Wasteful Spending: 26 Everyday Costs That Are Wasting Hard-Earned Cash

Wasteful Spending: 26 Everyday Costs That Are Wasting Hard-Earned Cash


Survey after survey finds that many people live paycheck to paycheck without an emergency fund. They complain that they don’t earn enough. However, search the internet for long enough and you’ll find many who admit throwing away hard-earned cash on unnecessary purchases.

If you’re looking at ways to save money, you need to think about everything you spend it on. Is it all necessary, or are there items that you can do without that will help you save money and get your finances back on track? If you make any of the following purchases, you’re probably wasting more money than you think.

1. The Latte Factor

Latte at Monomyth Coffee Co in Lubbock, TX.
Image Credit: Nicole Tommasulo.

Automatic Millionaire author David Bach noticed that people wasted thousands of dollars over a year on daily trips to the coffee shop without paying attention. So he coined the Latte Factor phenomenon to draw attention to the actual cost of that cheap latte or cup of coffee over time.

For example, a medium latte or cup of coffee costs an average of $4.00 at your neighborhood coffee shop. If you have one cup five times a week for a year, you’ll spend $1,040. Add in a $5 breakfast sandwich or cookie, and you’ll more than double your total costs.

Cut the trips to once or twice a month, and you’ll save a significant chunk of change.

2. Cable Television

ONLY USE FOR Best Movies on HBO Max
Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A & Shutterstock

It’s easy to waste money on cable television when you don’t think about it. Especially if you’re watching it every day, however, it’s 2022, and cable is not required to stay connected to the world. Most people watch the same channels repeatedly, negating the benefit of having 200 plus channels.

You can save by cutting extras like premium subscription channels or canceling cable altogether. Some networks offer low-cost or free streaming services if you enjoy watching specific channels. Check out cable alternatives like Sling TV, Hulu, and YouTube TV. Carving at least $100 off your monthly cable bill could save you $1,200 a year.

3. Streaming Services

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Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many more are rising as consumers move away from cable. However, most subscribers have an average of 1.65 entertainment subscriptions and use the service more than once a month. As a result, the average consumer can spend approximately $347 per year on subscriptions they aren’t using.

So, while streaming services are a great alternative to save costs from cable, be sure to see how many subscriptions you have and that you’re utilizing them. You might be wasting money without realizing it.

4. Extra Storage

Row of orange storage lockers
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Renting a storage unit may be a good idea in the short run to store items before a big move or home renovations. However, people who rent storage units tend to keep them for an average of 1-2 years without a need.

According to Consumer Affairs, the average price on a 5-foot-by-5-foot unit is $90 per month, with larger units costing more. So, in the long run, it could end up costing you more than $1,000 annually to not move your stuff as soon as possible.

5. Lottery Tickets

close up view of silver coin in hand of gambler scratching lottery ticket
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 1.222 million. Yet, millions of people flock to stores to buy lottery tickets in the hopes of winning despite having a greater chance of being struck by lightning.

A 2019 Bankrate survey found that the average person who buys lottery tickets spends nearly $1,000 a year on tickets alone. So it’s pretty costly with only a slight possibility of a return.

6. Unused Online Purchases

a woman shopping on her laptop
Image Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.

There’s nothing wrong with online shopping. However, you may find yourself wasting more money than you realized once you add in shipping costs for things you don’t want anymore.

Part of the whole point of the online shopping experience is to enjoy the convenience of shopping while on the couch. Having to go through the hassle of going to the Post Office or UPS to return an item is unappealing and, unsurprisingly, enough reason for many to hold onto unwanted online purchases.

7. Extended Warranties

Infiniti Q45
Image Credit: IFCAR/WikiCommons.

Nowadays, you can find an extended warranty for just about anything–cars, computers, televisions, furniture, and so much more. However, consumer advocates don’t generally recommend buying extended warranties without researching.

Most manufacturers offer a limited warranty to cover significant malfunctions for the initial period of ownership. Also, you may be able to get extended protection by law or from your credit card company.

8. ATM Fees

ATM machines from a foreign country
Image Credit: Adrian Grycuk, CC BY-SA 3.0 PL, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cash isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As much as we love the convenience and ease of using our debit cards, some places only take cash. And convenience trumps all.

It’s easy to get in the habit of using the ATM at the gas station or your favorite restaurant, but it’s costly. ATM surcharges range from $2-$5, depending on the location. Using a convenient ATM once a week for a year could add up to $112-$280 wasted. Plan your ATM withdrawals to save money.

9. Avoidable Fees

Money floying out of a man's wallet
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

You’re paying enough for your bills without tacking on avoidable fees. On average, Americans spend almost $250 a year on overdraft fees and late payments.

Credit card companies charge upwards of $35 for a late fee along with a “higher penalty APR.” Utility companies charge a percentage of the bill. Lastly, banks typically charge up to $35 per overdraft, and lenders charge up to 5% of your mortgage payment for late fees. It adds up. So keep track of when your bills are due.

10. Travel Insurance

Family walking up to an airplane with their luggage
Image Credit: Yaroslav Astakhov/Shutterstock.

Nearly 30% of people buy travel insurance for trips. However, airlines and hotels are more flexible than ever due to travel restrictions and COVID uncertainty. Therefore, it’s essential to do your homework. Ask about refundable versus non-refundable costs for canceled trips before paying for insurance.

11. Credit Card Interest

Capital One black credit card
Image Credit: David Cardinez / Shutterstock.com.

It’s easy to overspend with a credit card. A classic study at MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that participants were willing to pay more just for using a credit card versus cash.

High-interest credit cards that you cannot afford to pay off every month can take over your budget in interest payments. According to debt.com, a $1,000 balance on a credit card can end up costing you $550 in interest if you only make the minimum payments over 62 months. That makes a $1,000 purchase cost $1,500. It’s not a smart money move.

12. Bottled Water

Bottled water
Image Credit: Unknown author, CC0/Wiki Commons.

The average person, who buys bottled water, consumes 167 bottles of water each year. With an average $1.50 cost, they spend approximately $250 a year on bottled water. Therefore, the price of a high-quality water purifier can save you a few hundred dollars a year.

13. Entertainment

The Beverly Theater, Las Vegas
Image Credit: The Beverly Theater.

Dining out, going to the movies, miniature golf, and many more activities bring fun and enjoyment to our lives. However, they have a price. While there’s nothing wrong with going out, it needs to be within the budget.

When it’s not, look for some low-cost or free alternatives. For example, visit a local hiking trail, museum, or library. Also, consider cooking a meal with the family, playing games, or walking around the city just for the fun of it.

14. Movie Theater Food

popcorn tv
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

It’s pretty easy for a large fountain drink and a bucket of popcorn to cost more than $15 at the movies. Of course, you don’t have to give up your trip to the movie theatre once a month, but skipping the drink or the popcorn can save you some money. The regular movie-goer can save up to $100-$150 a year by passing on the concession stand.

15. Wasted Groceries

Woman holding groceries and looking shocked at a long receipt
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The average family wastes nearly 00 in unused groceries alone every year. Eggs, bread, lunch meats, cheese, milk, potatoes, fruit, and many more are common culprits. So it’s probably not realistic to say that we won’t have some wasted food.

Of course, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Instead, save money by using a grocery list, meal planning, and eating leftovers.

16. Sales

big sales
Image Credit: Kenishirotie / Shutterstock.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Buying something just because it’s on sale is wasteful. Now planned purchases don’t necessarily waste money. It’s the unplanned purchase of an item you didn’t want until the sale popped up that’s costly. So stick to your budget and sinking funds for big purchases.

17. Expensive Investments

investor calculating the returns for best dividend stocks
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More people are getting into the market but aren’t necessarily doing the work to understand their investments. As a result, it’s easy to waste money on high-expense mutual funds.

Take the time to learn how to invest. You’ll make informed decisions about your portfolio and may find a lower-fee mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) more beneficial.

18. Upgrading Your Smartphone Annually

Close up angry dissatisfied woman looking at phone screen, unhappy confused young female having problem with broken smartphone or internet fraud, slow internet connection, reading bad news in message
Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.

The latest iPhone sells for $1,000. It’s a big purchase. Not meant to be taken lightly. Paying an extra $30 or $40 a month to finance a phone through your service provider to have a new phone every year is wasteful and unnecessary. The costs add to nearly $500 a year, and the upgrades are minimal.

19. Excess Electricity

Electricity Bills
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It might not seem like much, but we use electricity for almost everything. However, we waste just as much as we use when we leave lights on after leaving a room, use incandescent lamps instead of LEDs, keep the water heater temperature beyond the recommended maximum of 120 degrees, and blast the A/C in the summer. Minor uses of electricity over time add up. You can save up to $400 annually by making small changes that you won’t notice.

20. Extra Personal Care Products

Makeup pallete
Image Credit: svetlichniy_igor/Shutterstock.

Every personal care product comes with the promise of making something better. Better skin. Better hair. Better nails. The list goes on. A 2017 survey by Skin Store found that the average woman uses 16 products on her face alone every day. So take the time to look through your products to see if you need them, and don’t buy new products until you finish the old ones.

21. Printed Newspapers and Magazines

A magazine rack with home magazines to sell
Image Credit: The Image Party/Shutterstock.

Consumer spending on newspapers and magazines is rising. However, you may be surprised to learn that many publishers offer a limited digital catalog online or through their apps. In addition, your local library card might get you access to digital newspaper subscriptions for free. So check out your options before spending money on something you could get for nothing.

22. Too Many Cleaning Products

Cleaning products
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

We’re all cleaning a little more since the start of the pandemic, but there are a few products that could leave you wasting money. Air Fresheners, laundry detergent pods, automatic toilet cleaners, paper towels, natural cleaners, and grout cleaners, to name a few.

Avoid buying products just because they’re for a specific purpose. An all-purpose cleaner can cover many surfaces. Plus, you’ll save money when you stop buying air fresheners and laundry boosters. Those temporary gains in smell aren’t worth the costs.

23. Unused Gym Memberships

Fitness man makes selfie in gym with weight
Image Credit: Shift Drive/Shutterstock.

Americans spend nearly $400 million on unused gym memberships every year. If that includes you, it’s time to cancel your membership. Gym memberships range from $20 to $100 a month, costing members $240 to $1200 a year.

When not used, it’s considered wasteful and unnecessary. Instead, consider setting a goal to work out at home or go for a walk in your neighborhood five days a week. Once you’re exercising regularly, the cost of the gym membership may be worth it. But, unfortunately, today, it’s probably not.

24. Landline Phone

Woman dialing on a landline phone
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Why do you have a landline phone? If you can’t think of a reason, you may not need it. Telecommunication providers often bundle internet, cable, and phone services. So while it initially seems like you’re saving money because you’ve bundled everything, you’re spending more for a service you didn’t need in the first place. Sure it’s only $15 more a month. But that’s $180 you could be saving in a year. So that home phone may not be necessary when you think about the actual cost.

25. Food Delivery Services

food delivery driver giving bags to customer
Image Credit: VGstockstudio and Shutterstock.

According to a recent LendingTree survey, more than 75% of Americans have used on-demand food delivery services at least once in the past year. Uber Eats, Door Dash, and other food delivery services offer consumers speed and convenience. However, they come with a cost.

The $5-$10 surcharges, delivery fees, and tips add up. On average, consumers spend nearly $2,000 throughout the year ($157 monthly). So, meal planning and picking up your food could save money with little effort.

26. Emergencies

Woman adding coins to a piggy bank
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Less than half of Americans have an emergency fund with three months’ worth of savings. The lack of protection makes emergencies more expensive as you pay for them with high-interest credit cards. While saving three months’ worth of living expenses can take some time, you can start with a smaller goal. Having an extra $1,000 to $2,000 in the bank can help you out if you need new tires, have a medical expense come up, or some other unforeseeable event occurs.

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