Chances are you're blowing money on at least a few nonessentials that if you're honest, qualify neither as luxuries nor necessities. So if you want to whip your bills and expenditures into shape, here are some budget-fattening offenders to avoid.
A few years ago, I noticed I was paying $7 plus tax for voicemail from the phone company. Sure, I didn't have to buy an answering machine, but other than that I couldn't find a compelling reason to spend more than $84 per year on it. I switched to a simple inexpensive digital answering machine, which I can still check when I'm away from home. For even steeper savings, get a secondhand machine.
2. Paying by the day
Paying by the day rather than getting a pass for the month is a waste of money, says Serena, the semi-anonymous Canuck blogger behind Fabulously Broke and Everyday Minimalist. The self-taught money maven famously got rid of a whopping $60,000 of personal debt in a mere year and a half. "For parking or public transportation, if you work out the cost, it usually tends to be cheaper (and more hassle-free) to simply get a pass," she says. But don't forget to do your research. Residents of Toronto will tell you that while convenient, the city;s public transportation monthly pass for adults is not actually cheaper for riders that use it for a typical commute, meaning ten times a week (but it does come with a tax write-off).
3. Babies and kids stuff that doesn't get used
Eden Spodek, the creator behind the shopping blog Bargainista, says it's tough to make a blanket call on what to avoid because every child and every family is so different. However, she says her personal list includes baby shoes, ("They don't get worn, period,") and nursery bedding. The Toronto mom of two kids says, "We agonized over a crib set and even had the nursery painted to match. As it turns out, most of the items were never used," she says.
A better alternative would be to buy or borrow some items, buy a crib sheet, and go with a functional baby blanket instead of a fancy quilt that won't get used, she says. Toddler beds are also on her hit list. “Kids grow out of them quickly and they require smaller-sized bedding that can be hard to find,” says Spodek.
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4. Extra warranties on electronics
"If it doesn't die before you can return it in 30 days, or within the one-year manufacturer's warranty, it will likely never die," says Serena. I don't know about your family, but in mine when it comes to extended warranties, Murphy's Law tends to prevail. For instance, I recall once having had an extended warranty on a dishwasher. It chugged along beautifully until a few months after the warranty expired, wherein it had a spectacular, screeching breakdown, as if on cue. I didn't buy an extended care warranty on my very first laptop, and it broke, on the second, I forked over the hefty warranty fee, and it never needed it.
5. Premium packaging
"When you go into a store to buy regular table salt, don't pay $1 just for the brand name," says Serena. Go for the generic or less-expensive box. "It's the same salt, probably from the same mine," she says. "Another example: a bottle of fancy dried bay leaves are $4.99. For that price, you could get a huge bag of bay leaves," she says.
Fancy oval- and square-shaped tissue boxes are another easy-to-avoid expense, because, really, why pay a premium if the used product goes directly in the garbage bin a few seconds after it's plucked from the package? If the design purist in you really can't abide the look of your usual tissue box, just buy a decorative holder for it – at least you can use it more than once.
(Find 6 great ways to save on groceries here.)
6. Bank fees
Review your last banking statement and see how much you've spent on fees. Unless you're scrupulous, it's entirely possible you're paying more than you need to. Sometimes a quick phone call or visit to your branch can help you find an account better suited to your banking habits. Or consider switching banks altogether; if your bank doesn't appreciate your business, you can find another that does, just don't forget to let your work's payroll know about it, along with notifying other sources of automatic withdrawals.
Don't let ATM fees from others banks and convenience-store terminals add up, either, says Serena. Plan ahead and take the extra minute or so it takes to visit your own bank's ATM. If you have a package of debit transactions with your account, another tip to stay within your limit is to withdraw extra cash at some grocery store checkouts instead of hitting a random ATM the next day.
7. Very expensive face creams
"Don't buy very expensive face creams because you think the higher price tag is worth it," says Serena. "Look for the main company name, and then find out all of the brands under it. More often than not, companies use the same cream in all of their products, but they package and market the 'luxury' and 'drugstore' brands differently so they can sell it to you for a higher profit margin. Look for their drugstore equivalent and you'll probably get the same product for cheaper," she says.
You can find more great money-saving tips here.
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