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35 Ways You Wasted Money This Year + Ways to Stop

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Have you ever really considered what you buy? Or does it end up in your house without even realizing it?

Too many times, we shop and go on autopilot and we don’t even think about how or why we are spending our money on certain things.

That is exactly what the marketers want you to do. Shop and don’t even realize what you are spending and how much you are spending.

However, it can be detrimental to any budget or even worse when you are living paycheck to paycheck.

You could have wasted money without even realizing it.

Money wasted can add over time.

Is wasting money bad for your long term success? The quick answer is yes and we will discuss in this post the opportunity cost lost from spending too much money.

Are you ready to learn how to avoid wasting money? Plus learn how do I get over wasting money. Enough saying, “I waste so much money;” learn how to quit wasting money.

Time Value of Money

wasted money

Have you ever considered the time value of money?

This doesn’t have to be super complicated that only a mathematician can do. Seriously, this is one of the basic personal finance concepts that will propel you to reach financial independence. So, it is worth paying attention to.

The time value of money is the idea that money available today is worth more than the same amount in the future.

The simple explanation of time value of money is your money today is worth to you than getting the same amount at a later time. Especially if you choose to invest money that you typically waste on any given month.

Time Value of Money Examples:

Example #1: If you invest $100 for 1 year at a 5% interest rate, then you will have $105 at the end of the year.

$100 * 5% = $105

Okay, so maybe that $5 doesn’t look like much to you, so let’s take it up a notch.

Example #2: If you invest $1000 for 1 year at a 5% interest rate, then you will have $1050 at the end of the year.

$1000 * 5% = $1050

Does $50 have your attention? Now, we are going to dive into compound interest and why over time that $50 will add up.

Importance of Compound Interest

money wasted

This is another basic concept that will help you become savvy with money.

Learning the importance of compound interest.

Simply put… compound interest is interest calculated on the initial principal, plus all the accumulated interest. Your money multiplies by itself.

Compound Interest #1 Example

You plan to invest $100 a month for a period of 10 years with an interest rate of 8%.

Your balance at year 10 would be $18,417.

Just for not wasting money and saving $100 a month.

Compound Interest #2 Example

You plan to invest $200 a month for a period of 20 years with an interest rate of 8%.

Your balance at year 20 would be $118,589.

Just for not wasting money and saving $200 a month.

Now, do you see the importance of compound interest?!?!?

It is a simple concept, but first, you need to learn how to stop wasting money.

Here is what I learned from my saving money challenge. I waste money! Especially in your 20s. Get tips on how to stop wasting money and avoid spending too much money. Plus you don't need a frugal living to do it.

How to Avoid Wasting Money

Money wasted is such a bummer.

I know I wasted money in my early 20s. So much money; it still makes me sick to this day. I wished someone would have told me how wasteful I was being. Part of being an adult is managing money and that isn’t something I did well. The good news is I have learned my lessons and you can learn from my mistakes.

So, become more aware of how to waste money to avoid problems in the future.

1. Awareness

Open up your eyes.

Look around and see how you are spending money. Have you wasted money?

Sometimes it is helpful to get another person’s perspective to shed a new sight of eyes on your situation.

In order to avoid wasting money, you must become aware of how you are spending your money and if you are actually using what you spent money on.

Become aware of your spending!

2. Wait Before You Buy

Much of our wasted money goes to impulse purchases or quick grab and go purchases. Stuff that really doesn’t matter to us in the end.

Instill the 24 hour rule… before you whip out your wallet, you must wait 24 hours before making the purchase.

This one tip may save you thousands of dollars over the year.

Plus it is a simple way to find $100-200 a month to save and put towards compound interest.

3. Make Changes

This is probably the hardest step for anyone to do.

So, give yourself some grace.

Once you become aware of areas that you typically waste money, begin making changes to your behavior and spending habits.

Start making small changes so you stop wasting money on things you won’t actually use. Then, move towards the harder obstacles to overcome.

4. Avoid Temptation

However, you are guilty of wasting money, avoid it at all costs.

Temptation and lifestyle creep can be detrimental to any personal finance situation.

Not sure what your temptations are? Then, participate in a spending freeze

Then, you will uncover all of your temptations because you can’t spend more for a certain amount of time.

The Biggest Waste of Money

What is the biggest waste of money?

One specific thing is causing you to spend money left and right. The worst part is most people believe that it is considered normal. A part of day to day living. Something that everyone has…

Have you guessed what it is?

The biggest waste of money…


Or as we like to refer to debt as the cash flow killer.

That one thing is the biggest waste of money in our society.

Since debt is so accessible, you are able to overspend money and not fully understand the impact until it is time to pay off the debt.

Have you ever considered why offers for debt are so high and everywhere you turn? These companies make big money off high interest rates. And they wasted your money in the process.

How to Avoid Debt: You can avoid debt. It is possible. I do it and many others in this community. You have to save up for the purchase and pay in cash. Here are the must needed bank accounts to become debt free.

Debt Help: How to Get Out of Debt in 5 Easy Steps

Wasted Money Examples:

How is money wasted?

While debt is the biggest waste of money, there are plenty of other items I would consider a huge waste of money.

How much money do you waste a year? Think about it. Because the average adult wastes $18000 a year (source). Yet, many people complain that saving $10000 with the 52 week money saving challenge is too difficult.

If you are worried that you waste so much money, then keep reading. You can change your ways and figure out what you can change.

Here are 30 things you’re probably wasting money on…

1. Interest Payments

Oh goodness! At the very top of the list is interest payments.

In all honesty, if you can’t afford it when you bought it, then you can’t afford the interest payments on it.

Steer clear of debt and save money to pay in cash.

Related reading: The Vicious Cycle- Learn How to Stop Spending Money Now

2. ATM fees

Seriously, have you ever calculated how much you pay for convenience to access your cash? The average ATM fee is a whopping $4.72.

If you pull out money weekly from the ATM, then that wasted money habit is costing you $254.44.

$4.72 * 52 = $245.44

Don’t worry… I double-checked my math on that one. That is a lot of money to pay for convenience. Plan ahead and go to the nearest bank or credit union. Stop wasting money!!

3. Bank Fees

Bank fees are outrageous at some companies. Look for a credit union or someone who doesn’t charge you fees to access your own money on a monthly basis.

If banks are doing things properly, they are already making money on interest being borrowed from their collective assets.

Here is a list of banks without outrageous fees to check out:

Now, if you are getting assessed fees for late fees or bounced transactions, then it is time to get your money situation together and don’t wasting money.

Related reading: How to Organize your Personal Finances in 8 Simple Steps

4. Name Brands

The expense behind the name brands is the marketing and paying for their endorsements.

Name brands can be expensive…

  • Clothing
  • Skincare
  • Food
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Prescriptions
  • Cars (did you know the Toyota Camry is the same as the Lexus ES?)

On Amazon, you can find the same great quality with their Solimo brand or AmazonBasics line. We have bought products under their private label at a fraction of the cost.

Costco always has its products under the Kirkland Signature brand, which are the same high quality at a fraction of the price.

5. Paper Towels

30 things you're probably wasting money on

My sweet mother-in-law doesn’t see eye to eye on this one. And we never will! But, paper towels are such a waste of money!!

Invest in quality kitchen towels and washcloths to pick up all of your spills.

Wasted Money with Paper Towels Example: 

Each week, you go through 3 rolls of paper towels, which you pick up at a stock up price of $1 per roll.

3 rolls * $1 per roll * 4 weeks = $12 spent in just a month.

You can buy a set of kitchen towels for less than that and pocket the other $132 for the year.

6. Fast Food

Paying a significant price for convenience. Yet, most restaurants have a very thin profit margin, which I always find interesting.

Fast food is a huge money waste!

In most cases, the same food at home can cost one-half less. Plus the health differences.

Fast Food Example – Salad

A local bakery – $8.99

At home – $2-4

Wasted money = $4.99-6.99

That is just one example of the money saving opportunity with not eating out and picking up fast food.

7. Gym Membership

If you don’t use, don’t waste money on it. 

Is your gym membership worth the cost or is it wasted money?

Here is a little calculation to figure out: 

Take the cost of your membership and divide up the number of times you go. If the cost is less than a drop in class (ranging from $8-15), then it is worth keeping. If not, then you are wasting money.

Unfortunately, most gym memberships are never used. Rough season with injuries and a busy schedule? Then put your membership on hold for a fraction of the price.

8. Books

Books are a great way to learn! And by no means am I saying to not ever buy books. Quite the opposite.

Be smart with what books you buy and what books you can find in other places.

Check the libraries first for any book before purchasing it. 

If the libraries don’t have it, then consider buying the book. The same is true for a book that you reference many times per year.

Digital subscriptions are a good idea, too! My mother-in-law saves thousands of dollars with her unlimited subscription. Try your first month free.

For kid books, ask in a local Nextdoor community or Facebook group for books that their kids may have outgrown. You would be surprised at the number of people who are ready to pass along books.

9. Warranties

What do people waste money on the most?

Paying for an extended warranty may sound like a great idea, but truly is it?

From personal experience, most of the extended warranties we bought were never needed or used. However, with appliances breaking every 5-10 years, they are more appealing than before.

How to decide if a warranty is worth it:

  • Highly likelihood of damage?
  • Cost of the warranty vs the cost of the item?
  • What loopholes do you need to jump through for it to be covered?
  • Likelihood the product will go out before the warranty expires?
  • Extra benefits that come with the warranty that you would have to pay for anyway?

Many times than not, a warranty is wasted money. Money that you can never recoup.

All encompassing home warranties… These are typically offered through local utility companies. In all honesty, you are better off saving that money each and every month rather than paying a “smaller” amount for the warranty. Too many times, there are loopholes to jump through for them to replace your appliances and the time for repair is ridiculous.

10. Late Fees

Oh goodness! Being slapped with a late fee is like turning homework in late at school.

Just don’t do it.

Late fees are another silly way to waste money.

There are plenty of ways to avoid paying late fees. The easiest way is to pay attention to your bills.

Related reading: How to Organize your Personal Finances in 8 Simple Steps

11. Haircuts

Say what? I’m not advocating for not taking care of your appearance.

I’m just saying to try little DIY haircuts and treatments. Thankfully for YouTube you can learn how to cut hair.

This is one of the tricks that helped us to pay off our debt faster (and still do today). We picked up this hair-cutting set.

Worse case scenario…you go to the salon with your tail between your legs and have them fix it. (Never had to do that, thankfully!!)

This one frugal cost-cutting item has saved us probably over $5000 in the last 7 years. That is crazy! I have never considered it until I figured it out. One little set for under $30 saved us thousands of dollars. Wow!

Potential Yearly Savings: Women – $600+ or Men – $250 or Entire Family – $1200+

12. Uneaten Food

Just this morning, I found moldy raspberries in my fridge. It bums me out when food is wasted (especially since this fruit is my son’s favorite) and no one touched it.

On average, we waste 25% of our food!

Would you be willing to throw a couple of hundred dollars into the trash can each month?

More than likely, not. You probably dabble at the thought. However, uneaten food will spoil and go bad. Then, it becomes wasted money.

13. Subscriptions

Specifically unused subscriptions are wasted money.

Have you taken an inventory of all of your subscriptions?

While the days are long gone when you can buy a product and it is good for a couple of years. The industry is morphing to monthly and yearly subscriptions.

The key to not wasting money is to keep tabs on what you actually use and what you have just because.

Too many times it is easy to get a collection of apps that all do the same purpose, and thus, become wasted money.

14. Extra Vehicles, Campers, or Boats

Maintenance is a real cost.

While yes owning that specialty vehicle, camper, or boat might be super fun, it comes at an expense. Possibly an expense you can’t truly afford.

However, too many times, we get caught up in the trap of lifestyle creep.

We get all of the same things as our friends just to keep up. Just so we can go places. We want to fit in with them. Even though, these extra vehicles, boats, and campers don’t fit into what we can truly afford.

The cost of all of these extras is just wasted money (especially if they just sit and are never used).

15. Shopping Sprees

What should you not waste money on?

Do you have a purpose for a shopping spree? Or just because?

A shopping spree is just plain old money wasted.

In all honesty, did you really need a brand new wardrobe? Or do you plan to cram more into your overflowing closets? Do you have tags on clothes from your last shopping spree?

A shopping spree is typically a way to cover up some emotional triggers that you are experiencing. Afterward, you may regret the shopping spree and associated wasted money.

16. Half Loads of Laundry

Have you ever read your washing machine directions? (most people don’t)

But to work at maximum efficiency, they need a full load of laundry.

In addition, you are wasting water and detergent by not waiting for a full load of laundry.

If you don’t have a high efficiency washer and dryer, then stop wasting money and get one today.

17. Not Going to Annual Physicals

Little secret…an annual physical is cheaper than an emergency room visit.

In fact, most insurance companies cover the cost of an annual physical at 100%, which means no out-of-pocket expense for you.

By ignoring health signs, you are wasting money because the cost of treatment will be higher the longer you delay.

That is extremely tough to hear if you don’t have enough money for treatment today or if you hate going to the doctor.

Invest in your health and save money by not wasting money later.

18. Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning supplies are a huge expense plus most of the products are so harmful to your health.

Invest in high quality antimicrobial microfiber cloths along with some DIY cleaning supplies that are safe for your family.

Stop wasting money and believing that things are only clean if it smells like bleach.

19. High Interest Rates

Beware of high interest rates! They can derail any plans of paying off debt fast.

If your interest rates are higher than 5%, then you are wasting money.

Overcome High Interest Rates

  • Call and ask for interest rate deduction
  • Sign up for auto payments for a lower rate
  • Check out Tally to get lower interest rates. Download it for free.

As stated above, the biggest waste of money is due to debt. Make sure to keep those high interest rates down and stop wasting money.

20. Higher Than Needed Premiums

What is considered a waste of money?

Take the time and dig into your insurance premiums. You might be surprised how much money you are wasting with having a low deductible.

Insurance Premiums to Review:

  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Auto insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Umbrella Policy

By increasing your deductible, you are able to lower your premiums. 

Every 1-3 years, it is a good idea to compare your coverage and premiums with competitors to see if you are getting the best price.

Other Types of Insurance – Rental car insurance and travel insurance – You can probably skip on both. Most credit card companies provide enough insurance coverage for trip cancellation or medical coverage.

21. Not Speaking Up

This way of wasting money happens in one of two ways.

The first is when prices are rung up incorrectly and either you don’t speak up or you don’t pay attention. 

Unfortunately for customers, this is way too common and happens all the time.

The second way this happens is when you don’t speak up about joining in an activity you can’t afford. You are too scared about telling your friends that you can’t afford it.

This downside is societal pressure is real and hard to overcome. Look for friends that will support you!

22. Unclaimed 401k Matches

This statistic is shocking! One out of 4 people doesn’t sign up for their company’s 401k match. Link to the study.

Who wouldn’t take a little bit extra of a paycheck? 

It is true that you can’t have it until retirement. But, it is one less dollar you need to figure out how to save.

Also, it is a good idea to conduct a 401k review on your personal portfolio.

23. Airline Fees

Airline fees are here to stay. So, you might as well stop wasting money on their excessive fees.

For instance, purchasing your seat assignment in advance. When is the last time you know someone who bought a ticket and didn’t get on the plane? Never. It doesn’t matter if you pay an extra $10-$50 for your seat assignment or not. Everyone will still get on the plane.

We NEVER buy seat assignments. Each flight for a family of 4 we save $200 that we can spend on actually doing something.

As for the baggage fees, check out this post and learn to save money on airline baggage fees.

24. Driving Habits

biggest waste of money in america

The way you drive determines how much money you are wasting – specifically in this case, how much gas you are wasting.

Back in the day, this was harder to determine. But, now with the fancy programming in cars, it is typically at the touch of the button to determine your miles per gallon for a trip.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you accelerate fast?
  • Did you plan your route to make more right hand turns?
  • Do you sit idly while waiting for someone or do you turn off the ignition?
  • Roll down the windows or do you blast the air conditioning? 
  • Do you check traffic to find which direction won’t have you sitting in traffic?

All simple ways to stop wasting money by changing a few driving habits.

24. Premium Gas

With the average driver putting 13, 746 miles a year, spending money on premium gas can add up quickly.

Did you know that premium gas truly isn’t needed?

Even though most owner’s manuals recommend it, many car experts disagree on the need for premium gas. 

For the average driver, the money wasted on premium gas is $2749 per year.

25. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Sometimes private mortgage insurance is a necessary evil in order to qualify for a mortgage. We had it at one time.

Given the high prices of homes, it may be difficult to come up with the full 20% down payment in order to avoid PMI.

If you already have PMI attached to your mortgage, then look at getting an appraisal done to drop the need for paying PMI. This is what we did since our home increased in value. There is a cost for the appraisal, but typically it is less than the PMI premiums for a year.

If you are looking at buying a house and don’t have a large enough down payment, then you have three choices:

  1. Wait until you can save the full 20% down payment.
  2. Look at decreasing the amount of house you plan to buy, so you stay within that 20% down payment threshold.
  3. Realize that paying PMI is less than your current rent and know that you are buying an appreciating asset.

For many people, private mortgage insurance is part of buying their first home. The key is getting rid of PMI as soon as possible to avoid wasting money.

26. Fancy Drinks

Specialty coffee. Specialty tea. Sparkling water. 

There are so many fun and fancy ways to enjoy a drink. However, they can come at a steep price. 

Recently, I was able to sample this drink, which is absolutely fabulous by the way and I loved it. But, the question is am I willing to spend the extra amount to enjoy that beverage.

How much money do you waste on fancy drinks? Here is a little calculation to help you:

Cost of favorite drink * number drinks per week *52 = Amount of money wasted per year

Typically, seeing the entire amount you may be possibly wasting money on is more eye opening than the $1-$5 per time.

Key note… I’m not saying to withhold your favorite fancy drink. I am questioning whether it is money wasted given your current money situation. Only you know that answer. Maybe a special treat instead?

27. Lottery Tickets

15 unnecessary wastes of money

The chances of winning the lottery are so slim.

Yet it is so fun to dream and hope your numbers are selected! Right, we can all dream.

But, just avoid buying lottery tickets and scratch tickets. 

It is the biggest waste of money!

You are better off to start young and invest those dollars in an investment account and use compounding interest to your benefit.

28. Unclaimed Rebates

Companies offer rebates instead of lower sale prices because it makes their price point more attractive to buyers and they are hoping the customer won’t follow through on sending in their rebate.

Not sending in a rebate form is leaving money on the table. Thus, wasting money you thought you would get back.

29. Utilities

Look around your house. How many things are pulled in even though they aren’t being used?

Probably a ton of them.

Did you know?? Even if a piece of equipment is turned off and still plugged in, it is using electricity. 

And many kitchen appliances pose a fire hazard when left plugged in even if they are turned off.

Take a quick minute before you leave to unplug things not in use. 

One of the biggest culprits… all of our device chargers – laptops, iPhones, iPods, gaming devices. Look into getting a charging station to charge all of your devices together. Even a simple surge protector is a quick way to turn everything off.

It will save you money in the long run.

30. Timeshares

I have never figured out the advantage of owning a timeshare. (if you have learned a trick, please let me know – I would love to learn)

The fees associated with timeshares typically outweigh the money saving benefits of being in a timeshare.

Be wary of timeshares and the possibility of money wasted.

However, sitting through their timeshare presentation can be a money saving trick on vacations… if you have the willpower to say no.

31. Bottled Water

how not to waste money

Bottled water is a must for going to a sporting event or concert. However, the rest of the time, it is a complete waste of money!

Invest in a quality water bottle and fill it yourself at home.

If you don’t like all of the containments in your water, then invest in a reverse osmosis system. This is the one we bought and absolutely love it.

32. Paper Plates, Cups, and Utensils

Paper products are more expensive than washing a load of dishes and that doesn’t even take into consideration the environmental impact of trash.

While it may be convenient, it is a great way to waste money.

33. Cable Bill

For most people, a cable bill is wasted money.

There are so many alternatives for entertainment. Is spending upwards of $200 a month worth it?

Do that math and see if there are ways to lower your TV watching. Pick up one of these streaming devices.

Be careful…sometimes trying to DIY want you actually watch may end up costing you more in the long run. Just keep asking for cable discounts.

34. Cell Phone

Have you ever calculated your phone bill costs over the full year? Typically you are looking at $1000 +. 

How about the price of updating your cell phone to the latest device. Another $850+ for a new phone. However, they are conveniently priced at $28 per month, so the total amount doesn’t look so scary.

There are cheaper alternatives to cell phone service that can cost under $30 a month:

To find reasonably priced phones, check out Gazelle. Plus you can sell your old one too!

35. Smoking / Vaping

The way I think of smoking is taking a 5 bill, rolling it up, and watching it burn.

This is one way to watch your hard-earned money burn.

Enough said. Wasted money.

Are you Wasting Money?

wasted so much money

Oh my! 

Are you overwhelmed by the ways in which you are wasting money?

Now, you know things that people wasted money on.

We have instant access to so many wonderful things that it can be hard to determine wasted money from enjoyable spending money.

One key secret to tell the difference… do you look back and regret how you spent money?

Don’t fret! You can make changes starting today. Stop wasting mnoey and begin living the life of your dreams!

What is your biggest waste of money?

Further Resources:

These are the exact tips and tricks I used to stop wasting money and start saving money. I was able to pay off debt while being a stay at home mom. Our personal finances are much better with these extra cash in our budget.

Know someone else that needs this, too? Then, please share!!

Did the post resonate with you?

More importantly, did I answer the questions you have about this topic? Let me know in the comments if I can help in some other way!

Your comments are not just welcomed; they’re an integral part of our community. Let’s continue the conversation and explore how these ideas align with your journey towards Money Bliss.

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