12 Common Expenses That Ruin Budgets [Get #11 For Free]

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Most of us are prone to spending too much money in this day and age. After all, we are exhausted from our day jobs, and we come home to rest, only to get constantly bombarded with a myriad of advertisements ranging from fast fashion to every new tech gadget there is.

While there are obvious expenditures such as inordinate visits to your local coffee shop and frequent trips to your favorite restaurant, there are actually quite a few expenses that may go unnoticed. As such, you’re probably spending a good amount on “unnecessary” needs.

The good news is a quick look at your account can often help you identify these unnecessary needs you’re throwing money at. Let’s get to it.

Unnecessary need #1: Gas (cut down on it)

Too many people forget to budget for gasoline, and we understand why. It’s hard to know how much you’ll need to budget for when your obligations change from month to month. The best way to do so is to take an average of the last 12 months and see if you can make it through every month on just that amount. Anything above that number, and you should consider whether it’s really necessary for your situation.

In light of recent inflation of gas prices, this category becomes even more important. Try taking advantage of free grocery delivery services if you order over a certain amount. Buying in bulk not only saves you money in groceries but also in terms of gas.

Additionally, if you live in an urban area, you might want to consider taking the bus or the subway, which is simultaneously cheaper and better for the environment. On the other hand, if you’re willing to dish out around $12,000 or more for a used Nissan Leaf, you can own an electric vehicle and stop paying for gas altogether. Of course, this all depends on your preferences and transportation needs. 

Unnecessary need #2: Utilities (cut down on it)

It is all too easy to leave the lights on for just a little longer, or keep the heater going for an extended period of time when you don’t really need to. But there is a tipping point at which excess use of those utilities might not quite add to your current quality of life.

By being a bit more cost-conscious, you won’t ever have numbers that catch you by surprise. Plus, it’s a great step in the right direction.

Unnecessary need #3: Gym memberships 

If you have a gym membership that you never actually use, you might as well just cancel it and save money. You’d be quite surprised how many people keep it “just in case.” On the other hand, if you’re inspired to work out, and you are running on that treadmill and lifting those weights at least three times a week then, by all means, keep it! Maintaining your physical health is extremely important.

Just don’t let that initial sign-up cost trap you into thinking it’s better to keep it. Be honest with yourself and perhaps challenge yourself to prove consistency in working out without a membership before you recommit yourself to one in the future.

Take advantage of simple body weight workouts you can do at home with no equipment necessary. Simply find a workout on Youtube and follow along at home.

Unnecessary need #4: Bank fees 

This one’s a tough one. If you’re truly struggling because you’re simply broke, this one can be quite an insulting suggestion. But fear not, there’s still hope for you.

Let’s all agree that bank fees are inordinately annoying, and they can quickly drain you of your hard-earned resources. They’re especially common with brick-and-mortar institutions like Bank of the West and Wells Fargo. 

Believe it or not, there is a smarter solution: Pay off any debts you may have as soon as possible, and transfer all of your funds to a mobile bank. The following ones are excellent, and have absolutely no fees: 

  • Aspiration 
  • Chime 
  • NEO 
  • Lili (great for freelancers!)

These banks will truly rid you of the headaches that too often come with keeping your cash in an institution that continuously charges you for no reason at all. Every dollar counts, and you deserve to keep those dollars safe! On a side note, you can actually deposit cash into Aspiration by getting your hands on a money order, or you can provide a Walgreens cashier with your money and ask them to put it into your Chime account. We find the latter method slightly risky, but it’s better than nothing. 

Unnecessary need #5: Magazine subscriptions 

If you’re a writer, it’s understandable that you have a wide array of magazines covering a diverse range of topics, especially if you actually read all of them. On top of this, you can write the investment off as a business expense. On the other hand, c’mon. The majority of people don’t write for a living. It’s not exactly ideal to pay for a ton of magazine subscriptions if you simply read the occasional issue and are so swamped with work that you’d rather just watch Netflix when you get home.

In this case, you might want to cancel your subscriptions and simply purchase any issue you’re interested in when it comes out! This strategy will likely save you a great deal of money, time, and effort that you’d probably rather direct elsewhere. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’ll be paying full price for each of the issues you decide to get. But if you’re overall paying less money for the year, I’d say why not save where you can?

Unnecessary need #6: Streaming subscriptions 

Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Apple TV, etc. If you’re strapped for cash, as we once overheard an extremely wealthy individual say, you’d probably be better off investing in some Netflix stock than buying a subscription. Then again, it depends on your lifestyle and how much joy the platform brings you. Marie Kondo anyone?

If Netflix is your respite from the world on Sundays and you can’t truly relax without binge-watching Ozark, then maybe it’s worth it. That being said, TV shows and movies can either serve as inspiration or distract a person from work, so it depends on your priorities and preferences. If you rarely watch Netflix or you feel like you can’t do anything other than get lost in movies and escape from the real world, it might actually be better for your wallet and your mental well-being to simply cancel that subscription!

Make it a simple rule never to have more than one subscription at a time. You can only watch one at a time, and cycling through services makes it so that you will never get tired of any subscription platforms.

Unnecessary need #7: Buying organic 

Of course, it’s best to prioritize your health whenever possible, but you don’t actually have to purchase the organic version of every single fruit and vegetable. There are some that are, indeed, just fine if you simply opt for the more affordable kind. The 12 you have to watch out for in particular are:

  • Strawberries 
  • Spinach 
  • Kale, collard, and mustard greens 
  • Nectarines 
  • Apples 
  • Grapes 
  • Cherries 
  • Peaches 
  • Pears 
  • Hot peppers & bell peppers 
  • Celery 
  • Tomatoes 

That’s because according to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), these products often contain pesticides, and thus you should buy the organic version whenever possible. On the other hand, if a vegetable or fruit is not on the above list, you do not need to buy the organic version. 

Disclaimer: Since we’re a personal finance blog and not a health blog, please do your due diligence and verify these claims on your own.

Unnecessary need #8: A television 

A lot of us watch television to unwind from work, and this is completely understandable, particularly if you have a specific series you enjoy. However, if you’re really looking to cut back on your expenses, you might want to rethink investing an inordinate amount of money in a big black box that will likely take up a great deal of space in your living room. Instead, you could just watch shows on your laptop and opt out of paying those extra bills every month!

Personally, I’m seeing more and more households than I’d expect embracing the idea that a laptop can serve all their streaming needs. It’s your call though. TV is a respite from everyday life for a lot of us, and it helps us relax after a long day. We understand if this is not something you want to give up.

On the other hand, a lot of families are switching to a simple projector instead of a TV. Not only is it much cheaper, it can also be much bigger than the TV you can afford.

Unnecessary need #9: An expensive mobile service

If your bill is through the roof each month, you might actually want to look into other companies that offer more reasonable options. It just may not be worth the extra money, and likely doesn’t actually improve your life in any meaningful way. After all, every dollar counts, so there’s no need to spend more than what’s absolutely necessary. You’ll want to do some research and consider what’s important to you in this area and how much you receive in exchange for your hard-earned cash. 

Here are some of our favorite cheap mobile services.

Unnecessary need #10: A financial advisor 

This is the most ironic one on the list because people only spend money on these services if they want to get better with their finances, but we thought we’d give you a fair warning: Sometimes, financial advisors aren’t actually worth the investment. You can educate yourself by reading books, taking reasonably priced courses online, and watching numerous YouTube channels on the subject. Graham Stephan is one we enjoy.

If you feel like you are overpaying for a financial advisor, you probably are, and it’s okay to politely decline their services: You really can figure out most of this stuff on your own! 

Consider using Monarch Money app instead, the premium version of the app does come with personalized financial advice.

Unnecessary need #11: Tax services

I think we can all agree that any more taxes paid than you need to will never increase your quality of life. Related to that are expenses involved in filing a return, whether that be with an accountant or even simply using TurboTax. If your tax returns are simple (ex. a simple W-2 job), you don’t even need TurboTax. Just use the free online filing options provided by the IRS.

Furthermore, far too many individuals forget to budget for taxes and then are filled with anxiety when they learn how much they actually have to pay, especially if they have large salaries. There are actually many ways to get the IRS to give you a solid return, particularly if you have a lot of business expenses before the tax deadline! It’s still important to budget for the payment just in case though. That way you’re not caught off guard when April rolls around. 

Unnecessary need #12: Business expenses 

If you have just gotten a new job, you may have to purchase specific clothes for that role. If you are self-employed, you’ll likely want to invest in some stunning business cards, an excellent website, and perhaps even some courses so that you can continue learning as you scale your income. 

It is all too easy to forget to budget for such expenses, yet these are incredibly important to consider, especially because you can write them off when tax season comes around! However, don’t let the fact that it’s tax-deductible encourage you to spend more than you need to. You’ll still end up paying more overall that way, and this kind of investment often has a point of diminishing returns.

In conclusion

These days, a lot of Americans are struggling to pay the bills, and many of us don’t even realize where our money is going because we just have so many everyday expenses that it’s easy to lose track of each one. 

While every individual is different and peoples’ priorities vary, it’s almost always a good idea to track your expenditures so that you know where your money is going and stop buying items and services you don’t really need or use. That way you can have more money in the bank!

Share the wealth!