Life’s top 20 money-wasters

With rising living costs, many of us are feeling the pinch and looking for ways to improve our finances.


Yet we are all guilty of wasting money. By recognising these habits, and making some conscious changes, you could save yourself a small fortune.

Here’s our top 20 money-wasters – and how to avoid them.

  1.   Missing out on money-off

    We’ve all done it – stood in a queue, paid full price for our item and then seen the next shopper smugly present their 25% off voucher. Or we've been enjoying our steak and chips at the local restaurant, only to learn the next table have paid half as much by downloading and printing off a simple discount code.

    A quick look on the MoneySupermarket deals and vouchers channel reveals two courses for £12.95 at Ask Italian, 20% off at Frankie and Benny’s and three for two on all full size Elemis products. 

    So take some time to plan ahead – and next time you could be the smug one!
  2. Getting a gym membership – then never using it

    You start the new year full of resolve – this year you WILL get fit. You go down to your local gym, pay the hefty joining fee and three months later, you’ve been once.

    With spring on the way, there are other ways you can get fit without spending a penny of your hard-earned cash.

    So cancel that gym membership and put the monthly subscription back in your pocket.
  3. Ignoring your parking ticket

    If you’ve been stung by a hefty parking ticket, you have two options. Either pay it immediately or dispute it. Don’t just tuck it away into your back pocket in the hope that it will disappear.

    Generally, if you pay the fine within 14 days, it will be half price. Any later, and you’ll be paying full whack. If you dispute the fine and it is unsuccessful, often you will still be able to pay the half-price rate within 14 days of rejection.
  4. Buying your travel money at the last minute

    Buying your holiday money from an airport bureau is the most expensive way possible. Get onto TravelSupermarket's travel money channel well in advance to compare travel money and find the best rates.
  5. Auto-renewing your car insurance

    Car insurance is one of those annoying financial essentials. But recent research from MoneySupermarket showed that you could save £300 a year by shopping around for a cheaper policy rather than ‘auto-renew’ with your current insurer.
  6. Not shifting credit card debt to a 0% card

    Trying to pay off a credit card that is accruing interest can feel like treading water. But by moving your balance on to a 0% interest card, you'll give yourself breathing space and time to pay off your debt without worrying about paying interest.

    Currently the best deals are from Barclaycard and Halifax, both of which offer a whopping 25 months to pay off your debt interest-free. They come with fees of 2.9% and 3% respectively.

    Check out these and other 0% balance transfer cards at MoneySupermarket’s credit card channel.
  7. Not planning your travel in advance

    When travelling by rail, you should always book in advance. Fares are released around 12 weeks before travel and generally, the earlier you buy, the cheaper your ticket will be. Even if you have left it until a couple of days before, buying online can still work out cheaper than making your purchase at the station.

    Fares also tend to be more expensive at peak times, so if you can, travel on a different, off-peak train.
  8. Adopting expensive habits

    It’s the coffee on the way to work, and the glass of wine after a hard day that can soon add up. We're not suggesting you cut them out completely, but getting out of a daily habit will help your wallet.

    For example, a cappuccino costing £2.15 every day is a weekly expense of £10.75. Over a month that works out at £43, while the cost over a year is a massive £516.
  9. Not switching your energy provider

    The arrival of the dreaded gas and electricity bill is a source of fear for many households. But while you can’t avoid it, you can certainly make sure that you’re not paying over the odds.

    Recent research from MoneySupermarket revealed that customers could reduce their annual energy bill by 22% if they switched to the best deal, equating to £282 per household. Imagine what you could do with that extra money, just by taking a few minutes to switch?

    Read more in Mark Hooson’s article ‘Who should switch to save money on energy bills?

  10. Not being a savvy shopper

    It’s easy for the weekly food shop to get out of hand if you’re not careful, and it can cause a massive dent in your bank balance.

    Go to the supermarket with a shopping list – and stick to it. Plan your weekly meals in advance so you know exactly what you’ll need and watch out for buy-one-get-one-free offers, particularly if they are on perishable goods such as fruit.

    Avoid the lethal mistake of shopping when you’re hungry, and take a look at which compares the price of your shopping basket at Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado. You can then select the cheapest one.
  11. Forking out for unnecessary booking fees

    Booking fees can seriously increase the price of an item you originally thought you were getting a good deal on. So do your research and avoid them where possible.

    For example, buying your train ticket using a credit card from the will incur a fee of 2.5% of the total value of the transaction (or £1.50 if you pay via the mobile website or mobile app), whereas by going to TravelSupermarket or Virgin Trains direct you won’t be stung.

    And pre-booking your cinema tickets online with the Odeon will incur a fee, but not if you opt to book with Cineworld.
  12. Paying delivery charges

    If you regularly shop online, chances are that you’ve racked up a small fortune on delivery charges. So keep your eyes peeled for options to cut costs.

    Amazon, for example offers its Amazon Prime service which means for an annual fee of £49, you can get unlimited one-day delivery for the year – which could work out cheaper for very regular shoppers.

    (And be aware that the price you see may not always be the price you pay. I recently bought clothing online from America and then found I had to pay an extra £6.50 in import taxes.)
  13. Paying to park for longer than you need

    We often put more in a parking meter than we’ll actually need ‘just in case.’ Be realistic about how long you’re likely to spend somewhere – you can always come back if you need longer.
  14. Paying more for family days out

    You can often get cheaper admission on family days out if you book online in advance. So if you can’t find a voucher for the place you’re going, check the website and see if you can get a cheaper ticket.
  15. Not returning things

    When we order clothing on the internet that then doesn’t fit, sending it back can be a bind. Similarly, when we buy from the high street, the thought of having to make a trip back to the store can be miserable.

    But you’re throwing money away. So, even if it only cost a fiver, resolve to take something back if it isn’t suitable, or even if you just know you’re never going to wear or use it.
  16. Driving with under-inflated wheels

    Under inflated wheels can increase your fuel consumption. So put aside just a few minutes to check they are inflated to the correct pressure as indicated in your manual.
  17. Shopping at the wrong time of day

    A number of items – especially fresh items – will be marked down at the end of the day. So leaving your shopping until the evening could well bag you a few bargains.
  18. Using claims management companies

    If you are re-claiming mis-sold PPI or compensation for flight delays, don’t use a claims management company. They will take a big cut of whatever you get when it is just as easy to do it yourself. Read Rachel Wait’s article for more information.
  19. Not investigating a lift share option

    The cost of fuel can be a huge dent in your bank balance, especially if you drive to work every day. So ask around and see if anyone else lives in your area. It could halve the amount you spend on fuel every year.
  20. Throwing money down the drain – literally

    Switch the tap of when cleaning your teeth and take a shower rather than a bath. It all adds up – and your pocket will feel the difference when the bills arrive.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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