9 budget busters: Useless ways people spend money

A budget is so personal. You know what your “necessities” are, and you spend accordingly. But beware of these money-wasting traps.

Maybe you’re a person with an unlimited disposable income. You relish your morning muffin and hot drink from Starbucks. Your luxury car provides comfort and security as it transports you and your family to work, school and activities. You travel extensively, vacationing in exotic locales with your family. When you want something, you purchase it immediately with no thought of budgets or finances.

If you fall into the above category, you’re very fortunate. But in reality, most people don’t have the funds to spend so freely.

We earn money and prioritize how we want to spend it. It’s all about what is most important to you and your lifestyle, but some ways you may be putting an unnecessary strain on your finances include:

1. Cable TV

Cable TV is frustrating. You want a few specialty channels, but in order to get those channels, you pay for a package of TV stations you don’t ever watch. Why not simplify and watch network TV, instead? Or go with Netflix or Hulu, which allow for TV viewing at a much cheaper price than cable. With these options, you can cater to what you want versus spending a lot of money for what you don’t want.

2. Cigarettes

If you’re a smoker, you already know that feeding your cigarette habit isn’t cheap. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on something worthwhile? Do whatever it takes to quit. Do it for your family, your health and longevity and your bank account.

3. Eating out

Maybe you feel like going out to lunch is too much a part of your work routine and social life to give up. So, don’t scrap it altogether but do cut back. Spending $10-$20 per meal really adds up. Make the decision to brown bag it two or three times a week, and you’ll be surprised at the money saved.

4. Buying restaurant drinks

When you think about it, a two-liter of soda costs just under two dollars. But when you eat out you pay that, or more, for one cup of soda. Even with unlimited refills, do you really want all the sugar and calories you’re adding to your diet? Water is a healthier and cheaper option.

5. Name-brand clothes

Sure, fashionable clothes make you feel cool. Expensive duds look sharp, and the admiration you receive for what you wear feels great. But often, you can find clothing that is just as nice as the trendy labels. Name-brand clothing and shoes, especially for young kids who outgrow them after a few months, can be real money wasters.

6. Sporting events

Maybe you love your team and live for the excitement of cheering from the bleachers at every home game. Or, maybe you buy season tickets and neglect to make it to every game. Whatever your situation, think twice about those pricey season tickets. Life is busy. Make sure you will really make it to all the games before you spring for season tickets.

7. Your car

Some choose to drive their cars to the death. Others like to upgrade every few years. With your kids and their food, drinks and other potential messes, why not hold off on the luxury automobile? Drive a reliable car you can comfortably afford and that fits your family.

8. Cosmetics and skincare

My mother-in-law recently shopped for some blush in the cosmetics section of a department store. She balked at the price, decided not to buy it but then complained that she didn’t have any blush. Unless people snoop around your bathroom, can they really tell whether your blush is the pricey department store brand or the $2 drugstore variety? Lots of cosmetic and skincare brands tout miracle results and you end up paying heavily for something that may not pan out. Ask a dermatologist, and he’ll likely recommend the drugstore products.

9. Travel

Flying your family to Fiji or booking a week-long cruise is an exciting prospect. For many, they save up and plan such trips years in advance. Other families go annually or more. But if you can’t really afford a cruise, be realistic. Plan a vacation to a national park or other locale that will offer new sites and be affordable. It’s more about the time spent together than the destination.

There are many other ways we let money slip through our fingers. Again, it’s very subjective. You know your priorities and necessities. But take a second look at some of the things you may be purchasing thoughtlessly. Here are some other smart money-saving tips for large families.

Megan Gladwell

Megan Gladwell, a freelance writer and sometimes teacher, lives in beautiful Northern California with her husband and four children.