Life Hacks | Did You Know

9 Ways You're Wasting Money That You Don't Even Realize

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Did you start your new year with the hopes of saving a few extra bucks? Whether you're trying to balance your budget, put some extra cash away for a rainy day or save for a big trip, saving money is a goal that most of us can relate to.

While we may be trying to cut back on spending, using coupons or taking on another job to boost our income, there are places you're probably wasting money that you don't even realize.

Here are some common bad habits that really end up costing you.  

1. Going Out To Eat

When you're budgeting your food costs, how much goes to restaurants and fast food chains, versus grocery stores? As it turns out, American consumers tend to spend more money on prepared food then they do at the supermarket because it's easier to avoid cooking.

If you are looking for some motivation to get into the kitchen, it's time to do the math! If you spend $10 per meal, once a day (averaging the cost of fast food and a sit-down meal), you're spending $3,650 per year. Instead, if you replaced those meals with something prepared at home for an average cost of $3, you will save well over $2,500 each year AND it will be a much healthier choice.

2. Buying Coffee

While it's nice to meet a friend at a local coffee shop on occasion, buying coffee every day can be a serious drain on your bank account. Instead try making your coffee at home and putting it in a travel mug for your trip to work. Also, take advantage of free coffee where you can, such as at work. You can even pick up a fancy creamer to make your boring cup of coffee taste like it came from a gourmet shop.

If you add it up, that's where it makes a huge difference. Three lattes a week comes up to a whopping $460 on coffee, compared to 18 cents per cup when you brew at home at an annual cost of $28.

3. Throwing out food before it expires

Americans waste a ton of food each year- 33 million tons to be exact. And it's getting worse. The average household wastes 50 percent more than a family in the 1970s. The typical American family ends up throwing away $2,275 in wasted food each year.

Why are we wasting so much food and money?

Grabbing easy meals instead of using the fresh produce in your fridge is one reason. Before you head to the supermarket, make a list as well as a meal plan and stick to it. That way you are only buying exactly what you will consume.

Also, don't assume your food is spoiled just by looking at the expiry date on the package. Many foods will continue to keep for days after the posted expiration, if they are properly stored.

Don't forget the power of your freezer. If you are running out of time before your food goes bad, pop it into your freezer to use it later.

4. Buying cosmetics

So we've talked a lot of about what we put IN our body, but what about what we put ON it? The average American woman spends about $8 per day on cosmetics. While that may sound like a lot, if you add up the cost of your makeup, facewash, moisturizer and all the products you use on a daily basis, it certainly adds up.

You don't need to sacrifice your skincare and makeup to fit within your budget though, instead take a look at where you shop.

"You may find yourself turning up your nose at the idea of getting beauty products at the dollar store, but you would be missing a great opportunity to save yourself some money," says Sarah Hollenbeck, personal finance expert from Offers.com. "Many name-brand companies such as E.L.F and NYX can be found in the shelves of your local dollar store for much less than what you would pay for the exact same products anywhere else."

By shopping savvy, you can cut your makeup budget in half and save over $1,500 per year.

5. Buying too many clothes

Yes, we know that everyone needs to dress themselves and eventually you will have to replace those jeans you have worn holes into, but do you really need ANOTHER purple top? Chances are, when it comes to clothes, you're overspending. According to a Wells Fargo analyst, Americans spend 11 percent of their discretionary budget on clothes and shoes, often buying name brands and really increasing the budget.

"If you're shopping for brand name clothes, always make sure to check out overstock stores," says Hollenbeck. "These stores have amazing deals on quality clothing, shoes, and accessories, oftentimes with deals as high as 90 percent off."

Also properly caring for your clothes is important if you're looking to get as much life out of them as possible. Properly washing and drying your clothes will keep the colors and fabrics in tact, so make sure you check the labels.

The typical American family spends about $1,800 on apparel each year, so if you can scale back a bit, that's money back into your bank account.

6. Doing the laundry

While it may seem like a small expense, making laundry day more efficient can save you in the long run. First, how much detergent are you using? With new high-efficiency machines, you need less soap than you used to and it also uses less water in the process. Avoid adding too much detergent, because it's literally going down the drain.

Depending on what you're washing, you can probably skip the hot water, as well. Cold water can wash most fabrics and you'll save big money on your electric bill thanks to the change. You can also skip the dryer and save significantly more by hang-drying your clothes.

If you wash 400 loads of laundry each year, it will cost you about $608. If you implement these changes, however, it can bring down your bill to $140 per year, which is a whopping $468 in savings!

7. Setting your thermostat

Speaking of energy turning into money saving, the temperature of your home can really affect your budget if you're not smart about it. According to the Department of Energy, you can save about three percent of your heating costs for each degree you turn your thermostat down in the winter.

A great way to do this is by turning your thermostat down at night. You'll be under the covers anyways, so you likely won't notice the change. Also by getting a programmable thermostat, you can change the temperature of your home when you're not around. That way you aren't spending money to heat your house while everyone is at work.

The average household spends about $2,092 on heating, but by turning down your thermostat by just three degrees overall, you can save an extra $189 each year.

8. Entertainment

I am not saying you should never have a night out, but consider how much you're spending when you do. Is it really worth the price of admission and concession to sit in a quiet theater to watch a movie? Instead opt for a more frugal and fun activity. Go for a hike, bike ride, or have a picnic in the park. These activities will not only get the blood flowing but will give you more bonding time with your loved ones.

The average American household spends 5.6 percent of their income or $2,827 on entertainment every year. Surely you can cut that back to save some money!

9. ATM fees

The charges associated with convenience can really end up hurting your bank account. If you think about the extra $2 or $3 charge every time you want to take out money, you will realize how much of your budget is being wasted.

Instead, plan ahead. Take out money once a month or find a way to do it with no fee.

How will you change your habits to start saving money?