26 September 2023

Waste not, want not: Are we wasting money without realising it?

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Whitson Gordon* says that sometimes we overlook the ways we’re actively letting money slip through our fingers every day.

Photo: Gary Chan

Everyone is always on the lookout for ways to save money, but sometimes we ignore the fact that we’re actively wasting money every day.

Here are 10 ways you might be letting money slip through your fingers.

#10 You ignore wear and tear on your home

Your mortgage will almost certainly be your biggest investment, so it makes sense to keep your property in shape.

Don’t let repairs linger; the longer you wait to fix something, the more expensive it may become.

While there can be dangers in over-renovating in a given neighbourhood, the risk of letting things run to rack and ruin applies whether you live in a studio apartment or a 10-room mansion.

#9 You aren’t maximising your credit card rewards

We pay for more and more stuff with plastic these days, so why not get the maximum amount of rewards when you do?

While we’d always advise using a debit card when you can, if you regularly pay off your credit card before the due date each month, you can stack up considerable benefits.

#8 You have unclaimed money in your name

It may sound like the least convincing scam ever pulled, but you may actually have unclaimed money that belongs to you out there, just waiting for you to grab it.

It may be super money from an old job, forgotten bank accounts, or unpaid wages.

Check out the comprehensive set of search tools on the Government’s Money Smart website to get started.

#7 The food in your kitchen goes bad

It can be hard to judge exactly how much food you’ll eat in the next week or month, but when food spoils, that’s money down the drain.

Planning your meals ahead of time is your best defence.

#6 You pay too much for your phone plan

Your phone plan may claim to offer you hundreds of dollars in credit, but do you actually use it?

Conversely, you may be paying for an unlimited plan when in reality you could get away with a cheaper deal.

Keep a diary and note how much you actually use your phone to work out if you’re paying too much, or would be better off with a different kind of plan.

#5 You don’t hunt down bargains

Online shopping makes it easier than ever to find the best price for the goods you want.

Don’t just settle for buying at the first location you find; do your research and save a fortune.

When you’re at a shopping centre, check prices online and then see if you can negotiate a deal with the store.

It won’t always work, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

#4 You don’t negotiate

No one likes negotiating, but with the right preparation, you can make the whole process a lot easier — and get a lot more for your money.

You might be surprised how much you let go down the drain before you put in a little effort.

#3 You fall for tech myths

It’s amazing how much tech companies try to squeeze out of you when you go to buy a new computer.

“Oh, don’t buy that one, it’s six months old … buy this new one!”

“Oh, you should get an extended warranty for an extra $200.”

“Here, this $40 HDMI cable should suit your needs.”

These sales tactics lead to quite a few myths, such as the claim that new products are somehow better than refurbished products, or that expensive cables will get you a better picture on your TV.

If you buy a lot of technology — and if you’re anything like us, you do — you can save quite a bundle by knowing your stuff before you go into the store.

#2 You don’t plan bill payments

Paying bills late will invariably result in an extra charge.

Paying bills by credit card often incurs a fee you can avoid with a direct debit.

Organise your finances and you’ll have extra money to spare, whether that’s to further cut debt or to indulge occasionally.

#1 You try too hard to save money

Wait, what?

That’s right: sometimes, trying to save money can actually be counterproductive.

For example, some people avoid regular check-ups with the doctor or dentist, but then end up having to go in and pay much more for all the things they neglected.

Maybe you take store credit card offers and pay the minimum every month, or maybe you do your own taxes and miss out on some pretty big deductions.

That’s not to say saving money is a bad thing — it’s just important to pay attention to where all of your money is going, and that you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot with a strategy you’re using to “save” cash.

* Whitson Gordon is a freelance writer in San Diego. He tweets at @WhitsonGordon and his website is whitsongordon.com.

This article first appeared at www.lifehacker.com.au.

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