Top Money Wasters Part 2 – Budget-Busting Bills and Purchases

wasting-moneyIf you want to take control of your finances, you need to spend less than you earn. And while there are many ways to do this from downsizing to careful budgetary practices. Last week, we talked about avoiding unnecessary fees. Another easy way to save money each month is by reducing wasteful purchases. Like unnecessary fees, many people unwillingly spend more money than they need to on items or options that are redundant, excessive, or just plain wasteful.

These budget-busting bills and purchases may be a normal part of your life, but eliminating or altering them is often not even difficult or life changing. More often than not eliminating waste is all about altering your habits in minor ways in order to better serve your pocketbook and, once your make those changes, they will be easy and automatic.

Money-Wasting Purchases

There are many small changes that you can make in your spending habits that reduce or eliminate waste. By planning ahead and staying aware of common spending traps, you can save hundreds of dollars over time. Let’s take a look at some common budget-busting purchases and how to avoid or replace them:

Pre Packaged Items

Any parent who has lived through the morning rush of making lunches and getting appropriately-dressed children onto a school bus understands the appeal of pre-packaged food items. From individually wrapped chips and cookies to juice boxes and apple sauce, these conveniences save plenty of time. What they don’t save is money. Even when using coupons, shopping sales, and stacking deals the volume difference alone often makes buying in bulk and dividing items yourself a better deal. All it takes is a little pre-planning and a habit change. Pack lunches the night before, for example. Or take time when buying items to pre-divide them into individual servings that you can grab-and-go just like the prepackaged options at the store.

As an added bonus, DIY prepackaging also reduces environmental waste. Reusable containers are far less wasteful than individual baggies or wrappings and, especially if purchased through couponing, they pay for themselves over time as well as reduce trash.

Bar Drinks

Meeting friends for a drink or celebrating a special occasion is always a treat, which is why focusing on the company you keep rather than the alcohol you consume is a great way to save money. However, if you do want to have a drink or two, pay attention to price and quality of the beverage you order. Oftentimes so-called mixed drinks contain more juice or mixer than alcohol and often cost more than a bottled or draft beer, which has a fixed volume and alcohol content. Wine is another good option, though the volume of a “glass” varies according to the bartender. It is often better to just order a bottle or a carafe instead.

Also, if you plan on spending more than an hour and a drink together, the cost of buying the materials yourself and drinking and chatting at home is far less than the bar bill for a three hour catch-up.

Magazines and Other Subscription Services

Once upon a time, magazines were the best way to catch up on everything from celebrity gossip to the latest crafting and recipe trends. The internet changed all that. However, many people still subscribe to magazines and other subscriptions, such as newspapers, for nostalgic purposes or because their subscription renewal is on auto-pay. Not only can you access some, if not all, content in those magazines or newspapers for free online, there are literally thousands of bloggers who provide the same information (and more!) that are fun to follow through Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feeds.

Money-Wasting Bills

Reducing waste through common bills is another easy way to save money. In fact, by scrutinizing these monthly expenses and asking yourself and your provider about the details of each charge, you can quickly reduce your monthly and yearly expenses by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Here are some common changes that are easy to make and you won’t likely miss:

Multiple Telephone Bills

The landline may not be dead, yet, but it is dying. If you get good cellular service at home, eliminating it altogether is an easy option. However, for those with patchy cell service at home, having both telephone lines is essential. It does not, however, need to be expensive. Many cellular companies offer landline options as do cable and internet providers. By combining these bills and reducing the service needs on your landline you can save money each month.

In addition, maintaining more than one cellular contract is another money-waster. Invest in a family plan and design a way to split data and/or usage among all users rather than paying fees and taxes on an additional contract for parents and children or partners.

Cable Plans

When you are on a strict budget, cable or satellite TV is an indulgence, and an easy one to omit, even if it means a lifestyle change. However, even those among us who can afford a monthly cable bill do not need to overpay for it. Make sure you actually use the service you have by paying attention to the channels you actually watch. Also, many cable companies will renegotiate their rates with current customers, allowing them to take advantage of current deals and promotions. The trick is knowing to ask.

Eating Out/Take Out

Eating out is another indulgence that many need to forego when money is tight. However, it is not altogether bad. However, where, when, and what you eat are all important factors to consider. A great way to capitalize on the convenience of eating at a restaurant or getting takeout is to pay attention to weekly specials. Many pizza places, for example, offer midweek “family deals” that include reduced prices on pies as well as the addition of sides and drinks. Websites like Groupon are another great way to save money dining out as they offer prix fixe packages at local establishments that, along with an entrée, often include an appetizer, dessert, and even a drink at a reduced rate – just make sure to tip your server based on the value of the meal, not what you paid, when using this method.

Avoiding Waste and Enjoying Life

Like budgeting in general, avoiding waste in your life is not a restrictive practice, but rather an easy way to enjoy all that life has to offer while keeping your wallet full. In fact, most of these methods of saving are simply part of living a more frugal lifestyle that are easy and natural to integrate. Once you make a habit of ordering beer instead of a margarita, for example, it’s a no brainer that continues to “pay” over time.

What other wasteful spending practices have you eliminated from your life without changing your life in the process?

Top Money Wasters

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  • Ang In CT

    I make a cup of coffee to take with me to my son’s gymnastics class rather than stop at any number of coffee shops that we pass on the way. I know that some people are anti K-cups but I only drink one cup a day. That’s my splurge.

    For those, like me who love to read magazines I get them using rewards points from various code entering like mycokerwards or pampers. I used to get them with Lean cuisine’s reward program but sadly that disappeared. I am currently saving survey points to get a new subscription. The time is worth it to me.

    • Liz Nowak Harwood

      I use my Recycle Bank points for mags. I have not “paid” for a single magazine in 2 years. I also just got free Weight Watchers and Family Fun 10 minutes ago!

    • Kat Mar

      I have a ton of MCR codes and caps for free, if you would pay shipping! I got too many and gave up!

  • Kicking It Old School

    I find it interesting that LRWC will run this “canned” content telling us that some of the very things LRWC promotes are money wasters! Using this stuff is great, but perhaps it should be edited? I love my newspaper subscription — it pays for itself in coupons!!!

    • While I am always for reader opinions I felt the need to respond to your comment to clarify a few items.

      First, this is not “canned” content by any means. We have a wonderful writer that I personally discuss topics with regarding finance articles. Theses articles are made exclusively for LRWC and are based around topics we discuss often on the site.

      Second, if you do not have the means to pay for your bills, putting food on your table, etc, then buying a subscription to a magazine or even a newspaper is NOT something you should be wasting your money.

      Third, we do post magazine subscriptions daily here. Discounted subscription. Just because we post them doesn’t mean that we are suggestion that everyone buy them. If you don’t have the means for it, yes it is a money waster. However, with that said, there are people, like yourself, that want to get magazine subscriptions but would prefer to do so at a discounted price. Hence the reason we post them

      We have posted deals on high end shoes, pocketbooks, clothing etc at discounted prices. These, in my opinion, are money wasters as well if you do not have the means to pay for them. If you do, then, there ya go, we found you a great deal on it.

      Yesterday we posted a deal on Gevalia Coffee at Target for over $4 with coupons. A good deal on that quality coffee however, I wouldn’t recommend someone that is struggling financially to buy it.

      We have everything here for every type of persona, family and financial situation. All with one thing in mind, to save you money.

      In my discussions with readers on the site, in social media forums and during workshops, there are many readers that can not afford a newspaper subscription and rely on coupons from just their free Thursday paper delivery which include coupons. They rely on friends and neighbors. Some people don’t have the means for a computer and/or a printer and get their coupons printed at the library. Those people are not going to jump on the printer deals we post. Buying one, to me, is a waster of money for them when they need to focus on buying other items.

      So, our point of the article is to show where you can save money when
      and if you need to. We discussed some of the costs that you can cut to help get yourself into a better financial situation. Maybe it’s to keep a roof over your head, maybe it’s
      to pay off debt, maybe it’s just to be able to buy meals for your
      family or diapers for your kids. I’ve been there myself when we were faced with large debt and unemployment.

      As a matter of fact, I cancelled all my subscriptions including my newspaper subscription and found creative ways to pay for my Sunday papers. I did so by using my ECBs and Register Rewards to pay for them so I didn’t have to spend extra money out of my pocket. Why, because, at that time, I didn’t have extra money to spend…at all.

      Hope that helps to clarify the article.

  • john

    If you are looking to get rid of your home phone bill but still would like a home phone number (the same if you would like) look into Ooma. It is a VOIP where you pay for the equipment ($100 or so on Amazon) and after you port your existing number ($50 charge) if you want to keep the number, you only pay the BS fees that are on your current phone bill, the tax, 911 fees, and the like.

    • Harry

      Of the same kind ,with a little technical skills applied, I would suggest two other such voip home phone services: voip dot ms and callcentric that also provide E911 for a monthly grand total of $3 plus pay per use seconds @ 0.01 c per minute which actually works out better than the flat rate $10+ per month that big names like vonage advertise so long as you talk less than 10 to 15 hours a month (wont apply to houses with teens I guess).

      As for cell phones there are several pre-paid “MVNO”s that piggyback on the major carriers networks providing the call/data network quality but with cheaper plans like Straighttalk, MetroPCS, etc that are a better alternative to contracts and even family plans…and you can do couponing and gift card CATs to get even lower prices on these MVNOs when possible. For example last Christmas ST had a sale that brought down the monthly fee to less than $30 for $45 regular unlimited talk, text and 2GB of data plan – and you could purchase for an entire year or more at that price.