9 Ways You're Wasting Money Without Realizing It & How To Save Instead

Money is a sneaky little two-faced thing. It's hard to grasp how much we actually have of it, where and when it should be going, and where it actually does go. Especially because it's those little things we waste our money on that totally get by us. We want to budget efficiently, but we also want to allow ourselves those indulgences from time to time. But how often? And on what? And am I really spending and saving it the best way I can?

I always feel like there's something better I could be doing that'll help me in the long run. Disregarding reckless YOLO moments of my youth, I like to think of myself as a fairly conscious spender. But again, it's hard to know how on top of my sh*t I really am.

And the last thing I want is to look back on 20-something-year-old me and shake my broke ass head at my stupid financial decisions. Life is about learning from your mistakes, for sure. But something we can all afford and benefit from is embracing all of the ways we can be smarter with our money. To do so, you'll need to step a little out of your comfort zone of convenience and reevaluate whether where your money is going is essential. Here are 10 ways you may be wasting your money without realizing it. Because a little here and a little there eventually equals a lot. Life's arithmetic, ya know?

1. Buying Poor Quality

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Sometimes you really do need to spend more to save more. For Lifehack, Alan Henry pretty much hit the nail on the head by pointing out that being frugal doesn't just mean saving money — it means spending your money wisely. Because it's totally true that cutting corners in the short term may cost you more in the long term. From something as simple as the cleaning supplies you buy that will last you longer to the products you put on your skin that won't do as much damage to the food you consume that will prevent all those doctor's visits later on — investing in good quality helps you and your wallet.

2. Spending On Services You Can Do Yourself

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Of the things you don't have to spend money on, the things you can do for yourself are pretty high on that list. It's nice to treat yourself and splurge, but it's good to do a self-check on how often you're indulging. Manicures are fab, cabs are convenient, and food delivery is bliss. The thrilling experience of opening my door to retrieve my sushi-special-for-two, only to retreat into the corners of my apartment and shamelessly devour it myself in a matter of seconds is, uh, undeniably great. But you know what else is great? Taking the time to learn a simple recipe or two and prepare that glorious meal yourself. And as pointed out on The Cheat Sheet, we often choose convenient services because we're either in a hurry or think the person can do a better job. But you'd be surprised at what a difference a little planning and practice can make.

3. Always Using Your Card

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We can fall into the illusion of thinking we're spending less than we actually are when we eliminate the tangible aspect of an exchange. And it can be totally easy to fall into the trap of relying a little too much on that magical plastic card that accios the sh*t out of all things we want, Harry Potter-spell style. But as pointed out by Money Nation, people who use cash spend less and can trick their brains into saving money. Cash gives you that automatic budget, makes you feel the loss harder and more often, and helps minimize the tendency of increased interest rates of which you can lose track.

4. Not Taking Advantage Of Free Things

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I am a book-hoarder. I get a thrill out of bookshop exploration and splurges and fully feed into the clichéd quirky girl trope attributed to my Brooklyn-residing kind. While I love the feeling of owning a book and going back to it when I can, I have definitely made book purchases that, after being read, have only collected dust and taken up space in my home. Tapping into the generous borrowing services of my local library and online resources definitely helped cut back on my spending.

So if it's not books for you, there's always something else. Aside from borrowing things from the library or a friend, there are actually some pretty awesome free things on the Internet that Reddit has compiled and you should definitely check out.

5. Buying Things Just Because They're On Sale

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Ah, that exciting promise of a good deal. More marketing money-making ploys to get you to sometimes buy some sh*t you just don't need. According to a TIME article on more ways to stop wasting money, a psychological reason many people over-shop is to get a burst of feel-good dopamine that accompanies sale shopping. It can very much feel like winning a prize. But what's that prize really worth if you don't even really like it or have much use for it? Ironically, TIME pointed out that sale-shoppers tend to spend more. So think twice before you dive into that too-good-to-be-true two-for-one deal.

6. Shopping When Hungry

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I'm sure it's not surprising to you that those hunger cravings will lead you down more store aisles than necessary — and not only grocery aisles. Smithsonian pointed to a study that found hunger creates an acquisitive mindset that encourages people to get more stuff in general. So next time, try a little healthy homemade snack before heading out to the store to cut down on that excess.

7. Drinks: Bottled Water, Coffee, Alcohol

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Drinks can be a huge money vacuum. They swallow up that cash as quickly as your need to quench your thirst, need for caffeine, or need to just turn up. So limit your spending and get friendly with what your kitchen has to offer. In the United States, generally speaking, you can drink from the tap without risking your health, as pointed out by Lifehack. Wherever you live, this is something you should definitely look into, but if you just aren't sure and want to play it safe, invest in a Brita filter.

Same goes for your morning coffee or daily tea. Cut back on the cafe visits and buy some coffee and tea bags in bulk to prepare for yourself at home. Get creative with it and have fun with personalizing it. Get yourself a simple coffee maker, a fancy espresso machine, a classic French press, or adorable kettles and tea infusers — there are plenty of options out there worth the investment and tailored to your budget.

And in terms of the dranks, I'm sure we've all experienced the morning-after cringe when examining last night's liquid purchases. You don't have to take drastic dry measures or anything, but start tracking and looking into ways you can avoid doing so for yourself. Whether that's slowing down and spacing out the beverages, going out a little less, or pre-gaming at home (in classy adult fashion, of course), see what works for you.

8. Being Disorganized/Not Doing Inventory Checks

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When everything's a mess, it's hard to see what you already have. And then when you don't check up on the things you own, you're obviously more likely to go out and make an unnecessary double purchase. Apartment Therapy gave some easy ways to save more money by getting organized— from eliminating duplicates to setting apart what you need and what you can toss.

9. Heating And Cooling

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A window or a door left open in your home lets out all of the dollar bills along with the cold or hot air your heating/cooling unit is churning out, so just be diligent about the utilities that you're paying for. According to USA TODAY, Business Insider estimates that Americans throw away $443 billion on wasted energy, and consumers can cut energy costs by a third if they use the recommendations and suggestions of environmental programs like ENERGY STAR. So stay green — with your cash and your planet.

Saving money seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. Figure out little ways you're wasting money and you may be surprised how much you save in the end.

Images: Clark Street Mercantile/Unsplash; Giphy (9); oliviamuenter/Instagram