money when it comes to routine purchases, but if you're not careful with card management, you might find yourself in serious debt trouble. Fixed monthly interest rates for credit cards are usually high and average around 13% APR but they often increase if you become delinquent on your payment obligations. Try to pay your statement balance in full each month. If you must incur a balance, work hard towards paying them off to avoid those unnecessary finance charges and interest fees that can rack up fast.