10/18/2012 10:00 PM ET|
6 mindless ways you waste money
Dollars you could be saving may be slipping through your fingers. Here's where to check for cash you may not know you're squandering.
Most of us say we are interested in saving money. Saving money in one area allows us to spent it in another. Even better, the money can grow as an investment in the future. Despite the benefits of putting money away, many of us have trouble actually doing it. As young adults, we don't think much about retirement. As adults, we may let credit card debt become a way of life. But recent tough economic times have been a wake-up call for many people, leading to a shift in the public's view of saving. If you want to make regular saving a part of your life, read on to find out how to conquer the first step: finding that extra money.
You can begin by paying attention to these top money-wasters:
Convenience stores. Do you know how much of a markup you pay for convenience-store items? Here's a hint: It's huge. This is because, unlike grocery stores, convenience stores don't purchase food in large quantities, and also because you pay more for the convenience the stores provide. So, unless it's an emergency, avoid shopping at convenience stores. The premium you pay is seldom worth the assumed convenience you get. For example, a soda at a convenience store might cost you a dollar, while you can go to the grocery store and buy a 12-pack for around $6. If you get thirsty when you drive, buy a 12-pack of sodas and keep it in your car. If you visit convenience stores often, the annual savings of cutting out these visits can be tremendous.
Cellphone plans. Take the time to check your monthly cellphone bill -- you may be paying more than you need to. If you are using fewer minutes than your monthly plan allows, switch to a lower-rate plan. If you are using more than your monthly allotment, upgrade to a plan with more minutes. Before making any changes to your plan, sit down with a list of your cellphone company's offerings to determine which plan best fits your needs.
You should also check your cellphone plan for added features like text messaging and mobile Internet. If you don't use these features, get rid of them -- they cost money!
Soft drinks. This one is sneaky. Not only does ordering beverages with a restaurant meal boost your tab, but soft drinks also have one of the highest markups of any restaurant item, and thus provide lower value for your money. Consider a typical family of four that eats out twice a week at fast-casual restaurants. Assuming an average price of $1.50 for a soft drink, that adds up to $12 a week, $48 a month, $624 a year. Just cutting this one item from your meal could mean significant savings that could go into something much more productive, such as a retirement plan. If you invest $624 a year at an 9% annual rate of return, you would have almost $32,000 at the end of 20 years. So dine out, but opt for water.
Unnecessary bank fees. Many people unknowingly pay a lot to their banks in the form of fees. If you don't know what fees your accounts are subject to, spend a few minutes finding out. Some banks levy a fee for using another bank's ATM, for example. These can be as high as $5 per transaction! This amounts to a 25% one-time fee for a $20 withdrawal. The key with this type of fee is simply knowing about it. You would be better off using a credit card to make the purchase.
Take a good look at the rules governing your checking and savings accounts. Many people have accounts with a fixed number of withdrawals and deposits per month. You would be better off with an account maintenance fee of $10 a month than getting hit with two or three different fees a month.
Also consider consolidating bank accounts, as often one account with a larger minimum can curb or eliminate fees.
Magazines. If you occasionally pick up your favorite magazine at the local grocery store or newsstand, consider subscribing. Even if you don't want the magazine every month, the money you would spend on a few issues at the newsstand is enough to cover the entire annual subscription. For example, an annual subscription (26 issues) to Forbes Magazine will cost you around $20, while one issue at the newsstand costs $5.
Annual credit card fees. Unless you have a poor credit history or you hold an elite-level credit card with exclusive perks, there is no reason for you to pay annual credit card fees. A host of Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards have no annual fee, yet some people pay up to $100 a year for the privilege of holding a credit card.
Speaking of credit cards, be sure to make your payments on time every month, even if you pay only the minimum. Many credit cards charge high monthly late fees, and they accrue interest along with your existing balance.
Check for money leaks
Spend a couple of hours looking into the above areas, along with examining any other habits that may be costing you money. The time will be well spent; it could mean hundreds of dollars of recurring annual savings.
Shopping at convenience stores, wasting money on magazines, and high credit card and bank fees are easy ways to waste money. They are also easy money-wasters to avoid.
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