How you can lose money, trying to save it

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We’re all interested in making better money choices, becoming/remaining debt free and saving money.

We know how to handle a budget and try to work on spending less each month, while also living a fulfilling life and getting towards achieving our goals. But what if some of the things we do in order to save money are actually costing us more on the long run?

Here are few situations when we try to save money only to lose more at the end, and I hope you’ll also join me with your own ideas and tips.

1. You try to cut costs with the heating system and might get sick

Many frugality gurus advice people to keep their thermostats set for lower temperatures and maybe supplement their clothing when being at home. It’s all nice and dandy, as long as you don’t get sick. In my case for instance, anything under 68 degrees Fahrenheit is already cold. Last winter I’d yell at my husband almost daily to start the dang heat, since I was feeling too cold. The few bucks we’d save with keeping the temperatures low would not be enough if I caught a cold for 2-3 times/winter (with all the joy it brings: medication, doctors, not being able to work etc.).

So, if you’re like me and can’t handle too much cold, just let the heating system do its work. At the end of the day I’d rather pay more than being sick and miserable for 4-5 months every year.not-saving-money

2. You’re saving money for emergencies, but don’t have a pension plan

.. sure, this is the good case when you’re actually bothering keeping an emergency fund, since many people just use their credit cards to pay for unexpected expenses. It’s always a great idea to have some money saved in case of an emergency, but don’t discount your retirement. You should start saving money for it even when still very young. This would allow you to have a good ‘cushion’ for your golden years.

3. You’re buying crappy items just because they’re cheap

I’ve had my share of bad shoes, horrible clothing and worthless junk bought from various stores. The idea was to pay less, the outcome was that I needed to replace the junk in few days/weeks. Not such a huge saving anymore. Sure, I don’t buy 400 dollar shoes or the most expensive appliances, but I do stick to few brands I trust and know are worth their price tag.

4. You’re buying expired food or eat at a fast-food joint, just to save some money

Eating healthy is a pretty serious challenge for many families, especially for those who are not used to cooking at home. There are some who advise them to buy food that’s close to expiration or already expired, to save some bucks. Or, grab a 2 dollar burger, that’s clearly cheap.

Well, when it comes to MY health (or my family’s), I make no concessions. We do not eat ANYTHING that’s expired, even if it’s been just a day ‘off’, we don’t eat junk food, we go only for fresh produce, no processed food as much as possible etc. The health risks that can come from a bad eating routine can be devastating, so we’re rather spend a bit more on our grocery bills than see our doctors too often.

5. Buy two, get the third for free ..

Or any similar ‘sale’ opportunities. Well, if I need only one pair of pants, I’ll get one and that’s it. Sometimes a good discount can indeed be a nice way to save money (say I want to buy something for my folks too, so it makes sense to buy more items), but in many cases you’re actually losing money. We’re always careful when buying and we do stock on the items that we really need (and which don’t go bad too easily). Otherwise, we just ignore the ‘opportunity’ and move on.

6. Buy small quantities, when bigger ones would be the money savers

When I was a kid and my folks really went through some hard times, we’d get small shampoo packs, small detergent boxes etc. Even when it came to my dogs’ food, my folks’ initial impulse was to buy 2lbs, even if the 20lbs pack was bringing the cost/lbs at least 60% down. We’re now buying the biggest detergent box we find (which costs us way cheaper than if we bought the same quantity in smaller packs), I get them a big dog food sack at a fraction of how it would cost them etc. Buying in bulk does make a lot of sense when it comes to non-perishable goods, especially when it’s something you’re using anyway constantly. Sure, you need to pay more than for a small quantity, but in the end you’re not spending as much as you’d do otherwise.

7. Stock on food only for it to go bad

The ‘buying in bulk’ strategy works many times, but make sure you’re not stocking on perishable items. Having a huge quantity of food can be a nice strategy to save money, but, if it goes bad and you’re throwing it away, then you’ve actually lost quite a bit. We always keep an eye on our pantry and fridge to minimize losses and also try to buy in bulk when it makes sense.

8. You want to save time, but pay for speeding tickets

There’s a nice Latin say ‘festina lente‘ or, if you’ll want it loosely translated, hurry slowly. Unless it is a matter of life and death, there’s no use in speeding. My husband joked months ago that, in his 20 years of driving a car, he’d get a new car if he was to use the money he paid in fines. Sure, in his case many were work related and paid by his employer, but the sad truth remains: you make such mistakes and you pay. And this is all wasted money.

9. You buy a ‘beater’ which will cost you a lot down the road

It doesn’t make sense to pay a lot for a car, especially since they lose value like ‘this’, the moment you drive them off the dealer’s lot. On the other hand a very cheap car might get you into a lot of maintenance/repair expenses. Can’t say I did the best thing by getting myself a new car (with 4 year payments), but at least it’s 5 years old and in PERFECT condition. Our car expenses (except for the gas, though it has a terrific mileage) are insanely small. We plan on using it for at least 5 more years and I’m sure it will easily last this much with no major repairs. If it’s not a new car (for many it doesn’t make sense), a second-hand car in EXCELLENT condition is the way to go. Sure, it will cost more than the cheapest option, but it should ‘serve’ you for quite some years.

10. You skip doctor appointments to save money

Prevention is always better than dealing with a serious disease. Don’t skip your regular checks just because it will help you save some money. Get your blood work routinely and all other exams, they give you and your doctor excellent information on your health and allows you both to deal with anything while it’s not that serious.

So, this is my list of 10. What other ways do you think people are losing money, when they’re actually intending to save it?

15 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great list, Ramona. A couple of the cautions on your list made me smile…like #5. I’m guilty of buying multiples because they’re on sale. Recently I came across a stash of new panty hose in unopened packages that I bought years ago thinking how smart I was to stock up on sale. Not so smart it turns out because no one wears them anymore and because I sold them at below cost in a yard sale. Ugh!

    I would also add this to your list: Letting your retirement funds sit in a money market account because you’re afraid to invest. I’m guilty of this, too. Last summer I rolled my 401k out of my old company’s plan (the company closed and would eventually close the trust forcing me out). That was good because the market was high and I didn’t want to be forced out when the market was low. The problem is that since the market keeps going higher I have yet to invest. That’s costing me a bundle. Double Ugh!!!

    Ree

    • Really good addition with the retirement funds, Ree, thank you for it. I clearly have no experience when it comes to this, since we don’t have them in my country, but your observation is more than relevant for all our US based readers.

  2. Good list, I completely agree with all points! With winter here and me hating the cold weather, I can totally relate with #1. I’d love to keep costs low with and keep a lower temperature in the rooms, but it’s my comfort and health in the end that matters the most…

    • I usually draw a line with frugality when it comes to my own health/comfort. I mean it’s cool to save the money, but not if it makes me miserable. And cold does this to me 😀

  3. These are all great tips 🙂

    I’m so glad that we now get to decide how to handle #1, as opposed to what my sister’s dealing with, paying for heat even if she’s not at home. It does save us a lot of money each year!

    As far as the food goes, we stay away from caviar 😀 but we buy fresh produce every weekend when we go shopping and stock the fridge for the next few days. If there are sales and it’s worth it, we take advantage of it, as long as the food looks good and doesn’t expire soon.

    As far as the car goes, it seems we made a good deal 3 years ago. the only investment we ever had to make was to buy snow tires 🙂

  4. I had some friends that were habitual violators of #7. They’d go to a club store, stock up on the mega sized products only have them spoil in the fridge, expire in the cupboards, or get freezer burnt. I kept telling them that they needed to make a plan to USE the things they bought!

    • Well, they got the main idea right: buying in bulk is better sometimes than buying smaller quantities, but they didn’t plan accordingly. If you’re not using the items and they spoil, you’d have been better off buying smaller quantities. But I think we all got to this point at least once in our lives, the idea is to learn something from it 🙂

  5. Guilty of #3, trying to be ultra frugal and ending up with crap that I just end up throwing out. My current trying to save money, but not, was waiting and hoping for airfare to Hawaii to go down as fuel prices went down after summer. Fuel prices went down, but airfare still went up. $750 round-trip tickets became $1,050 tickets. For the 3 people in my family, that’s $900 down the drain.

    • Ouch … we usually plan our travels based on time of the year and when we’d like to go, it’s true we can miss some great saving opportunities (since we don’t look at the prices), but it’s a loss we’re willing to incur. Your planning clearly didn’t work that well in this case 🙁

  6. I am guilty of #7 (hangs head in shame). There is old food rotting away in my fridge as I type…

    Other ways people are loosing money but trying to save:
    1. Not investing their money in the right account/fund. I had company contributions sitting an an account that wasn’t gaining any money and loosing its value due to inflation.
    2. Driving around town to multiple locations or a further location with the cheaper groceries, gas etc. It’s a waste of gas and time.

  7. I’ve been guilty of #4, #5 and #6. With buying almost expired food, I only buy it if I’m going to use it within the next couple of days or if it’s bread, which I automatically throw in the fridge to prolong the shelf life. I usually end up toasting that bread, rather than eating it cold because it doesn’t taste as good.

    Instead of buying multiples, I double check to see if the item is the same price if I bought just one. Sometimes it is and sometimes it actually costs more if you only buy one.

    When I lived by myself, I would mostly buy the smaller sizes of certain food items because I was just one person and the bigger size would go bad before I could finish it. Now that I live with my partner and he has a huge appetite, I tend to buy the economy size of most things.

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