It’s a new month and hopefully you’re busy setting up a new budget for this month. I know I am. Yes, my expenses stay the same for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that I can just walk away from figuring out where each dollar is headed and how my money will be spent. I love budget time but I hate it as well. While each month is a new chance to start over from any budget failure that happened and to set things right again, it’s also a new chance to see where I messed things up at and where I wasted money at. In fact? I’m willing to bet that I wasted quite a bit of money last month and I’d wager even more that you did too.
The thing about wasting money is that 99.9% of the time, you don’t even realize you’re doing it. We’ve become so conditioned to spending money that a lot of the time we don’t even stop to think about how we’re spending that money. Even worse? We think about ways to save money even less often. This means that the majority of us are very likely just wasting money in our daily lives…even if we don’t think we are. The biggest issue with wasting money is that you (and I) likely don’t even realize that its happening. We sit down to do our budget each month and then for a lot of families, they never look at that budget again. It seems to be an issue of “Yup, I have enough money to survive this month” and then it’s forgotten about. That is the single most dangerous thing that can happen to your budget and without a doubt, doing that will cause your budget to fail. If it hasn’t already, it will eventually if you don’t tend to it on a regular basis each month. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at how you (and I) may have wasted hundreds last month.
How You Wasted Hundreds Last Month
There is one upside to all the fact that you’ve wasted money believe it or not. Knowing that you’re wasting money forces you to sit down and really look at your budget and your entire financial picture. It also gives you the chance to make extra money if you need to. I personally never stop earning extra money simply because I like to create a buffer for myself and my family in our bank accounts. I earn $225/mo extra using online sites and apps, I do quick side jobs whenever I want to earn more and of course, blogging earns me each month too. I even earn extra money helping other people shop each month. If you’re in need of extra money in your budget, I highly recommend checking out the ways that I use to earn (they’re linked right before this sentence) simply because they work. They’re tried, true and tested by me so that I know they will work for you and your family.
I know this one is cliche when we talk about common ways to save money, but the truth is that this is one of the single most expensive habits you can have. Do you have a coffee habit? I don’t have a coffee habit, but I do have a soda habit. No matter which one you have? It’s killing our finances. My soda habit is probably cheaper than your Starbucks habit, but it still plays havoc on my budget. If we’re spending even just $2.00 per day on coffee, tea or soda, that right there is $60.00 per month. I’m sure though that those habits can cost more than $2.00 per day.
Did you eat out at all last month? We did and I have zero idea why. It surely wasn’t that we didn’t have groceries, because I bought $300 in groceries last month to create around 100 meals from (yes, it totally can be done). If you ate out just one day a week at $20 per meal, that’s $80.00 that you wasted last month and my guess is that we all actually ate out a lot more than just once. Instead, learn how to menu plan and different ways that you can save on groceries and how to stretch your grocery budget. Savings on groceries isn’t that hard when you combine menu planning with the many different ways that you can save on everything from milk to saving big on meat.
Is your refrigerator running? You’d better go catch it! No, seriously. Are you watching your electric bill and usage? If not, you could be wasting money. Between actual waste of electric (leaving lights on, etc) and phantom electric use (the electric that things use when they’re plugged in but not being used), you could be wasting $50, $75 or even $100 each month on your bill. Work on lowering your bill by shutting things off when you’re not in the room, unplugging things when they aren’t in use and investing in a programmable thermostat to help control your furnace and keep it from eating too much power. If you live in a state that allows you to switch companies, checking out your other options can be a HUGE money saver. For Texas, you can go to righttochoose.com to compare deals. When we made the switch, we saved an average of $250.00 per month by moving providers.
Did you go to the movies or other recreational places that charge high fees? If so, you could have wasted upwards of $75.00 of your family’s budget. I’m not by any means saying that you shouldn’t have fun as a family, but visiting the theaters and other places that are high admission fees without looking for deals first is a great way to spend more money than you intended. Instead, check places like Raise.com for a discount on buying gift cards (I also use Raise to buy gift cards to help me save a bit on groceries and things too). Groupon is great for finding discounts for family fun as are CityPass and the Entertainment Book. With CityPass you can pay once for family admission to several different locations and save BIG money if they have one for your city. With Entertainment, you’ll pay for a coupon book that is literally filled with thousands of dollars worth of local coupons to help save. Keep in mind too that there are always tons of free activities for families to do too that don’t cost a dime to enjoy.
Did you shop for gifts or anything other than groceries last month? I sure did and boy is my December budget feeling it! Shopping for gifts is totally okay, but let me ask you this: Did you go off budget? If so, you wasted money. How? No, your gifts weren’t a waste of money (I hope), however, you set your gift budget for a reason. If you went over that then you technically took money from somewhere else in your budget. THAT is the waste. For me? That waste was $250.00 by itself. How big was yours? (Don’t have a gift budget? We have a nifty printable Gift planner right HERE that you can print for free!). Not only is going over your gift budget a waste of money, but did you get any rewards for your shopping? I shop almost 100% through Ebates when I shop online. This gives me cash back for the things I have to buy so while I might be spending money, I’m also earning a bit too.
WASTED: Amount varies, up to several hundred per family depending
How much did you pay for your cell phone bill last month? Me? I paid $15.00. If you’re paying more than that? You’re wasting money. Most families that have a contract cell phone are paying upwards of $100/mo and even those who are with a prepaid company can be paying as much as $55.00/mo. For us, when we realized how much we were spending on our phone, we switched to Republic Wireless. Our base bill is $5.00/mo and even with data and extra charges, we have never paid more than $15/mo. That worked out to OVER $1,000 per year saved. Even better though is that we LOVE the service!
These are all pretty common things for a lot of families, but they’re ALL common things that a lot of families miss. Don’t let the fact that they’re common things keep you from thinking that your family doesn’t need to pay attention. Think about it this way: If your family is guilty of wasting money in just one of the ways above, think about how much you’re wasting overall. There are a ton of other ways that a family can lose money that I didn’t mention here for the sake of not writing an entire book of a post. Even just one or two ways that you waste money can cost you hundreds each month and that leads to thousands per year.