Americans are good at a lot of things, and wasting money is one of them. In fact, Americans waste $165 billion annually on food just by tossing out what they don’t want to eat, according to the National Resources Defense Council. They also do a good job of purchasing items they don’t need.
Click through to find out how you might be wasting money, so you can manage your finances better.
Overspending on Education
The U.S. spends more on student education each year than most countries do, according to a 2014 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Yet, despite higher spending, American students don’t perform as well as students from many other countries on tests.
Furthermore, college tuition continues to climb in the U.S., and family income hasn’t kept up, according to a recent report from the College Board. So, many are left wondering: Is college tuition worth the cost? And what are some ways to save on this expense?
How to Save on Education
Choosing to stay within your home state for college can be a smart move for your pocketbook. Average in-state tuition for a public university was $9,970 for the 2017-18 school year. You’ll pay more to cross state lines, with average out-of-state tuition and fees at public universities coming in at $25,620. Meanwhile, tuition and fees at private colleges average $34,699, according to U.S. News & World Report.
If you really don’t want to waste money, consider community college, said Timothy Wiedman, a retired associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University in Crete, Neb. The average cost of in-state tuition and fees at a community college is $3,570.
“Completing a two-year transfer program locally while living at home — and then transferring to a more expensive four-year school to complete a bachelor’s degree — will often save a great deal of money,” he said. And the coursework will be virtually identical, he added.
Purchasing Expensive Diapers
Diapers are a messy business — and an expensive one for parents. According to Babies R Us, a baby will need over 2,000 diapers in the first year of life. If you spend an average of 25 cents per disposable diaper, that’s over $500 for the first year.
How to Save on Diapers
Diapers are a necessity when welcoming a new life into the world, but don’t use them for longer than required. “People waste hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by believing that children need to wait until certain things happen before they can potty train,” said Michelle Swaney, owner of The Potty School, where she teaches people how to toilet train their children ages 16 months and up.
In fact, the U.S. lags in toilet training compared to other parts of the world. For instance, babies in Vietnam are usually out of diapers by 9 months of age, reports NPR. In the U.S., the average age for a child to be toilet trained is somewhere between 24 and 30 months, which is a conservative estimate, said Swaney.
To avoid wasting money on diapers, consider going with the store-brand versions — diapers are one of the best items to buy generic.
Buying Unnecessary Baby Stuff
Do you know how much it costs to have a baby? According to the book “Baby Bargains” by Alan and Denise Fields, a baby will cost your household an average of $7,000 in the first year alone. However, the price tag can be much higher than that, so it’s important to spend money wisely.
How to Save on Unnecessary Baby Stuff
Stick to buying only what’s necessary. For instance, do you really need to purchase a Playtex Baby Diaper Genie Complete Assembled Diaper Pail at Target for $37.49? Or could you just recycle grocery bags to dispose of dirty diapers?
The same holds true for a bottle warmer. You can warm up a bottle by simply using warm water. And do you really need a specialty baby-food maker when a regular blender will do the trick?
Betting on Lottery Tickets
We all have dreams, but spending cash to become a millionaire shouldn’t be one of them. Americans spent $73.5 billion on traditional lottery tickets in 2016, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. A quick look at the Powerball website tells you the odds of winning the lottery grand prize are slim — 1 in 292,201,338 to be exact.
Even if you win the lottery, you have to wait to be paid. You also fork over taxes, which can drastically reduce your winnings. Some people believe only the less wealthy play the lottery religiously, but a 2016 Gallup study revealed that Americans who make less than $36,000 are significantly less likely to play the lottery than those in upper-income brackets.
How to Save on Lottery Tickets
This one is easy — don’t buy them. Instead of wasting money on lottery long shots, you could spend it on something that’s attainable — such as a dinner out. At least spending in that manner allows you to enjoy yourself.
Failing to Shop for Bargains
Never shop without scoping out discounts and deals first. Failure to do so is basically like leaving free money on the table.
“Although today’s online shoppers are very savvy, many do not take advantage of free money, such as cash back,” said Brent Shelton, a spokesperson for Ebates.
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How to Save on Bargains
You can earn cash back by shopping through sites such as Ebates, and many credit cards offer cash-back rewards on purchases, Shelton said.
The savings add up when you take advantage of these incentives. In addition to Ebates, other sites that offer promotions and cash-back deals include Coupon Sherpa, Ibotta, CouponCabin and RetailMeNot.
Don’t forget to check out saving opportunities at individual stores, too. These include the Target app and Yes2You Rewards at Kohl’s. Check the details of your credit or debit card for other saving and earning opportunities.
Insisting on Lavish Weddings
Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the best days of your life, and people often feel that they need to spend a fortune to make it special. In fact, Americans drop a ton of money to say “I do” — an average of $33,391 in 2017, according to a survey from The Knot.
Europeans, on the other hand, are much more conservative with wedding expenses, spending an average of $5,495 on nuptials in 2015, according to a survey by ING, the Dutch-based multinational and financial services firm. Europeans would rather spend money on a house than a wedding, the report found.
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How to Save on a Wedding
So, how can you save thousands on your wedding? Think smaller — reduce the guest list, buy fewer flowers and settle for a dress that isn’t designer. It doesn’t have to be hard to cut back on wedding costs.
Accruing Bank Fees
Americans paid $15 billion in overdraft and bounced check fees in 2016, according to data released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That doesn’t mean people are spending outlandishly. Simply overdrawing on your bank account by a few dollars could slap you with an overdraft fee or a non-sufficient funds fee. As an example, Wells Fargo charges $35 for each NSF.
How to Save on Bank Fees
You might be able to avoid an overdraft or NSF fee by being proactive. To start, check your account settings online for overdraft protection to see if you can receive text or email alerts if your account balance drops below a certain dollar amount. These alerts can notify you before you overdraw.
ATM fees are another type of fee that you can avoid simply by using the ATMs in your banking network. You should also strive not to pay a monthly maintenance fee on your account. Most banks make it easy for you to avoid maintenance fees by setting certain requirements.
Neglecting to Use Gym Memberships
Remember that gym membership you signed up for as a 2018 New Year’s resolution? If that seems like a distant memory now, then you’re probably trimming your wallet instead of your waistline.
Many Americans are wasting their money on unused gym memberships — and that’s what gyms are banking on, according to NPR’s Planet Money. Gyms know they can offer amazing deals and sign up as many people as possible because a good portion of members will stay home.
How to Save on Gym Memberships
Now, if you use the gym regularly, you’re likely getting a good deal. For anyone else, scrap the membership and work out by going for walks or bike rides.
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Forgetting About Subscription Services
Whether you follow the latest fashion, beauty or food trends, there’s likely a subscription service for you. In fact, today’s society seems obsessed with subscriptions, with companies such as Blue Apron, Plated and ShoeDazzle becoming household names.
Subscriptions mean you pay a monthly fee. Although most of these companies charge under $50 per month, pricing can vary with frequency of delivery and item quantity.
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How to Save on Subscription Services
Many people sign up for free 30-day trials with intentions to cancel, but they often forget. So, don’t forget about what you’ve signed up to pay each month. And if you do continue to use your subscription service, don’t put it on autopay — that way you’re constantly reminded of the charge in case you want to cancel.
“Nothing makes a company happier than getting its customers to sign up for subscriptions,” wrote Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue in his book “Pogue’s Basics: Money.”
Staying Connected to Cable
The average American’s cable TV bill is $106 a month, according to a recent study by Leichtman Research Group. And cable companies are continuously increasing pricing, along with fees for equipment, high definition and other associated services. Unfortunately, most people aren’t using their cable service enough to make that amount worth the investment — perhaps you’re one of them.
How to Save on Cable
So, what are your alternatives? Consider breaking up with your cable service and getting your TV from the internet with services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or HBO Now. The costs of these services are a fraction of cable’s price tag.
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