Can’t Save Money? 5 Ways You’re Wasting Money Without Thinking

Can't save money? Want to stop wasting money and give frugal living a try? I share 5 money saving tips about how you are wasting money in your life every week. You can use these ideas to stop spending and start saving for an emergency fund! You don't even have to start budgeting! (#3 is soooo true)Have you ever seen people that complain about being broke as they buy the newest iPad or some other similar expensive item?

If so, you’re definitely not alone.

Saving isn’t a huge part of our culture here in America.

Instead, we’re influenced to consume as much as possible to help the economy.

If you’ve fallen into this trap but you honestly want to save money, here are a few things you can cut back on by just thinking a little bit before you spend.

You’ll be surprised by how little you miss them!

Dining Out

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t remember eating out a ton when I was a kid. Over time it seems we find ourselves dining out more and more each year.

The problem is, dining out is expensive! I was reminded of this the other night when my wife and I paid $4.99 for a large french fry to share at Five Guys. I probably could have cooked the same french fries at home for just $1 or maybe $2 max.

If you dine out at all, you have an opportunity to save money by eating at home. It isn’t as fun and carefree as dining out. You do have to do the dishes when you’re done cooking.

However, it’s worth skipping out on dining out it if it will save you a bit of money so you won’t be so broke.

Not Combining Multiple Car Trips Into One

Gas has been coming down in price recently, but it could shoot back up at any time. For a while, people were shocked and appalled by the high gas prices, but now we’ve more or less accepted gas is however expensive it is.

Unfortunately that means we aren’t as conscious as we could be about saving trips in the car.

Rather than just going out to only one place to pick up one thing, make a list of all of the places you need to go as you think of them. Once you have all of your errands written down, find a way to run all of your errands in one trip.

Chances are you won’t have to drive nearly as far as you would if you took each trip separately.

Saving trips out in the car will help you with more than just your gas bill. If you make less trips and drive less miles in your car, you’ll reduce your maintenance costs on things like oil changes, new tires and even the most expensive automotive expense, car replacement.

Automatic Subscriptions

Automatic subscriptions can be a huge time and money saver if, and only if, you continue to use them. I always use my subscriptions a ton in the beginning, but as I get used to having them I generally use them less and less.

Take a look at your credit card or bank statement and see what subscriptions you’re paying for each month, quarter or year. If you aren’t using the subscriptions, simply cancel them and save yourself some money!

Bank Fees

No one likes paying bank fees. They serve no purpose other than to make banks more money! You might end up paying a lot of overdraft fees if your bank balance hovers near zero often.

A quick way to quit paying overdraft fees is to ask your bank to turn off overdraft protection. It might be embarrassing to get your card declined, but it isn’t as embarrassing as paying $29 in fees to make a $2 purchase!

Overdraft fees aren’t the only useless bank fees. ATM fees, low balance fees and inactivity fees can eat your bank balance alive. An easy way to avoid many of these fees is to use a bank that doesn’t charge them!

Some banks will waive ATM fees and many banks don’t even charge low balance or inactivity fees. Shop around and find a bank that works best for you.

Buying In Bulk Then Throwing Away Groceries

Buying in bulk is a great way to save money. Well, it’s a great way to save until you end up throwing away half of the food you just bought because it went bad.

I’ll be the first to admit that I throw out a lot of food that we either don’t get around to eating or we just plain forget about in the back of our fridge.

Luckily there are a couple simple solutions to this problem. First, if you plan your meals, you’ll find you throw out a lot less food. Next, post a white board on your fridge and pantry and write down everything that’s inside, along with the date it goes bad.

Between these two tips, you can make sure that you always know what food you have and how long you have to eat it. It should also help you buy foods in more reasonable quantities once you get used to seeing how much food you normally consume.

These five tips should give you a good start to saving some money. Once you get started, you should be able to find even more places where you can save a little bit of money until eventually you have enough in the bank to have a little bit of breathing room.

The hardest part is getting started!

Have you ever wasted money in any of the ways we’ve discussed? Do you have any other ways you’ve wasted money without even thinking about it? Let me know in the comments!

Image by: 401(k) 2013 Additions by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I would add smoking to your list. A pack of cigarettes cost around $6 depending on where you live and sales taxes. One pack a day is nearly $180 a month. Many people smoke more than one pack daily. That money would go a long way toward a retirement account or college fund. But the money just goes up in smoke …..or chars the lungs. At least with dining out I assume one gets some nutritional value. And I agree with the multiple car trips. I can’t begin to count how many times some people drive up and down our street, seemingly gone only a short time each trip. Combine those trips and spend the morning running errands. Plan a strategic route and you save gas and time.

  2. I’m guilty of not buying in bulk and throwing away a lot of groceries. I’m sure I’d be able to cut back even more if I tried a little harder.

  3. Almost every time I go out to eat, I have a coupon. Even if it’s only $1. And get a credit card with rewards points. Mine has 5% back at restaurants. Ask for discounts whenever you can.

    • Some great tips on saving money while dining out. Even if you manage to get all of those, chances are it is still more expensive than eating at home though! Of course, it can be considered entertainment as well. I’m not saying people shouldn’t eat out, just that it is a choice and if you can’t save money it is something you should cut out 🙂

  4. Sometimes I’m grateful that I live in NYC and can’t buy in bulk. It keeps me from throwing away money. literally.

  5. #5 is our nemesis and once in a while #2. Not me but my husband. Bonk! The others we’ve got licked.

  6. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    The only foods that we buy in bulk are the ones we know we will finish off, like a small case of canned refried beans. We don’t buy refrigerated bulk food items that can quickly go bad.

    We avoid most all of the pitfalls in your list. We do eat out occasionally, about once a month, but it’s with money that is within our discretionary budget.

  7. The automatic subscriptions always get me. They make it way too easy to buy the same thing over and over again!

  8. We’ve succumbed to the buy in bulk mentality and been burned multiple times. For the past few months, we’ve been living in Europe in a smaller flat with a tiny refrigerator. We’re making grocery runs every other day, but we have not thrown away a single scrap of food since we’ve been here. I think this is something we’ll bring back with us when we get back to the states.

  9. Vivienne says:

    I’m slowly de-cluttering our house, which was extremely messy and disorganized. I’ve found multiples of things I couldn’t locate before I cleared a lot of the mess. Doubles, triples and quadruples of some things. Three copies of the same book, two copies of the same movie, enough Christmas decorations for three houses, and thirty pens! The list goes on. What a waste of money that is!

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