Are You Tossing Out Perfectly Good Money???
- Dining out. On average, Americans eat out approximately every third day, which can truly add up. Even if you drink water and take home half the meal, the cost per person is significantly higher than cooking at home. Cut back on the trips to the restaurant and you’ll keep a few more dollars in your wallet — and potentially see a reduction in your waistline as well.
- Buying new. Getting something in the original packaging often means paying twice the price. This mistake is most costly when it comes to automobiles but it applies to many things: furniture, clothing, textbooks, etc. So whenever practical, skip the stores and showrooms and choose thrift stores, yard sales, and web sites such as eBay and Craigslist.
- Buying brand names. People are becoming more educated on generics have been gaining market share over the last 5 years. While prescription drugs have the biggest price tags vs. generics, the dollars add up at the grocery store too. In many cases, the only difference between generic and brand name is price. Can you really tell the difference between name-brand and generic when it comes to water, cleaning supplies, or spices?
- Buying a bigger home than you need. In 2001, Americans spent about 12% of their income on “residential and transportation energy,” but this year they’re projected to spend almost 20%. Living in a big house with unused rooms or bigger rooms than you need is like driving a stretch limo: You’re buying energy for unused space. A bigger house means more furniture, higher maintenance, higher taxes, and more of your time spent maintaining it. When home prices were rising, there was some logic to leveraging potential profits by buying the biggest. Now, that extra space is nothing but a cash drain.
- Paying interest. This should go without saying, but too few people get it. Borrowing money to live beyond your means makes lenders richer and you poorer. Using credit cards can be smart provided you can afford to pay your balances in full every month. The only time you should ever pay interest: if what you’re buying has a decent chance of raising in value at a higher rate than the interest you’re paying to own it which it truly an exception to the rule.
- Keeping unhealthy habits. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day at $6 each costs more than $2,000 a year. The U.S. government estimates the actual cost is closer to $10.47 per pack, once you add in the medical expenses smokers will face, including insurance costs. Excessive drinking is also an expensive and destructive pastime, as is gambling. Stay away from those newly emerging gambling facilities that were constructed to resuscitate a crumbling state government.
- Paying for freebies. Why do we pay for things we could get gratis? Creativity and flexibility can often replace money. Here are some examples:
- Free checking… Plenty of banks still offer free checking accounts with no minimum balance required. You get free online and ATM service too When you’re looking for lower fees, including free checking, always to look to smaller local banks and credit unions
- Free credit reports. You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free look at your credit history once a year. If the Financial Regulatory Reform bill passes, you might also one day get a look at your credit score. Read about other changes ahead here.
- Free cash. If you can’t find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you use your Debit card to make even a small purchase. You can buy a candy bar or a Diet Coke and get back up to $100 in cash from larger nationwide stores.
- Free information calls. Google 411 will get you information numbers free, so don’t get ripped off by your cell phone provider. When you need directory assistance, dial 800-GOOG-411.
Turning down free money. If your employer is offering matching money for participating in your company’s 401k or other retirement plan, and you’re not participating to the extent necessary to get the full match, you’re literally refusing free money. You’re also ignoring an opportunity to get a tax deduction and grow your retirement savings tax-deferred.