15 Ways You’re Wasting Money Without Even Thinking About It

You might not need to take any drastic measures to start saving money.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Do you ever check your bank account balance at the end of the day and wonder where all that money went?

If you’re tired of exhausting your budget for no apparent reason, you might have accidentally acquired one of these 15 thoughtless spending habits.

While they might seem small, the extra costs add up fast — which means cutting them out of your daily routine is a great way to keep more money in your bank account.

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You eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Ruan Jordaan/peopleimages.com/Adobe creative workers having a meeting in a cafe

Depending on which restaurants you visit, eating out a few times a week won’t necessarily destroy your budget. However, eating at home is almost always cheaper than going out.

For instance, a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, fruit, and oat milk might cost upwards of $10 at your favorite breakfast place. But you could get the same ingredients for a little more than that at the store and make yourself the same breakfast multiple days in a row.

You always buy brand-name groceries

progressman/Adobe young woman doing grocery shopping in supermarket

Brand-name foods are almost always more expensive than their generic counterparts, but in most cases, the only difference lies in the advertising.

Opting for the generic whenever possible will almost always save you money without compromising quality.

You buy clothes online and forget to return them

nenetus/Adobe woman shopping online with credit card and laptop

Some online shoppers do a great job of trying on something they’ve ordered immediately, then sending it back for a full refund if it doesn’t fit. Others? Not so much.

If you know you aren’t likely to make an inconvenient post office run to return an item, consider pulling the plug on shopping for clothes online — at least for now.

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You don’t store savings in a savings account

photobyphotoboy/Adobe business financial planning financial analysis

Is the money you want to save stored in a checking account? It might be generating a little interest, but not as much as it would in a high-yield savings account.

If you usually forget to move money from your paycheck into savings, setting up automatic transfers will ensure your savings move instantly.

You order in with apps

SFIO CRACHO/Adobe delivery food service at home

When you stay home to eat, do you order in using Uber Eats or DoorDash? You could save quite a bit if you called in and picked up your order yourself.

Menu items often cost more on the app than they do in person or over the phone. That’s also true even if you use an app to order food that you pick up yourself.

Plus, if you order delivery, you’ll pay a delivery fee and a tip. You can keep more money in your wallet by calling in an order, then driving out to bring it home.

You sign up for meal kits that you forget to use

Daria Nipot/Adobe Hello Fresh meal kits in a cardboard box

If you struggle to plan meals yourself, meal kits could help you save money — or at least waste less food. But to make the cost of meal kits worth it, you have to actually cook the food you’re sent.

If you’re too tired to cook one night or aren’t thrilled about the day’s recipe, you might end up ordering in, effectively doubling your dinnertime expenses.

If you haven’t made your meals for a few days (or weeks) in a row, you’re throwing money away. Consider canceling your subscription and trying a free meal-planning app instead.

You don’t plan purchases in advance

AntonioDiaz/Adobe multiracial friends buying at the thrift store

Whether you’re going to the grocery store or thrift shop, it helps to make a list of what you’re shopping for in advance.

Along with helping you stay on task so you can get in and out of the store faster, it can also help you avoid expensive impulse buys.

You always go for the priciest coffee

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe female hand taking cup of hot coffee from barista

If you love Starbucks’ caramel macchiatos or your local coffee shop’s signature beverage, we can’t say we blame you.

But replacing your liquid sugar with a simple drip coffee could save you $5 a day — or more, depending on local prices and how much you order.

Of course, you’ll save more if you can brew coffee at home instead of going out. But if you can’t stand to lose your favorite coffee shop, ordering cheaper coffee is the next best thing.

You go to the same gas station out of habit

Carolyn Franks/Adobe retail gasoline station

Different gas retailers charge different fees for the same gas, which is why gas at your local Chevron might cost more or less than at your nearest Shell.

Gas costs can also vary between the same gas station in the same town: Maybe the Chevron on the south side of town is five cents cheaper than the Chevron by the freeway.

So instead of shopping at the closest gas station by default, take the time to figure out which gas station in your area is the cheapest.

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You forget to cancel free trials

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe young woman using smart phone at home

Free trials give you a great chance to test-drive a service and find out if you really want to pay a monthly price for it.

But unless you remember to cancel the free trial, you’ll end up paying for the service anyway.

Don’t sign up for another free trial without writing down exactly when it expires and canceling it before your time runs out.

You subscribe to streaming services you don’t watch

Kaspars Grinvalds/Adobe woman relaxing at home in evening and watching TV

Did you sign up for a streaming service to watch a popular new show, but now it’s been three months and you still haven’t gotten to it? Cancel the subscription.

You can always pick up the subscription again once you’re ready to watch, but for now, you’re losing money for no reason.

Plus, once you have time to watch, the show might be out on Blu-Ray and you can get it for free at your library instead.

You aren’t on top of your automatic renewals

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe businesswoman using tablet at the desk in modern office

Many apps and magazines offer affordable (or even free) long-term trials if you hand over your credit card and agree to an automatic subscription renewal.

The subscription’s length makes it easy to forget you even signed up, so you’re hit with $50 to $100 seemingly out of the blue a year later.

For the most part, you can cancel a subscription or trial as soon as you subscribe while still retaining access until the end of your subscription term. If you’re worried you’ll forget, just subscribe, cancel, and enjoy.

You forget to renew library materials

yossarian6/Adobe librarian taking one book from library bookshelf

Going to the library instead of the bookstore or movie theater is a fantastic way to save money — unless you forget to return your items on time and start racking up late fees.

Some libraries waive fees altogether while others renew materials for you automatically, but if yours doesn’t, put due dates in your calendar app so you remember to renew on time.

You don’t use autopay

Moon Safari/Adobe smiling young adult man doing online shopping

Autopay features are the best way to avoid unnecessary late fees on bills. If you haven’t signed up for autopay and frequently forget to pay bills, now’s the time.

Just make sure to monitor your bank account: Fees from bounced payments can add up quickly too.

You pay for more insurance than you need

thanksforbuying/Adobe stethoscope on keyboard

It’s tempting to sign up for the most comprehensive insurance possible, but it’s not always necessary.

For instance, if you already have health insurance you like, you might not need add-on insurance for long-term illnesses or disabilities (especially if you’re young and in relatively good health).

On the flip side, your disability policy might not offer solid benefits once you reach age 65 — so canceling the insurance makes more sense.

Bottom line

Marharyta Demydova/Adobe woman looks in surprise at the phone with a shocked expression

Making a few easy changes to your spending habits could boost your bank account by tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.

Evaluate your current expenses, then start figuring out how much a simple habit change could save you. It could be more than you’d expect.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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