Money can buy freedom – freedom from trading hours for dollars. Money can buy options – the option to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do. Money is great to have as long as you manage and spend it wisely. But most of us never do – we waste it and we don’t even realize it.
Because many of the items and services we buy aren’t worth what we pay for them.
Here are 18 common money wasters to beware of:
- Bottled Water – Water is one of the most abundant, freely available resources on planet Earth. So is air. If I bottled some air, would you pay 2 to 3 dollars a bottle for it? I doubt it. Bottom line: Buy a water filter for your tap and stop wasting your money.
- Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions – The same exact articles are online for free. I can read them right now and I didn’t pay a dime. Why are you?
- Printer Ink Cartridges – If you’re buying brand new ink cartridges every time you need new ink for your printer you’re paying about $8000 a gallon for ink. Yep, that’s right! Computer printer ink is one of the most overpriced consumer goods. For home users, instead of buying new ink cartridges, take your old ones to a store that will refill them for half the price. For businesses that do lots of printing, consider outsourcing the bulk of your printing.
- More House Than You Need – When you buy or rent a house that’s bigger than you need, you end up wasting lots of money on larger monthly payments, higher upkeep costs, higher utility bills, and lots of random ‘stuff’ to fill up the extra empty space.
- Insurance – Car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, etc. Insurance companies love to rip us off. And while you can’t totally avoid them from a legal standpoint, you can shop around and save yourself a boat-load of cash. Don’t get comfortable paying what you’re paying simply because you’re used to it. Make sure you’re getting the best deal.
- Premium Cable or Satellite Television – Hulu.com offers thousands of television shows and full-length movies – all for free. And Netflix charges $9 a month for access to hundreds of thousands of television episodes and movies on DVD, or you can stream them live to your computer. So if you’re paying more than $9 a month, you’re wasting your money.
- Retail Furniture – Most people don’t realize that home furniture has a 200% to 400% markup on it. A typical retail furniture store must maintain warehouse inventory, a showroom, commission salesmen, etc. which all equates to a fairly high overhead. For this reason it is normal for furniture retailers to maintain extremely high markups. A typical piece of furniture that has a ‘suggested retail price’ of $500 will usually cost the retailer less than $200, so even when they put it ‘on sale’ for $400, they’re still making over 100% profit. The best way to save big money on furniture is to buy from an online furniture store with low overhead, buy wholesale, or buy slightly used on eBay or craigslist.
- Restaurants and Prepared Foods – I don’t need to tell you this. Eating out is ridiculously expensive. So is buying prepared foods at the grocery store. Buy both every once in awhile as a treat, but learn to cook and prepare your own food on a regular basis. It’s not just cheaper, it’s healthier too.
- Nutritional Supplements – Protein powders, vitamins, sports drinks, etc. – all of them are overpriced and have been proven by doctors to be mediocre sources of nourishment. The answer to good health rests not in a once or twice a day supplement solution, but in an integrated approach to good baseline nutrition though healthy eating habits that give us the energy we need to enjoy our lives and the best chance of warding off illnesses.
- Luxury Name Brand Products – A car gets you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B.’ A purse holds your personal belongings. A pair of sunglasses shades your eyes from the sun. A shirt keeps you warm. If you’re paying premium prices just to get a fashionable brand name labeled on each these products without any regard for how efficiently the products actually serve their practical purpose, you’re wasting your money.
- New Cars – See my previous point. A car is a means of transportation to get you from one place to another. If you’re buying a new car every few years even when your old car works perfectly fine, you’re likely trying too hard to impress the wrong people… and you’re going broke in the process.
- Electronics Warranties – When you buy new electronics a warranty might seem like a decent thing to invest in. After all, a warranty covers everything from technical problems to spilling soda on the circuits. But don’t be fooled. Most of the time the numbers just don’t make sense. For instance, a two-year extended warranty on a $400 laptop at Best Buy will cost you upwards of $280 – that’s about 70% of the original price. You’re better off saving your money and taking your chances.
- Retail Computer Software – Most retail computer software is marked way up. You can easily find OEM copies of the exact same software online (on eBay and similar sites) for 25% – 50% less. Also, look into free open source software alternatives. For instance, Microsoft Office Professional 2010 costs $300 at Best Buy, but you can download OpenOffice.org’s professional office suite which has all the same word processing, spreadsheet, etc. capabilities for free. And OpenOffice.org is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office files.
- Medical Issues that Can Be Avoided – Eat right and exercise regularly! Keep your body and mind healthy! Major medical problems drain back accounts, increase insurance rates, keep you from working and earning money, and generally guarantee that you will have long-term financial problems.
- Prescription Medication – The previous bullet leads directly into this one. Prescription medicine has one of the highest markups of any consumer good. The sky high cost of prescription medications is crippling parts of the US economy and keeping necessary medicines out of the hands of those who need it most – people living on fixed incomes with acute or chronic health issues. Unlike other countries, there are no price controls on prescription medications here in the US. So we end up paying 200% – 5000% markups on essential medicines and drugs such as Prozac and Xanax. The solution is to buy wholesale at wholesale resellers such as Costco. Costco’s prices are typically half the cost of the local retail pharmacy on many popular prescription medications.
- Jewelry and Precious Gems – All jewelry is subject to volatile changes in price and high markups. The industry average markup varies widely – 100% to up to over 1000%. And jewelers thrive on the uneducated buyer, so do your research. Also, jewelry is almost always an emotional purchase, so you need to think logically about what you’re getting, how much you’re paying for it, and what your other options are. And even then, you probably won’t get a great deal. Buying and wearing less jewelry is always the smartest choice.
- Second-rate Entertainment – The best things in life are free. Stop wasting your money on movies, games, and other second-rate entertainment and take a good look around you. Mother Nature offers lots of entertainment free of charge. Go hiking, go skinny dipping, play in the rain, build a bonfire with your friends, watch the sunset with your lover, etc.
- Nasty Money-sucking (and life-sucking) Habits. – Smoking, drinking and gambling are all perfect examples of bad habits in which you choose to trade short term pleasure for long term debt and discomfort. So light one up, shoot one down, and toss another chip across the table. It’s only your life and livelihood.
Photo by: Tracy O.
hey i found this sooo helpful!! i discovered the expense of vitamins and other supplements. And bottled water and soft drinks. working on the rest of the list, thanks!
Adam Sicinski says
I often find that when I go shopping without a shopping list, that I waste money on unnecessary purchases packed with sugar and salt 😉
When it comes to long-term wealth, frugality is the key and it all begins with spending money wisely or not at all. The upside to this spending is that it keeps the economy moving forward 🙂
Wow! Great post. Glad to say I’ve quit doing nearly all of those things. Most people exist to watch tv, smoke, drink, gamble, and buy new and expensive items, so it’s enjoyable to see other people out there are on the same page. This link will be retweeted by me for sure.
I wouldn’t say most people but some people. Most people have at least one hobby that they pursue at least occasionally such as knitting, cooking, walking, swimming, going to the gym or reading.
Vineet Patawari says
hey nice post I must say!!
there is another angle to saving cautiously. one can save a lot of money by comparing the prices online before buying, look for online discount coupons, deals, etc.
Kevin B says
I quit a three pack a day smoking habit at the end of 2004 and after six months off the sticks, I treated myself by buying a nicer used car with the money I saved from buying cigarettes.
Also, if you do a lot of printing that doesn’t require color, a black and white laser printer is so much cheaper over time than an inkjet. I can get about 4000 pages out of a $100 remanufactured toner cartridge compared to about 100 pages out of a $15 black inkjet cartridge.
And of course, the Google text ads at the bottom are for Printer Ink and Bottled Water!
great post. i agree with everything except jewelery. some pawn shop s have good deals and i think gold jewelery not alot at one time or too gaudy does look elegant. especially earrings and necklaces.
Armen Shirvanian says
Hi Marc and also Angel.
I see these as money-wasters as well. There are obviously companies that don’t want articles like this to show up, but that is the constant battle between business and personal interests. That part about medical issues being avoided is also not mentioned much. If we prevent some issue that would have cost $10000 for some operation, then that is largely advantageous for us. We have to be aware of reality like this.
Imagine if gas stations had a printer ink nozzle next to the other ones, and the price was $8000 per gallon on the sign.
You made many good points. I am already doing a lot of these, but I was unaware of the mark up percentages! I’m going to share this with my friends and family.
Although I may overall agree with the post, I also cannot help but thinking that life would be rather boring without wasting money in useless things.
Preeti @ Heart and Mind says
Sadly, many advertisement will make you think we need these items and must use buy it.
Another silly thing people buy, including me is crazy bank fees to earn some interests. Even using credit union has it is fees.
I have to disagree with #2. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions don’t cost very much but not paying for them decreases the quality over time. If you value something, pay for it and don’t just get it for free. “News” sources that are only supported by ad revenues on free webpages will not be able to support high-quality in-depth information reporting on a long term basis. Instead, we get a proliferation of sources that report information without fact checking or doing any back research, and the amount misinformation floating around increases dramatically.
I like this post, and I agree with most of the points. The only one I have an issue with is the one about newspapers and magazines. Why am I paying to read a print newspaper? First of all, I find clicking through online articles and links to be much less fulfilling than opening the morning paper and scanning full articles, Second, I love newspapers and magazines, and I know that in this highly-digital world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a paper. Newspapers are folding everyday. I buy the print paper because I fear the day when the only sources of news we have left are TV, blogs, and the instant (yet empty) internet news headlines aimed at those with too small an attention span to appreciate a well-written article.
Other than that, this post is great!
Nea | Self Improvement Saga says
Wow this is an amazing list. I’m guilty of a few of them–especially #1. A water filter is so inexpensive, yet I still buy bottled water all too often. I’m shaking my head at myself.
I also love #14/#15. Most of the illnesses that people end up with today are related to lifestyle. We can change our lifestyle to prevent the cost of diseases and treatment.
Arina from Arina's Self Help Blog says
I was hesitant to read below the title thinking I’d probably have half of the wasteful purchases. LOL! Thankfully, I just saw one thing that I spend money on – bottled water. But hey, it’s only when I’m travelling. Still, I know it’s wasteful. This sure is a great read and people should be aware of this. The listed stuff would be considered by many folks as “essentials” like insurance, nutritional supplements and medications, and second-rate entertainment! Share, share, share!
John Sherry says
Glad someone else agrees Marc. In fact some you mention are quite expensive so it’s like money down the drain. My top favourite is fancy coffee. You know the ones like frappachino, macchaito etc which cost a lot more plus those shots of vanilla or caramel (which means it’s fast becoming a syrup drink NOT a coffee) that are charged even more extra for. I have coffee and that’s it and save a whole bunch of cash in the process. Why pay more for an exotic sounding marketing named drink when good old coffee roast is still on the menu??
Arvind Devalia says
Excellent post and timely for what we are all going through.
I find that the media has hyped up all the things we supposedly need to be happy and to be with the in-crowd.
Another suggestion I would add – get rid of your television. Here in the UK we have to pay £130 per annum for a TV license.
So not only do I now save that fee, but also avoid being bombarded and brainwashed by mass-advertising.
I now spend my leisure time reading blogs and commenting on them:-)
Kathy Zucker says
Great article! The only item I disagree with is #4; if your lifestyle (ie. planning to have kids) is going to change, it is very expensive to have to sell a too-small home and buy a bigger one. Multiple transaction costs plus forced sale outweigh the additional expense of maintaining a larger home. Blog post @http://bit.ly/9HRiVF
i guess we should apply the minimalization concept to spending too
Nice list marc, but I think something are nice to have. For example, it doesn’t hurt if you have extra space incase some friends or family want to stay over. Thanks for sharing
Mike Reeves-McMillan says
I’m glad you mentioned supplements, that’s a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine. Someday I will rant about it on my blog. When fresh, nutritious food is so enjoyable, it makes no sense to get less for more money in pill form.
Good post! But I disagree with the newspaper subscriptions-as technology grows, we lose a lot of things. The newspaper press is going to die out at one point. Computers will continue to be used and improved-so much so that people are now starting to read books online.
I’ve never received a letter in the mail. We really can’t do everything on the internet, and I love reading the news when its in my hands, not on a screen-I trust it a whole lot more.
Eileen L. Olson says
Mostly I manage to get rid of my garbage responsibly but it is sometimes depressing whenever I take a look at what the rest of the world is doing to this beautiful planet!
Rudy Emilien says
Great post Marc.
I don’t understand why people spend a lot of money just to get a fancy car. I heard some people even make loans to buy expensive cars.
About the TV thing. Nice if you live in the states, hulu ONLY works in the US. The rest of the world actually has to search for stuff, and the way the EU is pushing Canada, and the states ripping canada off, soon we’ll only get to see canadian content on an actual tv.
As far as newspaper and magazine reading (and maybe some BOOK reading folks), why not mention the LIBRARY? Also counts as amazing free entertainment.
Ivor Bigun says
Isn’t life meant to be abundant? Sometimes it makes us feel good to spend money on wasteful things. You have some good points which are common sense but I’d rather aim for an income bracket where I can enjoy luxuries and treat those I care about.
I must have been raised right, because I don’t waste my money on most of these things. The only things that I do is one prescription (insurance pays for most of it anyway) and eating out a little more than I should (which still isn’t very often compared to the bulk of people).
Sometimes, when you have a chronic illness that is not avoidable, supplements are your best bet. I don’t have an interest in eating all day long to fruitlessly attempt to take in all that my body is unable to process normally. And I will never give up the printed word. Try to curl up in a hammock and read the news online. Not the same.
Some great ideas here and I do most of them. Like others, I haven’t given up on newspapers and magazines. I love sitting in my sunny dining room with a cup of coffee and a newspaper spread on the table and a new magazine with a hot bubble bath is one of life’s greatest pleasures!
Jason Keller says
Regarding number 10, I will not say that I disagree, because this is a general list, but I think it would be prudent to consider the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” Many low-end consumer items are poorly made and require frequent replacement. Many people would be served best by buying the highest quality items they can afford(considering price does not equal quality) because these items, when properly cared for, can last a lifetime. Kitchen knives, pots, pans, quality suits, and quality tools. I can not excuse purchasing luxury items for the sake of vanity, but in certain cases, it could be the right choice.
At this point I would like to reaffirm that I do not disagree entirely, but would also call into question the ability of cheap sunglasses to protect ones eyes from the sun.
Great post. I love your site.
I just ran across this blog entry, but, what a great post! Lots of good practical things. Unfortunately, I think most Americans (myself included) have to get over some of our “wants” in life. Kudos all the same for posting these!
BTW: In my state, you do NOT need to be a Costco (or Sam’s) member to use their pharmacy: there’s a law: if you sell drugs, you have to sell to the public. When you see the nice lady at the front door, just smile at her and say “I’m just going to the pharmacy,” and she’ll smile back and say “great” or “ok,” or whatever. Did it last week.
And Sam’s is often cheaper than Costco. On most things. Costco tends to sell really fancy things for the same price you’d pay for a non-fancy one. Sam’s sells somewhat less-fancy things, still fancier than you’d probably buy otherwise, but for less.
i spent these last 2 days reading your blog and finally i got the courage to start my own after thinking about it for a lot of time 😀
don’t forget to check if electronics already have a manufacturers warranty just for buying the product, sometimes a decent one better than the retailers
Thank you very much. Great post.
I have a strategy on spending my money:
“Spend Money on stuff that makes you healthier, wealthier, build better relationships with your loved ones and gives you life experiences to talk about later in life when you have grand children.”
The strategy is simple – spend money on nothing else in your life, but the few things above. I think I will be writing an article about that soon.
Dr Adesh says
very well crafted piece of work Marc.. definitely it will go a long way in consolidating our way of managing money.
This info is great. Thanks man. My friends need to hear this!
Money spent on quality nutritional supplements is money worth spending as the soil has been depleted of minerals and vitamins which means no matter what we eat we aren’t getting them in our food as much.