Solutions to Make Better Decisions with Your Taxes and Money

9 Ways You’re Throwing Money Away

9 Ways You're Throwing Money Away - TaxAct Blog

We all waste money at some point. Remember that fancy juicer you bought thinking you would eat more vegetables if only you had a “green drink” in the morning. Kale and carrot smoothies can be a great start to your day…as long as you actually make them!

Or maybe you chronically forget to take coupons with you to the store. Clip ‘em, save ‘em and forget ‘em, am I right? Wait, that’s not quite how it works.

Either way, I’m sure you can think of many other examples of when you throw away money without even realizing it.

Here are nine examples of money-wasting items:

1. Silly bank fees

The rise in internet-only banks means you have easy access to banks that won’t nickel-and-dime your account due to lack of funds. If you currently pay the following fees, it may be time to find a new bank.

  • ATM fees – you shouldn’t pay your bank to get your own money out of an ATM. Your bank should reimburse you (at least up to a certain amount) each month if it charges you these fees.
  • Maintenance or account minimum fees –Some banks impose fees when you don’t have enough money in your account on a daily basis or if you fail to meet minimum direct deposit requirements each month.

You can ditch all of these fees for good. Banks like Ally, Charles Schwab and Bank of Internet USA provide options for no-frills, no-fee accounts.

2. Forgetting about the free trial period for a subscription service

It’s all too simple to opt into a free trial period of a subscription service. Just the other day I upgraded my Hulu account for one-month of free access to Showtime. That add-on would normally cost me $8.99 per month, but I set an alert on my phone to unsubscribe the day before any charges kicked in.

If you like to play around with free trial periods, make sure you remember to opt-out before payments start.

3. Unused memberships

Did you know 67 percent of people with gym memberships never use them?

Listen, if you fall into that bucket, we’re not here to judge! But, we do want you to think about how you can better use that money.

Even if you’re only paying 10 bucks a month at a place like Planet Fitness, you shouldn’t pay a fee if you’re not using the gym. Take some time to do an audit of your recurring monthly and annual charges (unused paid social media apps or Amazon Prime, for example). Cancel those you don’t use, and watch the savings add up.

4. Credit card annual fees

Who doesn’t love a huge sign-on bonus for a credit card? Spend $3,000 in three months and get enough miles for a round trip ticket to Italy. Yes, please!

But wait! Here’s something to think about before you go on a credit card shopping spree.

If the offer sounds too good…it probably is. In fact, these cards often come with an annual fee.

While the bank may waive the first year-fee, you should reflect on whether or not it makes sense to keep the card open in year two. If the card offers other perks, such as free checked bags, that you often take advantage of, you may recoup the fee plus some.

Make sure you do the math so you know if you’re benefiting or wasting those hard-earned dollars.

5. Taking the upsell: “Free shipping when you spend…”

Marketers know what they’re doing, especially with online shopping.

Just when you get to your online cart to check out, a window pops up saying, “You could get free shipping if you add $10 to your cart!” You didn’t plan to spend 10 more dollars. If shipping is five bucks, that’s a $5 upsell.

Just like that, you’ve thrown away money thinking you got a good deal.

Same goes for coupons. Sure, you have a free dessert coupon to Applebees, but it only applies when you buy an entrée. If you didn’t plan to go out to eat in the first place – you’re spending money you wouldn’t otherwise spend, just to get something “free.”

6. Food waste

Did your mother ever tell you not to grocery shop when you’re hungry? Well, you shouldn’t.

You also shouldn’t grocery shop without doing some meal planning first. Going into the store and throwing things into your cart can lead to a chronic case of food waste. No one likes chucking moldy fruits and veggies or sour dairy products because they shopped without intent and didn’t end up using the items.

7. Carrying a balance on your credit card

There are a lot of people who think it’s wise to carry a small balance on your credit card for the sake of maintaining or improving credit score. It’s a myth!

You never need to carry a balance month-to-month and pay interest to build your credit score. You do need to use your card and show a (small) balance on the statement, but you should pay it off.

The best strategy for both your credit score and your wallet is to use less than 30 percent of your available credit limit and then pay the bill off on time and in full.

8. Sticking with the current interest rate on your loan

When you first apply for, and get, a loan – whether it’s auto, student or personal – it’s quite possible you weren’t eligible for the lowest possible interest rate. This especially holds true for students who took out their first loans at age 18.

Sticking with your first interest rate and never looking to refinance could cost you big. Refinancing loans can drop your rates significantly, especially if you’re a strong candidate with a spotless credit history and steady employment.

Reducing that interest rate could mean hundreds to even thousands of dollars added back to your bottom line.   

9. Failing to negotiate

The final, and biggest, way you may be throwing away money is electing not to negotiate.

You can negotiate rent, loan rates, cable, internet and even cell phone plans. Cable and/or internet providers are a simple place to start working on your negotiating skills, especially because it’s easy to switch to a competitor and get a first-time customer offer. Use that fact for leverage!

Threatening to cancel service and move to a different provider usually gets the customer service representative to take you seriously. It may even help you slash your current rate back to first-time customer status for the year.

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About Erin Lowry

Erin is the founder of BrokeMillennial.com, where she uses sarcasm and humor to explain basic financial concepts to her fellow millennials. Erin lives and works in New York City. She's developed quite the knack for finding deals and free events. Connect with Erin on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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