Frittering away your hard-earned cash is the easiest way to fail at saving money and it’s actually interesting to see the silly things that people waste money on, even when they think they are being frugal.
Saving money all comes down to what you buy and what you don’t. I’ve mentioned before that there are certain items that I stopped buying to save money that have really made a different to my bottom line. I’ve also realized from talking to frugal friends that there are some things that savvy savers just don’t spend money on but that seem totally normally for the rest of us normal spenders.
RELATED: 31 Clever Ways To Save Money And Live Better
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The list below has 10 relatively small things that people waste money on that can add up big and make the difference between sticking to a budget or breaking the bank.
While this list is about things that you should stop spending money on, saving money can be as simple as making sure your home is ready for the winter months or taking steps to save on groceries and cut your food bill.
10 Silly Things That People Waste Money On And What To Do Instead
1. ATM Fees
Topping the list of things that are a total waste of money are ATM fees. They should really be called lazy fees or “I didn’t plan ahead” surcharges.
While most people get free withdrawals from their own bank, other banks or independent ATMs often charge an exorbitant percentage of the withdrawal. That’s how they make money.
The biggest culprits are the cash machines in gas stations and bars. I once went on a cruise where the ATM charged $6 ($6!!) every time I took money out.
If you take money out of an ATM that charges you even $3 once a week, that is over $150 just for accessing your own, hard earned money!
What to do instead: Get money out of your own bank once a week so you always have cash on hand. Use debit or credit where available to save on fees.
2. Bottled Water
Aside from the environmental and health concerns of drinking water laced with tiny particles of microplastics, a study published on Scientificamerican.com reports that bottled water costs up to 1900 times more than plain old tap water. It’s a marketer’s dream come true and a complete waste of money for anyone trying to save a penny.
Almost all of the money you shell out for a bottle of water goes to making the bottles and marketing campaigns. Barely any goes to actually sourcing pure spring water as the companies would have you believe.
If you buy the cheapest case of water, which is usually around $3 or $4, you could easily spend upwards of $50 a month or more depending on how much water your family drinks.
What to do instead: Drink tap water. If the taste bothers you, invest in a Brita water filter or have one installed at your faucet.
3. Premium Cable
In the day and age of Hulu and Netflix, it really isn’t that hard to cut cable and save hundreds every year. Most live TV shows are available online within a day or two of their release. Consider going to a bar to watch the big game, or gathering at a friend’s house. Bring a case of beer and it will still be cheaper than paying for premium cable every month.
What to do instead: Check out streaming services like sling and all the videos and TV shows available through Amazon Prime.
4. Phantom Electricity
Phantom ,or vampire, electricity is one of those things people waste money on without even realizing. Almost every appliance in your house consumes electricity whether it is turned on or not. Unless you are unplugging every device and TV, you are throwing money down the drain every day.
What To Do Instead: It is probably impossible, and silly to think you will run around the house unplugging every single electrical appliance every night but you can check the biggest offenders with a handheld device like a Kill A Watt Meter that will tell you exactly how much power each appliance uses.
Also make sure that easy to unplug devices like phone chargers are unplugged after use. Another way to save money on your utility bills is to keep your house heated on the cheap.
5. Bank Fees
Similar to ATM surcharges, bank fees are literally costs incurred to access your own money by companies (banks) that are already making interest on your money! It is sheer craziness.
Bank fees can include overdraft charges, account service charges, credit card annual fees and more but there are a ton of ways to cut down on these costs.
What to do instead: Shop around for a cheaper bank. Credit unions and online banks are often the best option to save on regular chequing account fees.
If you are in the US, Ally Bank is a great no-fee option and for Canadians, Tangerine is awesome.
BONUS: Open a Tangerine account with my Orange Key 19759763S1 and get a $50 bonus.
6. Expensive Coffee
Starbucks and other expensive coffee shops are my favourite places to go for a relaxing experience but that atmosphere doesn’t come cheap. If you are buying a coffee from Starbucks every day, you are wasting hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
What to do instead: You have two options – forgo your expensive coffee habit and bring your own from home but that kind of sucks.
The other, more palatable option is to get free Starbucks by using gift cards. I go to Starbucks at least 3 times a week and never pay for my coffee because I always have a gift card balance to spend thanks to Swagbucks. It’s free to sign up and they even offer a $5 sign up bonus here. Just take surveys, watch videos or use their shopping site when buying online and you will soon be sipping some free coffee too!
7. Premium Gas
If you are buying premium gas for a car that does not require it, experts agree that you are most certainly wasting your cash. According to a study done by AAA, the modest fuel savings in using high octane gas do not offset the higher price at the pump.
If you car actually requires premium gas per the dealer (not recommends, requires), then you may see enough of a fuel economy to cover the cost of the more expensive gas.
What to do instead: Only use premium if your car requires it. And next time you are shopping for a car, take into consideration the fuel type it uses before closing the deal.
8. Household Repairs and Odd Jobs
Do as much as you can around the house to save money on call out fees and charges. Youtube is a goldmine for instructional videos from everything from changing a light fixture to installing crown molding.
Recent DIYs I have done have saved me thousands:
Staining and painting oak stairs – cost: $95 v quoted price of $5000
Full room and trim paint – Cost $55 for 1 gallon of paint (used Airmiles for the second gallon) v quoted price of $1700
What to do instead: Always google any issue first and see if you can DIY it or fix it yourself. If you do have a to use a professional, see if you can save money by sourcing the materials yourself.
9. Manis and Pedis
This only really applies to the ladies but men can save money on haircuts and other personal grooming by adopting a DIY attitude. A weekly manicure can run up to $30 a week so even if you can make it a monthly thing and do it yourself at home on the other weeks, you will be saving a ton of money.
Other things to do at home to save money:
- Dyeing your hair
- Home facials
- Simple trims and bang touch-ups
What to do instead: Have a DIY spa night with friends and do each other’s nails. Put on face masks and relive your teenage years with a cheesy movie.
10. Extended Warranties
Just say no to extended warranties! They are the ultimate cash-grab for retailers and a waste of money for regular consumers. I even got offered an extended protection plan on a talking teddy bear the other day!
For the most part, there is no need to pay extra for an extended warranty but there are some services that probably make sense, like Apple Care for a phone.
What to do instead: Keep receipts so you can access your regular return policy and warranty for any large items. Consider purchasing a plan only for very expensive items that often cost a lot of replace (eg: smart phones).
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Saturday 1st of December 2018
You may not be near any but many places in mountain and farm areas have natural underground spring waters that are tapped and are frequented by the locals. Local folks can clue you in to any that may be in your area or within a short drive. For instance, Pineville, Kentucky has an area about 20 feet off the side of HWY 119 just barely out of town with pure spring water tapped and flowing constantly from Pine Mountain. Always cool and fresh, always tasty. My neighbor drives 19 miles one way weekly to get a truckload of 5 gallon jugs filled with fresh spring water from there. Best of all it is totally free and always opened to and for the public. This one is so easy to get to with ample space for parking that I frequently stop while traveling to and from work to fill a bottle.
Sunday 9th of December 2018
I love this! How awesome to get fresh water like that! I don't think there is anywhere near me but I am going to look into it. Thanks so much for your comment!
Tuesday 24th of April 2018
I love the environmentally friendly reason! It is very true that being green saves money!
Tuesday 24th of April 2018
Thanks for sharing! Frugal people must be resourceful, DIY-ers!