What’s the first thing you do with your paycheck? Perhaps you use it to pay your bills, make debt payments or grow your savings. But are you also mindlessly spending on things you don’t need?
If you find yourself running through your paycheck shortly after pay day, click through to see ways you’re wasting your paycheck without even realizing it.
1. Paying Too Much on Housing
Since housing is likely your biggest monthly expense, this is where you can really make or break your budget. Personal finance experts recommend spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing. You can spend less and save more by getting a roommate. Or, move to a city where housing is less expensive.
2. Spending Too Much on Car Costs
Aside from housing, transportation is likely your next biggest expense. Buy a reliable and affordable used car, try to live close to where you work and consider taking public transportation to cut down on gas and maintenance costs.
3. Wasting Energy
Lower your energy bill by conducting an energy audit on your house to find energy leaks such as old windows or water heaters. Even renters can improve their energy efficiency by using insulating curtains and unplugging appliances. Every little bit counts.
4. Buying Movie Theater Popcorn
Movie theaters don’t actually make the bulk of their profits from movie ticket sales — concession sales are the real moneymakers. So eat before you head to a show. Or if you’re a little more daring, sneak in your own snacks.
5. Not Planning Meals Ahead of Time
You can save money on groceries by planning out your meals and shopping accordingly. A great meal-planning app comes from Food.com. It combines meal planning and money-saving all in one app.
6. Grocery Shopping Without a List
Maintain a running list of what you need to pick up at the grocery store to avoid making any unnecessary purchases. You’ll know exactly what needs replacing, and you won’t have to do any guesswork.
7. Buying Coffee
America’s love affair with coffee shows no signs of slowing down. Nearly one-half of workers surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2016 said they buy coffee during a typical work week. Among them, one in four said they spend between $10 and $25 each week on coffee. That amounts to spending between $520 and $1,300 annually. Break this habit, learn how to make your favorite coffee drink at home and watch your savings soar.
8. Paying for Cable
Now is a great time to cut the cable cord. There are plenty of online streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, which cost a fraction of the standard cable service price. To save even more money, share a Netflix or Hulu account instead of getting an individual account for each streaming service.
9. Buying Brand-Name Products
Consumers find comfort in using brands they know and love, but generic brands often work just as well as their brand-name counterparts. For example, you can save money by buying store-brand medications and grocery store brand breakfast cereal. Step away from brand names, and try a few of these generics.
10. Not Changing the Thermostat Setting
There’s no reason to keep your thermostat running at the same temperature all year long. Ideally, you’d only turn it up a few degrees in the summer and down a few degrees in the winter. Turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours during the day can save you up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill each year, according to Energy.gov. Or, just turn off the heat or air conditioner, and open the windows on nice days for some zero-cost days.
11. Ignoring Your Phone Bill
Check your phone bill to make sure you’re not getting charged for services you don’t use. You might be paying for things such as unlimited data, texting and other features you don’t really need.
12. Drinking Bottled Water
A 2013 study by Business Insider reported U.S. consumers were spending on average $1.22 per gallon on bottled water, which was 300 times the cost of tap water. If you’re still drinking bottled water every day, consider buying a water filter to stop wasting money.
13. Using Regular Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, might not be the most flattering bulbs out there. But light-emitting diode, or LED, light bulbs are surprisingly beautiful. They are also incredibly energy-efficient. There are some upfront costs, but LEDs last longer than traditional light bulbs, which can help you save money in the long run.
14. Smoking Cigarettes
This little habit can cost you big bucks. Depending on how much you smoke, quitting cigarettes can save you thousands of dollars a year — just think of what you can do with all that extra cash.
15. Buying Lunch at Work
You’ve heard it before, but buying lunch at work is a huge waste of money. Buddy up with your co-workers and try “brown bagging” it at work. You can end up saving a good chunk of cash. Or just allow yourself one lunch out a week to ease the pain.
16. Eating Out for Dinner
Having dinner at a restaurant is a great luxury, but it can wreak havoc on your finances. Be mindful about how often you eat out. Even something as simple as eating dinner earlier in the evening can help you eat less and save more. Not drinking alcohol also saves a bundle.
Find Out: How to Eat Out and Still Save Money
17. Grabbing Fast Food
Instead of spending $20 at a restaurant, you might opt to grab a $5 meal at your favorite fast-food joint. After all, it’s quicker and cheaper. But, it still costs money. If you want to save more of your paycheck, reduce the number of times you eat out — whether at a sit-down restaurant or in a fast-food drive-thru.
18. Ordering Appetizers
Restaurant portions are huge, so why order an appetizer when the entree is already going to be more than enough? Eat a light snack about an hour before you eat out, which can help you resist the urge to order a starter.
19. Shopping Online
It’s so easy to burn through your paycheck when you’re shopping at your favorite store. It’s even easier when you can shop at your favorite store without leaving your home.
Online shopping can become much more expensive than shopping at a store, especially when you include the cost of shipping. If you tend to spend more of your paycheck when shopping online, use these tricks to curb your shopping habits.
20. Requesting Faster Shipping
It’s hard waiting for your online purchases to arrive, but paying extra for expedited shipping is a waste of money. Patience is a virtue, but if you really just want everything now, sign up for a service such as Amazon Prime, which includes free two-day shipping on most items.
Save Money: 20 Retailers That Offer Free Shipping All Year
21. Paying ATM Fees
When you use an ATM that is outside of your network, your bank and the ATM might charge you a fee. Find a bank that has plenty of ATMs in the places you frequent or a wide network of partners. Or, find a bank that reimburses ATM fees.
22. Withdrawing Too Much Money at the ATM
Overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees cost customers, on average, $225 in 2011, according to a 2013 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Track your finances daily, or switch to a bank that doesn’t have any overdraft fees at all. (Yes, they do exist.)
Find Out: How to Avoid Overdraft Fees
24. Paying Unnecessary Bank Fees
What other fees is your bank charging? Banks are desperate to get new customers in their doors. Shop around and compare the offerings — you’ll likely find better and cheaper banking services somewhere else.
25. Putting Your Paycheck in a Regular Bank Account
As important as it is to make sure your bank account doesn’t charge many fees, you’ll also want to choose a savings account with attractive interest rates. And if your bank offers a high-interest checking account, take advantage of it. So, as you spend your money, you’ll be earning money on your balance as well.
26. Carrying Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is one of the most expensive types of debt you can carry. Those minimum payments might seem low now, but they can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars in interest, depending on the amount of debt you’re carrying. If you have credit card debt, make a debt reduction plan. For example, try transferring your balance to a low-interest credit card and commit to paying it off for good.
27. Using a Credit Card With a High Annual Fee
Some credit cards — especially credit cards that come with amazing perks — charge high annual fees. But if you’re not utilizing the credit card perks that justify the annual fee, find a credit card with a lower or no annual fee so you can save more of your paycheck every year.
28. Paying Unnecessary Fees, In General
From airline baggage and resort fees to investment and bank fees, it seems as if there’s a fee for everything these days. However, you can easily prevent fees from eating your paycheck by doing your research and finding ways to avoid them.
29. Collecting Stuff You Don’t Need
Does your baseball card, comic book or “Star Wars” collection add value to your life, or would you find greater value in cashing out? Even just trimming down a valuable collection can reduce clutter and give your bank account a boost.
30. Spending More Money on Snacks
Protein bars, chips and beef jerky might help you get through traffic or just through a boring day at the office, but snacking can add up. If you plan your meals and shop with a grocery list, you won’t need to fill up on unhealthy and expensive snack foods.
31. Signing Up for a Gym Membership
Once January hits, many of the treadmills at the gym are usually occupied, and the Zumba classes are bumping. But just a few months later, the place looks like a ghost town — what a waste of money.
Skip the pricey gym membership, and try joining an exercise club. You can download a cheap fitness app to get in shape, or use the park as your “gym” for fitness walking, running or biking.
32. Throwing Your Child a Huge Birthday Party
Many children don’t need a lavish, over-the-top birthday party. But if you’re strapped for cash and still want to plan an unforgettable birthday party for your kids, research creative DIY tips on how to build a cake, make party favors and figure out fun entertainment that doesn’t need high finance support.
33. Shopping Impulsively
If you’re considering making an impulse buy, wait 30 days and ask yourself if you still want or need that item. You might even forget about the item completely, which pretty much answers the question for you.
34. Buying Books
Paper books are definitely something to be cherished, but if you burn through books faster than a California wildfire, consider using a service such as PaperBackSwap.com to cut down on the costs. You’ll get to swap your collection with others online and get new titles mailed to you for free. You’ll just have to pay for postage for the books you send out.
35. Not Using Coupons
From groceries and household times to clothing and jewelry, you can find coupons for anything you need. And you don’t have to clip coupons the old-fashioned way either. You can use apps and websites, such as Coupons.com, to digitally clip coupons and score big savings.
36. Buying New Instead of Used
Thanks to the internet, you can find pretty much anything you need in good, used condition at a fraction of the price. Not everything should be purchased used, but pricey items — such as sporting equipment and furniture — are great used buys.
37. Skipping Breakfast
Eating breakfast gets your day started on the right foot and can keep you from buying a huge, expensive lunch. Try cheap breakfast foods, like oatmeal or eggs, which will likely keep your stomach (and wallet) full.
38. Paying Multiple Student Loans
Interest rates are still relatively low, so it could be a good time to consolidate your student loans. By consolidating, you might even be able to extend your repayment period and lower your monthly payments.
40. Not Using Your Benefits Package
Some employers offer awesome benefits, like discounts on car insurance, free tickets to events, education reimbursement or personal improvement seminars. You work hard, so make sure you’re reaping all the benefits you are entitled to.
41. Driving Around With Flat Tires
You could improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent by keeping tires properly inflated, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s advised that you read your car’s manual to find the recommended PSI and fill up your tires at your gas station. The attendant can usually help if you need assistance.
42. Manually Paying Your Bills
A big piece of money-saving advice that many people don’t follow is automating your finances. Put your bills on autopilot to avoid any late fees or dings on your credit report.
43. Hitting the Bars
Drinking at bars with friends is fun, but nothing’s stopping you from pre-gaming and dodging pricey drinks when you’re out on the town. At the least, drink during happy hour so you’re not paying a premium on that gin and tonic.
44. Throwing Out Leftovers
Keep your food waste to a minimum by eating your leftovers. Or better yet, take them to work for lunch the next day.
45. Buying Basic Items at the Grocery Store
Many warehouse clubs give you the best bang for your buck on staples such as toilet paper, trash bags, laundry detergent and diapers. Bulk items usually offer better prices per unit — you’ll just have to figure where to store 140 rolls of paper towels.
Find Out: 20 Deals You Can Only Get at Costco
46. Paying Too Much for Car Insurance
Car insurance companies are constantly offering new ways to save on coverage. Do an annual audit of your policy, and shop around to find better rates.
You might think it’s no big deal to shell out a few bucks here and there on lottery tickets or during your monthly poker party. But the reality is that gambling is almost a sure-fire way to burn through your paycheck — no matter how good or lucky you might be. Instead of throwing your hard-earned money away, put it to use in a savings or investment account.
48. Paying Too Much in 401k Fees
If you’re socking away money in a 401k to save for retirement, that’s great. But do you know how much you’re paying in 401k fees? High fees can reduce your retirement savings, so make sure you know exactly how much the investment house is taking off the top.
49. Shopping at the Wrong Retailers
As much as you might love shopping at Target, Walmart, Costco or other retailers that offer tons of savings, you might want to avoid shopping for specific items at your favorite stores. For example, some experts say that instead of buying fresh produce at Walmart or Target, these two retailers are better for your wallet when it comes to select home goods or mid-range electronics.
50. Paying Too Much in Taxes
Did you get a large tax refund last year? If so, you might’ve overpaid in taxes. Take another look at your W-4 form, and make sure you’re claiming the right number of allowances. And when you get ready to fill out your tax return, take advantage of the tax deductions you qualify for.
Sydney Champion contributed to the reporting for this article.