5 Crazy Ways People Waste Money

In the world of personal finance blogs, we spend most of our time trying to share ways to better invest or save money. It’s a worthwhile pursuit, and can make us so focused on saving every dollar, quarter, and penny that comes our way that we start to take wise saving – and wise spending – habits for granted.

And then there are those people who act as if money really grows on trees.

I’m always baffled when I hear these stories, whether I stumble across them on the news, another personal finance blog, or hear them directly from a friend. They’re always good for a laugh; hopefully, you’ll get a chuckle out of a few of these… that is, if you’re not guilty of them yourself.

1. Getting an oil change every 3,000 miles. Have you ever checked your vehicle’s owner’s manual? If you’re still following the advice of the folks at Jiffy Lube and changing your oil every 3,000 miles, I’m guessing the answer is no. Most vehicles only require an only change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles; some go as high as every 10,000 miles. Oil changes are a necessary expense, but at $25-$30 for each oil change, why double or even triple your costs by following the repair shop’s directives and not your vehicle manufacturer’s?

2. Buying brand name medications. Most name brand medications have a generic substitute; and most insurance plans reward you for making the switch. On our plan, a generic prescription costs as little as $5 a month, compared to $45 for a 30-day supply of the equivalent name brand pill. While it’s true that some name brand medications work better than the generic in some people, by and large, your health won’t suffer any negative consequences from asking your doctor to write you a prescription for the cheaper generic.

3. Not checking your receipts, invoices, bills, and statements. Every month, I review my transactions online. Why? Because my financial life does depend on it. Sometimes, companies make honest mistakes and accidentally bill you more; other times, they’re actively fleecing you, like AT&T has done to me countless times. Whether it’s a grocery store receipt or a bill at your vacation hotel, check it line by line as soon as possible, and report any errors immediately to a customer service representative.

4. Paying for things you’ll never use. A friend’s mother recently paid $110 to get a new passport book…which would be fine, except the woman has a fear of flying and hasn’t boarded a plane in 30 years. She could have saved herself $80 and purchased a passport card for $30 instead, which she could use when she drives to Mexico, or Canada, or takes a cruise to the Caribbean. But it’s not just passports; people pay huge amounts of money for huge data plans for their smartphones, then use next to nothing. My rule? If you don’t use it, then lose it.

5. Buying what you could get for free. One of the hottest gifts of the 2012 holiday season were tablet computers, like the Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple’s iPad. All these products let you download music, videos, books, magazines, and more, but at a cost. The thing is, most large, urban libraries contain all this and more, and it’s absolutely free. Sure, it may lack the convenience or novelty of an iPad, but why spend hundreds of dollars on a tablet, apps, and media materials you could get at the library for the price of a gallon of gas?

What crazy ways do you and those you know waste money?

18 Responses to 5 Crazy Ways People Waste Money

  1. Money Beagle says:

    My wife does our grocery shopping and she usually has the kids, so it can get pretty chaotic with a 3 year old and 1 year old to manage. She often gets home and finds a mistake on the grocery bill where a discount didn’t go through or she was double charged. She’ll immediately call and get a correction authorized that is taken care of the next time she goes in.

  2. Michelle says:

    Great list! Many new cars nowadays will tell you how just oil life you have left, and luckily our new car has that. We already put 1,500 miles on it and it still says that it has 96% life left weirdly enough.

  3. Great list Daniel. I love when people still talk about oil changes every 3k miles. The only time you need to do this is if you have an older vehicle that is burning through oil. Newer ones don’t need this type of regular change. It is a huge waste of money.

  4. It is embarrassing how long it took me to start using the libraries here. I have kept track of the retail (amazon) price of every book I’ve checked out of the library so far this year and it’s added up to a savings of $300! And you guys think cable is expensive!

  5. Jake Erickson says:

    These are all great points. I still get my oil changed every 3-5k miles, but I have an older car that supposedly “needs” it done that often. All of your other examples I completely agree with. So many people try to save money, but then spend it on something they don’t need or they don’t check their receipts/statements to make sure everything is correct.

  6. Great list! Being able to look at or receipts is one of the reasons why only one of us does the grocery shopping now. It allows us to focus on what we’re being charged and check the receipt. Without fail, we generally have at least one item that is mispriced each trip.

  7. krantcents says:

    Very true! Unfortunately, there are still many brand name drugs that have no generics. I know because I have to take them. I do changeover as soon as there is a substitute though. I use the library for ebooks, videos and just books too. I also use a bookstore to catch up on magazines without buying them. I notice there are a number of people who do that.

  8. @debtblag says:

    I got a tablet — a Nook Color — for textbooks. The advantage that it has is that it weighs a pound, which is less than the half dozen textbooks it replaced.

    The other advantage was that e-book textbooks were much cheaper. In one case, the e-book was $50 to the real book’s $200. Not bad, considering I paid $130 for the refurbished Nook.

    Textbooks are harder to get at the library.

  9. Brand name medications are seeing a lot of court time; very interesting discourse. Great points here.

  10. Ugh if I didn’t check my statements I’d be paying all sorts of extra fees on my cable bill. It seems I have to call them 3-4 times a year to fix my bill!

  11. I myself am baffled at small to large amounts of money that people spend unnecessarily. I find it amusing and personally do not get caught spending unnecessary amounts of cash.

  12. Ira says:

    I completely agree that it is essential to check your bills. A while back I discovered that AT&T was billing me $9.99 a month (on my wireless bill) for some app or service that I had never ordered. This happened several times. Each time I called, they removed the charge, of course, but it happened a few times. I asked why it was showing up, and they explained that by law they had to include these services in the bill from third party sources. (The issue was that this source claimed I had signed up for something which I had never done.) The irony is that I had to point out to them that the third party source was AT&T.

    Ira

  13. Awesome list! I keep trying to tell my husband that the 3,000 mile thing is a myth! Haha He doesn’t believe me!

  14. Good list! What would you recommend for a car that is 11 years old and has 180,000 miles? That’s why I was getting the oil changes regularly bc. I want my car to go, go, go. :)

  15. Alexis Marlons says:

    I totally agree with you the lists here. Especially for girls, we usually buy things that we like or find cute in the store but never used it or just use it once then forget about it.

  16. Jose says:

    You’ve hit the top five things that make me scratch my head and wonder why people waste their money. The 3000 mile oil change is a classic, thankfully most auto manufacturers are going with longer recommended intervals on oil changes