The world is built on waste
In these difficult economic times more and more people are getting interested in saving as opposed to wasting money. For many it is the first time they’re really sat down and looked at how much they spend on everything in their lives. It seems that the days of living on credit and not looking at your expenses in detail are over.
With so many different expenses in the household it can be difficult where to start. We’ve put together a few of the most common and expensive wastes. This isn’t an exhaustive list though and we should all keep watch for wasteful spending on a regular basis.
Wasting Money vs Discretionary Spending
Before we jump into it though it’s worth clarifying the difference between wasteful and discretionary spending. A lot of conversations happen around going too far with cutting budgets or not cutting enough. In our article on saving tips we put forth the BearMoney belief that you need both some wasteful spending and a fair amount of discretionary spending.
Wasteful spending is buying goods/services at a price that comparatively gives you less than other options. E.g. wasting money on a single candy bar when a pack of 4 is the same price. Discretionary spending is a broader category of spending that is not productive but is needed to enjoy a healthy and happy life.
You’re not wasting money with the second kind of spending, and people that tell you otherwise are generally addicted to being cheap.
With that out of the way let’s check out some of the most common areas to cut those bills!
Your subscriptions covers things such as internet, cable, cell phone, and gym. In fact, you should probably put any service in here that you’re paying a monthly or yearly fee to use.
These are wasting money because you’re either not using them enough or you’re paying too much when a comparable product is available for cheaper. Quite often you sign up to a deal or bundle because it sounds great, $50 a month for internet and cable, and then you use it less than your Netflix.
Things like gym memberships follow a similar pattern . This is normally because when the price is broken down into smaller monthly payments it seems a better deal. We rarely ask ‘how much use do I need to get out of this for it to be valuable?’ Businesses know this, that we all have the capacity to be extremely lazy and complacent. They actually design their pricing models around it!
- Stop thinking about subscriptions in terms of months and think of them in terms of full year costs. Once you’ve done this, compare it to the alternatives and ask yourself is it worth it. Is cable @ $300 a year twice as good as Netflix @$150 a year?
- Try to avoid bundling subscriptions unless it is clearly cheaper than an alternate package made up of individual subscriptions.
- At the end of each contract period contact your provider and let them know you’re planning to leave as it’s too expensive. Try to get a discount but be prepared to move.
Possible Savings: Up to about $1000 over a year
You grocery expenditure includes your primary grocery trip and every other small purchase from gas stations etc. Obviously it is the food and products that you buy to live.
The main way people are wasting money at the grocery center on laziness, pure and simple. Not making a list leads to extra purchases. It also leads to extra trips when you’ve forgotten to buy something. Buying name brands or not bargain watching is another quick way to increase the bill. Buying ready made or convenience food is another big area where we don’t want to put in basic effort.
It’s not meant to be harsh but we are talking minutes of work for hundreds of dollars in savings. If you can track your grocery spending you’ll be incredibly surprised at how much extra you are buying.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it.
- Buy groceries for cooking and cook in batch.
- Shop in bulk where possible.
- Buy store brand where possible.
Possible Savings: Up to about $100 a month
Mortgages, cars, credit cards, most of us have some form out outstanding financial commitment. Loans are complex contracts with lenders that mandate certain repayment terms. Obviously they cost you a significant amount in money, and sometimes penalties.
There are three main ways we are wasting money on loans. First, we can take out loans for things we don’t actually need (e.g. taking out a loan for a vacation) without thinking/shopping around.
Second, we are not taking advantage of opportunities to pay down our principal (amount borrowed). Many lenders will let you reduce the principal to a certain extent (especially mortgages).
Finally, and this is the most actionable one, we are not taking advantage of refinancing opportunities. It is possible on many loans (e.g. credit cards) to switch providers or to modify payment terms to pay less over the lifetime of the loan
- Only take loans when actually necessary.
- Shop around with different providers before taking a loan.
- Budget to pay off the maximum of your loan per month/year.
- Think about refinancing or changing your loan provider if possible .
Possible Savings: Up to and over $2,500 a year depending on your loans
Your Coffee & Snacks
The money you spend when you buy a coffee or a candy bar when you’re out of the house. Normally this is the daily coffee you buy at Starbucks or someplace similar but it also covers that candy bar you buy when filling up your gas tank and so on.
This is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ where wasting money in small amounts can add up big time in the long run. A $3.50 cup of coffee every working day will add up to over $800 a year. While coffee can be vital for us to wake up properly, it doesn’t cost $3.50 a cup unless you’re too lazy to make it yourself.
The same goes for snacks. It takes possibly a minute to put a snack in your bag or pocket and saves you probably half the price versus buying it at a corner store. While the numbers aren’t huge compared to expenses like the loans above, the effort required is minimal (minutes per week).
- Buy a keep cup and invest in quality coffee
- Buy snacks when grocery shopping and carry them around
- Put your spare change from not buying the coffee into a small fund to see the effect over time
Possible Savings: Up to $500 a year
The money you pay for education and training throughout your student and working life. This includes university degrees as well a continuous professional development courses.
Obviously BearMoney is a massive fan of education and CPD. This isn’t a political rant about going to college or upskilling. The way we are wasting money here is that many of us a doing these things just because we think we have to.
Although a lot of jobs do require some form of education, be it a college degree or a trade certification, we are being misled about why we should chase certain educational opportunities. For example, a Business Administration Degree is incredibly valuable and teaches many useful skills. However, in the long run, the difference between a $15,000 degree and a $30,000 is going to be negligible. Your skills and networking can surpass anybody if you work hard enough.
Marketing is a powerful thing, and yes it works on employers too, but the most important aspect of any education is the applicable knowledge it provides you. The modern labor force is full of people with educations unrelated to their current employment. Many companies now specifically look for unique and broadly skilled candidates over more ‘traditional ones’.
- Look for practical value first, and prestige second when selecting education providers.
- Compare both pratical and prestige value with the cost of the education.
- Imagine the skills you’d need in five years in your chosen field, see if you can gain more by following a few more affordable routes instead of a single expensive one.
- If a job is your goal look at the employability of graduates in your chosen area in general and with regard to potential providers in particular.
- If CPD is your goal, take courses that you’ll need after your next promotion rather than ones that compliment your current skill set.
Possible Savings: Up to and over $10,000 for a full degree
Cars are one of the most interesting products in the economy. Many people need them and own them but their value and resale ease can vary wildly. They are also consistently churning into the market at a paces faster than we can fill them.
The primary way of wasting money on cars is buying new. Even using an emotional or psychological health argument, it’s impossible to justify purchasing something that will depreciate by up to 10% within the first month! It’s not a good habit to have.
Another common way is buying models of cars or feature packages that you don’t really need. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference but going from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds isn’t really that useful in your daily life. Especially if you’re paying a $10,000 premium for it. In the same way, buying an SUV to bring your kids to school and not much else is supremely pointless.
Not factoring in reliability is another big one. Your car is going to cost you money to run and maintain, you need to be aware of this. The lifetime costs of the car need to be considered before you make any purchases.
Finally, replacing your old car too frequently is a big one. Many people seem to be unable to keep a car for more than a couple of years. However, if you buy the right car, it should keep you happy and run well for at least five years.
- Don’t buy new cars, ever
- Don’t replace your car too frequently
- Buy the make and model that suits your actual lifestyle
- Factor in reliability and maintenance
Possible Savings: Up to and above $10,000 for the life of the car
This article might seem a bit ‘common sense’ but I’m sure all of us have been guilty of at least one of these behaviors. I’m sure if everybody reading this looked hard enough they could find somewhere they’ve fallen into a ‘wasting money trap’. It’s important to keep a watchful eye on this spending as it could save you thousands of dollars a year for very little effort.
The key takeaway from this is to look mindfully at your spending and to challenge conventional wisdom if you think it’s encouraging you to throw money down the drain.
What other areas have you seen many people waste money? Let us know in the comments!