Top 20 money-wasters

Who can honestly say they spend every single penny wisely? Whether it’s to save time, or simply because we’ve not done our homework, most of us waste money occasionally. Here are 20 of life’s biggest money-wasters, and how to get around them.

1. Texting

Whether you’re on a pay-monthly or pay-as-you-go mobile phone subscription, there’s no point using up your credit or monthly text allowance when there’s a whole host of free messaging apps available such as WhatsApp or BBM (the latter is now available on Android and iOS).

2. Binning small change

More than two million coins are intentionally thrown in the bin each year, according to Nectar. If small change annoys you that much, throw it into a jar near the bin or keep it handy for the supermarket, where you can throw it into the self-service machines.

3. Under-inflated tyres

If your car’s tyres are under-inflated, your car will use more fuel. Keep them inflated as directed in the owner’s manual for maximum fuel efficiency.

4. The National Lottery

Your odds of winning the jackpot are roughly 1 in 14million. Playing each week for a year will cost you £104 and you’re still more likely to be hit by lightning than you are to win.

5. Being overzealous about food expiry dates

Nearly 5 million tonnes of perfectly edible food are thrown away every year. Food can be eaten up until and on its ‘use by date’. You don’t have to throw away food past its ‘best before’ date – it’s absolutely fine to eat, but may no longer be at its best.

6. Computer security / anti-virus software

It’s very important to protect your computer from malware, adware and other nasties, but you don’t need to fork out a lot for it. Microsoft Security Essentials is free and isn’t intrusive. For belt-and-braces protection, you could also use AVG free.

7. Fee-charging cash machines

According to LINK, the UK’s cash machine network operator, 97% of ATMs in Britain do not charge a withdrawal fee, so you shouldn’t have to go far to find a free one. If you can’t find a free one, pay on your debit card.

8. Interest on credit card debt

We’re in something of a golden age for interest-free balance transfer credit cards, so it’s pretty senseless to pay interest on credit card debt when you can now get up to 31 months to clear the balance without accruing any interest. Bear in mind, you may not always require the longest term. Nationwide’s new balance transfer card offers 26 months at 0% with a 0.75%. This ‘best-ever’ combination means it’s the cheapest deal for anyone taking more than a year to clear their debts.

Read more about it in our Focus on.

9. Netflix

I’m a big fan of Netflix, but if you’re thinking about signing up just because you still haven’t seen Breaking Bad or House of Cards, hold your horses.

Netflix accounts allow you to watch on up to six unique devices and permit viewing on up to two devices simultaneously. Netflix even allows for five different viewer profiles per account. An estimated 10million of its 33million viewers are watching for free via friends’ accounts, so ask yours if you can borrow their passwords for a while.

10. Avoidable delivery fees

If you’re buying online, there are ways to dodge delivery fees. Argos and Halfords, for example, both have free reserve and collect services, allowing you to buy online and collect from a nearby store of your choice.

If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, and spend more than £49 in a year on delivery, then you could benefit from Amazon Prime which, for £49 a year, offers free, unlimited One-Day Delivery on millions of items. There’s also a perk for readers – but more on that later…

If you can’t avoid a delivery fee, at least have a look for discount codes to bring the purchase price down and offset the cost of delivery.

11. Bottled beer

We of course encourage responsible drinking here at MoneySuperMarket, but bottled beers in bars, clubs and pubs often cost almost as much as a full pint of draught beer, meaning you get around half the drink at almost the same price. Go for a half instead, or get a pint and pace yourself.

12. Packaged accounts with useless benefits

If you’re paying for your bank account but not using its benefits, such as free travel insurance and breakdown cover, you may be wasting your money. There are plenty of free accounts out there, and switching only takes a week. My article here will help you weigh up the pros and cons of packaged accounts.

13. Smartphone contracts

My phone costs £230 when bought directly from the manufacturer. On a contract, over two years, however, it’s cost me £360. It’s always cheaper to buy a phone SIM-free, upfront, if possible - and then get a SIM-only deal. You can get cash towards a new handset by recycling your old one.

14. Books

Who doesn’t love a good book? The thing is; you can still borrow from your local library for free – so it’s not always necessary to buy books.

If you have a Kindle eReader and you’re signed up to Amazon Prime, you can borrow one book per month, from a library of more than 350,000 titles, for free. Amazon also offers free samples of many books, giving you up to three chapters to decide whether or not a book is worth buying.

15. New cars

The new ’14 plates will be arriving in car showrooms around the country in a couple of weeks’ time, and will lose value the moment they’re driven off the forecourt. Remember that the prices of new cars are pumped up by VAT at 20% and by the dealer’s overheads. Buy nearly-new instead.

16. Automatically buying your music from iTunes

If you’re an iPhone, iPad or iPod user, you probably buy your digital music via the iTunes store on your device, which means you may be wasting money.

A study by American website dealnews.com last year found Amazon to be cheaper than iTunes for downloads 78% of the time. It also found albums were around 35p cheaper on Google Play.

17. Throwing away leftovers

Use your leftovers from one meal as part of a meal the next day; it’s a very simple way to save money. Search for recipes online and get creative with it, or try the Love Food Hate Waste app, available on Android and iOS.

18. Driving walkable distances

If you can comfortably walk to and from a nearby destination, leave the car at home and save the fuel.

19. Being on anything but the cheapest energy tariff

Unlike some services, where you might choose to pay more for a better quality product, energy is energy, regardless of what you pay for it. There’s no reason for not being on the absolute cheapest energy deal at all times.

At the moment, that deal is the Ovo Energy Cheaper Energy Fixed tariff, with an average annual bill of £1,014.74. Head over to our energy channel to switch suppliers now.

20. Not using your ISA allowance

If you have money in savings but haven’t yet used your full ISA allowance for the year, you’re wasting money because you’ll be taxed on the returns. With savings, an ISA should always be your first port of call. Only when you’ve maxed out your allowance should you start on a standard, taxable savings account.

You have around six weeks left to use your 2013/14 allowance of £11,520, up to half of which can go into a cash ISA. Visit our ISA hub for more information.

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