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47 simple ways to waste money

Words of wisdom: Eat before you visit a grocery store . . . or the state fair.

By Karen Datko Oct 26, 2009 12:39AM

This post comes from Paul Michael at partner blog Wise Bread.


How are you doing with your money? Do you have everything under control, or are you spending a little more than you should?


Well, if you'd like to blow even more of your money, this list will help you empty your bank account in half the time you usually do. Enjoy. 

  1. Gamble in Vegas. Sure, some people get lucky. But most of us blow a wad and leave feeling like reckless morons.
  2. Spend your spare time surfing the bargain sites. It doesn't matter if you don't actually need anything. You'll find something to buy.
  3. Shop hungry. It's amazing how much extra food you'll throw in your cart.
  4. Draw more money out of the ATM than you need. If you get $20, you'll spend $20. If you get $40, it will disappear just as quickly.
  5. Become an impulse buyer. See something in a shop window, grab it immediately and worry about the cost later.
  6. Pay bills late. That will eat up some serious cash in the form of late fees and interest rate hikes, and sometimes will damage your credit rating.
  7. Lend money to people who won't pay you back, even when they say it will be different this time.
  8. Don't shop around. The first place you look is almost certainly not the best price available.
  9. Don't buy online. Those High Street retailers have lots of extra overhead, and they pass it on to you by marking up products.
  10. Go to a state fair or carnival and buy lunch from a concession stand for your family: $8 for a hot dog, $4 for a can of Coke. Multiply by number of family members.
  11. Feed $1 bills into those crane machines that tempt you with stuffed animals. You may get lucky, but only after you've paid twice what the crappy toy is worth.
  12. Buy complete albums instead of cherry-picking the songs you want from a music download site. (Unless, of course, you always buy albums that are 100% brilliant from beginning to end.)
  13. Never double-check your measurements on a DIY project. You'll make at least one big mistake and have to buy another round of materials.
  14. Forget to take back movie rentals on time. Red Box may be only a buck a night, but rent two and leave them behind the sofa, and that can add up quickly.
  15. That goes for library books, or any other type of rental that fines tardiness.
  16. Buy food, throw it in the back of the fridge or in the vegetable crisper and forget about it. Then, a few weeks later, you can throw it away. Cash in the trash.
  17. Become completely disorganized and forgetful. You have no idea how quickly you'll spend money if you are buying things that you already have, or can't find the library books that were due three months ago.
  18. Ignore special offers and coupons. Why pay $3 for an item when you can just as easily pay $5?
  19. Take your car in for an oil change and proceed to get every single recommended repair. I just took my car in for an oil change; they wanted to change all four brake pads. Little did they know my car has a warning light that tells me when my brake pads need replacing. I also have a mechanic for a father-in-law.
  20. And speaking of oil changes, get yours done every 3,000 miles. True, modern engines and synthetic oils mean most vehicles can do 5,000 to 7,000 miles between changes, but so what.
  21. Use credit cards without paying off the balance in full each month. You will rack up some delicious interest.
  22. Fly first class. You'll get to your destination at the same time as the folks a few rows behind you, but you'll pay substantially more for some legroom and a nicer meal.
  23. Never read a contract. Ever. You will later be taken by surprise with all sorts of fees and penalties. And legally, you signed on the dotted line so you're obligated to pay them all -- or in some cases, like a secured loan, lose your house.
  24. Buy an extended warranty, especially on a car. Most of the time, you'll be paying a huge percentage of the cost of the item and when it comes time to make a claim you'll be battling with legal eagles who will do anything to make sure you don't get any money.
  25. Don't take advantage of your company's 401(k) match, because another great way to waste money is to decline free money.
  26. Buy a monthly gym membership, work out once, then sit at home for the next year and watch TV.
  27. Buy in bulk stuff you'll never be able to use or consume before the sell-by-date.
  28. Smoke. If you go through one pack per day, you'll literally burn more than $2,000 per year.
  29. Walk past the perfectly functional coffee machine at home, drive to work and pick up a grande half-caf, double-mocha-vanilla-chai-peppermint cream coffee from Starbucks or any other "premium" coffee chain. That's an easy way to blow up to $5 on something that should cost you only pennies.
  30. Buy books, DVDs and CDs at bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Last time I checked, the regular price for a new DVD averaged $25 to $30 in one of those stores. Even when they're on sale, they're more expensive than the same copy at Target.
  31. Throw away your leftovers. Whether they're from a home-cooked meal or from dining out, just put them in the fridge covered in cling wrap and then pop them in the garbage a week later.
  32. Buy bottled water. It's dollars for a bottle, pennies from the faucet. And let's not forget the environmental costs of bottled water either.
  33. Use 411 instead of (800) GOOG-411. The first costs you a hefty fee each time you dial, the second is free. Both offer the same service.
  34. Buy the high-octane gas. Modern computer-controlled cars will alter ignition and timing profiles to allow the use of low-grade gas, but why bother taking advantage of that?
  35. Purchase bags of baby carrots. In actuality, they're large carrots shaped into smaller, bite-sized pieces, but you're way too busy to cut carrots to size.
  36. Don't take the time to read street signs. I got myself a lovely $25 parking ticket recently because I thought the road was meter-free. It wasn't. The meters had been replaced by one parking fee booth about 20 feet down the road.
  37. Oh, and why not speed as well? You'll get a big fine and a few points on your license just to get somewhere a few minutes quicker.
  38. Rent from Blockbuster instead of RedBox -- $4 vs. $1 per night. And never remember to return it so you get charged a big fat fee to keep the disc.
  39. Never monitor your bank account(s). That way, you can occasionally overdraw an account and get charged a lovely big fee.
  40. Don't take care of your teeth, and avoid dental checkups and cleanings. You'll save a little money at first, but worry not: The dentist's fees will come pouring in when your mouth looks and smells like the inside of a garbage dump.
  41. Don't haggle. Whether it's a small bag of apples at a farmers market or the purchase of a new home, just accept the first price and call it good.
  42. Play the lottery. Sure, there's a roughly 1-in-120 million chance you could bag the jackpot, but it's a slim chance. Even the odds of winning just a lousy $10 are about 1 in 35. Imagine closing your eyes and picking one white ball out of a bag containing 34 red balls. Yep, doubtful.
  43. Never question a dubious charge or bill. If in doubt, let the restaurant, grocery store, cable company, phone company or any other mega-corporation keep the money. They need it for all the lawsuits.
  44. Buy brand-name everything. Yes, many of the store-brand products are repackaged brand names at lower prices, but why pay less?
  45. Buy a new car. It loses about 20% of its value the second you drive it off the lot.
  46. Don't turn off the lights or appliances. Keep them all going, even when you're out of the house. That should push your electricity bill way up.
  47. Don't read Wise Bread or our personal-finance book. But as you're reading this, maybe you will end up saving some money today.

Don't worry. Follow the rest of the advice here and you can soon spend way more than you need to.


Related reading at Wise Bread:

Published July 1, 2009

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