There are some expenses you plan for every month — your rent or mortgage, utilities, your cellphone bill, etc. — but there are also a lot of hidden expenses you’re paying for regularly that you might not be aware of. These little costs could quickly add up, whittling away at your hard-earned paycheck.
Uncover the hidden ways you’re losing money every month, so you can start making moves to stop the bleeding.
Last updated: Sept. 9, 2020
Table of Contents
Not Tracking Your Spending
You should be able to account for every dollar you spend. Keep track of your spending with a budgeting app, spreadsheet or even a notebook. Simply recording what you’re spending money on will make it easier to spot any hidden expenses.
Shopping for Seasonal or Holiday Items In-Season
Many stores put their displays of seasonal goods up front where they’re hard to resist — but don’t fall into this money pit. Wait until the end of the season or after the holiday when the items are heavily discounted to stock up for next year.
Keeping a Gym Membership or At-Home Workout Subscription You Never Use
If you have a gym membership, live in an area where gyms are open and actually go, great, but if you’re going once or twice a month — or never — it’s not worth the cost. The same goes for at-home workout subscriptions that you may have signed up for at the beginning of the pandemic but no longer utilize. If you put your membership on autopay, you might not realize that you’ve been paying monthly for a resource you never use.
Paying Checking Account Fees
Some banks charge monthly fees or service charges for their checking accounts. Those fees could end up costing you over $100 a year — and you probably don’t even realize you’re being charged for them. Instead of paying these fees, switch to a free checking account.
Find Out: 10 Banks Offering Free Checking With No Minimum Balance
Not Making Automatic Contributions to Your Savings
A portion of your paycheck should be dedicated to your savings, but if it all automatically goes to your checking account, you’re likely spending it all. Have a portion of your paycheck automatically deposited into your savings account so you’re forced to spend less.
Paying Premium Prices for Coffee
It might not seem like much, but spending $3 — or more — a day on coffee at Starbucks or your favorite corner coffee shop really adds up over time. That amounts to roughly $90 a month or $1,095 a year. You’re better off making your own coffee at home.
Paying High Interest Rates on Your Credit Card Debt
Unfortunately, you can’t wave a magic wand and make your credit card debt go away, but you might not have to be paying such a high interest rate on it. Consider transferring your balance to a balance-transfer card with a 0% interest rate, or call your credit card provider and ask them to lower your interest rate. Otherwise, you could be paying more than you need to every month.
Throwing Food Away
You might not think about it, but when you throw food away, you are throwing money away — whether you purchased it at a restaurant or at a grocery store, you paid for all of it, including the food you are tossing. A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 in food every year, or about $190 every month.
Keeping Unused Appliances Plugged In
Any appliance that’s plugged in is using energy, even when it’s turned off. A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that “idle load electricity” accounts for 23% of power consumption in the average household — and about 25% of your electricity bill. Cut down on these hidden costs by unplugging appliances when not in use.
We’ve all been there — the server comes over at the end of your meal and asks if you want to take a look at the dessert menu. Even though you’re full, you can’t resist the urge and end up ordering another course of food. While it’s perfectly OK to order dessert from time to time, make sure you actually want it — otherwise, you’re just wasting money when you don’t need to be.
Keeping Your Home Too Cold (or Too Warm) When You’re Not There
Leaving your air conditioning or heat blasting when you’re not home is a waste of money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% a year on heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day. This might be harder to do if you’re working from home, but consider utilizing open windows and ceiling fans when possible to cut down on cooling costs.
Paying ATM Fees
Sometimes when you need cash, you have no choice but to use an out-of-network ATM. But if you make it a habit, you’re paying fees you definitely don’t need to be. Stick to making withdrawals at your own bank’s ATMs or switch to a bank that reimburses you for out-of-network ATM withdrawals.
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Paying Premium Prices for Alcohol
Ordering a drink or a bottle of wine with dinner might be your norm, but you’re paying way more than you should be for that adult beverage. Restaurants mark up wine as much as 400%, Business Insider reported.
Ordering Out for Lunch Multiple Times a Week
It’s wasteful to buy lunch every day of the week. Try meal prepping your own lunch at least three times a week to save big for the month.
Buying Brand-Name Items
From groceries to medications, many generic items are equivalent in every way to the brand-name item — but they are significantly cheaper. If you’re only buying brand-name goods, you’re spending more than you need to be.
Living In a Drafty Home
Windows and doors that allow air to escape can add to your electricity bill. Caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows that leak air can cut down on your heating and cooling costs.
Don’t Cut All Costs: 17 Surprising Ways Penny-Pinching Costs You More
Missing Out on Your Employer Match
Even if you already have no- or low-fee funds in your investment account, there’s another way you could be losing money from your retirement account — missing out on your employer match. If your employer offers a matching contribution and you are not contributing at least the maximum matched amount, you are throwing away free money every paycheck.
Buying Bottled Water
Bottled water is convenient — but it’s also wasteful, and a waste of your money. Instead of spending money on bottled water every month, make a one-time investment in a filter pitcher and a reusable bottle that you can take with you on the go.
Paying Full Price for Greeting Cards
There’s always something to celebrate, whether it’s a friend’s birthday, baby shower, wedding or your own anniversary. But every time you pay full price for a greeting card, you’re wasting money. Take a trip to the dollar store and purchase a bunch of cards for every occasion in advance, and never waste your money on full-priced greeting cards again. After all, most of them immediately end up in the trash anyway.
Buying Prepped Foods You Could Easily Prep Yourself
Premade baby food and precut veggies are both convenient but are easy enough to prep yourself. Don’t pay extra at the grocery store when you don’t need to.
Having Everything Delivered
There are some instances when having things delivered is more of a necessity than a luxury — say, when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic — but in other cases, it really is a waste of your money. Delivery fees for your dinner, clothes and other items can really add to your monthly expenses, even if they’re only a couple of dollars each time.
Paying Retirement Account Fees
You might be paying fees on mutual and exchange-traded funds that you’re unaware of, and these fees can take a big bite out of your potential investment returns. Look out for high expense ratios, mutual fund transaction fees, commission fees and administrative fees.
Find Out: Surprising Ways Younger Americans Spend Their Money Now
Subscribing To Cable Channels You Don’t Watch
Your cable bill can be a major monthly expense. If you’re not ready to fully cut the cord, you should at least make sure you’re using all the services you pay for. If there’s a channel package you’re not watching, cancel it. If you’re paying for an extra box in a room you never use, get rid of it. If you pay a monthly fee to rent a modem from your cable company, consider buying your own, as it will pay itself off over time.
Shopping Online Without Money-Saving Plugins
There are many app extensions that help you to save money when you online shop, and if you’re not using them, you’re spending too much money. Some of the more popular extensions include Honey, which scans the internet for applicable promo codes and automatically applies them at checkout, and Rakuten, which gives you cash back on purchases on a number of retail sites.
Shopping Without a List
Whether you’re making a run to the grocery store — or even more dangerous, Target — you should always shop with a list and stick to it. Wandering up and down the aisles with no set list of things to buy leaves you vulnerable to making impulse purchases.
Buying Snacks at the Gas Station
As tempting as it is to pop into the convenience store when pumping gas, these snack runs can add to the money you’re already spending on gas every month.
Making In-App Purchases
When you’re in the heat of the moment playing a mobile game, you probably make in-app purchases without even thinking about it twice. But these little charges can add up, especially if you play regularly.
Driving Around With Improperly Inflated Tires
Having improperly inflated tires can be adding to your monthly spending at the pump. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3% by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Buying Things Just Because They Are On Sale
It’s true that when you buy something on sale or with a coupon you’re saving money on the original price, but if you’re buying something because it’s on sale, you’re spending money you shouldn’t be. You’re just fooling yourself into thinking you’re getting a deal if it’s something you wouldn’t have bought normally.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Local Library
You can lower the amount you’re spending monthly on entertainment by taking advantage of the resources at your local library. You can rent books in a variety of formats — including e-books and audiobooks — and movies too, all for free.
Paying Full Price for Almost Anything
You shouldn’t buy something just because it’s on sale, but you also should try not to buy anything that isn’t on sale — or that you don’t have a coupon or cash-back offer for. With so many ways to save on everything from clothes to groceries, you should be able to get a discount on nearly every purchase. It might take a little extra effort to find ways to save, but if you don’t put in the effort, you’re sure to spend more than you should.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 31 Hidden Ways You’re Bleeding Money Every Month