21 Ways You’re Wasting Money Without Knowing It

We all are guilty of wasting money without even knowing it at some point in our lives. Small amounts of money here and there add up over the month sucking us dry. 

I’m going to show you some easy things to cut out, things that are taking money out of your bank account every month. Cutting just a few of these items out of your budget will ultimately help you to save more.

My Wasting Money Habit

There was at one point in my life, actually a good many years, that I had more money going out than coming in and used credit cards to keep things going. It was a vicious cycle dragging me down, further and further. 

There were so many fees adding up from credit cards, my bank account fees, to just every day petty little spending habits such as buying food because it was easier than making it the night before at home. (Which is much cheaper mind you.)

Wasting Money

Little Things Add Up

Us Americans work more and more hours, take fewer vacations, and retire later than anyone else in the world. We spend so much time working and trying to make money and have not much to show for all our efforts.

Sadly, there is Seventy-Eight percent (78%), or 4 out of 5 Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder.

We all have housing costs, rent or mortgages, even car payments. But it’s not all the large ticket items draining our accounts; simple over-limit fees, late payment fees, interest fees on credit cards.

Buying lunch every day, drinks after work, all these little things start to add up. More than 8 of 10 Americans have admitted to wasting money.

Here are 21 ways I was wasting money without realizing it

Credit Card Interest

Many of us have debt, and living debt-free is fantastic once you get there. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline and being responsible and not buying frivolous things.

The average credit card interest rate is now 19.24% for new accounts! 

The average number of credit cards per person is now 3.1 with an average American household credit card debt of $16,061, according to 2016 NerdWallet statistics.

Many households are paying nearly $1,300 in credit card interest fees a year. That’s a lot of extra wasted money.

Just as an example – If you had $10,000 in credit card debt with 19% interest rate and paid a minimum of $300 every month. 

It would take you 48 months or 4 years to pay it off with a total extra interest payment of $4328. Instead of paying $10,000, you are now paying $14,328. 

Late Fees, Over Limit Fees, Overdraft Fees

This one is more of a 3 in 1, but all these fees can make a dent in your budget. All these fees, no matter how small, add up over time. Imagine paying a bill late every month, let’s say that late fee is $20. 

If you paid that bill late every month over the course of the year that adds up to $200, I can think of a lot of other things I could spend my money on with and extra $200.

Most banks will charge you another fee so that you can use their overdraft service. All this will add up if you continuously go over your limit.

Fees are one of the number one items I’ve eliminated every month, that caused me always to waste money.

Buying Too Much In Bulk

I’ll admit, recently I was cleaning and organizing my cabinets, and I found a large amount of expired food. I had to throw all this away, and it was embarrassing to see all the food I wasted.

Those big warehouses where you can buy large amounts in bulk, I know I am saving money with the items I’m using (juice boxes, cereal and fruit snacks) but the food I’m not using before it expires, I’m wasting money.

Now with the food I know we need but won’t get to if it was in bulk, I’ll pick up in the grocery store in smaller quantities.

I also started meal planning for the week or weeks ahead, so I know what I should buy and when it will get used. I have a list of food that we need and what we currently have, so I’m aware of how long we have till the food goes bad.

Being aware of what you have instead of it all just being buried in the back of the pantry, helps you plan and save money.

Buying Brand Name Items

I have a good friend who will only buy brand name items. I’ve talked to her about it, and she has to have the brand name, thinking it must be better than the off-brand, which could be a significant discount.

Brand names are not always superior. Off-brand products are often made in the same factories just without the store logo and branding. 

Most of the grocery items are nearly the same, but some can be a bit off. I’ll admit, there are a few items that I prefer brand products, just because the store brand can’t compare. 

But the majority of my purchased items have saved me hundreds of dollars already. I am no longer wasting money!

Extended Warranties

When I go shopping, I am always offered an extended warranty. From TVs to appliances, cell phones, and vehicles, the clerk will often ask if I want an extended warranty. 

Reality extended warranties are a bad deal, and you’re not saving money, you are wasting money.

The FTC warns that many extended warranties aren’t worth the money you are paying. These warranties come with lots of fine print which excludes many of the problems that may happen to your product. 

I recommend taking a small amount of money each month and saving it for the cost of possible repairs or replacement.


Many companies have done away with contracts, but some still have them. Don’t ever sign a cellphone contract because it’s their way of locking you in to pay more than you should.

Many companies come out with deals throughout the year. T-Mobile has some great deals for families.

Pay close attention to your bill and data. Many people, unfortunately, pay ridiculous amounts of fees for services they never use.

Cable Bills

I cut the cord years ago. I used to pay over $200 a month on cable, with hundreds of channels I never even watched. Such a waste of money.

There are so many streaming services available now, and you only have to pay for what you use. I’ve cut my bills down to nowhere near what they used to be with cable.

Honestly, I rarely watch TV any longer, and it is such a waste of my time. I do have a subscription to watch movies with my family, mainly on Friday nights with popcorn. 

There are so many better options out there than TV, like spending time with my seven-year-old, going for walks, kayaking and just spending good quality time together.

Not Cancelling Your Free Trials

That looks like a cool service! Let me try it out for free and see if I like it. Sound familiar? I know I have done this countless times when I am interested in something and want to try it out for free.

Free trials sound great, but after the trial is over your credit card is charged for the service, if you don’t forget to cancel. If you are someone who doesn’t check your credit card all the time, those items will add up.

I like to try new streaming services out for free to see if I like them. What I do now is set a reminder on my phone the day before I’m to be charged, and I’ll make sure I cancel the service if I know I won’t be continuing to use it.

Car Rental Insurance

Car rental insurance isn’t always necessary because your car insurance already covers you. If you have an accident, your auto insurance should pay for the liability.

If you are injured during a collision, your health insurance should pay for your health care costs. Even your credit card, which you used to pay for the car rental, may offer their car rental insurance.

When you are planning to rent a car, check with your auto insurance and credit card to find out what they cover, before you pick it up. If the coverage is not enough, you can take out a standalone policy before you pick up your rental vehicle.

In most cases, the standalone policy will be much cheaper. Some car rental companies can charge from $10 to $30 a day.

Buying Bottled Water

Sure, buying bottled water is easy and convenient, but it’s also expensive compared to tap water, and you’re just wasting money. Tap water is nearly free, as per buying bottled water for each individual in your family, which costs almost 2,000 times more than tap water. 

On average, the typical American spends $100 per person annually. If you have a family of four, that’s $400 a year!

I currently use a water filter, store it in the fridge, and fill my bottle or container for the day. You can even buy a water filter for your sink to fill up your bottles. 

Of course, you’ll need to replace the filter now and then, but a single filter can replace hundreds of plastic water bottles.

With a reusable container, you’ll even be helping the environment by not using and recycling so many plastic bottles.

Going Out To Eat

Going to dinner now and then definitely is a nice treat. Going out to eat all the time, however, costs and wastes a lot of money. 

There are so many people that do not even know how to cook. They go out to eat so often they have forgotten this essential skill.

The average American household now spends more than $3,000 dining out annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and some other spending much, much more.

So many people buy lunch everyday thinking nothing of how much it costs, instead of making lunch the night before. 

Making and packing a healthy lunch at home will cost only a fraction of buying it each day.

I currently take about 5 minutes on Sunday nights to make sandwiches for the week. Doing this saves a lot of time and money.

Name-Brand Medications

There is no reason to buy name brand medications if a generic is available. The cost difference is significantly less between the two.

When you see your doctor, ask to have your prescription written to specify that it is okay to substitute generic medications for a name brand.

The FDA has stringent rules in place for generic drugs such as the dosage, safety, quality, and strength as the name brand drug.

When buying generic medications, the cost difference is enormous, 30% to 80% less from the name brand, and it’s the same type of drug or ingredients.

Private Mortgage Insurance

In the past, I have had private mortgage insurance or PMI for short. You lender will tack on PMI if you have a down payment of less than 20% for the home you are purchasing.

The average down payment is typically around 11% costing many people more and wasting money.

Private mortgage insurance can cost you between .5% to 1% of your loan each year. If you took out a loan of $200,000 that would cost you about $2,000 annually, which is a little more than $150 extra a month.

If you have PMI on your current loan, usually your lender will drop the private mortgage insurance once your home is worth 80% of your loan balance. 

Paying extra every month to pay it down sooner is a great option to get closer to the 80% level. 

In some instances, your home may have gone up in value, which will help get you closer to 80% loan to value. You could get your home reappraised and possibly get your PMI dropped.

Buying Coffee

I love going to my local cafe or coffee shop and buying a coffee now and then to get my caffeine fix. The aroma and taste always make me feel good.

But buying coffee every day, especially that fancy coffee shop, where you are spending $3.00 and up for a cup of coffee can be expensive. 

Throughout the month, that adds up to $90! Just for coffee…. a real waste of money. I’ve finally made the switch to making my coffee at home. 

Most of the time, my cup of coffee is $0.40 or less depending on if I’m using one of those coffee pods or putting the grinds into a single-serve holder. 

I bought a small insulated coffee tumbler, and it lasts me through getting to work and then some.

Paying For Memberships, You Don’t Use

If you are paying for cable TV, gym memberships and other subscriptions you are wasting your money.

Most of the time, you are paying all this money for something you don’t even use. Are you watching those other 300 channels?

What about the Gym?

Do you go to the gym and workout as you should? If you do, that’s awesome! But so many people sign up and then rarely even attend the gym.

Around 67% of people with a gym membership never set foot in the gym.

What about magazine subscriptions?

Do you read and look at them? Or do they go in the pile with the rest of them…

I went through my bank account and credit cards to see what memberships are coming out every month that I rarely use. I found quite a few that I canceled and put that extra money to something more meaningful.

If you’re not 100% committed to your subscription, cancel it. It’s just a waste of money.

Impulse Buying

Impulse buying is something I’ve done, just like so many other people I know. Walking down the aisle or even checking out at the grocery store, that item is just calling your name.

Stores put these items in spots they know customers will pick them up and buy them. You are essentially wasting your money. You don’t need it, and within a short time, you’ll forget all about it.

CreditCards.com did a survey, and 5 out of 6 Americans admit to buying items on impulse. Some people surveyed spent more than $1,000 on an impulse buy, not just small things that were a couple of dollars.

When you go shopping, make a list and stick to it. Deviating from your list will cause you to buy on impulse and waste money.

Lottery Tickets

It can be fun buying lottery tickets and hoping to win big money, the odds are stacked against you. 

The odds of winning PowerBall are 1 in 292.2 million.

The odds of winning Mega Millions is 1 in 304 million.

Americans spent $73.5 billion on buying a traditional lottery ticket, and if you add in electronic lottery tickets, that figure goes up to $80 billion.

I used to play with my co-workers at work, and it was at times, exciting, but I have since stopped wasting my money and have started investing in stocks instead.

Premium Gas

Most cars today run excellent and are made to run on regular unleaded gasoline. Gas prices are high as it is, but buying premium gas can cost you around $0.20 to $0.50 more per gallon. 

If you use premium gas and would like to switch to regular but are unsure if your car will accept it, check your owners manual or do some research online.

Edmund’s is one resource you can use to find out if your car must run on Premium or not. They’ve created two lists for Premium recommended, and Premium required vehicles from 2012 to 2019.

Driving Too Fast

Driving fast on the highway uses your gas much quicker. For every five miles over 50 MPH, you’re paying about $0.18 more per gallon.

The faster you go on the highway, your gas mileage can drop by as much as 30%. Stop and go traffic is even worse; your MPG will drop by a whopping 40%!

Please stay safe and drive the speed limit, you still get to where you are going, and it is only a few seconds to a minute difference or so driving slower. It’s safer you are not wasting money.

401(k) Matches

If you are working and your employer matches what you put in, it’s so worth doing this for your retirement. In 2015 a study found that 1 in 4 employees didn’t invest enough in their 401 (k) to earn the full employer match. 

These employees were missing out on $1,336 of basically free money from their employer. This money is for your future and your retirement when you are not working any longer.

If you’re unsure whether you are not getting your employers 401 (k) match, I recommend talking to human resources right away.

Most people feel they can’t afford the little extra out of their paychecks. I say you can’t afford to.

Currently, the employer match that is going unclaimed, if that money were invested over 30 years, and earned 8% annually, it would amount to $151,000. That’s money you’ll need when you retire

Buying A New Car

Brand new cars lose 11% of their value as soon as you drive it off the car lot. Buying a used car is not only much cheaper, but you’re not wasting money by throwing that 11% away immediately.

Not only are you getting your used car cheaper, but your loan also isn’t so high, and you’ll be paying less interest on the total amount.

To Sum Things Up

It takes discipline not to waste money and make smart money decisions. I used to throw lots of money away with fees and subscriptions. 

Being aware of what you are spending and what is coming out of your bank account every month will allow you to achieve your financial goals.

Take some time and identify where you might be wasting money. That extra money could be used for savings or paying off debt sooner and eventually becoming financially free.

Let me know what things you’ve been wasting money on. I look forward to hearing from you!

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