5 Things That Are Blowing Your Budget, And You May Not Even Realize It
Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
You may try to budget (and stick to it!) as best you can, but some things fall through the cracks. It's likely that there are plenty of things that are blowing your budget, and you may not even realize it's happening.
"When it comes to budgeting, you've probably heard a version of this: Just cut out one latte a week, and — ta-da! — you can retire at 45," Beth Kobliner, author of the New York Times bestsellers Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties and Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), tells Bustle. "It's a nice thought, but even if you're paying extra for whipped cream, the math just doesn't add up. Real budgeting takes a more thorough review of your expenses and a willingness to weed out what you don't need. Fortunately, there's probably a lot you can live without. For example, take those recurring monthly expenses — paid subscriptions and memberships. And, going forward, use a spending tracker, like Mint or Prosper Daily, to keep track of such easy-to-forget recurring charges."
That Said, Make Sure To Track Your Spending Each Month
Picture this: You've neglected looking at your bank/credit card statements for months, because you're afraid of what you might find — a transcript of all the money you've spent, necessary and unnecessary. For instance, there's the money you spent on clothes, like that new blue wool dress (even though it's spring and too warm to wear it) or the money you shelled out for new sandals (even though there's nothing wrong with your old ones). But if you take a few minutes to pull out all your financial statements right now and go through the past month or two, you'll be able to assess all the hidden monthly fees, like the online memberships you're not using.
"You should always check your credit card bill and bank statement each month to make sure the charges are accurate," Onisa Treibs, vice president of Fidelity Investments, tells Bustle. "This is also a good way to keep tabs on auto-payments and subscriptions. Use this moment each month to ask yourself if you're really using those subscriptions, and, if not, consider canceling the ones that don't fit your lifestyle or needs anymore."
In fact, last year, a MyBankTracker.com survey of 501 people 18 and over and discovered that 40 percent of consumers found “hidden fees” — including auto-renewing services and recurring subscription fees — to be an issue. So, you're not alone!
Without further ado, here are five sneaky things that are blowing your budget. But the good news? There IS something you can do about the unnecessary spending. After all, spending money on services you're not even using is wasting money; it's like giving away your hard-earned cash! And, the only one who should be pocketing — or saving — that money is you! Check out the below and you'll see what financial corners you can start cutting.
1. Unused Gym Memberships
Do you have a gym membership that you rarely — OK, never — use? I speak from experience — I did, and wasted ~years~ paying my L.A. gym fees. ("It's only $10 a month," I'd tell myself. Or, "Even if I go twice a month, that's only $5 each time!") But, I'd obviously lost my passion for daily gym workouts that morphed into one or two monthly ones. So, yes, if you do the math and add up those monthly recurring charges you're getting from the gym you don't go to, it's time to cut it loose.
You can do plenty of other things with that money instead. Plus, you've not been hitting up the gym for a reason — maybe you prefer to go hiking or biking, or skipping working out altogether. Whatever your reasoning is, there's a simple way to save more money: Cancel your gym membership. If you forgot you've been paying it for months on end now, you can even call them to see if they'll refund you a few months. You never know.
"Why pay for a gym membership when you've been going to yoga classes and fitness Meetups in the park instead," Kobliner says. "So long, recurring gym charge! If you decide to rejoin, they'll be happy to have you; you might even be able to negotiate a lower membership fee."
2. Unused Audiobook Or Music Apps
Say you're on a site and click on a book, and then you see an ~amazing~ offer for an audiobook service. It seems like a great idea in the moment — and who doesn't like getting a trial month for free? However, once you download that one book, how often do you use the service? Suddenly, you're seeing them charge you month after month. Perhaps you don't cancel right away because you think you'll use it in a few days... Sound familiar? So that one "free" book could end up costing you hundreds of dollars, depending on how many months you paid for the service. Of course, this happens to people all the time. Kobliner has this advice:
Are your membership book credits adding up because you're addicted to podcasts? Redeem your credit to buy a bunch of audiobooks, and cancel the membership. (Many libraries have apps that allow you to check out audiobooks for free, anyway.) And why pay for more than one [music service]? Decide which music streaming service you use more often, and shut down the other account.
3. Unused Online Memberships, From TV Streaming Services To Clothing Sites
When it comes to any kind of online membership, think about how often you use it. (And, again, pull out your bank and credit card statements to help you uncover hidden costs!) For instance, maybe you use your partner's TV streaming service now, so yours has been neglected. Or you keep paying the hefty $39.99 monthly membership fee for a clothing company, because you can get credits if you don't buy anything during a certain month. But after several months of not buying clothes or using the credits, you realize how much money it has cost you.
When I've done the bank statement exercise and realized how many auto-pays I had that I didn't even know about, I immediately called each company to tell them my mistake. Some were surprisingly forgiving while others said I should have read their fine print better. (Everyone makes mistakes, right?)
"Negotiate with everyone and be prepared to go to the mat," Jennifer Saxton, Founder and CEO of Tot Squad and SoFi member, tells Bustle. "If your cable company threatens to raise your rates, for example, take it all the way to canceling your subscription and they will almost always give in to win you back."
4. Overused Food Delivery Apps
When it comes to what millennial women spend the most money on each month, food is a big one. And not food as in cooking it, but as in ordering it. After all, it's ~so easy~ to just spend a few seconds tapping food options on your phone and getting food delivered right to your door, no matter where you may be. But it definitely adds up, and fast. When millennial women revealed how much they spend on food every month, some admitted to spending hundreds. Once again, it's mainly on eating out and/or using food delivery services.
"Convenience is expensive because you're paying someone to do something for you," John Foley, VP at SoFi, a personal finance company, and a certified financial planner, tells Bustle. "That's fine for a treat or special occasion, but you can save a lot if you don't use on-demand services, because you forgot that dinner happens every day at 7 p.m. It's tempting to get takeout or delivery food rather than deal with cooking after a long work day. I suggest having some tasty meals in the freezer or cupboard to make a dinner quicker than takeout. Better still, over the weekend cook something yourself, like soup, chili, or spaghetti sauce, and make some extra to freeze. Once again — it's cheaper, faster, and better for you."
5. Overused Ride-Sharing Services
I love ride-sharing apps as much as the next person, but when you look through your credit card or bank statement — which you do regularly, right?! — do you see that you spent way too much money taking a ride-sharing service lately?
"In terms of transport, [ride-sharing services] are generally very price-competitive in most markets, but their surge prices can vary widely," Foley says. "If you need to use them at these times, check the prices of both and take the least expensive. Better still, call a cab. Their rates are regulated and often cheaper than surge pricing. Do the price research for your city, because prices and cab fares vary from market to market. A little math will tell you at what surge rate a cab would be cheaper."
Hopefully, you've now been inspired to assess all the extra fees you're paying each month for services you're either not using or using too much. Honestly, there's no point in shelling out that money when you could be putting it towards other things or saving it instead.
"If you stop buying a daily $5 coffee for one year and put that $5 into a savings account, you will have $1,825 by the end of the year," Maggie Germano, certified financial education instructor and financial coach for women, tells Bustle. "In addition, bringing lunch to work ends up saving a ton of money! I know how tempting it is to go around the corner for some delicious, comforting Pad See Ew, but that takeout can run you at least $10 a pop. If you do that every weekday for the entire year, you end up spending over $2,500 on lunch! Think of the amazing things you could do with that money instead."
What Germano said is ~great~ food for thought, so to speak, right? So, removing expenses that are blowing your budget is another savings trick that'll help you keep more money in your pocket (or wallet or bank account).
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.