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Regardless of income level, we all have leaks in our budget. That is, spending habits that drain extra money without our even noticing. And even small leaks can add up to a lot of money wasted. If you can find and plug these leaks, you can put more money back in your pocket. Here are some common ways you might be wasting money:
Getting a huge tax refund. Sounds good, but if you get a tax refund every year, you let the government use your money all year long. Keep that money and put it to work for yourself instead. Adjust your tax withholding accordingly.
Paying for unnecessary services. Are you using what you pay for—extra cell phone features, cable channels, gym memberships, Netflix or magazine subscriptions?
Buying new instead of used. Consider what you can buy used without sacrifice, for example, cars, books, toys, furniture, and exercise equipment. (Avoid used mattresses, computers, and safety equipment like car seats and bike helmets.)
Impulse buying. Before you buy, go home first and think it over. If you still want to make the purchase, comparison-shop for the best price. Often, though, you'll probably decide you don't need the item after all.
Missing out on tax-sheltered investments. Are you taking advantage of your company's 401(k) plan (especially if your company will match contributions), or a Roth IRA? Before you invest in taxable accounts, put the maximum in tax-sheltered investments.
Dining out. Spending $10 to $30 per person for dinner adds up fast. A trip to the coffee shop every morning can amount to quite a bit each month. Cook at home more often, pack your lunch, and brew your own coffee instead.
Allowing money to wallow. Don't leave extra money sitting in your checking account or low-interest traditional bank savings. Try a high-interest online savings account or interest-bearing checking account.
Buying brand-name products. Choose off-brands whenever possible. In most cases, you'll save money without sacrificing quality.
Wasting electricity. Turn off lights when you're not in the room. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Unplug energy vampires (appliances that use electricity even when they're turned off, such as those with a clock or those that operate by remote).
Owning an extra car. How many cars do you really need? Loan payments, insurance fees, gas, and maintenance all add up. Is that extra car really necessary?