Small Ways You’re Leaking Money & How To Stop

published Oct 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

When it feels like you’re already doing everything you can to save money, finding new ways to cut corners can feel like a huge struggle. The conventional advice — keeping a budget, setting up auto-transfers, and using apps that help you squirrel away money — are all great ways to help you set extra cash aside… and you’re probably already doing them.

Even when you’re in budget mode, you may be spending more money than you need. It’s time to fix those budget leaks and start putting cash away — and here are some places to start:

Stop Buying Water

For the most part, you can get clean, purified drinking water for free. So why are you buying bottled water all the time when you’re out and about? Invest in a reusable water bottle that you like and commit to bringing it with you when you’re out.

Use the Library

There are some books you’ll want to keep forever, but if you’re a frequent and fast reader, having—and actively using—a library card can save you a lot of money. And if you’re more of an ebook fan, you can still take advantage of your library card—many libraries have selections of ebooks you can download for free.

Don’t Leave Gift Cards Unused

Gift cards are basically free money, but they won’t do you any good if they sit in a drawer. Even gift cards with a few dollars left on them add up, so make sure you use them. Keep them in a central location so they don’t get lost around your home and use a site like to check the balance if you’ve forgotten.

Cut Down on ATM Fees

ATMs are convenient, but they’re not always “free”. Using an out-of-network machine for withdrawals can have two fees: one to the ATM owner and one to your bank. Bankrate reports that the average cost of using an out-of-network ATM is $4.69. Your best bet is to use an ATM from your bank and to cut down the number of visits you make by withdrawing larger amounts of money in one go. Still seeing a lot of fees on your bank statement? Consider switching to a bank that waives or reimburses ATM fees. Nerdwallet has a list of banks with the best ATM policies.

Start Unplugging Things

You may think that turning off devices and small appliances while you’re not using them is enough to save energy (and money on your electric bill) but, as it turns out, a lot of devices go into “standby mode”. It’s a small savings, but when you can remember, unplug things you’re not using.

Return Things on Time

How many times have you bought something only to realize it wasn’t quite right…and then lost the receipt or forgot to return it in time? Getting stuck with items you don’t like and won’t use (unless you can gift them to someone who will love them) can be a big waste of money. Try setting calendar reminders on your phone—and put the receipts in a safe place where you’ll see them, like on your refrigerator.

Drop Memberships or Subscriptions You Don’t Use

The average cost of a gym membership is $58 (a lot higher in big cities). If you’re not using yours, stop feeling bad about it — cancel if you can or commit to not renewing and start feeling good about the monthly savings. Think about all your memberships and subscriptions (magazines, streaming services, sock club??) and whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth.