16 Expense Traps That Are Ruining Your Budget

 
calculator with budget written on screen
 
You know what’s discouraging?
 
When you’re budgeting, but unexpected expenses keep popping up. 
 
What’s worse?
 
Looking at your credit card statements and asking yourself:
 
Why is this so high? What on earth did I buy? 

It happens to the best of us.
 
But here’s the thing:
 
To prevent that, you have to learn how to stop spending money on unnecessary things.
 
Because when your budget works, it so works. 
 
But first, we’ve got to iron out the wrinkles.
 
Ready?
 
(This post may contain affiliates link. Check out our full disclosure policy here!)
 

1 | “Free” Trials

woman typing on laptop
 
Have you ever signed up for a trial and forgotten to cancel?
 
It’s an easy mistake.
 
But here’s the thing:
 
Companies offer free trials because they know that most of them will convert into regular memberships.
 
Either on purpose or by accident.
 
So how do you avoid this expense trap?
 
Just cancel the trial immediately and enjoy it until it runs out.
 
Then look at your bank statements and credit card statements for the last 4 weeks.
 
Do you see any expenses that you didn’t budget for?
 
Cut those out.
 

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2 | Not Saving While You Spend

dollar bills lying on envelope
 
Do you like saving money?
 
Me too.
 
But you probably don’t always have time to clip coupons or search for the best deals.
 
So my advice?
 
You can save time and money through a cash back app called Ebates.
 
Ebates is a rewards program that helps you save money on everything you buy. It’s an effortless way to get the best deals.
 
Here’s what you do:
 
Sign up for an Ebates account and use the search bar to find the retailer you want to shop at.
 
For my visual readers, here’s what I mean:
Ebates homepage gif
 
 
As you make purchases, you’ll get cash back.
 
A word of caution:
 
It’s easy to buy unnecessary things when you’re getting a bargain. But if you want to get the best deals with Ebates, then only buy things you know you need.
 
After all, it’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.
 
Note: the Ebates link above gives you a $10 bonus for signing up and shopping.
 

3 | Bank Fees

pink piggy bank
 
Have you checked your bank statements lately?
 
If you’re trying to learn how to stop spending money on unnecessary things, this is a big one.
 
I’m not saying any names.
 
But at my last bank, there was a fee for Every. Single. Thing.
 
An account maintenance fee here and a card swipe fee there.
 
There was even a fee for not keeping a certain amount of money in the account itself.
 
What kind of weird punishment is that?
 
Bottom line:
 
Some banks will stick it to you without you knowing.
 
So check out your bank’s terms and conditions. Keep an eye out for these expense traps:
 
  • Maintenance fees
  • Account balance fees
  • Card swipe fees

I recommend switching to an online bank like Capital One 360 because there are no fees.

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

It’s awesome.

 

4 | Interest

man calculating bills
 
There’s no doubt about it.
 
Lenders make a killing off of interest.
 
But here’s the thing:
 
Just because you can’t pay off your debt right away, don’t settle for a high-interest rate.
 
So what should you do?
 
First, stop adding more debt. Step away from the credit cards.
 
Secondly, transfer your balances to a lower rate card or use a company like SoFi to lower your interest rate.
 
SoFi offers two free services:
 
1. Student loan refinancing
2. Personal loans
 
What is student loan refinancing?
 
If you’ve found yourself on the wrong side of student loan debt, refinancing can be a big help.
 
Student loan refinancing means they pay off your existing loan(s) and give you a new loan with a lower interest rate.
 
This works if you have one student loan or multiple student loans. 
 
If you have multiple loans, then they’ll combine them into a single loan with a better rate. 
 
This means instead of having 2 or 3 separate lender payments, you’ll only have one – which can make it easier to keep up with your bills.
 
What are personal loans?
 
The average credit card has an interest rate of 19.24%. So it’s smart to transfer your credit card balances to a personal loan with a better interest rate.
 
Not only will you save money in interest, but you’ll lower your monthly payment.
 
Note: You can read more about SoFi in our SoFi Review.
 

5 | Unused Subscriptions

man and woman counting coins
 
If you’re learning how to stop spending money on unnecessary things, then you can relate to this.
 
You know the subscriptions that fall through the cracks?
 
Take a look at your bank account and see if you’re wasting money on unused subscriptions.
 

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6 | Unused Gym Memberships

man running on treadmill at gym
 
You know how it is.
 
We have the best intentions when it comes to the gym, only to fall off a few weeks later.
 
Can you relate?
 
Sometimes life gets in the way, or maybe you prefer working out at home.
 
If you can cut this unnecessary expense, you’ll be saving yourself $10-$60 each month.
 

7 |  Your Friends

group of friends drinking wine
 
You know those friends that can only have fun by spending money?
 
Even though they don’t mean to, they could be sabotaging your budget.
 
Maybe you know you should stay home, but you get an offer that’s too good to refuse. Next thing you know, you’re ordering appetizers, drinks, and dessert.
 
Word to the wise:
 
Don’t deprive yourself, but be smart with your money. Avoid situations where you’ll struggle to stay on budget. 
 
Instead, go for cheaper alternatives:
 
  • Go to lunch instead of dinner.
  • Enjoy happy hour.
  • Invite them over for a meal.
  • Grab coffee instead of food.
 
Those options still let you enjoy yourself. But more importantly, they show you how to budget and save money on a small income.
 
 

8 | Your Roommates

three female friends looking in mirror
 
But wait…I got a roommate to save money, right?
 
True. But your roommates can also destroy your budget.
 
Think about it:
 
Are you someone who avoids confrontation and buys toilet paper every time it runs out, even though you’ve bought it the last 4 times?
 
Here’s the deal:
 
Sit down with your roommates and come up with a plan for handling these expenses. Make a list of necessities.
 
Here are a few examples:
 
  • Toilet Paper
  • Dishwashing Fluid
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Cleaning Products
 
The goal is to figure out how you’re going to alternate these costs.
 
And while you’re at it, split chores that way too. Decide who is going to do what and when.
 
It’ll be much easier to get these two things settled and out of the way in the beginning.
 
You’ll thank me later.
 

9 | Cleaning Products

cleaning mop
 
Let me ask you:
 
Mr. Clean erasers are nice and all, but are they really worth the money?
 
Cleaning products (especially the name brand stuff) will cripple your budget.
 
Look for cheaper alternatives that do the same thing, or make DIY cleaners at home.
 
The point?
 
It seems like cleaning products get more expensive each day. So look out for these expense traps when you’re learning how to stop spending money on unnecessary things.
 
 

10 | High Energy Bills

lightbulb on table
 
Did you know you can save 3% on your energy bill for every one degree you lower or raise the thermostat?
 
So if it’s summer and you keep your house at 72 degrees, but you raise it to 75 degrees, then you’ll save 9 cents on every dollar.
 
Because nothing kills your budget like a blazing heating bill.
 
If it’s winter, the same is true if you lower the temperature. 
 

11 | Beware of “Good” Deals

man using credit card on laptop
 
Two things are true when it comes to deals:
 
  • It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it.
 
  • Stores often mark items up, just so they can mark them down. This makes us feel like we’re “saving money”
 
Also, beware of deals that are only good for a certain amount of time – like flash sales. 
 
Marketers are smart. They want to lock you into the sale before you can think it over.
 
So give yourself 48-hours before making a big purchase.
 
You’ll let the rational side of your brain kick in, and you’ll come up with better ways to spend that money.
 
Like getting out of debt or contributing to savings. 
 

12 | Pet Treats

orange and white kitten
 
Your pet has needs, too.
 
…and sometimes those needs can break the budget. 
 
Food. Vet visits. Medicine. Shots. Grooming. Pet Treats. Toys.
 
It all adds up quick, doesn’t it?
 
But, it’s well worth it. So I recommend saving money by buying things through Chewy.
 
Or you can make your own pet treats at home.
 
When you make treats at home, you can control what’s in the recipe. And of course, it’s another great way to learn how to stop spending money on unnecessary things.
 

13 | Expensive Cable

man relaxing couch watching tv
 
 
Why is it so hard to pull the plug on cable?
 
I get it. It took me awhile too.
 
For a long time, I was paying $150/month for premium channels. But once I found Amazon Instant Video, it made the switch a lot easier.
 
Amazon Instant Video only costs $8.25/month ($99/year).
 
Besides, with the internet and streaming services, expensive cable isn’t always necessary.
 
Is your cable bill costing you a fortune?
 

14 | The Newest Phone

iphone sitting on table
 
You know those people who have to upgrade every year?
 
That’s a great way to keep the never-ending payments.
 
The bottom line?
 
They make our phones pretty good these days. A phone that you’ve had for 2-3 years isn’t going to pale in comparison to a brand new one. 
 
So paying for that new phone every month – and continuing to upgrade yearly – isn’t the best money move.
 
 

15 | Alcohol 

group of cocktails sitting on bar
 
 

I know Jamie Foxx says to blame it on the alcohol, but I’m blaming it on the budget.

Have you looked at how much you’ve spent on alcohol lately?

It can be fun to enjoy a nice drink or two, but if you’re not careful, then it could take up a large part of your budget.

And if you don’t watch your alcohol spending – it could even add up to be more than your grocery bill.

So here’s my suggestion:

Set aside “fun” money in your monthly expenses list. That way, you can have fun without damaging your budget.

Alcohol is an example of the importance of learning how to stop spending money on unnecessary things.
 

16 | Variable Expenses

man stressed out looking out bills
 
 
Car registration fees, insurance, HOAs, and taxes.
 
Have you ever forgotten about these?
 
They’re easy to overlook.
 
So take a few minutes to write down your variable expenses. Keep adding to your list every time you remember a new one.
 
Your budget will thank you.
 
Final thoughts?
 
Budgeting is a skill like any other. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away. These things take time and practice.
 
You can do this.
 
Commit yourself to the process. To finding the leaks in your spending. To setting yourself up for success.
 
Are you ready to take control of your money?
 
I’ve got some financial worksheets that will help you:
 
Budget Breakdown

Tired of feeling overwhelmed by your debt?

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7 thoughts on “16 Expense Traps That Are Ruining Your Budget”

  1. Very nice suggestions I incorporate a few of them already.

  2. This article made me remember a trial subscription should have canceled last night. Thank you

    • You’re welcome Gloria. Thanks for reading!

  3. This is a great article. Thank you for writing it Jane. Small expenses add up very quickly. I especially like the part about the pet treats! When my kids grew up and got married, I was surprised to hear that they learned nothing in HS about budgeting. One of them could not balance a checkbook. I taught them the same way my dad taught me. Granted not many people use checks anymore but the process of checking their statement each month has not changed and none of the kids were doing that, saying that “the bank never makes mistakes.” I enlightened them!

    • That is very true – managing money is a skill that’s often overlooked in school. Thanks for reading Rich! The “bank never makes mistakes” bit gave me a good laugh.

  4. Great article. I have a few things I can cut out

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