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June 15, 2011


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IMO the biggest waste of money is a car. Where else do need transportation to get from here to there when your mass transit stinks, it the biggest depreciating asset you will ever own, outragious insurance rates, held hostage to gas prices. Enough said.

My inlaws went down to one car because they needed to in order to save money in their retirement. It was too much of a drain having two.

My parents are thinking the same.

Notably missing : alcohol & gambling (casino, etc).

Trying to stay up to date with the latest gadgets/electronics. I sometimes feel I too "deserve" or "have to have" half a terabyte of memory like my sister's new computer. ;-) And that my coworker's new smartphone is just SO convenient and I HAVE to get one for myself.

But then I remind myself that in 6 months both the computer and the smartphone will be "old school" since a new model will trump the current one. And then they'll be just like me: behind the times.

I think it's ridiculous to try and be on the cutting edge of technology AT ALL TIMES. It's probably got something to do with insecurity and the thought process that says "I have to be the best and to BE the best I need to HAVE the best."

ATM fees – I travel and get hit with these sometimes. Like FMF, however, we carry and use little cash.
Lottery tickets – I’ll buy one maybe every few years or so when some folks at work make a big deal of it. It makes for cheap entertainment like the March Madness pools.
Gourmet coffee – I’m addicted to coffee/caffeine. Good thing is I drink regular drip which I brew at the house. If I’m out and about McDonalds has good coffee for cheap.
Cigarettes – Don’t smoke
Infomercial impulse buys – don’t watch much TV
Brand-name groceries – I got to say that a lot of generics have poor quality or taste. We buy some generic on things we aren’t particular with but we do buy a lot of name brands.
Eating out –Due to my family’s active lifestyle we do eat out frequently but we have a budget for this and stick to it.
Unused gym memberships – It’s used.
Daily internet deals – Don’t use.
Bundled cable or phone services – No bundling as we find it more expensive than basic plans. BTW, ATT charges 8 bucks per month for caller ID. We’ve never had it and never will at that rate.

I have the "barely" used gym membership, but I run a lot. The Gym membership at $15 is there for one reason only. If I can't run outside for in-climate weather reason's I go to the gym and use the Treadmill. For me the $15 is my no excuses membership.

I "waste" ~$150 a month on a gym membership for my fiancee and me. I use the gym nearly every day, network by playing squash, and have lost about 25 lbs since joining in January. To me it is an expense well worth it while I've gotten back to a healthy weight and made use of the gym's wide range of amenities (at no extra charge). However, I am only on a 6 month assignment and I don't plan on making the expense permanent when I move on.

I think notably missing is HOUSING. Besides the obvious need, many people overspend on location and oversized accomodations. Because the expense is such a large portion of most budgets, even a small relative increase can outsize a daily coffee habit, etc.

* ATM fees -Haven't used an ATM in years. Just get cash when depositing checks, or if running low, use the debit card for a purchase instead of credit & get some cash back.
* Lottery tickets -Occasionally just for fun
* Gourmet coffee -I've learned to make my own gourmet coffees at home for the occasions I want coffee, or I drink the free drip coffee at work.
* Cigarettes -ick (no offense)
* Infomercial impulse buys -You can't make these purchases if you don't watch TV enough to see infomercials.
* Brand-name groceries -I've found produce doesn't have name brands... But for packaged foods, I label-check and buy the healthiest, which many times is name brand.
* Eating out- normally we eat out MAYBE once a month, but life has gotten hectic over the last 6 months (especially this last month) so we've really spent more than we would like on this one, since I'm too tired to make an effort to cook at home (but I miss good food!)
* Unused gym memberships -Exercise should be free! The only things I'll pay for in this category are: Entry fees to competitions, a good yoga class (I get more out of a good instructor than at home), and entry fees to the city swimming pool. Also, I'll buy some equipment for home workouts (weights, pull up bars, mats, etc.)
* Daily internet deals -I subscribe to Groupon, Living Social, and a local site, and most deals I pass up. I only buy the ones for places I frequent or places I want to try. I found an amazing new restaurant thanks to LS! I can definitely see where people can be tempted to buy coupons they don't need though.
* Bundled cable or phone services -We don't pay for TV and don't have a landline. We did splurge on our internet service, but it is worth it to us, and still cheaper than paying for all the other stuff we wouldn't use.

ATM Fees - I use ATMs all the time, but haven't paid a fee in perhaps a decade. Are there many people with no choice but to bank with companies that charge fees at their own ATMs or something. In the past 10 years, I've been through 4 banks, and none of them charged a fee for withdrawals from their own ATMs.

If I'm somewhere outside of my ATM network, I usually get myself to a Wal-mart, make a small purchase with the debit card and get cash back.

I'm sure there are many FMF readers who will disagree but IMO add: Alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) to the list, especially when ordered in a restaurant. I put alcohol in a similar category as tobacco...unhealthy, unnecessary, and overpriced.

ATM fees - I use a low-fee ATM ($1 per transaction) and use it once a week. It's more convenient and less time consuming than going to a live teller, and I value my time more than my money in this regard.

Lottery tickets - I sometimes throw a buck or two into the office pool, but that's maybe 5-6 times a year.

Gourmet coffee - If they are referring to Starbucks, I might have 2-3 a year. I do drink a high-end brand (Eight O'Clock.. not the best but better than Folgers) at home.

Cigarettes - I do smoke, but I offset about half of my smoking costs by not eating meat (to quote Lindsey above: no offense, but "ick"). My wife, however, only eats the cruelty-free organic meats, which cost upwards of 10 times retail. She'd cut her consumption down to about a pound and a half a week.. but still. Sheesh! Regardless, smoking is definitely a money waster.

Infomercial impulse buys - Never bought anything an infomercial tried to sell me.

Brand-name groceries - I'm split here; I like what I like, and if that's a brand name, then I buy it. I certainly don't have a problem with generic, and tend to buy a lot of generic "brands", but only if the quality is acceptable. We're producing more and more of our own food though - and that tastes much better than the best gourmet brands on the shelves :)

Eating out - I'm like you FMF; once a week maybe.

Unused gym memberships - None here. I'll even expand that into unused memberships/subscriptions. I routinely let magazine/Internet site subscriptions lapse to see if we really wish to continue with them.

Daily internet deals - Only when I'm in the market to buy something, and then I'll usually start looking weeks or months before I plan on making the purchase to find the best deal I can.

Bundled cable or phone services - I have bundled Internet/Cable, but there is no other high-speed offering where I live (I'm 6 blocks from DSL), so I'd end up getting both anyway.

The only things on this list that I think are automatically a "waste" are those you simply don't use. If you're paying $50/mo for a gym you absolutely never use, then obviously it is a waste.

I guess something like ATM fees, which, with proper planning, can be avoided, would probably count as well.

After that, I think it all comes down to the amount of utility derived from the use of the money (in a philosophical/consequentlist context).

My grandmother, for example, loves to play the lottery. She's retired and has planned appropriately for it. Her budget allows her to spend ~$25/mo on lottery tickets because she truly enjoys doing it. Is that really a waste? It might feel like a waste to me because I don't get any significant pleasure out of it, but if she'd rather spend her $25 there instead of on some other type of entertainment that you or I would prefer, how is that a waste?

For me and my wife, we really enjoy eating out. We love trying new restaurants, and we will probably even share a bottle of wine when we go. We've budgeted for saving, giving, and necessary expenses, and if that leaves us money to do something we really enjoy (eating out) then I don't see that as a waste at all.

As long as you know where your money is going and are consciously spending it in that way, then I would have trouble calling it a waste. I'd rather not be in the business of judging other people's habits too much.

Eating out is our only waster though we're sometimes the opposite of you. We might go out once or twice a month for dinner but one or two extra times for just dessert. Ordering dessert out or getting fancy pastries from the bakery feels like way more of a luxury than dinner out so we will cook at home and then split a dessert at a nice restaurant. We tip heavily since we linger.

ATM fees - we get cash from our own bank's ATM for free.

Lottery tickets - I use $5-$10 of fun money a month during bad months on lotto tickets...I call them "buying a buck of hope".

Gourmet coffee - I don't like the way coffee tastes.

Cigarettes - yuck...I have asthma and they smell like my version of hell

Infomercial impulse buys - nope

Brand-name groceries - yes, but we budget accordingly

Eating out - yes, but we try to keep it to $200 or less a month

Unused gym memberships - nope...I joined Weight Watchers Online in January and use the software every day - I am down 27 pounds!

Daily internet deals - nope

Bundled cable or phone services - we have cable and dsl but no home phone

ATM fees - Haven't been hit with a fee in years, seldom use them, and usually only use my own bank's.
Lottery tickets - never bought one
Gourmet coffee - love it, grind my own every morning, a coffee out at Starbucks is a social treat
Cigarettes - cigars are my guilty pleasure
Infomercial impulse buys - never
Brand-name groceries - I use coupons to get good deals when I can, but eating well is a high priority
Eating out - not a regular event, it's a treat for us or part of a social event
Unused gym memberships - I've got one that's gone unused for about four months after a back injury and surgery. Hoping to be back to regular workouts soon
Daily internet deals - Never
Bundled cable or phone services - Haven't tried them

I think expensive watches are a money waster. A cheap Timex keeps time just as good as a Rolex. Can't understand why anyone would pay in the thousands for a watch.

very interesting post. Thanks for sharing. One question though. How do you get free sodas at work? Do you work in some kind of restaurant? Except for my times in fast food, I have never seen a job that gave it's employees free soda. Just curious.

Kevin --

No, I don't work in a restaurant. One of us buys sodas at the grocery store once a month, expenses it to the company, and keeps the on-site refrigerator stocked.

The coffee thing - I get 6 pots to the pound, and 4 big cups to the (10 serving) pot. So, on sale at Costco, my $2.50/lb coffee is 10 cents a cup. But when I splurge and pay the ripoff price of $10/lb, it's still just 40 cents a cup, 1/10 the price of Starbucks. So at that moment I'm drinking the 40 cent cup, am I frugal or wasteful?

I'll tell you a better approach: Pay off all your big fixed monthly costs and you will have plenty of money to "waste" on frivolous things like going out to eat at mid-priced restaurants. The two big fixed monthly costs I don't have are a house / rent payment nor any car related expenses. Total household expenses are $200 a month for utilities / cable / internet and $150 a month for condo maintenance fees. If you can live somewhere inexpensive, pay off your house and have a fully owned car or no car then you are free to 'waste' a lot of money on small pleasures each month - I give myself $1K a month for this, mostly spent on the weekend- and still have a great cash flow position.

We also have a gym membership but paid a 3 year membership for $1k so I don't count it in my monthly expense bucket - probably should amortize for this though. I only use it on the weekends but it is worth it because that is the time when I am doing weight training, during the week I am doing cardio outside or in the stairwell 4 days a week.


Late fees. Speeding tickets. Bounced check fees.

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