Five common ways to waste money

Updated on March 10, 2014.

Do you ever wonder where all your cash goes? Do you ever feel as if there’s a hole in your wallet? Perhaps, you spend money on what are commonly thought of as money wasters. If so, consider whether you want to cut back or keep spending money on them. Here are five often-cited ways to squander money:

  1. The impulse to make impulse buys. When you’re about to buy something, do you ask yourself, “do I really want or need this?” and “do I really think I’ll use this?” If your gut tells you no, listen to it. A purchase made on sale may seem like a wise idea, but not if it simply ends up forgotten in your closet. That’s the problem with thoughtless bargain shopping at a store, on the web or through a TV infomercial. Websites, such as Groupon and Living Social Daily, offer daily deals with deep discounts. But did you know that 20% of these types of purchases are never used? That’s an estimate made by the since-shutdown Lifesta, a website that helped people resell their unused deals.*
     
  2. Speeding – that’s the ticket. Do you like to save time by driving too fast or parking in the wrong places? In this case, time can be money, as in the fines that you fork over to the local municipality. And if you get a traffic violation, your auto insurance company will often raise your premium. Did you know that 21% of Americans got zapped with a speeding ticket in 2013 and the average penalty was $152?1 And with speed and red light cameras becoming the norm in many places, you don’t know you were caught until your ticket arrives in the mail.
     
  3. Workout places that don’t work out. Joining a health club and actually using it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But so many people join up only to become no-shows. The average cost for a gym membership is $55 a month, and 32% of the people who are paying those fees don’t use their gym at all.2
     
  4. Gift cards you don’t redeem. People generally love to give and receive gift cards. During the 2013 holiday season, 81% of shoppers planned to give a gift card to people on their list. And over 60% of Americans said they would appreciate a gift card (while 25% said this present is too impersonal).3 Bottom line: Of the $41 billion in gift cards bought each year, about $6 billion goes unused.4
     
  5. Paying to use ATMs. Critics call ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) “Always Taking Money.” And not without reason. If you use an ATM that’s not associated with your financial institution, then you’re likely paying $3 to $5 for the privilege of accessing your own money – a service you can get for free. You may end up paying a fee to the bank that owns the ATM and then your bank may add a charge on top of that. If you consistently rely on ATMs that are not associated with your financial institution, the money you throw away can really add up. In 2013, Americans spent a whopping $8 billion in tacked-on ATM fees.5 The solution: Use your financial institution’s ATMs whenever you can and avoid trips to other ATMs by getting extra cash from debit card purchases in stores. Alliant savings and checking accountholders enjoy access to more surcharge-free ATMs than the six largest U.S. banks combined!6 That’s right. Our 80,000 surcharge-free ATMs* are available in all 50 states with many in popular merchants, such as convenience stores, drug stores, gas stations, discount retail stores and more. To find the surcharge-free ATMs nearest you, use the ATM Locator on our website or on our Mobile Banking app, or call 800-328-1935.

 

* Thanks to reader @MarisaBowe for informing us that the source for the daily deal statistic cited above has since gone out of business.

1) U.S. Highway Patrol 2) StatisticBrain.com 3) National Retail Federation 4) CEB TowerGroup 5) The Institute for Business in the Global Context 6) Nerdwallet.com, August 2012