Have you looked at your budget lately? I took a peek at my friend's expense tracker, and it's scary how many items on there are totally unnecessary. Unused gym membership? Check. Triple play cable TV package? Double check. There are so many ways my friend is overspending I could run out of ink if I needed to cross out each line item on the budget with a pen.
How about your budget? Everyone overspends at least some of the time. Here are a few favorite ways people like paying more than they should.
Overpaying for Convenience
Amazon prime anybody? I'm just about the last person on planet earth to not pay for a membership, but the convenience of ordering anything whenever I want and having the product shipped to me quickly is very tempting. Then again, why do I have to pay the retailer to give my trigger happy brain an easy way to spend more money with them? Plus, shipping is still free as long as I plan a bit and group the items together to qualify for free shipping and I order ahead of time so the shipping time isn't a concern.
There are lots of other examples. Do you actively look for cheaper car insurance? If not, then you are really paying for convenience by choosing to stay with the current provider. Ditto for every other service you use. Sometimes, you can even get a discount without ever changing your service. Cable TV, Internet and phone service is a good example. I call them up every six months and I get the new customer discount extended. Sometimes savings are just a phone call away, so what's your excuse for not calling?
Overpaying with Automatic Payments
There's a reason why many companies like to set you up on automated payment. We all know about the neglected gym membership payments that keep zapping away at the wallet, but what about those harder to remember annual fees? I almost forgot to cancel my American Express Platinum card recently, and it would've cost me $475. It's hard to stay on top of expenses that just show up once in a long while. Often, we forget about it until payment is already due, and then we let it slide another year since there's no urgent need to cancel service right away now that we've already paid, only to have the situation happen again in a year. Look through your budget and cancel everything you don't need, and do it now.
Overpaying Just Because Everyone is Suppose to Have It
This is worst than overpaying because you could actually skip the entire purchase completely. Everyone has a late model smartphone because, well, aren't we suppose to replace our current one whenever a new one comes out? And hey everyone gets a drink whenever they go out for dinner, so shouldn't I order one too even though I don't really care about adding more sugar to my diet? It's really hard to venture out of the norm, I'll give you that. But those who could resist will trounce the competition in the wealth building game.
Overpaying Due to Competitiveness
Oh and you better listen up while we are on the subject of competition. This can get scary expensive. You want something your neighbor has, and I get that, but people would compete not just on phones, or shoes, but on cars or even a house. I almost purchased a new home recently, and my circle of friends quickly started looking for a place to move. The phenomenon was scary. A house is not cheap folks. Do what your finances allow and don't overcommit!
Overpaying by Bundling Everything
I keep track of Verizon and AT&T promotions here on this site, so I'm well aware of the strategies these cable companies use to get more business. The cable TV triple play is offered at a very competitive price. Sometimes, it even seem like they are offering an extra service for free because the double and triple play prices are extremely close. They offer the services this way because they know that many customers are too lazy to cancel or downgrade once the promotional pricing expires, meaning that a good portion of those who sign up pay extra forever. In order to actually benefit on any promotional pricing on bundles, you have to use all three services plus remember to shop around again before the promotional period ends to make sure you are always taking advantage of the promo prices.
My friend overspends in all those categories, and his situation is really common. He's a highly paid professional and he's often too tired after work to have the energy to worry about these details. It was sort of a miracle I even got him to start tracking his expenses. (Score one for me!)
Still, I can't celebrate yet because just knowing he overspends doesn't help him build wealth. Taking action is what will ultimately help him get out of this. I'll keep working on him to get him to start reducing his expenses.
If you care about yours, I suggest you start taking steps to eliminate the fat out of your budget too.
Written by David Ning for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.