50 Ways You’re Wasting Money, But Could Be Saving for Travel Instead!

We are all wasting money, sometimes intentionally and other times without realizing it. One click purchases on your favorite website means you’ve spent money before your brain even registers it’s happened.

The world is constantly coming up with quicker and easier ways to spend money, all without having to leave your couch. Sellers will even deliver it to your door that day, for only $5 more.

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woman holding burning american 100 dollar bills

How to Use This List to Save Money

To clarify, I’m NOT promoting a monk-like lifestyle where you have no fun, work all the time, and do nothing but meditation and chores at home.

Living in extreme deprivation to pay off debt or save some extra cash for travel is not a sustainable way to live.

You’ll burn out quickly and hate life. Not recommended.

I’m also not saying you should feel bad if you spend money on some of these items. I use probably half of this list. Everyone’s financial situation is different. What works in my budget and is important to me is not the same for you.

The purpose of this list is to reveal areas where we spend money without realizing it and can potentially scale back.

To borrow a phrase, use gazelle-like intensity to focus on a specific goal. But don’t make yourself miserable in the process.

Read through this list, discover ways you’re wasting money, and resolve to fix the worst offenders.

wrought iron door with brown package on porch

50 Ways You’re Wasting Money that You Could Be Saving Instead

Memberships & Subscriptions

1.      Gym memberships

Fitness is important. And if you actually use your gym pass, then kudos. Just make sure it’s a reasonable price.

But if you visit your gym less than twice a week, you probably don’t need it. Work out at home.

Just don’t buy expensive home gym equipment you’ll never use.  

2.      Multiple bulk-store memberships

You do not need a Costco and a Sam’s Club and a BJ’s membership. Pick your favorite and drop the others.

If you have less than 4 people in your household, evaluate if you really even need a bulk-store membership.

3.      Magazine subscriptions

If you read it and/or reference the magazine more than once, then keep it. Single-use though: not worth the money. Especially with so many available for free online or at the library.

4.      Overlapping TV/Movie/Music Streaming subscriptions

I know, controversial. People grew up without cable, and it was a simpler time. Nowadays, babies are born with tablets in their hands. (Not great by the way.)

Realistically, shoot for minimization and not necessarily complete elimination. Most platforms allow multiple streamers at a time, so split the cost with family and friends. You pay for one, they pay for another, and you share with each other.

For music: pick one. Or listen to the radio. It’s still out there for free.

5.      Amazon Prime subscription

Prime has many advantages, but often overlaps with other services (see item #4). If you don’t order online often, this may not be worth it.

On the other hand, maybe you should keep Prime and cancel your other duplicate tv/movie/music streaming services.

6.      30 day free trials you forgot about

Check your credit card statements. If you see something you don’t recognize, it could be a free trial you forgot about.

yellow rotary phone on a yellow background

Technology & Devices

7.      Cable

Streaming services are cheaper and work on your schedule, not the cable company’s.

8.      Land line phone

Keep it if you don’t have a cell phone, but I bet most of you have more than one cell phone in your household. You’re wasting money every day you keep one of these.

9.      Newest model devices

Have you even paid off your current phone yet? Does your current phone still work? Then you don’t need a new phone.

This also applies to smart watches, headphones, tablets, laptops and any other tech accessories.


10.  Video games and consoles

New consoles are seriously expensive, and new games are overpriced when first released. Waiting 6 months or a year will see game prices drop. Consoles take longer but your old console’s games will decrease in price since everyone else is wasting money on the new console.

Preordering games guarantees you’re wasting the most on a product that hasn’t even been released yet, and wastes money months before you get to use it.

11.  Paying for phone games

With the plethora of free games available, I fail to understand why someone would voluntarily pay money for one.

12.  Making in-game purchases

Paying real money for in-game content is the biggest waste of money. Pay to play is not real gaming.

13.  Toys for Pets

Dogs love sticks. Cats love strings. Both like balls. All of that is cheap or free. Stop wasting money on toys they ignore to play with the box instead.

14.  Toys for Children

Buying more and more toys just clutters your house. I’m not saying don’t buy them anything; just keep it in check.

15.  Books

This one hurts my soul but is true. Use the library. Now that we’re debt-free (except the house), I have a book budget and all is well with my soul.

16.  Buying movies

Streaming services are making buying physical copies of movies obsolete. Plus, they just clutter your house if you don’t watch them frequently.

17.  Going out to the movies

If you’re a movie addict, the all-access subscriptions can be worth it, provided you don’t blow $30 on snacks and drinks every time.

But if you only go once or twice a month, wait for the redbox. Or better yet, for it to hit your streaming service.

white coffee saucer with coffee beans on brown textured surface


18.  Coffee

You knew this one would be on here. Proven cheaper to brew your own. Even cutting back helps. Make Starbucks or Dunkin your Wednesday pick me up or Friday reward for making it through the week.

19.  Alcohol (at home or in bars/restaurants)

This one makes a lot of people grumpy when they consider ditching it, but it’s true. Alcohol is expensive.

20.  Meal Kit & Delivery Services

The rise of companies like HelloFresh and BlueApron have revolutionized cooking at home and can be a lifesaver for busy homes who don’t have time to shop or prep.

Convenience factor is high for these, but not worth the money if it goes bad before you cook it. Also, it’s even cheaper to visit the grocery store yourself.

21.  Eating out, whether fast food or restaurants

Another convenience factor item, but this one can save significant money. Studies show it’s much cheaper to cook at home. Another good option for minimization, but elimination is doable if you’re motivated.

22.  Letting groceries go bad in your fridge

Follow through and cook the food. Don’t buy more than you can cook before it goes bad.

Europeans buy a single meal’s worth of groceries on the way home from work and use it that night. Also provides flexibility that meal prepping does not.

23.  Not eating leftovers

Wasting food = wasting money

24.  Bottled water

You have water in your tap, or in your fridge door if you’re lucky. Stop killing the environment with single-use plastics. Speaking of…

25.  Single-use items

This includes plastic bottles/silverware/cups/bags and paper plates/towels/napkins. Single-use is a convenience and an excuse to not have to do dishes or laundry.

Nobody’s perfect: I still use paper towels and plastic baggies, and we go through a lot of plastic bottle recyclables.

But if you’re buying a box of plastic silverware and packet of paper plates every week just so you don’t have to do dishes, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

26.  Buying non-essential groceries

Meaning, you don’t need 4 different types of popsicles. *raises hand* Guilty.

Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll buy a lot of food you don’t need, and the bill at checkout will surprise you!

man holding credit card and typing on white laptop is paying fees that waste money


27.  Shipping fees

Many websites waive shipping fees if you reach a certain cost threshold. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need just to hit that threshold, but don’t pay double to ship a single item either. Find it somewhere else.

(This is where my Amazon Prime membership actually saves me money with free prime shipping.)

28.  Late fees

Set up all your bills for auto-draft and never pay another late fee.

29.  Annual fees on credit cards

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a card that has an annual fee, so long as the cash back or airline miles rewards you receive throughout the year exceed the annual fee amount.

But if you’re paying an annual fee and get no benefit from that card, you’re wasting money.

30.  Interest on credit cards or loans

Drowning in debt aside, never pay just the minimum. Ensure you’re paying off all interest every month.

Credit cards in particular have ridiculously high interest rates. If you find yourself behind the eight ball on credit card bills, consider getting a personal loan from somewhere like SoFi to pay off the credit card and reduce the interest rate to a reasonable level.

This works ONLY IF you don’t put more money back on the credit card just payed off. Pay off the credit card every month moving forward so the high interest rate can’t touch you.

woman wearing high-end clothing and sunglasses holding multiple shopping bags after wasting money

Grooming & Wardrobe

31.  Clothes

Some of you need self-control.

Replace if an item has holes or doesn’t fit. Otherwise, live with what you have. If you’re desperate for something new-to-you, try a clothing swap.

Watch out for baby clothes. I know it’s all adorable, but they’ll grow out of it after one picture in it!

32.  Shoes

I repeat, some of you need self-control.

Some people collect shoes. (See item #47 for that discussion.) When you’re debt-free you can have a different pair of shoes for each outfit. In the meantime, stick with one pair each of sneakers, sandals, and flats or heels (dealer’s choice).

Again with the baby/kids: they’ll grow out of it.

33.  Designer bags

These are just for showing off that you enjoy wasting money on expensive designer items. One is plenty, but only if you can pay cash for it. If you can’t pay cash, then you can’t afford it.

34.  Clothing subscription boxes

Clothes shopping is time-consuming, so companies like Stitch Fix and Thred Up have tried to solve that by sending a curated box of clothing and accessories. The problem: it isn’t always worth the cost.

For example: Stitch Fix charges a flat $20 fee + cost of items you keep. So if you return all 5 items, you’re out $20 and probably still need clothes. There’s a huge convenience factor for this item. Busy people love it and will pay for it.

35.  Hair salons

If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you don’t need your hair colored or styled. This is a creature comfort to some and fine in moderation. Just don’t be here every week.

36.  Nail salons

See Item #35. Same rules apply.

37.  Makeup

Ladies: you are beautiful without makeup! But I know many of you still love it, so use what you’ve got before buying more. You don’t need 3 different mascaras!

Home Décor & Repair

38.  Lawn Service

Mowing the lawn is good exercise. Buy weed killer and grass fertilizer at the hardware store and apply it yourself with a hose.

39.  Simple home/vehicle repairs and maintenance

Tasks like replacing a flapper so the toilet stops running, changing the oil in your car, or cleaning out your gutters are all simple repairs you can learn how to do from the internet and will save you having to pay a handyman.

40.  Drafty doors & windows

Draft guards are cheap and easy to install around doors. Use shrink wrap plastic over windows to fight against drafts. Old home? Consider replacing your windows. (That’s a proper long term investment.)

41.  Setting the wrong temperature for AC/Heater

Making the system run constantly to maintain your desired temperature increases utility bills. Or worse, you’ll overtax the system until it breaks and incur expensive repairs.

42.  Furniture

Set priorities for furniture. Do you really need that $4000 sectional sofa, or would a $300 sofa/love seat combo work just fine? Is the electric fireplace a want or a need?

We didn’t buy a bed frame until three years into our debt payoff journey because we didn’t see it as a priority.

bulldog wearing a cute pineapple costume is a waste of money


43.  Buying name brand items

Applies to many categories: food, clothing, toys. Nine times out of ten the brand name version is no different than the generic or store brand.

44.  Smoking

Another one that makes people grumpy. Addictions are hard to break, but this is another expensive one. Not only is supporting the habit expensive, but also the medical bills it will incur later in life are outrageously expensive.

Do yourself and your family a favor, and find your reason to kick this habit once and for all.

45.  Playing the lottery

Chances are if you’re reading this post, you did not win. The odds are not in your favor, my friend. Indulging once or twice when the powerball gets really high can be harmless enough, but daily or even weekly just wastes money.

46.  Expensive hobbies

Hobbies are great mental breaks for stress relief, so long as they stay within budget.

Take scrapbooking as an example. Glue, photos, construction paper, and pens are inexpensive, but special themed paper, albums, page protectors, stickers, embellishments, die cuts, and paper punches can cost hundreds of dollars. Keep it in check!

47.  Expensive collectables

Not all collectables are expensive, but habits are hard to break. What may have started out as innocent coin collecting of all 50 state quarters can turn into high-priced auctions for coins from the Roman Empire.

If collectables are important to you, budget for it and do not exceed your budget.

48.  Buying a new car

Repeat after me: new cars are not good investments. They depreciate as soon as you sign on the dotted line and drive it off the lot because it will forever be “used” after that.

Don’t go into debt buying a new car that costs more than you make in a year. 

49.  Keeping old cars too long

The opposite of item #48, keeping old cars too long can drain your savings if they require expensive repairs every other month. Keeping a car until it dies can be a smart financial decision, but know when to let it go. You need reliable transportation; not a bucket of bolts wheezing over 35mph.

50.  Unnecessary pet expenses

They may look cute in that costume, but it’s a waste of money. Spend that money on something more useful for them. Your pets don’t need McDonald’s or filtered water, either.

What are areas where you scaled back so you could save more or pay off debt?

Happy Travels!

Headshot of Rachel Means at Clingmans Dome in Smoky Mountains

About the Author: Rachel Means

With six-figure student loan debt and only 10 PTO days per year, Rachel started traveling the world. A decade later, she’s paid off her loans, changed careers, and been to 38 US states and 17 countries. She’s an expert at planning and budgeting for travel and loves to help others do it, too! Read her full story here.

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