Personal Finance

11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

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Man surprised by his empty wallet
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We all know how easy it is to blow money on a big purchase. Buy an expensive home or car, and you soon might regret it.

But it’s also easy to lose gobs of money a little at a time. That’s true whether you live paycheck to paycheck or you have money to burn.

Here are some budget busters that may be quietly draining your wallet.

1. Spending on phony emergencies

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A real emergency isn’t so quiet. In fact, a layoff, unexpected medical bill or car breakdown tends to announce itself rudely and loudly.

But other so-called emergencies — like that oh-so-cute, on-sale bedding set for the kids, or that gotta-have-it-now bar of chocolate — are really just “wants” masquerading as needs. Save the spending for real emergencies.

2. Buying the ‘latest and greatest’ of anything

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Are you a gadget junkie? Maybe you have to have the latest and greatest iPhone or tablet. Such spending sprees are hazardous to your financial health. In many cases, you’d be better served by buying used or refurbished.

That is even true on big purchases, such as homes. As we have written, older homes often are constructed better than new homes. However, if something vintage makes you nervous, consider buying something nearly new:

“If you love the idea of new construction, remember that an existing home doesn’t necessarily have to be 50 years old. If you want an energy-efficient home with new amenities, you can probably find it at a lower price if you’re willing to be owner No. 2 or No. 3.”

For more tips like that, check out “You Should Never Buy These 12 Things New.”

3. Piling groceries into your cart

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It’s so easy to head to the store with a few things in mind, but end up spending $100 or more. That’s where discipline comes in.

Use a meal planner so you are buying what you really need, instead of grabbing whatever you desire at that moment. And never head to the store hungry, or you will be tempted to leave with every item that whets your mental appetite.

For more tips on saving at the grocery store, check out “13 Unusual but Effective Ways to Save on Groceries.”

4. Dining out too often

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Eating out is one of the most insidious ways to bleed your wallet. It’s even worse if you spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store each month, only to end up dining out more than you actually cook.

Office lunch dates can put another hole in your finances, especially if they become part of your daily routine. So, make dining out an occasional treat.

5. Living the high life with your friends

Friends at a holiday party
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Perhaps you can’t resist heading out with your friends for a well-deserved night of fun. But that might be a problem if your bank account is on the brink of going into the red.

Be wise and say no. Even if you have to make up a lame excuse, it’s worth it to salvage your budget. Or, convince your friends that you can have fun more frugally.

6. Planning expensive vacations

Hawaii vacationer
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There is nothing wrong with heading out of town for the weekend or even planning an extended excursion. But if you’re already struggling to make ends meet, it is not the time to splurge on five-star hotels and first-class flights.

Instead, plan vacations in a way that minimizes costs — such as by being flexible with your travel dates, as we point out in “11 Smart Ways to Save on Travel“:

“One of the best ways to save money on travel is to go when prices are lowest. Use airline and airfare search sites with flexible schedule booking features that let you see the best price within a window of dates. And if you really want to save, consider booking in January or September, according to Hipmunk.”

7. Splurging on clothes

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Those new heels you’ve been coveting have finally gone on clearance. But if your budget says no, it’s wise to leave them at the store.

Numerous studies have shown that material purchases do not make us happy for long. Instead, we get more satisfaction from spending on experiences.

8. Indulging in pampering sessions

Woman and man in spa
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While your body may need a little TLC from time to time, heading to the spa or hair salon once a week has the potential to inflict serious damage on your savings.

So, why not bring the spa to your home for a fraction of the price? You’ll find plenty of items in stores and online that will allow you to replicate the spa experience at home.

9. Continuing to pay for cable

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Instead of signing up for the most expensive plan, try basic cable. Or even better, cut cable altogether and go for cheaper alternatives, such Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

For more on watching TV on a budget, check out “13 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less.”

10. Paying for gym memberships

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Being healthy and fit is important, but spending way too much money to reach your fitness goals makes no sense. Ditch the gym and search for inexpensive or free activities at your community recreation center instead. Or try the great outdoors; a little fresh air won’t hurt, especially during a pandemic.

If you must have a gym membership, at least review the tips in “8 Ways to Save on a Gym Membership.”

11. Underestimating housing costs

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It is easy to drastically underestimate the monthly costs associated with that new home or apartment. Before you apply for a mortgage or lease, use an affordability calculator to gauge what you can realistically contribute toward housing expenses each month.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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