You May Be Wasting Thousands Of Dollars On These 7 Things

We have been analyzing many of our expenses over the past several months. We experienced a little bit (okay, a lot) of lifestyle inflation as our income has increased. There were many things we were wasting money on that we realized we didn’t need. We were being lazy, not saving as much as we should,…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 27, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

There are many things out there that are a huge waste of money. Continue reading if you want to stop wasting money today.We have been analyzing many of our expenses over the past several months. We experienced a little bit (okay, a lot) of lifestyle inflation as our income has increased.

There were many things we were wasting money on that we realized we didn’t need. We were being lazy, not saving as much as we should, paying for items that were a waste of money, and so on.

I don’t think I’m alone either. There are probably things you’re wasting your money on too.

Instead of wasting money, you could be putting your hard earned dollars towards your next vacation, a retirement fund, a college fund, or something else.

With this post I hope to help you analyze your expenses and see where you may be possibly wasting your money. I understand that there are plenty of reasons for why a person may spend money on some of the things below, however, the point is to see if YOU should be. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong answer. I am a firm believer that money should be enjoyed and everyone enjoys spending their money on different things. However, that doesn’t mean you may not be wasting your money.

Below are seven things you may be spending too much money on.

 

1. Bottled water.

There’s a lot of waste that comes with purchasing bottled water. You are wasting money by buying water and the plastic that the water is in is a huge waste as well.

Yes, I understand there are times that come up where you may want water when you’re on the go. I also understand that some areas do not provide the cleanest water either. However, buying huge cases of small bottles of water is most likely not needed.

What you can do: You could buy refillable water containers and fill them up if the water you have access to is not the cleanest. In towns where the city water is no good, I have seen water fill up stations so that no plastic is wasted. You could also buy a water filter (this is the one we have) and clean your own water that way.

Related articles:

 

2. Expensive cell phones.

The average person spends a few hundred dollars on their cell phone bill each month and that adds up to a few thousand dollars each year. Is your cell phone really worth that much extra money or is it just a waste of money?

What you can do: There are many cheaper cell phone options out there such as Republic Wireless (plans start at just $5 a month), Ting, and so on. You could also not upgrade to the latest cell phone every time one comes out, downgrade your current plan, and more.

 

3. Food.

Okay, so food is a need, but what I’m talking about here is that you are probably spending too much money on it.

I’ve talked about our food spending a lot here on Making Sense of Cents. It’s an area where we’ve had a lot of problems. However, since traveling in the RV we have noticed a dramatic change in our food spending. We are eating in more than ever, eating even healthier, and more.

This is something we will probably have to actively work on for decades and probably even the rest of our lives.

I know there are many others who are experiencing the same food spending problems as well. It can be so easy to let your food spending get out of control, but I recommend you look at your food spending and see if you can cut down even further.

What you can do: To lower your food spending you could meal plan, shop sales, use coupons, cook from scratch, eat out less, prep your meals, and more.

I recommend you check out Personal Capital (a free service) if you are interested in gaining control of your financial situation. Personal Capital is very similar to Mint.com, but 100 times better as it allows you to gain control of your investment and retirement accounts, whereas Mint.com does not. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation, your cash flow, detailed graphs, and more. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more, plus it’s FREE.

 

4. Cable.

Several months ago, we made the decision to eliminate our cable bill. We weren’t spending an outrageous amount on cable, but it did add up to several hundred dollars a year that we did not need to be wasting money on.

Plus, we haven’t missed cable one bit. I wish we would have eliminated it sooner! We now have Netflix and a digital antenna, however, we are thinking about eliminating Netflix and just having the digital antenna for free TV.

Sadly, the average person who has cable spends a lot more money than what we used to. I know many who spend anywhere from $100 to $300 a month on their cable bill and that is a significant expense in a person’s budget!

Related: 16 Alternatives To Cable TV That WILL Save You Money

What you can do: There are two main things you could do – either eliminate your cable or satellite bill completely or downgrade your package. You most likely do not need all of those extra channels anyways.

Related article: How To Live On One (Or 50% Of Your) Income

 

5. Extra warranties.

Everyone has been hit with warranties when they purchase a particular item. Sometimes they are useful, but I have come to realize that for the most part they are not and they are just a waste of money.

Personally, I have bought numerous extra warranties that were not honored because of one ridiculous excuse after another.

What you can do: Before you purchase your next warranty, you should analyze the agreement and see if it is worthwhile. In many cases, a warranty is not worth it because of strict rules, expensive deductibles, and more. Also, check to see what kind of free warranty already comes with the product. In many cases, it is enough.

 

6. Bank accounts with fees.

Sadly, I know a few who still pay monthly fees for their bank accounts and this is what I believe to be a huge waste of money. This is something I’ll never understand though as there are plenty of free bank accounts out there. You should never have to pay for ATM fees either.

What you can do: Shop around and see what banks and/or credit unions can offer you and your situation free banking. Trust me, they are out there!

 

7. Debt.

You are wasting your money if you have high-interest rate debt. This is due to interest charges you are paying that will just keep building up until you are able to pay it off.

If you have never done so, I want you to add up how much in interest you are paying each day and each month towards all of your debt. I bet you will be shocked!

What you can do: Yes, there are strategic reasons to keep debt, but if you do not have a strategic reason, then paying it off is most likely your best bet as interest charges can be a waste of money.

Do you spend money on any of the above? Why or why not? What do you think people are wasting money on?

 

If you are looking for other ways to save and/or make money, below are some things I recommend:

  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I made over $150,000 last year by blogging and will make more than that in 2015. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $3.49 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
  • Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for just spending like how you normally would online. The service is free too! Plus, when you sign up through my link, you also receive a free $10 gift card bonus to Macys, Walmart, Target, or Kohls!
  • Pay bills on time. This way you can avoid late fees.
  • Shop around for insurance. This includes health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, home insurance and so on. Insurance pricing can vary significantly from one company to the next.
  • Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It’s only $5 a month (the first four weeks are free too) and you get meal plans sent straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. This allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore and it will save you money as well!
  • Fuel savings. Combine your car trips, drive more efficiently, get a fuel efficient car, etc.
  • Learn to have more frugal fun. We don’t spend anywhere near the same amount of money on entertainment as we used to. There are plenty of ways to have frugal fun.
  • Rent an extra room in your home. If you have extra space in your home, then you may want to rent it out. Read A Complete Guide To Renting A Room For Extra Money.
  • Answer surveys. One survey company I recommend is American Consumer Opinion. It’s free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. Pinecone Research is another company I use to complete surveys. They pay you for each survey you complete and they also occasionally send free products to review!
  • Learn how to avoid a Craigslist rental scam.
  • Use Swagbucks for your online searches. Swagbucks is something I don’t use as much, but I do occasionally earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded points called SB for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough points called SB, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
  • InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming grocery coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5 for free!

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. The only area we are somewhat restricted in when it comes to cheap options is mobile phones. Unfortunately we don’t get anywhere near the deals you guys can get in the US. Not enough competition, I guess. So, that means I’ll be paying $50 per month for the foreseeable future. It provides great value though so I’m not complaining, too much.

    Got all the others sorted though! No cable. No bottled water. Never pay ATM fees. And, never buy extra warranties.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Paul

      Bought an extended warranty once. For a turbo oven for my wife. Turbo oven worked fine. But… the printing on the top where the timer knob is came off. Which was a hassle. So took it to the shop and they uhmd and ahhhd, then called in a manager. He said, yeah, go ahead, make a claim. All they can do is either accept or decline. So went online, spent at least 45 minutes filling out the claims and this and that and the other. Clicked send and 90 minutes later got a declined response. Because it wasn’t physically not working. DUH! That was on a Saturday. Following Monday morning got an email telling me the claim had been accepted. Say what? OK, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. So printed off the email, took the turbo oven with me to the store and said ok, new one please. Except, they didn’t stock them anymore. So offered me a sort of mini instant pot instead. Said ok, took that and said “here’s the turbo oven” and was told they didn’t want it. I thought they’d send it back to main distribution centre. He said no, it’ll just go in the rubbish. Then he said, look, it still goes right? Just the printed markings have vanished. So you can still use it. Wink wink. Took the hint and used it for another 4 years before the motor died. Cost of the extended warranty? $5 and valid for 2 years. Took it in about 1 week before the 2 years was up. Original cost of oven $129. I think that was definitely a Win/Win for me.

  2. Ramona

    We have no debt and don’t pay for warranties. Our cable / internet / phone is bundled and actually pretty cheap, but we are guilty of the others though ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz

    Great list! All 7 can easily creep up in cost without us realizing until well after the fact. This past year, we have been able to keep all 7 “ow”(food is always hard).

    Another name for warranties is Stupid Tax. If you have the money, the best thing to do is put aside the $ deductibile/replacement/etc and mark it as, say, charity or shopping spree. But any expense related to that item comes out of that fund – but if you dont use it then it all goes to charity/shopping. (to ends of the spectrum lol)

  4. Library fees are the one that gets us. We check out sooo many books and inevitably can’t fine “that one.”

  5. I’m completely agree with your post, well I live well without cable, I would must to change mobile phone in the end of the month but I am not going to spend a fortune I found a good model under โ‚ฌ100 and I’ve a good plan that cost โ‚ฌ12 per month with phone calls, internet and sms(a good deal)…for water is a little bit complicated my borther and my father like sparkling water while I like tap water so I use to refill bottle but sometimes is necessary buy them…but is true sometimes it seems a real waste of money…for other areas I am still working on them:P

    1. Paul

      Get a carbon dioxide bottle. Instant sparkling water. Won’t take long before you’ve paid off that initial expense and are financially in the BLACK on that water budget.

  6. I still don’t get bottled water! It does have the convenience factor in some situations but it is so much cheaper (and better for the environment) to purchase a reusable water bottle. If you have poor water, buy a Brita and filter it. You don’t need to rely on bottled water every day!

  7. Sylvia @Professional Girl on the Go

    My fiance is the type of guy that will continue to pay for something and not ask a single question. So when I found out on Friday he was paying $130 for his cell phone, I was pissed like nobody’s business. He is paying for data that he can’t use because his iPhone is so old and it doesn’t allow him to use it . So I looked online to see what plan would be more appropriate and told him to call on Monday. Did he call? No he didn’t. I mean the new plan is $66.35, a savings of $64 a month. What irritated me even more is he has been paying for a service he hasn’t used for 4 years. That’s $3072 wasted! I hate wasting money so my main mission today is to get him to call and change his plan.

    1. Oh my! That’s good that you found out though so that it can stop!

    2. Paul

      His iPhone is so old it can’t use data? That is Baloney of the highest order. Might not be able to access some sites, and some apps. But can still use data. Know a woman who bought the very first iPhone model. Still keeps it as a backup. Like for when she’s forgotten to charge her current one. Pops out the SIM card and into the ancient model and works like a charm.

      Personally, wouldn’t use an iPhone. Counter intuitive. And I say Apple is rotten to the core. YMMV.

  8. This is a really great post, and since I was about to open a cellphone contract to get a new phone I appreciate it even more. I don’t see the point of putting myself in that kind of debt right now

    1. Thanks! Good idea to skip it ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I am happy to report that I don’t spend money on any of these things aside from servicing the debt on my mortgage. I avoid bottled water like the plague!

  10. Erica {Erica@EricaDHouse.com}

    I have a stainless steel thermos that doesn’t leave my side (especially now that I’m pregnant!) I keep a full Brita water pitcher in the fridge and refill both multiple times a day. We don’t have cable (I haven’t had it in years) and are aggressively paying off our debts to be debt free by next year. Food is our ‘vice’ as well as we both LOVE to eat and love to eat well!

    1. We sound like the same person Erica (except for the pregnant part)!

  11. You got me on one item — DEBT! Wah!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Otherwise, I’m good to go. I don’t have cable, don’t eat out, don’t buy bottled water, etc. I do however have $129k left in student loan debt (down from $206k). I am getting anxious to get rid of it, that’s for sure.

    1. Good job on eliminating a good chunk of it!

  12. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    We canceled our cable awhile ago and just have Netflix now. But my expensive cell phone is one thing I find hard to part with! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Melissa

    Definitely the biggest thing costing me thousands of dollars is high interest rate on debt. I’m making a huge effort to pay it down, but even at the current rate I’m at, I’ll pay an extra $63,000 just in interest payments. Isn’t that insane?! Unless I get some raises and can pay it off faster, that is. And that’s my goal!

    1. Wow that’s a lot. Good job on working towards it!

      1. Melissa

        Thanks, Michelle! It’s certainly an uphill battle!

  14. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I think we’re done a pretty good job about cutting out these money wasters. The only one we still purchase is cable TV. My boyfriend just can’t get by without his sports. While I have lived without cable before, I do enjoy having HGTV in endless supply. I think that cable is one of the luxuries that we really get a benefit from, so I don’t see it going anywhere soon.

    1. Yes, cable can many times be a way to have frugal entertainment.

  15. We are thinking of eliminating cable and instead using Netflix ($7 per month), Hulu ($8 per month) and using an HDTV antenna for local cable. Do you know others that are doing that?

    1. We have Netflix and a digital antenna. Love it!

      1. Do you use an indoor or outdoor antenna? Do you get the 4 major stations (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX)? Is it clear?

        1. I used the Micron antenna here – https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/AntennasDirect

          It’s great and I get tons of channels. Very clear and I’m watching TV on it right now.

  16. Bottled water is my downfall and I know we really need to get a water filter already. I feel like I’ve pretty much cut my expenses as much as I could so far but it’s little things like that I can work on that don’t require much time or effort to fix or try a different approach.

    1. Yes, definitely get a filter!

  17. Luckily NYC has great tap water and my work foots my cell phone bill. The things I could improve on are cable and food. I work a lot and mixing that in with the gym and blog, I don’t really feel like cooking too much. Cable will go once I don’t have roommates next year.

  18. According to your helpful list, we are doing really well at eliminating unnecessary expenses. Our biggest issue is still Number 7, our debt. We recently took out a consolidation loan with a lower interest rate than our credit cards. Hopefully, it will help us pay off our debt quicker. I can’t wait until we don’t have to waste money on interest anymore.

  19. Ditched cable over 5 years ago and have never looked back. Also made the switch to RW a few years ago. We actually came out on top after selling our used phones on eBay (even after paying the early termination fee with AT&T). I re-use a plastic water bottle every day (one of the contigo ones), and we have no debt other than our mortgage.

    I’m avoiding the one that we actually need to work on. Food. It’s a touchy subject since my wife is 8+ months pregnant though! She just wants to eat what she wants to eat. We’ll definitely make most of the baby’s food though after we finish breast feeding. That saved a lot last time!

    1. Haha the food thing makes sense ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Sarah

    Nice list. We are guilty of the cell phones. My husband insists on having a smart phone and for the longest time I refused. However, it has made working from home easier. Plus since I work part time as a substitute teacher, I get all of my sub jobs through the internet, which means I check them on the go. Very helpful.

  21. Hannah

    Bottled water used to be such a weakness for me, and these days my former obsession never fails to baffle me. I bought a water infusion pitcher (sounds goofy, but its nice), and I can have basil and lime infused water for about $.03 per glass. So much better for my pocketbook and the environment.

    On the bank fees front, MagnifyMoney.com is a pretty good resource if you’re trying to figure out banks with high interest rates, or low fees. They also have information on loans but I’ve never used that.

    1. Sounds nice! I may need to get a water infusion pitcher as well.

  22. Same here! It’s just too much wasted plastic.

  23. All of my bank accounts are free. The way the bank would make money is if my balance dropped below a certain threshold, but I don’t plan on that happening.

    I eat out several times a week, but I go to really reasonably priced places and get take-out a lot to save on tip. I also never throw leftovers away and usually get a second meal or snack out of what I order.

    I consider myself pretty frugal. I like to save way more than I like to spend. That said, if I’ve been hitting my goals and doing well, I’ll treat myself to something small once a quarter or so.

    1. I need to get better at treating myself. Sometimes I get so caught up in saving.

  24. Heather @ Simply Save

    Many years ago a teacher challenged us not to buy any bottled water during the semester, because of environmental reasons. It’s been about 8 years and I still don’t think I’ve bought any bottle water. It’s so overpriced and a waste of money!

  25. Totally nailed this list. I definitely get suckered into the McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces if I don’t watch it. Genius marketing on their part. Not so great for my budget.

  26. Kim

    I totally agreed until the spill in the Animas River and now I may ever drink tap water again, but we have filter on our fridge that we need to replace and I think we’ll be in business then.

    1. I just saw that on the news! I wouldn’t doubt if they installed the fresh water stations in your area, like they have in other areas.

  27. Jesse Gernigin

    I buy purified water by the gallon. But that’s only for making coffee. Otherwise I agree. Everything on here can be cut!

    1. Is there a reason you do that? Just wondering ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Jesse Gernigin

        Purified water has all the bad elements removed so when you brew your coffee (and i’m speaking from someone that makes coffee either Toddy style, aeropauses or Hario V60 style) the tasting notes aren’t contaminated.

        1. I don’t like coffee so I never knew. Good to know! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Stockbeard

    Crap! All of these are great pieces of advice, but our household is already doing great on these 7 points. I was hoping to find a hidden gem ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Great post nonetheless Michelle, you should totally do an “advanced” version for people who already have these 7 ones done!

    1. Stockbeard

      Awesome, thanks!

  29. In Guatemala, the tap water is undrinkable, so we have something called an Eco-filter, it’s basically a clay thing inside something else, and you pour the water in and it filters it. Pretty amazing and a real $$$ saver

  30. Great list Michelle. I recently refinanced some of my higher interest rate student loans and I should have done it sooner. It’s a painless way to pay less interest and get rid of debt faster. I highly recommend this for anyone with student loans with a 5% interest rate or higher.

  31. Absolutely agree, especially on bottled water.

  32. Yeah, it can be hard. Campground water isn’t the best tasting so we are looking into alternatives right now.

  33. Bottled water and debt are two on that list that I know that I need to eliminate. The debt will take some time, but if I work on the bottle water issue next month.

  34. Nope, I don’t spend on those anymore…and some I’ve never spent money on! I did finally change up my cell phone plan. I think most people don’t know there are viable options outside of the big carriers. As for earning a few extra bucks…how are the survey sites? I’ve heard from some that they are a bit shady sometimes and don’t pay or take too much effort.

  35. It is amazing how much money consumers waste on bottled water. Honestly, it might be the scam of the century. There are so many ways that you can get clean drinkable water without spending the money almost weekly on bottled water. Not to mention you would be helping the environment.

  36. Unfortunately, we pay through the nose for water delivery service. We used to fill it up ourselves — water here in Phoenix is disgusting, even after being filtered — but as Tim’s pain worsened it got harder to do. Especially when my fatigue would act up, we’d be up the creek. (Except no water.)

    We tried subsisting on pre-filled jugs from the grocery store, but that still required trips out of the house, which were iffy at best. It was stressful. So after years of nagging and pleading from Tim, I just got the water service. It wasn’t too bad, actually, until he quit drinking soda. Now we go through twice as much water, and it’s a painful bill. But not as painful as lugging multiple 40 lb jugs.

    Otherwise, we do pretty well on the other fronts. We cut cable ages ago and rely on Hulu and Netflix. (We’re home all day, every day. We need a lot of entertainment options.)

    Since we’re home all day, we don’t need cell phones, much as Tim tries to disagree. Our only debt is a mortgage, which we pay a little extra on each month.

    The only other issue is the cost of the convenience food we buy. Tim’s GERD diet has greatly decreased our spending in that area, but eventually he’ll probably be given the all-clear. So we’ll see what happens then.

  37. Amy @ DebtGal

    The one that we spend the most on is – unfortunately – the last. I cringe when I put together my monthly debt total posts, and see how little some of the balances have gone down, as compared to the amount we’re paying toward them. Thankfully, we haven’t accrued anymore and we’re paying it down, but those interest payments still hurt.

  38. This is so awesome Michelle,
    I couldn’t believe my eye. You know, most of us are usually very extravagant even without knowing it.

    I’m really guilty of some of the things you mentioned here especially that of buying expensive phones although, its usually very useful to me but i think i can still get a cheaper one that will offer me same value.

    This is really an eye opener Michelle.

    Thanks for sharing.

  39. Terri Turner

    I’m a cancer survivor, and everything I read says I should be drinking water with a PH of 9.5, roughly. Electrolytes as well.
    Any ideas are certainly appreciated.

    Also, how do you get inexpensive Internet for home use?

    Thank you!

    1. Sorry, that is not something I know much of. Have you asked your doctor?

      For internet, where do you live? Internet has always been cheap where I live – how much are you paying?

  40. I buy certain things nowadays b/c I know I can liquidate them later @ higher value.