Are You Wasting Money?

By Emma Diehl · June 06, 2023 · 5 minute read

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Are You Wasting Money?

No one sets out to waste money. But sometimes, it can feel as if you have thrown your hard-earned cash right down the drain.

How you spend your cash is, of course, up to you. Some may allot cash towards restaurants or Pilates classes, and that’s okay. As long as it’s a healthy spending habit and it falls within the predetermined budget, who’s to say it’s a bad idea?

But, that said, you may feel you want to cut back a bit on your outflow of funds. How to do so? Not everyone is a budget brainiac. Many people could use some help analyzing where their cash is going and whether that’s a good use of their funds.

So here are some common spending habits where you may be wasting money without even realizing it. Take a closer look, and you may find ways to save.

Recurring Subscriptions

Set it and forget it is great when it comes to automating your personal finances, but it’s less than ideal when it comes to subscription services. 84% of American homes have at least one streaming service subscription, and the average US subscriber has signed up for four services.

On top of streaming entertainment services, plenty of American consumers subscribe to a box service, like Dollar Shave Club, Hello Fresh, or FabFitFun. Whether a person is ready to ditch some monthly services or not, they can try tracking their monthly recurring spending on a spreadsheet, using their bank’s app, or enrolling in a free service, like Trim or Hiatus, to catch those monthly bills.

From there, subscribers can decide what stays and what goes. What might be worth the cost based on frequency, or what is worth canceling because they didn’t even realize they were signed up. For instance, you might decide to save on streaming services and reduce the number of subscriptions you have on that front.

Food Expenses

Buying groceries is an essential part of budgeting, but it’s one everyone should keep an eye on. Purchasing too many groceries, or creating food waste can be a big wasted expense. The average American throws away 219 pounds of food a year, and the average U.S. family of four will throw away $1,500 worth of food in a year. Meal planning and buying only what’s needed can help spend less on food and reduce waste, too.

But, groceries aren’t the only area where money is wasted on food. The average home in America spends nearly plenty on food away from home, which includes home delivery.

Dining out is great for special occasions, and, yes, ordering in makes sense sometimes, too. But eating even a few more meals at home a week can lead to some serious long-term savings.

Recommended: How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?

Small Impulse Buys

When a purchase is one click away, buying things on impulse becomes almost automatic. It makes ordering new pens or purchasing a latte on the way to work easy, and many of us rationalize the purchase because it’s only a dollar or two.

But a dollar or two adds up faster than most of us think. According to one recent survey, the average American can spend as much as $300 a month on impulse purchases.

Impulse spending ranges dramatically from shopper to shopper, but curbing it can look the same across the board. Try implementing the 30-day rule on most purchases. That means letting something sit in a digital shopping cart for 30 days before determining if it’s worth purchasing.

Slowing down the buying cycle can help separate want from need and prevent purchases that are forgotten moments after the transaction.

Recommended: How to Prevent Shopping out of Boredom

Unreturned and Unused Items

Some of us leave cash sitting on the floor of our closets. Ordering clothing and other items online has become fast and seamless, but when something doesn’t meet our expectations, returning it becomes a chore. So we let it sit.

Obviously, summoning your energy to deal with unwanted items and return them is one solution. But here’s another: Buyers with a closet full of unworn clothes (some of which are probably just sitting there because you got tired of them) can try to recoup some of the money spent by finding places to sell your stuff. These can range from local consignment shops to online marketplaces like Poshmark or Depop.

Transportation Costs

Transportation costs are a necessity in budgeting. But, many of us don’t account for the true cost of transportation, whether that’s fees associated with parking, or the occasional Uber ride.

Owning a car comes with additional expenses, such as gas, insurance, and maintenance, not to mention parking expenses, which can add up quickly.

Moves to make include figuring out how to save on gas, DIY-ing some simple car maintenance jobs, and opting for public transportation when possible.

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Bank Fees

Many Ameicans might not even realize how much they’re being charged simply for accessing their money. The average bank overdraft fee is around $35. If a person isn’t paying attention, they could overdraw multiple times before realizing what they’ve done and end up with a negative balance.

Some banks will even charge customers just for holding an account with them. The cost of these service fees vary, but average to more than $5 per month.

Finally, ATM fees can take a chunk out of a customer’s account in moments. When someone chooses to use an ATM outside of their bank’s network, they’ll pay $4.66, on average, each time they withdraw money.

The Takeaway

There are ways to reduce the amount of money you may be wasting, from finding a better budget to cutting down on food and car costs, to lowering the bank fees you are paying.

That last one is where SoFi can help. WIth a SoFi Checking and Savings online banking account, you’ll pay no account fees, which can help keep your savings growing. Plus, you’ll have access to a network of over 55,000 fee-free ATMs globally.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

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