You may think that most people check every dollar closely and save most of their hard-earned money. And that should go double for those living paycheck to paycheck, right? You may be surprised at how much money poor people actually throw away. Sadly, they often don’t realize they are doing it. Things like overdrafting your bank account can seriously cost you. You may not always be aware of these expenses until you realize you don’t have the money for this month’s bills.
So read on to find some of the most common ways people waste their money even when they have no money to waste. You may find you’re guilty of some of these indiscretions. You can look at these as places to improve your budgeting practices. In the end, you may notice that you are altogether happier and find that the most essential things in life are not necessarily the most expensive.
25. Brand Names Over Generics
Whether you’re buying toilet paper, canned goods, or even toys, be aware that brand names tend to cost much more but have little payoff. There are some instances in which the brand names are significantly better quality. But these are the exception, not the rule. Generic products tend to be just as good if not better than their brand-name counterparts at a significantly lower price.
If you wonder why brand names are so much more expensive if they’re not truly better quality, the answer usually comes down to marketing. The store’s cereal brand does not get the commercials and advertisements that you see for something like Fruit Loops. The extra dollars you may be putting down for name brands are ultimately paying for marketing expenses, not solely for better quality. If you want to be sure, check the labels and compare the ingredients.
Credit cards can be a lifesaver in emergencies including medical emergencies that cause you to miss work and lose income. Some interest rates are low and quite manageable, but many people have credit cards that carry interest rates in the double digits. That interest quickly compounds and can cause you to slide deeply into debt before you realize what happened.
Are you in a situation where you are paying high interest on a credit card balance? Call to see if you can negotiate a lower rate. Some programs allow you to freeze the credit card in return for making zero-interest payments until the card is paid off. You can look for a low-interest loan that will allow you to get rid of the credit-card balance in favor of a lower interest rate. But the same trap can still apply, as the interest from even a low-interest loan can quickly add up.
A considerable part of the American dream is homeownership. Ideally, you do not want to spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing to ensure that you have enough money for other expenses and can also save for emergencies. However, many lenders, who are hoping to get a bigger profit for themselves, are willing to offer mortgages that are 50 percent or more of your income.
Before signing the paperwork for a mortgage or rental agreement, make sure the home is within your budget. Many people are willing to sign onto risky mortgages because they anticipate their income growth over the next few years to be able to keep up with the payments. However, if you are signing a mortgage, make sure the amount is for what you can afford right now, not what you hope you can afford five years from now.
In the past, many people had subscriptions to magazines that sounded good but ultimately went unread. Today, those subscriptions have expanded further to streaming services, music services, extra newspapers, and many more account-draining automatic payments. If you have subscriptions to multiple services, take a close look at them and determine which ones you need. If you have cable or satellite in addition to Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime, you are wasting money.
You may need to cut the cable or satellite because the money you are spending on it is more or less being wasted. If there is one channel in particular that you cannot do without, subscribe to that one channel as a streaming service instead of paying for hundreds that you may not watch. Also, if you have multiple streaming services but do not use them regularly, cut all except the ones you use.
There’s a pretty powerful myth among those who struggle to make ends meet that the celebrities featured on grocery-store tabloids are normal. Having clothes that cost thousands of dollars, perfectly manicured nails, expensive hairstyles, and perfectly waxed skin is commonplace among people who can afford those kinds of things. Thus, to try to fit in, some people may think that you need to schedule expensive trips to the salon.
The result is hundreds of dollars taken away from paying the bills and trying to look like what you think society expects. In reality, many people who have the money to pay for those kinds of things, well, don’t. Furthermore, the entrepreneurs who have earned their wealth by working hard often do not have the time to sit at the salon and have their nails done.
Cooking at home is a great way to save money over eating out, but only if you eat everything you cook. Half of the food people buy ends up going in the trash, sometimes because the bananas go bad or the spinach wilted before it was used. And a common refrain is that people buy groceries to cook meals for their families, but the meal isn’t quite right and goes uneaten.
Maybe the kids wanted chicken nuggets instead, so they refused to eat the spaghetti you made. And perhaps the significant other expected that the dish would taste closer to how it was eaten growing up. All of that food going into the trash is money drained from your bank account. To prevent food waste, make sure that you only buy what you know you and your family will eat.
Popular wisdom asserts that people who cannot afford healthy food have to buy junk food instead. This claim has some truth, especially in locations where people do not have access to grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables. Some poor neighborhoods in urban areas only have corner stores that stock pre-packaged, processed food. However, as long as access to grocery stores is not an issue, buying healthy food should be a very high priority.
Eating adequate fruits and vegetables each day is an important way of staying healthy so your body can fight off illness and prevent chronic disease. Moreover, what could be more expensive than paying for medical bills associated with high blood pressure or even a heart attack or stroke? If cost is a legitimate concern, look into programs such as SNAP and support from your local food bank.
If you have a drafty house, you pay heating and cooling bills that are too high. Start doing so as quickly as possible if you can afford the repairs necessary to stop the air from leaking out of your house (and out of your bank account). But even if you cannot afford those repairs (or if you rent and have a landlord who does not want to fix them), there are some things you can do to help plug up your house.
Put heavy, dark curtains over your windows to help slow down cold and hot air leakage. Make sure the curtains are drawn at night and whenever you are not home. Place a rolled-up towel in front of all doors open to the outside so that air is not coming in underneath the doors. To help lower your bills further, check the temperature on your water heater and turn it down to the 120-140 degree range.
Impulse shopping is when you look at the shiny objects placed strategically throughout the store, usually in the front or at the counter, and think that you need to buy them for some odd reason. Store managers don’t want you to realize that there are plenty of other items throughout the store of similar or even better quality that cost less.
They are strategically placed in the back so impulse shoppers or those trying to get in and dash out will not even bother looking for them. Impulse shopping is almost always a waste of money. You can usually buy the same or even a better item for much less if you take the time to shop around. Those shiny objects may seem cheap and innocuous, but they add up over time and end up wasting money.
Many people believe that clipping coupons is a guaranteed way to save money on each trip to the grocery store, restaurant, or wherever else. They may watch TV shows about couponers who go to the store and come out with a bill of six dollars and four full grocery carts. But these extreme couponers are the exception, not the rule, and even they are often coming out with junk they do not need.
Responsible couponing means only clipping for things that you’re already planning to buy. Manufacturers routinely place coupons in advertisements not to help customers save money but rather to entice customers to try their products. If you cut coupons for things you do not ordinarily use, you’re probably spending the extra money to buy something you do not need. The result is that instead of saving money, you end up spending more than you intended.
Hollywood tabloids often contain information about how a celebrity achieved the perfect body by working with this A-list personal trainer. The thought often tempts those struggling to pay the bills that they, too, can achieve an ideal body by working with a personal trainer. But the fact is that the trainer is not the person who has to do the hard work exercising and following a healthy diet.
But do you know where you can also get those tips about exercises? YouTube videos. Many gyms offer classes for free as part of their membership programs, and these classes often target every aspect of your body. You can tone most of your body’s muscle groups all in the same class, but again, the person who has to put in the effort and do the hard work is you, not the teacher or a personal trainer.
If you have kids, you’re probably well aware that they want many things all the time. Train sets, dollhouses, laptops, and phones, they want it. Then when they become teenagers, it’s on to cars with all the bells and whistles that money can buy. If it can be purchased, there’s a good chance your kids will come to you begging for it.
Buying kids everything they want is irresponsible in many ways. If you do, they don’t learn the value of a dollar and personal responsibility. Even if you do give in, look at the flip side. That shiny toy becomes boring after just a few weeks. Now they are begging you for something else. Further, focusing on the material things you can buy does not teach the importance of genuine relationships built with time, compassion, and understanding. These are things money cannot buy for children.
Pay for a fortune teller or a psychic if you want to set fire to your money and dignity. The biggest trick being played on you is that you can pay someone to tell you the future instead of making the choices you need to make to create the best future possible. The only person who can make the hard decisions is you.
It won’t come from someone you just picked up the phone to call. Or a person in front of a crystal ball. Don’t spend your hard-earned money to pay someone to tell you what you should do. That means you are not using your money to pay down debts. You are not building a savings account. Wise decisions about the future may very well begin with using that money more productively. Lastly, acknowledging you are the person who shapes your destiny is vital.
Does anyone you know have a lucky rabbit’s foot, or maybe a religious symbol, such as a miniature Buddha statue or a cross that is supposed to make things go well? Charlatans love to make people believe that buying a good-luck charm and displaying it prominently will help turn their lives around, but nothing could be further from the truth.
However, the only thing that happens when you buy a good-luck charm is you spend money buying junk. This object will only take up space. Instead, focus on making good decisions that will help guide you to the better life you envision. Start with not wasting your money on snake oil. If you hold spiritual beliefs that you think will help drive to wealth, check them against reality. Do these beliefs lead to sound financial principles? Or do they lead you to buy junk that will supposedly cause God to bless you?
Whether you hop on the next low-carb bandwagon or sample the latest and greatest health food, you should be aware that the diet and the health-food industry generate billions of dollars every year. Much of that income is from showcasing the latest shiny objects and convincing the broader public that you need this product to be your best, healthiest, and fittest self.
The best solution for your bank account and your health is to focus on a steady diet of plants with some animal products (such as meat, dairy, and eggs) and an occasional treat. Plant-based diets that focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains have long been proven to be far healthier than a typical Western diet and much more sustainable than the latest fad. Plus plant-based diets are better for the environment.
Have you ever heard of the bandwagon? In the past, a bandwagon was a colorful wagon that musicians or circus performers would ride on, and the people on the bandwagon were seen as trendsetters. People would jump on the bandwagon to get close to those who were setting the trends. Today, “jumping on the bandwagon” is a metaphor for following the latest trends, not because you like them but because everyone else is also following them.
And if you have ever tried to follow trends before, you are undoubtedly aware that they can rapidly become expensive. Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing and how you can be like them, focus on developing your own self. Focus on the things you enjoy, which help you find happiness instead of impressing people whom you don’t even know.
Kids are notorious for wanting to be like their peers. If the other kids at school have a specific brand of blue jeans, then there is only a matter of time before your daughter will come to you wanting those same jeans. Never mind that they cost over $100 and can only be worn with a pair of equally expensive boots. And you want the best for your kids, so you just might give in.
But what happens within two weeks of throwing down all that money? The cherished item is forgotten, and the kids are on to begging for the next big thing. Take your kids off the carousel by teaching them the value of experiences and finding the things that make them happy. Teach them the value of the dollar by insisting that if they want those $100-plus jeans, they have to work for the money and buy them themselves.
Many people have games on their phones they like to play during downtime. You can get the ad-free version by paying a low fee of $4.99, or maybe you can get the extra coins that you need to keep playing by forking over $10. Next thing you know, you’ve now spent $200.
Not spending money on in-app purchases is a great place to start, but start rethinking your habits if you want to begin getting ahead. Instead of tapping away, slicing through flying fruit, or rearranging blocks, try reading instead. Reading helps to stimulate your mind while also calming it down, so you may quickly find that 10 minutes of reading helps alleviate anxiety. The result very well may be that you are not only more knowledgeable but more mentally healthy.
Many people enjoy a night out on the town, but that evening certainly does not come free. If you want to get a new outfit and maybe even a manicure and pedicure, your tab is already well over $100 before you leave the house. Bartenders bank on one thing; as you begin drinking, you will lose your inhibitions about money and start spending much more than you intended.
There are much cheaper ways to relax, and sometimes, cheaper is more enjoyable. Inviting friends over for drinks and a movie or a game may sound cheesy at first, but your friends may greatly appreciate a lovely evening at your place. Drinks that you buy at the store instead of a restaurant or bar are much cheaper, and a Netflix movie or game of Scrabble costs incomparably less than a trip to the theater.
Have you ever brushed your teeth to discover that you have a cavity? If your health insurance does not include dental or you have no insurance because you cannot afford it, you may be tempted to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. The worst thing you can do is ignore the minor problems because they are the things that ultimately turn into the significant issues that can jeopardize your health and run you into bankruptcy.
There are many options available if you need help with medical care if you are willing to ask and find out what those options are. There are public-assistance programs to help people cover outstanding medical bills, as well as payment plans that allow you to spread out the payments for medical care over an extended amount of time. Call the doctor and ask what options may be available to help pay for care.
You may think that there is nothing wrong with spending a dollar at the gas station to buy a lottery ticket. Maybe you will win $50 by having the lucky number or getting all cherries, and you anticipate spending that money to cover some outstanding bills or credit card debt. Nevertheless, what do you think you will spend that money on? Many people spend their lottery earnings on, well, more lottery tickets.
The same thing happens on trips to Vegas. People pull a penny slot and end up making hundreds of dollars. That money gets reinvested in the next slot machine. However, how many times do you think you will keep winning? Even people who win when they gamble ultimately lose because they spend all of their winnings on more gambling and do not win. Even if you win that $50 or even $200 or more, more than likely, that amount will cost you at least double what you earned.
Getting back to the subject of banks, one of their favorite ways to make money is overdraft fees. People who end up with overdraft fees are most often the people who cannot afford them. And with prices upwards of $30, and even $40 with some banks, just one overdraft per month can break someone’s budget. If you are regularly getting hit with overdraft fees, you need to stop right now.
Are you overdrafting when you pay your regular monthly bills? Maybe there are other expenses that you can cut back on to have the money you need to make those obligations. Examine monthly subscriptions that you may have but do not use and cancel them. If you have a habit of buying clothes, jewelry, make-up, or other non-necessary items before paying your bills, change your spending patterns and get those bills paid first.
You may be counting down the days until the next iPhone or iPad release, but if you regularly find that there is too much month at the end of the money, you may need to reconsider your priorities. People who lack material resources often try to live up to the standard that they think society expects of them not to look poor. And what could make you look like you belong more than having the latest and greatest Apple product?
Many wealthy people do not regularly upgrade their phones, computers, and tablets to get the latest release. Their priorities are elsewhere, and those priorities, not the products, help lead to material prosperity. Wealthy people tend to utilize technology to help further their lives, not to impress other people. Focus on what works best for you and your bank account.
You have probably been hearing since you were in elementary school. how harmful smoking is for your health. Smoking is the leading cause of developing lung cancer and also contributes significantly to many other cancers and heart disease. E-cigarettes might be even worse because of the high concentrations of chemicals in them, which can sometimes lead to immediate death.
But then there is also the immediate cost of smoking, literally, the cost of cigarettes. If you pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes and smoke a pack a day, you are burning right through $300 per month. Moreover, if you are smoking e-cigarettes, it could cost even more. Smoking is as if you are setting fire to your money. Try to quit smoking today. Look for the support you need and search for the internal motivation necessary to kick the habit.
When you need to buy clothes, the worst thing you can do for your wallet is pay full price. If you go to a clothing store, head straight for the sales or the clearance rack. You may be amazed at what you find. Furthermore, if you have never been thrifting before, now may be a great time to start checking out your local thrift stores. Many thrift stores only stock quality, lightly used items, and buying used clothes is much better for the environment than new ones.
If you (or your kids) balk at the idea of thrifting, one trick is to give yourself a budget of how much you might ordinarily spend on clothes and take that amount to the thrift store. You will be amazed at how far those dollars can stretch. You can also look for consignment stores, which only stock very high-quality merchandise but at a steeply discounted rate.