You Are Wasting Your Money By Buying These 14 Things

I consider myself a Budget Jedi. I watch my accounts like a hawk, shop sales, and stay home more often than I’d like to save money.

But back in February, I realised I was still wasting money. In fact, I blew $35.94 in one week. You can read my full money wasting confession here.

But I don’t think I’m the only one with a few leaks in her finances, and Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson agrees with me. 

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Checking Accounts

Big banks charge an average of $110 a year for checking accounts if customers don't meet their minimum requirements, U.S. News & World Report recently revealed. Your options?

Move your money to a community bank that will offer better terms, or head to a credit union. The National Credit Union Administration has a Credit Union Locator tool to help you find one in your area.

For those comfortable enough with the tech, consider going to an online-only bank. Without the overhead of brick-and-mortar branches, the terms are often much better. Consumerism Commentary offers two lists that are a great starting point: The Best Online Checking Accounts, June 2012 and The Best Online Savings Accounts, June 2012.

Bottled Water

A 16-ounce bottle of water costs about $1.50 at my local gas station. Buy a bottle of water five days a week, and you'll spend $30 a month and $360 a year.

While it's not really free, water from your tap is much cheaper. If you hate the taste -- and I do -- you can buy a water-filtration system for as little as $20. Check out Consumer Reports' Water filters: green buying guide 2/12.

Credit Card Interest

If you're not paying your credit card balance off in full each month, you're wasting money on interest. If you carry a $1,000 balance on a card that charges 18 per cent, you'll waste $180 every year just on interest.

If you can't pay off your credit card, check out our credit card comparison tool and look for a card with a lower interest rate. Also look for money-saving zero-per cent transfer offers.

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411 Calls

As Stacy said in the video, you could pay up to $2.50 to call 411, depending on who you use.

Instead, use the search feature on your smartphone -- connect to a WiFi network and you won't use your data -- or dial free 411 (1-800-Free 411.)

The results are sponsored by companies, and you'll have to listen to a 10-second ad, but it's free.

Brand Names

Some brand names are worth paying a little more for, but in many cases, the cheaper generics are the same quality as the brand names.

For example, basic food stocks like rice, sugar, flour, and butter taste the same no matter what the label says. And generic over-the-counter meds? They work just as well as the name brands.

Check out 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic before you buy anything else with a brand name.

Buying Books

I'm an avid reader, but I haven't paid the suggested price in years. There are plenty of free or cheaper options for getting new books:

  • Get them from the library for free.
  • Use a book-swapping service to trade books you no longer want for ones you do. Check out the 4 Best Sites for Trading in Your Old Books.
  • Scour garage sales for books. I've bought many hardcovers for $1 this way. Check out 10 Ways to Save Time and Money at Garage Sales for shopping tips.

Credit Reports

By law, the three major credit bureaus have to give you a free copy of your credit report once per year. Don't buy one until you've used up your freebies at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Once you order your free credit reports, dispute any errors you find with the credit bureaus. Errors lower your credit score, and a lower credit score means higher interest rates and wasted money.

Check out 18 Tips to Give Your Credit Score a Boost for more ways to improve your score (and your interest rate).

Full Priced College Degrees

Between 2009 and 2010, full-time students spent an average of $17,464 on tuition, room, and board, according to the National centre for Education Statistics.

But you can get a college degree cheaper (or even free) with scholarships.

There are thousands out there.

Check out 5 Ways to Score Scholarship Money.

Baggage On Airlines

You'll pay up to $35 to check your luggage when you fly. Some airlines -- like JetBlue and Southwest -- don't charge extra for baggage, but most do.

Check Airfarewatchdog's Airline Baggage Fees Chart before you book.

If you're getting charged, only bring a carry-on (they're free) or find a better airline.

Long Distance Calls

Most wireless plans include free long distance. If you call during off-peak hours, you won't use your minutes, either.

You can also make long-distance calls over your Internet connection with Skype and Google Voice -- both services offer free state-to-state calls.

International calls cost 2 to 15 cents per minute through Google Voice. Check out their rate plans here. Skype ranges from 2 to 23 cents per minute. Check out Skype's rate plans here.

Buying Software

Many popular software programs have free alternatives that are just as good as the paid versions. For example, the free OpenOffice suite includes word processing software.

Pixlr offers free online photo editing with both vintage effects and a basic editor.

For more advanced editing, use free software like Gimp.

Morning Lattes

In my area, a Grande Caramel Macchiato costs $4.55. Buy one every weekday and you'll spend $22.75 a week, $91 a month, and $1,092 a year.

By comparison, a 16 ounce bag of coffee costs me $5.99 and I can make about 82 cups per bag.

That is 7 cents per cup, a savings of $4.48 a day.

Make your coffee at home and skip the fancy coffee-house drinks.

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