By BETH BRAVERMAN
With inflation pushing the price of just about everything higher, it’s more important than ever to keep track of how you’re spending your money.
Over time, however, even the most budget-conscious consumers may find themselves spending more than they need to on certain expenses.
Here’s a look at seven common money traps – and tips on how to cut those costs.
- Bank fees
Whether you’re paying fees for withdrawing money from an out-of-network ATM or paying monthly service fees for simply having a checking account, small fees can add up to a significant amount of wasted money over time. The average monthly fee for non-interest checking accounts (excluding free checking accounts) last year was just over $5, according to a Bankrate survey, while the fee for interest-bearing checking accounts was more than $16 for those who didn’t meet the requirements to waive the fee.
Cut the waste: Change banks. Nearly half of checking accounts don’t have monthly maintenance fees at all, according to Bankrate. The cost of monthly fees, if you’re unable to avoid them with your current bank, likely outweighs any interest you’re getting paid on that account.
- Sale items you don’t need
There’s no denying the thrill you get when you purchase an item for less than its typical price. But spending money on something you don’t need just because it’s on sale can quickly lead to overspending.
Cut the waste: The next time you’re tempted to purchase something on sale, wait 24 hours before making the purchase. Often the initial excitement of getting a deal will wear off, and you’ll be able to walk away from the transaction.
- Subscriptions you don’t use
A Chase study last year found more than 70% of consumers wasted more than $50 per month on recurring payments for things they didn’t need or want. One culprit for this, said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews, is that people often sign up for free trials and then fail to cancel when the trial period expires.
“These things get put on autopay, and then people don’t even realize that they’re paying for something that they don’t even use,” Ramhold added. “That’s an easy way to chuck money out the window.”
Cut the waste: Even if you have your credit cards set for autopayment (which is a smart way to avoid late payment fees), carefully look over your statement each month and cancel any charges for items or services you don’t use.
- Food waste
Up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. While the amount of food your family is throwing out may be lower, we’re all guilty of having to toss salad greens that wilted or leftovers brought home after a dinner out.
Cut the cost: Look through your refrigerator before you head out to the supermarket. Then plan your meals (and your shopping list) around the items you already have. That way you’ll not only be sure to use those items before they go bad, but also less likely to purchase new groceries that go to waste.
- Extended warranties
While extended warranties on your car, appliances, or other electronic devices may offset the cost of future repairs, they’re not always a great deal for consumers, according to Ramhold. Sometimes the cost of the plan will exceed the cost of any potential repairs, or it doesn’t cover the issue that you have, Ramhold said. Plus, many credit cards include extended warranty coverage for some purchases, so you may be paying for coverage you already have.
Cut the waste: Rather than paying for an extended warranty, consider directing your extra cash toward an emergency account that you can use to cover the cost of repairs, should they arise. If you already have a fully funded emergency account, you may be able to skip this expense entirely.
- Overpaying for insurance
Like most other services, the cost of home and auto insurance typically goes up over time, but if you’ve been with the same provider for several years, you may want to shop around to see if you can find a better price.
“New customers get new-customer deals,” said consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “You may be able to find a policy that offers the same or better coverage for less.”
Cut the waste: Check online sites like TheZebra.com or Policygenius to get insurance quotes. If you’re happy with your current coverage and provider, you may be able to use those quotes as ammo in negotiations for a better rate.
Other ways to slash your bill: Bundle home and auto insurance with the same provider or increase your deductible. By doing those two things, Woroch said she was recently able to cut her insurance bill by $1,100 per year.
- Credit card interest
High-interest debt and fees on credit cards cost American households an average $1,000 per year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While credit cards can be a useful tool, they become an expensive burden that can drag down your finances when you carry a balance.
Cut the waste: If you are carrying debt, focus on paying down your existing balance and put your cards on ice for now.
“If you’re having a problem with credit card debt, it’s probably a good time to put the card away and use the cash method instead, or use a debit card,” Ramhold advised.
A previous version of this story misstated the name of insurance website TheZebra.com.
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