Dave Ramsey recently published an article titled “10 Things Americans Waste Money On”. I wanted to share these 10 things with you since I’m sure you have come across some of them in your life at one point or another.
A lot of these are really scary when you think about it. While they may not be scary enough to make you scream like a haunted house would, what these do to your bank account is far spookier than any actor in a costume.
After I finished writing this, I realized the super cool J. Money had written something similar, so here is his take on these 10 as well.
Photo by Nicole Pecoraro
Stop scaring your bank accounts…
1. Credit Card Interest
This is a sore spot for many people. Using other people’s money to buy the things you want is a tricky task. For some reason, it’s so much easier to put something on your credit card than it is to make the payment on that credit card.
Why is that? We know it’s going to land us in more hot water when we wait around to pay for it, but yet, we do it anyway. Many of us wait so long to make that payment, we end up paying EXTRA in interest. So again, why didn’t we just pay it off right after using the card?
Maybe you didn’t pay the whole thing because you had to wait until your paycheck came in, and then you just “forgot”. I know that old “I’ll pay it off next month, what’s a few dollars in interest?” game you play with yourself. Who are you trying to fool?
The notion that you are spending more money just to be able to use other people’s money up front is very scary. Keep track of your money (link to bills post) more efficiently so this doesn’t happen to you!
2. Deal Websites
Ahh, consumerism at its best! Regardless of if you are saving money, these deals are still getting you to buy something just so you “save the money”. Spend $50, save $10? 1 step forward, 3 steps back? Tomato, to-mah-to.
You may think that, similar to coupons, “you only use them when you actually were buying the item/trip/dinner”. That’s not always the case.
Marketing has such a subconscious effect on our brains that we don’t even realize. You may casually glance at a Groupon email/deal and think, that would be cool, but it’s so expensive! 2 weeks later your friend mentions something similar and you tell them about the deal, and in no time you’re going out to some fine dining place in the city and spending way more than the groupon covers.
For products, you can typically can find the exact same thing for the same or a lower price at an online store such as Amazon. Of course, sometimes the item may be $3 less than you can find online, but again, unless you were going to purchase that exact thing you are essentially spending more money than you would have otherwise.
Who can resist that $8 bowl of guacamole with a side of chips and pita bread?! After working in a restaurant for quite a few years, I’ll tell you that you can order a side of guac for $1.50 to go with your meal if you are craving it – and depending on the server, they may sometimes forget to ring it in so you then end up with free guac! Woohoo!
With the average meal at a restaurant in America netting more than 1000 calories, do you really need to eat that fried calamari as well?
4. ATM fees
If you’re still paying ATM fees in this day and age, you either need a new bank or need to start planning better. Banks typically have so many participating ATMs that you should have one right near your home. If not, maybe it’s time you checked out a more convenient bank for you. Capital One 360 has tons of participating ATMs including those at many drug stores too.
You have to realize that not only is the ATM charging you $2 to $7 simply for using their machine, but your bank typically charges you an extra $2 to $3 as well. Spending money to be able to use your own money? Sounds like a fools game to me.
5. Overdraft fees
This one is easily avoidable and hopefully will no longer be an issue once you’ve left college. I know it happens to all of us at one point or another but as you get older, you hopefully have a better handle on your finances and know how much is in your accounts.
If not, call up your bank and have them remove your “overdraft protection” so you physically can’t spend more than you have in your account. Yes, I called mine to ask and they will do this.
6. Speedy Shipping
I admit it. I’m an Amazon Prime lover. Between the 2 day shipping and the monthly free ebooks, Amazon music and Amazon instant video, it definitely gets its fair share of use in my household. However, if you aren’t someone who uses those features more than a few times a year, it probably isn’t worth your time. I will admit that I do end up spending a lot more on Amazon than I normally would, but I always shop around to make sure that buying from Amazon makes sense. Sometimes, the products can be found for $5-$10 cheaper elsewhere, in which case it makes sense to buy from that location.
You also can’t forget that many items on Amazon are eligible for free super saver shipping if you spend $35 or more on one order. If you can consolidate a few orders into one, this could be the way to go instead of fronting the $99 for a prime membership.
If you are a student, you can sign up for the student version of Amazon prime for free 6 month free trial, and then only pay half price for the yearly membership after that.
7. Designer baby clothes
I don’t have kids, but I don’t understand this one at all. Kids grow like weeds on Miracle Gro! Those Jordan’s aren’t going to fit your 16 month old in a few weeks, what’s the point?! If I am wrong on this one please leave a comment and elaborate, I’d love to hear your side.
Why not shop somewhere cheap, or use a friend/family members hand-me-downs for the youngin’s and put that extra money you saved towards their future, whether that be college or just a general savings account. I promise they will appreciate that much more than having clothes they won’t remember and are going to get grass stains on anyways.
Those “awful” baby outfits are so much more entertaining to look at pictures of when your kid gets older.
8. Unused Gym Memberships
I am totally guilty on this one. My friends starting getting engaged like hotcakes this year and I decided I needed to be in shape since I would be in a few of the weddings. I bought a gym membership for a full year (idiot) last November. They gave me the option to do monthly but I was saving $3 a month by getting the whole year up front.
TIP: this was the dumbest decision I could have made considering you never know how often you really will go during the next 365 days. Life changes a lot, don’t commit to things like this when you don’t have to. Lesson learned (I hope).
I went consistently to the gym until February when it started snowing and I decided I would rather enjoy watching the snow and drinking hot chocolate than venture out into the snow to go work out. Of course during the summer I ran outside, no gym needed there. Well, it’s now October and I have gone twice this month. Probably has something to do with the fact that they sent me an email saying my membership was expiring next month.
I’d venture to guess that this “brilliant idea” ended up with me essentially paying about $11 every time I actually walked into the gym. Uh huh, smart move.
9. Premium Cable Packages
How many TV channels does one really need? If you haven’t figured out how to be happy with Food Network, HGTV and Auction Hunters, I don’t know what to tell you. 😉
Just browsing around my cable company’s packages, you could go all the way up to $245 a month for a triple “gouge your eyes out” bundle deal….and that’s before taxes/fees and equipment rental charges! That’s more than my car payment and my current cable bill combined! You know why they have that highest priced package? So you go with the second highest priced and don’t feel bad about your spending because “it’s not the most expensive one!”
“Wendy’s had recently begun marketing its double cheeseburger, and was having trouble getting customers to buy it. Thomas recognized the psychological effects that were at work, deterring sales: most people were hesitant to buy double cheeseburgers because they would feel like fat blobs doing so. That is why Dave Thomas suggested this: add a triple cheeseburger to the menu at a much higher price than the single and double cheeseburger, and it will stimulate demand for the double cheeseburger.” Read this article here.
They used this method in the fast food industry, why wouldn’t it work in the cable industry as well?
Here are a few money saving tips you can use while trying to negotiate a lower rate. Better yet, why not cut out cable altogether? Many network shows can be watched online anyways.
10. Daily Coffee Trips
Who doesn’t love a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee every once in a while? Be careful not to make it a daily habit or you could end up spending thousands of dollars in the long run. Ever heard of the latte factor? This calculator shows you how much something really costs after factoring in the amount of interest you could have gained by investing that amount.
This works for everything on the list, but is conveniently named the latte factor, so I put it under the coffee heading…how clever! 🙂
That is a spooky list isn’t it?!
The scariest part is that 3 of the 10 things are so easy to fix that it makes my head spin. Credit card interest, ATM fees and overdraft fees make me cringe. Now, I can’t judge too much because I’ve definitely been there, but that was back when I wasn’t even aware that there were such things as financial blogs like this, so you should already know better. 🙂
Now that you know better, stop scaring your bank account with all of that wasted money!