Michael on May 17th, 2010
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After a very successful trip to Annapolis, Maryland speaking at the University of Maryland’s Personal Finance Seminar for Professionals, I returned to an enormous box on my desk.

I approached in cautiously.

You: Did you fear it was a bomb?

Of course not, why?

You: It’s possible.

I think you’re watching too much TV.

You: What does that have to do with anything?

Nothing, just an independent observation.

You: So what did you do with the box?

I picked it up.

You: And?

I almost threw it to the ceiling!

You: Because you thought it was a bomb!  I was right!

No, because the box weighed a LOT less than I thought it was going to weigh. When I opened up and searched through the approximately 30″ x 18″ box, contained exactly one 6″ x 9″ book.

You: That’s it?

That and a ton of packing material.

You: Was it a good book?

Yes, it was Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, but that’s not the point.

You: Now who would return Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck?

Better question, but also besides the point.  One distributor returns books from time to time often because a book was damaged in transit.

Anyway, shipping one book in a box big enough for two toasters is a total waste of money.

You: I agree.

So this got me thinking . . . what other stupid and careless ways are there to waste money?  Here’s my list.  Please add some of your own stories of witnessing or <gasp> occasionally partaking in the “I just don’t care anymore” attitude.

  1. Playing lottery
  2. Printing your airline boarding passes in color
  3. Not recycling ink cartridges at Staples ($3 for something that would otherwise wind up in a landfill?  Works for me.)
  4. Paying for parking at a meter or a lot when there is ample free street parking nearby
  5. Skipping the complimentary breakfast at a hotel
  6. Ignoring routine maintenance (car, house, spouse) in the short-term so it costs you much more (engine overhaul, new furnace, jewelry) in the long-term.
  7. Putting way too many stamps on an envelope (related to introductory above)
  8. Buying the enormous package of some perishable item at a warehouse club because it’s SO much less per serving . . . then throwing half the thing out after you realize you have enough mayonnaise to eat said condiment at every meal for 6 months.
  9. Paying sticker price for a car to avoid the inherent conflict and uncomfortable situations sure to arise
  10. Saying “yes” to the $4.00 extended warranty on a $15.00 set of workout gloves (I was offered this yesterday.)

What can you add to this list of stupid and careless ways to waste money?

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7 Comments to “10 stupid and careless ways to waste money”

  1. Ron says:

    11. Failing to ask for a price concession on anything.
    12. Grocery shopping without a list.
    13. Eating out because you’re too lazy to cook.
    14. Paying someone to cut your lawn while you watch TV inside the house.
    15. Paying a private school to educate your kids when there is a fantastic public school down the street … and the kids there score higher on standardized tests than the private school kids (personal experience, but we’re transferring).

  2. -Not installing a digital thermostat in your house and keeping it at 70 degrees all day during the winter while the family is out of the house so it is warm when you arrive home.
    -Not taking advantage of free seminars (which often come with a free copy of something, often useless, sometimes not)
    -Paying registration, insurance, parking, gas, etc. when you live in the city and use your car less than once per week. Public transit, bikes, and PhillyCarShare (local car sharing service similar to ZipCar) have saved us a ton of money. Probably over $6000/year.

  3. Matt says:

    I don’t mean to be a prick, but not all value is measured in dollars, and I know you know that.

    For example, I constantly weigh the option of paying someone to cut my lawn so I can use that time to do other things that have some value to me, whether it’s time to read, work in the shop, or get something else accomplished. Haven’t hired someone to do that yet, but I consider it every time I get ready to spend 3 hours on the lawn.

    Or, paying for parking because it’s more convenient. Perhaps it’s covered parking, and it’s snowing, raining or hailing, and you’re dressed for a meeting.

    I mailed a letter the other day in a manila envelope. It needed three stamps. I put 2 on. But I thought it might have needed three. I went to the post office and I needed an additional 21 cents of postage. I waited 20 minutes in line to find this out. At about 1 cent saved per minute, would I have rather spent 20 extra cents and spent those 20 minutes with my dog, or reading the Saturday paper, or the most recent post on Mike’s excellent blog? You betchya!

    There are other examples, but my point is that there can be a fine line between doing something “stupid” and being “judgmental” about the value of time and convenience. This line is different for different people.

  4. Michael says:

    Great comments all!

    @Ron: True enough. Today, many items once thought to cost what they cost are negotiable. I wrote extensively about my dealing with the cable company and dramatically lowering my payment while adding services.

    @Jeff: Agreed. A car is one of the biggest and under-respected money sucks out there. It doesn’t surprise me that you feel you’ve saved several thousand dollars by going the car sharing route.

    @Matt: Perhaps my “stupid” language is a bit strong. Actually, it definitely is. As you know, using it helps people to pay more attention, and react. Heck, it got you to comment, which is one of the best parts of writing a blog. Much more lonely when there’s no reaction. Furthermore, I agree – there is a line and, for the most part, it varies with the individual. I wouldn’t have made it 20 minutes for the stamp. No way. Like you, I left NY, but my level of patience is still impacted by where I grew up.

    A key is staying in balance. For some people, mowing the lawn can be therapeutic so the cost and time savings isn’t real for them. Other people dread it. If they save well, why not stimulate the local economy?

  5. Cory says:

    The best one is “ignoring routine maintenance (spouse) in the short-term so it costs you a major overhaul (jewelry) in the long-term”. Hilarious!

  6. Steve says:

    Paying a videographer to shoot your wedding. Nobody wants to watch a boring two hour wedding video.

  7. Michael says:

    @Cory – thanks!

    @Steve – Yes, I did that . . .

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