When it comes to living expenses, the truth is that most Americans subsist on a very thin margin. Seventy-eight percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck to make ends meet, according to CareerBuilder.
The good news is that if you take a closer look at how you live, you’re likely to find many areas in which you can trim expenses and give yourself an extra buffer.
Click through to see dumb expenses you need to slash from your budget — and how you can save thousands of dollars.
1. Streaming Services
- Monthly Savings: $66.97
- Annual Savings: $803.64
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu might seem like a dream come true. The services are much cheaper compared to a cable TV package, and you can get original programming as well. But, the costs still add up.
Netflix Premium charges $13.99 per month, Hulu with Live TV bills $39.99 per month and Amazon Prime Video costs $12.99 per month. If you bundle everything together, you end up paying a lot every year for these seemingly inexpensive services.
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2. Phone Games
- Monthly Savings: $7.25
- Annual Savings: $87
Many smartphone users fall into the trap of playing online or app-based games that entice them with in-game purchases, which average $7.25 per month for paying users.
Sticking with free entertainment could end up saving you a bundle on your phone bill.
3. Newspaper Subscriptions
- Monthly Savings: $5 to $10
- Annual Savings: $60 to $120
Nowadays, you can get news from any number of sources — both online and televised — often free of cost. Established newspapers are transitioning to digital editions, but those fees average $5 to $10 per month. Whether it’s dropping paper delivery or digital subscriptions, you can save some cash over the course of a year.
4. Satellite Radio
- Monthly Savings: $15.99
- Annual Savings: $191.88
Satellite radio lets you listen to over 100 channels in your car and online. This industry is known for promotional pricing, but the regular cost of a satellite radio subscription can be hefty — $15.99 per month for the Sirius XM Select subscription, for example. With other low-cost or free options like Spotify and Pandora available, you can save a lot and still access the music you want.
5. Designer Coffee
- Monthly Savings: $57.35
- Annual Savings: $688.20
Face it: Some people need their daily morning coffee to function normally. But, even if that applies to you, coffee doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Specialty coffee shops like Starbucks might charge around $2 to $3 for a basic coffee, but you can go to the McDonald’s down the block and get a cup for just $1. You might even end up preferring the taste of McDonald’s coffee, making it a win-win.
6. Life Insurance
- Monthly Savings: $21
- Annual Savings: $252
Life insurance is an essential benefit for many. It can provide protection for spouses and heirs in case the primary breadwinner dies prematurely. This can be especially important if the family has a mortgage or other debts to pay off.
But, if you’re young and single, you likely don’t need life insurance. If you’re paying for your own life insurance, look for a job with employer-paid life insurance.
7. Brokerage Commissions
- Monthly Savings: Variable; $100 or more at a rate of one trade per month
- Annual Savings: Variable; up to $1,200 or more at 12 trades per year
Traditional, full-service brokerage firms can charge you hundreds of dollars per trade. However, well-known, reliable discount brokers like Fidelity still have brick-and-mortar branches and charge only $4.95 per online stock trade. To cut costs even more, you can do your trading with online-only broker Robinhood, which receives zero commissions on stock trades.
8. Investment Costs
- Annual Savings: $1,437.50 for a $25,000 investment in a load vs. no-load fund
Pay attention to the costs attached to the specific investments you purchase. Many mutual funds still charge commissions of as much as 5.75 percent to buy, but you can eliminate those costs by purchasing no-load funds from reputable firms such as Vanguard.
Don’t overlook annual expense ratios when buying investments like exchange-traded funds. The Schwab S&P 500 index fund charges just 0.03 percent annually, whereas the SPDR S&P 500 index fund charges 0.09 percent — three times as much.
9. Cable TV
- Monthly Savings: $75
- Annual Savings: $900
Cable television has grown from a minor utility into an expensive mishmash of multilevel packages with premium channels and content. Switching to streaming services is a step in the right direction, but you can go all the way and eliminate your cable TV altogether for the most savings.
10. Premium Gas
- Monthly Savings: $32.80
- Annual Savings: $393.60
Unless your car specifically requires premium gasoline, you don’t need to buy it. According to AAA, the price difference between premium and regular gasoline averages 60 cents per gallon. With the average American driver paying for roughly 656 gallons of gas per year, sticking with regular can result in some real savings.
11. Warehouse Club Memberships
- Annual Savings: $60
Shopping at warehouse clubs is on trend these days. But, if you’re young and single, you probably don’t need to buy at a store that requires customers to purchase in bulk, which can result in food waste. Shop during sales at other grocery stores and save on the membership fees.
12. Bank Fees
- Monthly Savings: $14.50 ($12 checking plus one $2.50 ATM fee)
- Annual Savings: $174
You don’t need to pay $12 or more per month to maintain a checking or savings account — many online banks offer these accounts for free. If you don’t prefer to bank online, check out your local credit union, which might offer free accounts and free ATM access as well.
13. Bottled Water
- Monthly Savings: $4.16
- Annual Savings: $49.92
Annual consumption of bottled water in the U.S. reached 42.1 gallons per capita in 2017. At an average cost of $1.22 per gallon versus Baltimore’s $0.003 per gallon for municipal tap water, for example, you’re paying 400 times the cost of essentially the same water. Prices for different bottle sizes can be even higher.
Find out how investing in a water filter saved one woman over $1,000.
14. Gym Memberships
- Monthly Savings: $58
- Annual Savings: $696
The average gym membership costs $58 per month, but 67 percent of people with gym memberships never use them. If you’re among that percentage — and even if you’re not — dropping your gym membership can add up to big savings.
- Weekly Savings: $43.12 (one pack per day)
- Monthly Savings: $186.85
- Annual Savings: $2,242.20
Smoking rates have fallen lower than ever, with just 15 percent of adults still smoking, according to the Washington Post. If you aren’t on that bandwagon yet, here’s another reason to quit smoking: You’ll save an average of $6.16 per pack.
Click through to discover guilty pleasures that are hurting your bank account.
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