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There are hundreds of ways Americans are overspending and leaving money on the table each year. Whether it’s not taking advantage of money-saving opportunities, or simply wasting cash on unnecessary expenses, the act of squandering one’s finances has become a widespread problem. But luckily with a little self-awareness and a willingness to change, you could end up with hundreds—possibly even thousands—back in your pocket by the end of the year.

Let’s take a look at some of the major ways you could be wasting your hard-earned money without even realizing it.

  1. Too many fees and subscriptions

Remember that Internet music subscription you signed up for six months ago but have only used once? What about those multiple magazine subscriptions you paid for but never have time to read? While it may seem like pocket change, fees and subscriptions—especially the ones for services or products we don’t use—can add up quickly. By the time it’s all said and done, you could be spending up to $1,000 a year or more. Make a point to go through your monthly bank statement and pay attention to any recurring fees. Then, ask yourself whether or not they’re worth paying based on how much you actually use or benefit from the product or service for which you’re paying. You may be surprised at how much you could save.

  1. Paying for more house and/or storage than you need

This is an extremely expensive mistake that millions of Americans make each year. Not only could you save a significant amount on your mortgage if you downsized, but you could also likely save a sizeable chunk of change on the maintenance and upkeep fees that come with owning a larger home.

Also, if you are paying a monthly fee for a storage unit, take an inventory of the items in there and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Are you actually using or planning to use those in the near future? If the answer is no, consider why you’re really holding on to them. Certain downsizing services can help you sell multiple items at once and get you auction prices for a variety of items—from decorations to furniture. Moving is much easier with less stuff, plus think of all the money you’ll save when you no longer have that monthly storage unit bill.

  1. Overspending on gasoline

If you live in the suburbs as opposed to the city, it’s probably tempting to hop in the car every time you need to go somewhere—even if it’s just to a store a few blocks down the road. Many people are so accustomed to driving around town that they don’t think about how much they’re spending each month in gasoline. Next time you have an errand that’s within walking distance, consider taking the more economically feasible route. Not only will you save on gas and wear and tear on your car, but your body will also benefit from the exercise.

  1. Too much dining out

Many of us have a lazy mentality where it seems much easier to buy our breakfast and lunch than make it ourselves. But again, not only is it more economical to rise early enough to enjoy a home cooked breakfast and pack your own lunch, it’s likely healthier as well. The numbers speak for themselves: if you spend an average of $15–20 on eating out five days a week, it could easily add up to between $5,000 and $6,000 per year. Just think about what could happen if you invested that money instead.

The Bottom line: There are dozens of ways we frivolously spend money each day. With the recent celebration of the New Year, why not make a fresh start, take a personal finance inventory of your life, and start spending less on the things you don’t need? At the end of the year, you’ll thank yourself for saving instead all those hard-earned dollars and hopefully putting them toward something much more meaningful.

Author Ron L. Brown, CFP®

Ron is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and President of R.L. Brown Wealth Management. He specializes in retirement, estate, and business planning for professionals and entrepreneurs. Ron assists his clients with creating a financial plan to ensure they are able to live their ideal lifestyle during retirement and leave a strong legacy for their family. Ron has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, US News, Yahoo Finance, Investopedia, and numerous other high profile financial publications.

More posts by Ron L. Brown, CFP®
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