What would it feel like to check your bank balance and find a pile of money you didn’t know you had? Stop wasting money on goods and services that don’t matter in the long run. By plugging all the money leaks in your life, it’s possible you could see the equivalent of working a second job in your wallet.
Buying from a TV or Internet ad
Face it, infomercial products are overpriced and hardly ever turn out to be as wonderful as depicted. And those risk-free trial periods? Don’t believe it. You’ll have to pay the return shipping costs plus a restocking fee if you ever get around to it.
Plug the money leak: Whenever tempted by an infomercial product, take a second to look up the item on eBay. You’ll be shocked to find dozens at a fraction of the price because that’s where they unload all the “as seen on TV” products that get returned. Ask yourself, why so many returns? By then the infomercial should be over and you can get on with your day.
How much you can save: How about those three easy payments of $49.95? Plus shipping and handling. And the shipping charges to return it during the “free” trial period.
Remember the beading supplies and tools you bought because you were sure you’d love the activity but are now sitting in your basement? Or how about the entire scrapbooking outfit that seemed so perfect when you attended a home party? Did the albums even make it out of the bag? It’s way too easy for those of us who share the impulsive gene to make snap decisions.
Plug the money leak: Instead of jumping in with both feet, sign up for a class to check out a new hobby. A few sessions will tell you how committed you are to the craft. And if you decide it’s a go, visit an auction website like eBay.com, Amazon.com auctions and Overstock.com auctions. You’ll be amazed by what you can find for sale by others who got a bit too anxious and bought the whole caboodle.
How much you can save: When you consider that enough yarn to knit a sweater can cost $75 or more, or that a beginning scrapbook kit costs about $115, looking before you leap could keep hundreds in your wallet.
Insisting on brand loyalty
Sure, we all have our brand favorites, but opting to pay double for things that don’t really matter adds up to one big waste of money.
Plug the money leak: Opt for the store or generic brand whenever it makes absolutely no difference. Flour, sugar, salt, spices, milk, eggs, meat―all of these items must adhere to the same federal standards regardless of brand. Pain relievers like Advil and Aleve all have generic alternatives that share identical ingredients for half the price. Read the labels to compare. And when a cheaper alternative does not make the grade, return it for an exchange or refund.
How much you can save: Generic or store brand clones are at least 25 percent cheaper than their name brand equivalents. But don’t assume anything. Always check and compare.
Failure to return
It doesn’t fit right or the color is wrong, but who has time to trek back to the store? You do. Failing to return your shopping mistakes is way at the top of the biggest money wasters.
Think of all those clothes you’ve worn once―or not at all―that could have been converted back into cash had you acted the moment you realized they’re just not right.
Plug the money leak: If you still have receipts, try to get a refund for all the NWTs (new with tags) you’re harboring. At least try for store credit. If that doesn’t work, there’s always re-gifting. In the future, always ask about the store’s refund policy. Save your receipts and do not fail to make the return.
How much you can save: Writing about this prompted me to check my closet. I pocketed $168 by returning a couple of shopping mistakes that had slipped my mind.
Piling on late fees
If you’re a later-payer, you know we’re not talking about chump change here. Late fees on credit card accounts, mortgages, car loans, automobile registrations and property taxes are so high they’ll take your breath away. Being sloppy when it comes to paying your bills can place a needless drain on your finances.
Plug the money leak: Anticipate your bills. Don’t wait until the last minute to pay them. Better yet, set up for auto bill pay directly with the service provider or use your bank’s online bill paying service. If despite your best efforts you do incur a late fee, call immediately. Most creditors will waive the fee if you have a good payment record.
How much you can save: Credit-card companies charge as much as $39 flat for paying late. The typical late fee on a mortgage is 15 percent of the amount due. Ouch!
Gym membership you never use
Want to make sure you never exercise? Sign up for a gym membership and agree to have $39 a month automatically withdrawn from your bank account for the privilege.
Plug the money leak: Call immediately to see what it will take to cancel the membership you have already. At the least, switch to a month-to-month plan. Or, opt to work out free in the great outdoors.
How much you can save: $468 or more a year.
Paying for storage
Don’t get me going on this one. Look, if you’ve got so much stuff that you need to pay to store it, there’s a serious likelihood that you’ve got too much stuff. Period.
Plug the money leak: Take the plunge and unload everything you don’t use or need. Turn what you can into cash at websites like Craigslist.org, eBay.com or Half.com. Give things that are still serviceable to charities like Good will.com or SalvationArmy.com. Check out the FreeCycle.org chapter in your area. Your hard work will be well rewarded with peace of mind and a fatter wallet, too.
How much you can save: A tiny storage unit can run $50 a month up to hundreds for larger ones.
Buying a new car
It’s a fact that a brand new car loses a huge portion of its value the moment you drive it out of the dealership parking lot.
Plug the money leak: Give the gently used-car market a fair chance. What you give up in that new-car smell you will more than gain in money not spent. Many dealerships now offer certified used cars. Check the private ads in your local newspaper or online at AutoTrader.com. Be patient and you’re sure to find a great deal.
How much you can save: Edmunds.com says 20 percent on a $20,000 vehicle ($4,000) evaporates from a car’s resale value the minute that vehicle becomes a used car.