15 Ways You’re Wasting Money and Not Realizing It

Joel Lee 27-10-2016



What is a beach if not a massive collection of tiny grains of sand? Each individual grain is insignificant, but when you put them all together in one place, it’s a lot easier to see the big picture.

The same holds true for money.

We all deal with a lot of fees and costs over the course of our lives. These may seem fine in the moment because they’re relatively small. But if you add them all together, you’d be surprised by how much money you’re actually throwing away.

In this post, we’ll explore 15 lesser-known money leaks that you should plug. Some tips involve cutting expenses out of your life, and other tips involve grabbing money on the table that you didn’t realize was there. I guarantee you’ll find at least one useful tip below!

1. Interest Rates

The average interest rate for a credit card is 18–24%. Let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt and you only make minimum payments. At 18%, you’ll pay $2,840 ($1,704 of that in interest) in the first year, but at 24% you’ll pay $3,408 ($2,272 of that in interest).


A huge difference — and that’s just in the first year!

My point is, every percentage point matters when it comes to interest. And you can probably get your interest rate reduced just by asking your credit card provider. It won’t always work, but it works more often than not. One phone call could save you thousands.


2. Late Payment Fees

When you’re drowning in debt How to Get Rich: The Fastest Way to Get Out of Debt Imagine being debt free. No overdrawn balances or unpaid bills. There is a foolproof way of getting yourself out of debt. It starts with a plan and some discipline. Let's visit the other ingredients. Read More , you may eventually run into a month when you can’t make all of your minimum payments on time. And neglecting a credit card payment can result in a significant late fee.


If you have a history of good standing with your provider, you may be able to ask them to waive such fees. This won’t work if you’ve constantly missed payments, and it has the greatest chance of working the first time you miss one.

3. Annual Credit Card Fees

Avoid using credit cards with monthly or annual membership fees. The only exception to this is if the card comes with a rewards program that’s so good How to Use Your Credit Cards to Save More Money Credit cards are usually seen as dangerous and a potential waste of money, but they can also help you save a lot of money if you use them correctly. Here's how. Read More that you can easily make up the difference, whether in cash back, airline miles, or other rewards.

A $99 annual fee is money that’s thrown away for no good reason. Even a $5 monthly fee adds up to $60 lost every year, again for no good reason. You can always shop around for an equal or better card without such a fee (even if your credit score is abysmal 5 Tricks to Improve Your Credit Score in Just 6 Months Improving your credit score seems complicated and confusing -- but it doesn't have to be! See how one writer went from the 300s to the high 600s in six months. Read More ).

4. Savings Accounts

Interest rates for savings accounts have been terrible over the past decade. My local bank offers no better than 0.01%. That means stashing away $10,000 will earn me $1 after one whole year. At that point, having an interest rate is almost insulting.


Which is why I store my savings elsewhere using one of these online banks Save More Money by Using These 4 Online Banks Online banks frequently offer much better rates and perks than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Here are four of the best options for American residents. Read More . Because they don’t have as much overhead as brick-and-mortar banks, they can pass the savings on to you with higher interest rates. That same $10,000 can now earn me at least $100 every year.


5. Investment Expense Ratios

Saving for retirement is absolutely essential Can You Retire Early? These Calculators Will Tell You Financial independence and retiring early (FIRE) are great goals, but how can you figure out if they're possible? These calculators will help. Read More , but how you save for retirement is just as, if not more, important. Investing in the wrong vehicles can end up eating into your overall gains, and when you compound that over 30–40 years, you could lose out on thousands and thousands of dollars.

When you invest in a mutual fund, such as a target date retirement fund, you have something called an expense ratio. This is a fee you pay to the fund manager to cover operating costs. And as you might expect, different funds have different expense ratios.


The average expense ratio is around 1%, but you can find much better deals if you know where to look. Vanguard’s Target Date Fund, for example, only has an expense ratio of 0.18%, making it one of the best values around.

6. No-Contract Mobile Plans

Mobile plans exist as one of the biggest modern money leaks. Dropping $150 or more every month just for smartphone access is excessive when you’re struggling to make ends meet. That’s why we recommend switching to a no-contract mobile plan 10 Money-Saving Reasons You Should Switch To An MVNO Are you out of contract with your cellular provider? Rather than upgrading your phone, and signing a new contract, consider switching to a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. You can save hundreds, even thousands,... Read More .

I’m on such a plan and only paying $25 per month for two phones. You’ll have to adjust your habits, such as using Wi-Fi instead of data whenever you can 8 Useful Tips to Reduce Mobile Data Usage and Save Money Want to get the most out of your mobile data plan? These apps and tricks can help you squeeze out every last megabyte. Read More , but it’s not as painful a transition as you’d think. Saving over $100 per month certainly makes up for it.

7. Impulse Shopping

Impulse shopping itself isn’t really a “hidden” waste of money, but you’d be surprised how many tricks and tactics marketers will use 7 Tricks That'll Help You Waste Less Money Online Who needs willpower when you can trick yourself into spending less money online? Read More to spur you into action. You don’t wake up intending to buy something on most days — you get tricked into it. Be aware of the tricks and impulse shopping will go down.

This is also a great way to stop buying gadgets that you’ll regret later 13 Tech Purchases You'll Probably Regret Buyer's remorse is the worst -- make sure you think extra hard about these purchases before you make them! If you don't, you may find yourself regretting it. Read More . Buyer’s remorse is real, and impulse shopping plays a big role in it. Don’t want to give up shopping altogether? Check out these tips for enjoying tech without spending so much money How to Be Frugal While Still Enjoying Tech & Gadgets Just because you're being frugal doesn't mean you can't enjoy tech! Here are some tips on how to not break the bank with tech purchases. Read More .


8. Shipping Fees

These days, I do almost all of my shopping online The MakeUseOf Online Shopping Guide Learn how to hunt sales and use the latest websites and tools to do online shopping the right way. Read More  (groceries and Costco are the only exceptions.) Shipping fees were a big pain when I first made the switch, especially when it came to clothing and returns. An extra $5–10 on every order adds up.

This is why Amazon Prime is such an amazing deal. Not only do you get free two-day shipping, which alone can make up for the subscription cost, but you also get all kinds of other benefits 10 Awesome Amazon Prime Benefits You've Probably Overlooked Free two-day shipping is just the beginning. Here are some notable Amazon Prime subscription benefits you may not know about. Read More like Prime Pantry, Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Reading, and more.

If you don’t want to use Amazon or Prime, here are several other nifty ways to score free shipping online 7 Ways to Score Free Shipping on Every Online Order Here are seven ways you can get free shipping when you shop online. Read More .

9. Amazon Coupons

Did you know that Amazon has an entire section dedicated to coupons? As I write, I see coupons that let me save 40% off candy, 50% off baby wipes, $5 off whitening strips, $3 off dog treats, and that’s just on the front page.

Some of these coupons are available to everyone while some are only available to Prime members. This is one of the features that can make Prime Pantry worth using Is Amazon Prime Pantry Worth It? 5 Things You Need to Know Prime Pantry lets you shop for pantry items and groceries right on Amazon. But is it a good deal? Will it save you money? Read More — clipping even just a few coupons can save a lot on an order. If you’ve never used Amazon coupons before, you’re leaving money on the table!

10. Insurance and Warranties

Before shelling out cash for insurance on an electronic device 5 Smartphone Insurance Plans That Provide the Best Value When a device is as important and as expensive as your smartphone, it probably makes sense to insure it against catastrophes. Read More or buying an extended warranty policy, you should know that a lot of credit cards offer something similar at no extra charge. This is one of the main reasons why you should always purchase electronics on a credit card 4 Reasons to Always Put Tech Purchases on Your Credit Card Racking up debt is never a good idea, but there are some great reasons to put all of your tech purchases on a credit card. Read More .

So before spending $100–350 on a service like AppleCare AppleCare Warranty: What Are Your Options and Is It Worth It? AppleCare+ protects your Apple device, but is it worth the cost? Here's what AppleCare+ offers and whether you should get it. Read More , think about whether it’s worth it. Your credit card might provide a year (or more) of extended coverage on top of the manufacturer warranty.


11. Digital Luxuries

Splurging is fine from time to time, but you have to make sure the thing you’re splurging on is worth it. The problem is that they usually aren’t. If something is valuable to you then by all means buy it, but if you know you can go without it, then consider that.

For example, in-flight Wi-Fi is rarely worth it Is In-Flight Wi-Fi Worth It? What to Know Before Wasting Money on It More airlines are starting to offer in-flight Wi-Fi, but is it worth such exorbitant prices? Here's what you need to know. Read More : you end up paying a massive premium for a pittance. It might seem worth it if you’re addicted to your smartphone 5 Ways Technology Might Be Feeding Your Depression Technology can worsen depression. With tech enveloping our lives, we should be more aware of technology's potential impact on us. There are some things you can do to lessen the burden. Read More , for example, but why not buy an e-reader like a Kindle Which Kindle Device Should You Buy? A Comparison Guide There are four different Kindle e-readers available to buy for various kinds of users. But which Kindle device is right for you? Read More and read during your flight instead? It will come in handy for many flights and save you a bunch on Wi-Fi costs.

12. Digital Subscriptions

How many digital subscriptions do you have that you’ve forgotten about? I’m talking about newspapers, magazines, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube Red, Blue Apron, all kinds of subscription crates Are Subscription Boxes Worth It? 8 Factors to Consider Read More , and even things like Patreon. Go back and get rid of the ones you never use — this is one of the easiest ways to slash your monthly expenses How to Slash Your Household Expenses in 7 Easy Steps Tired of seeing all of your income go towards bills and expenses? You aren't alone. We show you some of the best ways to slash your household expenses. Read More .

Be especially wary of free trial offers! If you forget to cancel in time and you don’t keep a close eye on your credit card statement, you could be losing money for no reason at all.

Don’t forget about subscriptions to Creative Cloud Your Guide to Choosing the Right Adobe Product When most people think of Adobe, they either think of Photoshop or Acrobat Reader. But the company has a plethora of other useful software packages that most people know nothing about. Read More . If you haven’t used Photoshop or Lightroom in a while, maybe it’s time to drop your plan until you get back into it. Or maybe just use one of these free alternatives 15 Free Alternatives to Adobe Lightroom, Illustrator, and Photoshop Would you like to get Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Illustrator for free? Here are some of the best Creative Cloud alternatives. Read More .

13. Family Plans

Spotify, Google Play Music, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, Office 365, CrashPlan — what do all of these have in common? They’re all subscription-based, but they also provide family plan options Save on Premium Subscriptions With These 9 Shareable Accounts Premium subscription services are great, but the costs add up fast. Here are 9 services you can share to get the most for your money. Read More .

If you use any of them, you can cut down your monthly costs anywhere from 20–80 percent by taking advantage of this. You get to keep your own account separate. No downsides at all. There isn’t much more to say than that.


14. Gas Money

Tired of spending hundreds on gas every month? You’ve heard all of the obvious solutions: carpool, stop going out so often, switch to a car with better gas efficiency, find another job with a shorter commute, even consider walking or biking to work.

But if you’re really trapped and/or don’t want to implement any radical changes, you could still save money by using one of these gas-saving apps 8 Unique Apps to Help You Save Gas Money Saving money on gas is not only good for yourself, but also for the planet. These apps help you efficiently manage your vehicle’s mileage and fuel costs while building good driving habits. Read More . They’ll teach you how to drive gas-efficiently, show you which nearby gas station is cheapest, and help you save in other ways, too.

15. Flight Tickets

Want to get airline tickets as cheaply as you can? There are several tricks and techniques you can use 5 Rules to Finding Cheap Airline Flight Tickets Who says you can’t fly for cheap? Sometimes it comes down to whether or not you click the right links, search the right terms, or pick the right times to search the web. Read More to save hundreds of dollars every time. And one of the easiest tricks? Shop in private browsing mode (AKA “incognito mode” Not Just for Porn: Other Uses For Private Browsing Private-browsing mode has many other names, including "incognito mode" in Chrome and "InPrivate Browsing" in Internet Explorer. Some people refer to private-browsing mode as "porn mode", but it isn't just for porn addicts. It can... Read More ).

All of These Leaks Can Really Add Up

If you implement even half of the tips in this post, you’ll end up saving a lot of money every month. $10 here and $10 there may not seem like much, but $10 from eight different sources monthly turns out to be almost $1,000 every year.

What would you do with $1,000?

If you want to save even more money, or better yet, if you want to become master over your money instead of being a slave to your habits, we encourage you to look up the simple side of personal finance Simply Frugal: How To Learn Personal Finance The Easy Way Do you fret over bills and debt on a regular basis? Do you feel lost when others speak using financial lingo? Here's the good news: it's never too late to learn about money. Read More . You’ll be amazed! I guarantee it.

What kinds of tips and tricks have you used to cut down on your expenditures? What other “hidden money leaks” are out there for people like you and me? Share with us below!

Image Credit: Jag_cz/Shutterstock

Related topics: Money Management, Save Money.

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  1. Zhong
    November 1, 2016 at 3:09 am

    People should also learn to cook as you know what the food is actually made instead of making guesses that the burger didn't toss around the ground with unwashed hands. It also save money when you're buying groceries.

  2. surfmadpig
    October 31, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Hahaha, you didn't just claim an Amazon Prime subscription is a way to SAVE money?

    But then again, as 2 of these points are about amazon, this is likely sponsored content.

  3. William Perez
    October 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    You should add the hidden cost of renting cable boxes from your providers not to mention DVR rental fees, I have already switched for one year to TiVo Bolt, a TiVo Mini with a lifetime subscription and in one year it will pay for itself then I won't be paying any rental fees except for the monthly cost of my cable card ($4). but after my first two years I will be saving about $35 per month on Cable boxes/DVR rental fees.

  4. James Bruce
    October 28, 2016 at 7:37 am

    I let my Costco membership lapse last year since our local is now 2 hour drive away, but my god do I miss it...

    Also, if you're getting less than the rate on inflation on your savings, you're still effectively losing money in the saving account. Everything goes up by 2%, but you only earn 1% ... the value of your money is decreasing. Most savings accounts don't beat inflation, so investing it elsewhere is almost always a better idea. Taking advantage of government schemes for instance, where they'll pay a certain percentage of tax back for paying into a pension fund - these are great deals that people rarely take advantage of. Inevitably, your money will be locked away and not easily accessible though - that's the price you pay for a higher interest rate. Still, much better deal than your average saving account.

  5. Larry Sessions
    October 27, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    If you don't mind telling, which no contract cell carrier do you use and which plan? $25/mo for two phones sounds good to me!