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I'd like to believe that I've perfectly honed my ability to spend money in a way that benefits me now — and will continue to do so in the future. However, just when I think I've got it all figured out, that's when the rug is pulled out from under my checking account (so to speak). Little slip-ups here and there seem harmless and unavoidable but when I really step back and examine my financial decision-making on a daily basis, I notice that there are plenty of areas still left to improve. If you're anything like me, you might need to work on them, too.
Buying brand names
While there are definite differences between certain brand name products and their cheaper generic counterparts, most of the time, there is absolutely no discernible distinction apart from the packaging and the inflated price. Toasted Oats are just as good as Cheerios and nobody will ever know the thrifty secret (especially if you're one of those people who transfers all dry cereal to a plastic container rather than saving the box).
Overspending on your car
Most contemporary cars are designed to use regular gas and putting premium fuel into that system will not improve the car's performance in any way (think of it as the mechanical version of the misguided belief that "well, beta carotene can help prevent night blindness so if I eat a ton of carrots, my eyesight will never stop improving"). Conversely, cars designed to run on premium will not find any sort of drop-off with regular gas. So why pay more for the same results?
Additionally, many modern cars can traditionally go longer between oil changes (especially if you're using synthetic oil), meaning you don't need to make as many costly trips to the mechanic. A better idea for constant vehicle maintenance is to just monitor your tire pressure to ensure you're getting the best gas mileage possible in between those actually necessary oil changes.
Read on for more ways we're wasting money.
Many of the devices currently plugged into your wall outlets are guzzling electricity without even being switched "on". It's disturbing and true — we've discussed it on Bundle before. Invest in a few power strips with an on-off button and use them on the largest of your electronics. You'll not only save money — you'll save the world!*
[* Note: may not save the world.]
Ignoring the dollar store
It's easy to mock the 99-cent or $1 store but truthfully, a lot of common items can be found there for a price much lower than retail. Some dollar stores (like Dollar Tree) are now selling frozen foods, meaning you can get a week's worth of vegetables for the price of one meal at Chipotle. Additionally, any little snacks you need for a road trip or night out at the movies are widely available for a buck — saving you copious amounts of money over time. If you're throwing a party, the dollar store offers totally serviceable party supplies with prices at least half as cheap as the stuff you'd find at Target or Party City.
I rarely use an ATM, which makes the inevitable service fee I incur all the more infuriating. "I have to PAY MONEY to have my MONEY? But I never use your stupid machine! Wait, where am I?!" It's dreadful. But for plenty of people, it's an unavoidable part of their daily routine. Or is it? Try to use one of your own bank's ATMs (if it means going out of your way, calculate how much you'll save on fees per month to judge the feasibility of this change). Hit the Internet and track down nearby locations of fee-free ATM networks like Allpoint or MoneyPass. Further, some retailers (like Wawa) have fee-free ATMs inside the store. Research your other options and watch in awe as all those non-fees add up in your wallet.
Coupons exist for a reason: to help us save money. Do you own a diamond mine we don't know about? No, I don't think you do. So give coupons a chance. While it takes a little bit of human effort to locate and maintain retail coupons, that invested time can come back to you tenfold in the form of serious savings. Not everyone has the time or interest to participate in "extreme couponing" but taking part in even the most basic form of bargain hunting will prove to be a worthwhile endeavor, if you know what you're doing. On top of that: we have the Internet now! Take two minutes and search for applicable coupons — you're guaranteed to find some.
Unless you're buying gas, convenience stores are generally going to rip you off (see, their price gouging is hard to spot behind the facade of convenience). It may only be a couple coins here and there but these gas station sidecar businesses only exist because they overcharge for everything inside their store. Rather than relying on a convenience store for snacks or beverages, just go to a dollar store or grocery store and save.
Buying magazines one at a time
If you know there's a pretty good chance you're going to buy the new issue of Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone every month, then you should just subscribe to it. I know the savings that come with a magazine subscription are promoted more often than a software update for iTunes but that's only because it's true. In what universe is "saving upwards of 50% off the cover price" not something you'd want to be a part of? Pay the low rate for the year, reap the financial rewards.
Whether it's you buying some sort of service or a sports/movie/concert ticket online, one of the sneaky methods by which we are bilked out of small amounts of money are service fees. What does this charge even entail? Nobody knows. Scholars maintain that the city of Atlantis may hold the key to cracking the code. Regardless, if you plan ahead and get to the box office (or where ever else) at the appropriate time, you can just buy your tickets in person and save.
Check out these smart tips from Bundle: