10 Ways You’re Throwing Money Away (And How to Stop)

by Connie Mei · 21 comments

You may be pretty confident that you’re good at saving money. But did you know you might be throwing money away and not even know it? Even if you think you’re living a frugal lifestyle, there are many things we all do everyday that are both a waste of time and money.

We can always improve upon our savings habits, and stash away more money. Even though I try my best, I know that I’m often throwing away my money on the most frivolous things.

Put yourself to the test and see if you’re guilty of one of these biggest money wasters:

  • Gym Membership: A gym membership isn’t a waste of money as long as you use it a lot. However, most people don’t and end up wasting money every month. Instead of spending as much as $100 each month on a gym membership, opt to exercise from home or outdoors instead. You can workout whenever you want and it’s free. All you need are a pair of sneakers. There are plenty of great YouTube videos and apps, like Couch to 5K, to keep you motivated. Or you can go outside for a nice hike, run, or walk.
  • Cable TV: Even if you watch a lot of TV, cable can be a waste of money. First, you’re paying a lot of money each month to watch TV and you still have to sit through all the commercials. Second, you can watch most shows online now for free now. Alternatively, you can also sign up for a Netflix or Hulu subscription, which is less than $10 a month.
  • Banking Fees: If you’re still paying fees on your checking account, you’re putting money in the wrong bank. There are plenty of banks that offer free checking with no obligations and no minimums. Similarly, you should never pay for ATM fees either. By simply planning ahead a day or two, you can easily visit one of your local branches to withdraw money and avoid these fees.
  • Lottery: At one point or another, we’ve all have big dreams of winning the lottery and retiring early. Yes, it would be amazing to spend $1 on a lottery ticket and get $100 million dollars in return if you win. But honestly, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightening. It’s only a buck for a dream but at the same time, you could be saving that dollar.
  • Anti-Virus Software: As long as you own a computer, you should always have anti-virus software. But it can get expensive. Spending a few hundred dollars just to protect your computer from a virus you may or may not come across seems excessive. But lucky for us, there are quality anti-virus software available to download for free. Avast is a great option, but there others available as well. They’re absolutely free and offer you complete protection.
  • Cigarettes: Cigarettes are not only a big waste of money, but as you’re well aware, they’re a health hazard. If you’re a smoker, invest your time and money into quitting this habit instead. You’ll save a lot and be all-around healthier.
  • Bottled Water: Bottled water is much more expensive compared to tap water. Essentially you’re paying the markup just for the convenience. Next time you go out, bring a reusable water bottle with you. Not only is it cheaper, but it’s also better for the environment.
  • Utilities: Especially in the wintertime, utilities can make up a large part of your monthly expenses. It’s actually really easy to shave down your utility bill without having to change your lifestyle much at all. For instance; switch to energy saving light bulbs instead, or turn down your thermostat a few degrees. These changes are small but the savings can add up.
  • Alcohol: It’s arguable whether alcohol is a waste of money of not. Not everyone is willing to give up alcohol but you don’t have to. Just be smarter about what and when you drink. If you’re going out, make sure to go when the bar is having a happy hour. If you don’t mind staying in, just grab a couple bottles of good wine. It’s much cheaper than going out and spending $15 on a single drink.
  • Food: Food is a necessity to survive but you don’t have to waste so much of your hard-earned money on it. The first thing to stop doing is eating out. Treat yourself once-in-awhile but cooking at home is so much cheaper and healthier. Next, embrace leftovers. If you can’t finish your meal, make another portion of it. Plus, a lot of food is even better on the second day.

Watching where you spend your money takes minimal effort but can ward off lifestyle creep, excessive spending, and even missing out on savings.

Most of these tips are simple and easy to do but you’ll be saving a nice chunk of change in the long run. Take 10 minutes this week to evaluate your budget and see if you’re guilty of throwing away your money when there are cheaper (and sometimes better) options available.

What’s your favorite money saving tip? Are there other things we may be wasting money on and not realize it?

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • John says:

    Unfortunately all of these are correct. Gym is a waste of money for me as I went only 3 times last month. We can also add newspapers to this list as most of us read online so paying for a newspapers looks like money wasting.

  • Dr. Sheba says:

    I’ve cut most of the things above and have managed to save an extra $350 dollars a month. I need to work on the food category a little bit more. I’ve decreased my eating out budget to twice a month, so it’s progress. I try not to slip up as much as I can.

  • Lisa D says:

    We have no cable for a year. We never use it. We use Netflix and its had no commercial which is nice. Also we saved $60.00 a month, which we normally pay about $ 120.00 a month for cable. We use Internet and phone.

    • David Ning says:

      Good start Lisa. Have you considered dropping phone as well? There are plenty of alternatives that will save you another $30 or so a month, so give those a serious consideration.

      • Lisa D says:

        No our phone bill is 20.oo a month. We need it. Our phone and internet come together in same company and it stay the same each month. We get rid of cable to save our money. I love it no cable for a year.

        • johnk says:

          Have you tried OOMA for your internet phone? We purchased one for our house and our phone bill is now under $4 a month for a internet land line. We had internet phone through Comcast but this one sounds better and is cheaper.

  • This is a great list! I agree wholeheartedly on food–it seems like it’s a fixed and mandatory expense, but it’s not. We don’t eat out at all and we now cook all of our meals from scratch, which saves an incredible amount at the grocery store.

    By tweaking these few things, Mr. Frugalwoods and I were able to reduce our entire monthly food budget to $330 for the two of us. We’re pretty pleased with this number as it still enables us to buy plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but, it’s much lower than in the past!

    • David Ning says:

      And by cooking, you know that only healthy ingredients go into the food you eat too. You just can’t trust the restaurants because their only goal is make the food taste good and not make you healthy!

  • lana says:

    We save over $2000 a year buying meds from Canada through Northwest Pharmacy. Our physician has no problem faxing a prescription to them.

    We just got rid of one of four cars and will save about $700 just in insurance.

    I am trying to rally the family into getting rid of cable. It would save us almost $1100 a year.

    Little things add up. I’m also cooking more and keeping a grocery budget. Cooking can cost a lot! I watch the items on the recipes to see if I can keep our meals to about $10 or less for our dinners for four.

    I also cut my kids hair and make a lot of our Christmas gifts for family and friends.

    We’ve been able to pay off our home, cars and college for the kids so far.

    • David Ning says:

      You are right lana. Little things do add up! Saving $2,000 a year by buying medicine from Canada is awesome. I grew up in Canada and will definitely have to look into this one.

  • Walter says:

    Other ways I cut costs was to re-visit my auto insurance needs, my auto was valued just over $5,000. I was carrying $1,000 deductible. I eliminated my collision and comp. Saving $35 monthly, I talked to my insurance agent and found how they figure liability. The state has low end limitations and most people carry more than they need. Check your net worth and adjust your liability to meet that. Saved an additional $8 monthly. I was paying $1.00 per month fee to pay my monthly dues. I now pay it semi-annual savings that $12 yearly, insurance is an evil necessity. I cancelled my worthless AARP saving an additional $16 yearly. Total saving on the above is just over $45 per month. I cancelled my dish saving $38 monthly lowered my internet speed, no longer working saved $10 monthly. Total savings $93. Got rid of my smartphones, data and text plan of 2 phones. Saving $90 monthly, new total $183 monthly. Don’t smoke or drink. All electronics are on surge protectors that get turned off nightly, noticing a small savings on electrical bill. No subscriptions, memberships except Costco. These are things you need to address when retiring on a fixed income. I also make my own fresh ground coffee at home, never cared for nameless NW coffee conglomerate.

    • David Ning says:

      Booyah Walter! That’s an awesome list!

      You can also try calling regularly to reapply for the new promotional discounts for your internet bill. I use AT&T and they allow me to get grab the new customer discount as long as I call. If your provider doesn’t let you, then just switch companies for a few months and switch back. Or if you live with someone else in the house, then just cancel under your name and open another account under the other person.

  • Joel Arches says:

    Awesome tips and very practical! Eating out is also a bonding time with my family and so we eat out almost every Sunday. I think we need to do it only once a month to be able to save some more.

    The anti-virus is also a great tip, I think I have to let go of the paid subscription and get the free ones.

  • Michelle says:

    Cable TV is something that we are still struggling to cut the cord with. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us!

    • David Ning says:

      Have you tried just cutting it and see what happens to your life? You can always just add the expense back if you absolutely can’t live without cable.

      • Katie K. says:

        We just did exactly that! And it has been awesome. We realized within a day that cable (well, satellite in our case) TV added ZERO to our lives. We had debated pulling the plug for so long, thinking, “Oh, but what about that show or this show? Oh man, what if we don’t have Disney or Nick for the kids anymore?” Well, it was all overly-dramatic nonsense. And we realized that afterwards and laughed at ourselves! If you think for once second you can’t “make it” without TV, I will tell you with 100% certainty that you are absolutely wrong! (In a nice way.) 🙂 We will save $600 a year now and couldn’t be more thrilled with our decision. I highly recommend cutting the cord! (For full transparency, we do have Netflix and Vudu and watch movies on those now and then. And it is plenty! And so cheap!)

        • Mark says:

          We have been cable TV free for a year now and it’s awesome! We were paying around $150/month to Verizon for TV. I purchased a HD antenna and hooked it up to our home cable. Now all the TV’s in the house (must have an HD receiver built in or buy one) get over the air TV for free! Granted we are around 50 miles from DC/Baltimore, but, we get around 50 channels, including QVC, HSN, MeTV, Public TV, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, etc. I also subscribe to the basic Netflix streaming service and am a Amazon Prime member. While the kids initially complained, they have found they no longer miss cable TV. Best decision we ever made!

        • David Ning says:

          That’s awesome Katie (but you already know that).

          Now take that money, invest it for the long term and see it become a few thousand dollars when you retire!

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