It can be a vicious cycle if you're living paycheck to paycheck, one that often feels impossible to break free of.
While sweeping budget changes and major downsizing might be an option for you, there’s an easier first step to financial stability: Cutting down on small expenses that waste money.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of some hidden expenses from your daily life that might be taking money from your bank account.
Does your bank charge you a monthly fee to keep your account open? Does it automatically charge you overdraft fees, even if you pay back the overdrafted amount within a day or two? Do you get penalized for withdrawing too much or failing to maintain a high minimum balance?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s potentially time to find a new bank. Plenty of modern banking options let you open an account for free. Others eliminate overdraft fees and offer reimbursements for out-of-network ATM withdrawals.
It’s hard to turn down the sheer convenience of having food delivered straight to your door, but you might be paying more for that convenience than you realize.
Depending on which service you use, you could be charged a service fee, delivery fee, and even a small-order fee when you order a meal.
It can be difficult to determine the fees different delivery services charge, so you should check the final amount before clicking “order.”
If you’ve signed up for every streaming service out there, you could be paying over $100 a month for access to unlimited entertainment. But if you aren’t actually watching any of the shows you’re paying for, you’re throwing cash down the drain.
Since you can always pause a subscription and pick it back up again when the next season of your favorite show airs, there’s no reason to continue paying for more than you need.
If your grocery budget is the biggest drain on your wallet, you might want to take a good hard look at what you spend the most money on.
Junk food, while tasty, is expensive without adding any value to your diet: Its empty calories don’t last long, leaving you hungry and jittery.
You can avoid high grocery bills by sticking with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that cost less and help you stay full for longer.
Shipping and return fees
Before you order something online, make sure you check the store’s return policy. Some stores require you to send items back via FedEx or UPS on your own dime.
Others, including Amazon and its sellers, can charge a restocking fee that keeps you from getting a full refund.
If you find out an online store doesn’t accept returns, it’s a good rule of thumb to skip shopping there. The risk to your wallet simply isn’t worth it.
Speaking generally, the only difference between name-brand products and their generic copies is price, not quality.
Name brands can get away with charging you more than generics because you recognize the name, and that might be the only reason for the higher price.
If you’re committed to buying a name-brand product, do what you can to find great sales prices on last season’s items.
Unfortunately, even if you have insurance, it’s often up to you to figure out where your prescription will cost the least amount of money. For instance, Walgreens, CVS, and Costco might all charge different amounts for the same generic medication.
To make sure you’re getting the best deal on crucial medications, check out programs like GoodRx, a free app that compares mediation costs and finds coupons to save you money.
And, if possible, opt for the generic version of medication over the name brand. Doing so could get you the same basic medication for as much as 70% less.
Late fees for bill payments
If you haven’t set up autopay for most of your bills, you run the risk of forgetting to pay in time and racking up late fees.
You can avoid the problem altogether by simply setting up a recurring payment, either through the service you’re paying for or through your bank.
Pro tip: To eliminate some payments entirely, consider these clever ways to cut down your debt.
Credit card fees
Credit cards can get you into a tough spot if you’re making charges you can’t pay off each month. With an outstanding balance, you’re locked into paying a certain amount of interest on top of the cost of the original purchase.
The longer you go without paying your card off, the more interest you accrue, and the faster your credit card debt balloons. Do what you can to prioritize paying off your credit card balance each month.
Gym membership fees
Gyms are expensive to join and can be difficult to leave. Some gyms charge an activation fee on top of your regular monthly fee when you join, then an annual fee or locker-rental fee on top of that.
Others lock you into a contract, and many charge you a termination fee when you leave the gym, even if you weren’t there on a contractual basis.
If you’re committed to finding a gym, at least make sure to choose one that comes without contracts. You can also look into cheaper options like your local YMCA or city rec center.
Eliminating useless expenses means you can finally save up for big purchases you actually want to make, like a dream travel destination.
Alternatively, money that would otherwise go to waste can instead go into your retirement fund or savings account.
Either way, you’re making a solid investment in your future as soon as you put these 10 tips into practice so that you can get ahead financially.