Skip to main content

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you’ve ever taken a close look at your budget, you have probably noticed how much of your spending simply goes to waste. We’re not talking about expenditures such as lattes or eating out at restaurants, but rather money that is leaving your wallet for no justifiable reason.

We talked to some personal finance experts to shed light on some of the most common ways consumers waste money.

1. Insurance

You may be overpaying for your homeowners insurance without even knowing it, which is why it makes sense to shop around and check out the going insurance rates each year.

“The insurance company that gave you the best deal last year may not have the best rates this year. With housing prices far lower than they were a few years ago, make sure you aren't paying for home insurance on inflated real estate values,” says Sally Herigstad, CPA and author of Help! I Can't Pay My Bills.

On the flipside, if home prices are increasing, Herigstad advises consumers to make sure the home insurance amounts also increase.

2. Phone minutes

A quick phone call to your wireless provider will tell you how many minutes you use each month, compared with the total number of minutes in your plan.

If you find that over the past few months hundreds of minutes are going to waste, simply downsize to a smaller and cheaper plan — it’s that simple.

3. Data

In addition to the possibility of paying for minutes you don’t use, if you have a smartphone you might be paying for more data than you need.

Andrew Schrage of says wasted data can cost up to $300 annually. “The solution is to track your monthly usage and look for a cheaper plan. If you're concerned about overage charges, your provider will usually have an app available for download that can track your data usage in real time.”

4. Landline phone

If you find that you get by just fine with a cellphone, why not pay one less bill by canceling your landline?

“This could save you more than $500 in a single year,” Schrage adds.

5. Heating and cooling when nobody's home

TheStreet Recommends

It doesn’t make any sense to heat or cool your home when there’s nobody there. Your energy woes can be solved with a programmable thermostat set up to turn off when you’re at work.

“It takes a few moments to program the thermostat — that’s a few minutes a year to save $100, which is 5% to 15% of your annual energy bill, so this is a high yield solution,” says Ben Bixby, CEO of MyEnergy.

6. Keeping your electronics plugged in

Another area of the home that wastes energy and money is electronics, which tend to use power even when not in use — and we’re talking about cable boxes and DVD players.

Bixby says the solution is a smart power strip that turns off your cable box and DVD player — or other electronics that are plugged in — when you turn off your TV.

“Depending what you have plugged into it, these $10 to $20 smart power strips will pay for themselves multiple times over,” he adds.

7. Other energy inefficiency

Replacing certain appliances or old heating equipment is undoubtedly costly, but after various rebates and the energy savings, you could be looking at a significant return on investment over just a few years.

Bixby explains: “Take replacing your old furnace, for example — this may cost a few thousand dollars, but you might find that after a 25% tax credit and an $800 rebate from your utility, you’ll get your investment back from the energy savings within one to three years.”

Approaching these types of updates as investments can reduce your energy bills significantly and cut the waste from your budget.

8. Late fees

When you see the bills come in the mail, instead of paying them right away, sometimes we simply forget to make the payment. What happens next is the ultimate way to waste money: late fees. “As a professional organizer, I regularly see folks who pay $10, $20, $50-plus a month in late fees simply because they do not have a system for paying their bills¿on time,” says Alice Price.

Among the solutions: smartphone reminders — or the most effective tactic, just paying the bill as soon as it comes in the mail.

9. Gift cards

It has only been one month since the holidays, but chances are you haven’t used any of the gift cards you got as gifts.

There are plenty of websites, such as and, that will give you cash for those cards — sometimes up to 90% of the card’s value.

10. Hanging on to old stuff

And if you have an old smartphone or tablet lying around the house — even if it’s broken — you can trade it in for cash at sites such as

“A 16GB iPhone 4S in good condition would get $205 on our site and if it was broken, we’d pay $80 for it,” says Sarah Welch, the site’s chief marketing officer.