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Money Leaks That May Be Draining Your Wallet Dry

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.

male hand opening wallet of money

Buying from late-night TV ads

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.

Impulsive crafting

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 or Craigslist.org. 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 $68 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 and eBay.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 $30,000 vehicle ($6,000) evaporates from a car’s resale value the minute that vehicle becomes a used car.


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8 replies
  1. Anne Pitts says:

    Times are strange. I’d prefer to purchase a used car. There are no used cars to be found. A new car is close to the same price as a used car. For the first time in my life I am going to buy a new car. I live far from the city and want a hybrid to help the environment and my pocketbook.

  2. Linda Radosevich says:

    We realized we hadn’t been using our (starts with an ‘N’, ends with an ‘x’) account to watch TV so we cancelled it. Thrift store shopping is fun, and you are likely to find what you’re looking for at a very reduced price! Also consider going to an online version or limited print edition of your daily newspaper – it could save you. My husband worked for an international pet food company for 28 years, and we found out that generic pet food is usually made by these name-brand factories but with the store’s name on the packaging.

  3. Judy Gaspar says:

    I work at a thrift store where all items are donated and the sales go to our local food pantry. It is amazing to me how many brand new items, clothing and small appliances etc. are donated to us.

  4. Sharron Wilson says:

    I used to believe that gently used cars were the best way to go, until we purchased a gently used fairly new car from a national chain with a clean CarFax. The price was good and the car was great. Fast forward three years later and a tailgater slammed into the back of me and put my car in the shop. Immediately, the body shop found that it had been in a major accident before. They showed me where the quarter panel had been welded together, meaning 1/4 of the car had been damaged and replaced.
    How could that be possible? The CarFax had stated no accidents. The body shop informed me that CarFax only documents accidents run through insurance. So, we had been lied to and had purchased a less than great car at a way too high price and the safety of that car was less than one that had never been wrecked. So, all the money we THOUGHT we had saved had not really been so much. And, we had falsely assumed the car was safer than it actually was.

    Since we didn’t have a car payment, we paid our self monthly ‘car payments’ and our next purchase was for a new car we purchased for cash. We found that the options were wonderful when paying with cash. We could call the shots and take it for leave it and not play all those silly games. And, our insurance was lower when we didn’t have a lien holder. So, that was a nice little bonus too.

  5. Emily Booth says:

    I may have to rent a storage locker to temporarily store items while my condo is on the market. There’s a staging process where all items from the walls, shelves & other flat surfaces has to be packed up & stored.

    The mark up on used cars where I live is $5000. If the car came from a car rental agency, who knows how it was driven? But my next & last car is going to be purchased from Carmax. I don’t see the point of buying new when I’m 70!

    I donated over $700 in goods to Salvation Army last year.

    • Pamela Vasquez says:

      Have you considered renting one or more “pods” to store your items? In our area,
      we stored all our possessions for a couple of months while our house was being remodeled. The company delivered the pods and then brought them back when
      our remodel was finished. We thought the price was reasonable.

    • Bonnie says:

      We also had to rent a storage unit when we put our house on the market. We found a place that didn’t charge for the first month, and since our house sold quickly, and we had carefully packed items we wanted to take to our new house, it actually helped with the move and cost us very little.


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