Are You Wasting Money? Part Two: Food, Clothing and Entertainment

Posted on: May 30th, 2014
In Part One of this series on wasting money, we looked at housing, interest and transportation--areas in which you or your loved ones may be wasting larger amounts of money. In Part Two, we will look at how money can be wasted in everyday areas of life--specifically food, clothing and entertainment.

In many ways, it is the routine purchases that occur without planning that subsequently accumulate to large amounts. An area of high importance when making beneficiary distributions is for the money to be used in meaningful ways such as home purchases, education, and investing and not simply to cover shortfalls in month-to-month expenditures. These simple lessons are helpful reminders for everyone.

The Key Takeaways
o Money is wasted when we pay more for convenience, excess, impulse buying and bad habits.
o While this may be okay if it happens occasionally, living a lifestyle that consistently wastes money can cause people to live beyond their means and incur debt, which causes more money to be wasted by paying interest on that debt.
o Recognizing areas in which money is wasted, and taking steps to change buying habits, helps keep people out of debt and give more money to spend on the things that really matter.

Where People Waste Money...And Actions to Consider

Groceries. We've all been guilty of buying more at the grocery store than we intended. Here are a few tips that will likely fit within a current routine:
1. Plan meals for a week, make a shopping list and stick with it. Make an exception only if something regularly used is on sale.
2. Use coupons only for items regularly purchased (and don't buy things you don't normally use, just to use the coupon).
3. Buy in bulk; split the purchases with a friend if storage space is lacking.
4. Shop without young children whenever possible to save money, time and frustration.

Eating out. If the amount of money spent in this area is unknown, track it for a month or two and consider other ways that this money could be spent. Socializing with friends over meals is important, but this is one area that usually can be reined in. Meet over lunch or an early dinner. Watch the alcohol; bar drinks are expensive, add up quickly and make an affordable meal completely unaffordable. Consider entertaining at home; it is less expensive and more personal.

Clothing. Take a look at how much is spent on clothing, especially on items purchased and not worn. Avoid shopping as a hobby or because of boredom; retailers are great at making people think something is needed.

Entertainment. Evaluate cable or satellite TV subscriptions and drop the premium channels not being used. Monitor cell phone bills. Investigate bundling phone, internet and TV services under one carrier. When going to the movie theater, go to early showings, buy discounted tickets, shop for bargain-priced theaters, and bring snacks. Check out community theater productions.

What You Need to Know: Cash expenditures are usually the most difficult to track. Consider the envelope system (cash set aside in envelopes marked for specific cash purchases); place the receipts inside the envelope so it is easy to remember how cash was spent. Or use a debit card for even the smallest purchases.

More Actions to Consider
o Review how money is currently spent. If not using a personal accounting program like Quicken to track spending, now would be a good time to start. Carefully evaluate areas where overspending occurs.

o Start comparison shopping. Make a list of items bought regularly, including size and the last price paid. Keep the list handy for other shopping trips and compare prices. Then make a new shopping list for items at the stores with the best prices.

o Keep a running grocery list. As an item gets in short supply, add it to the list. This will make grocery shopping more efficient and save time by not having to make frequent trips.
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