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Find and Plug Your Money Leaks

How many times have you run into this scenario at work: you start a task that seems ridiculously inefficient or outdated, bring it up to your supervisor only to hear them say “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Sadly, it happens all too often and it’s the product of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality that permeates almost every aspect of life. When was the last time you took a hard look at how you did things? Your commute to work every day, how you pay your bills, and how you set your thermostat? Probably not much, especially with all the other, more important, things you have to worry about right?

I totally get it because everyone does the same thing. There are a lot of things in our lives that we probably do the exact same way because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It has worked… but it could be better. And, just like at work, we’ve done it that way because while it may not be the best way, it worked and you have a million other things competing for your time and energy.

However, today I want to work with you to try to find some ways we may be leaking money. It’s hard to know where you might be losing your hard earned cash bit by bit because it’s hard to know what you don’t know, right? So, to help get our mindgrapes flowing, I listed a few common money leaks in the hopes that you could kick in a few leaks you may have found recently.

Not Using Billpayment Services

It’s the year 2010 and if you’re still putting a stamp on an envelope to pay your bills, you’re wasting your money. The stamp is going to cost you 44 cents and the envelope will run you a penny or two, making each bill cost you about forty five cents each. Pay five bills a month, twelve months a year, and you have $27 you could spend on a case of good beer (or something else you enjoy). That doesn’t consider how much you’d pay in fees if the payment gets lost in the mail, which happens infrequently but is more likely to happen with the mail than with the photos of the Internet. Finally, think about all the time you’re wasting on making out the check, writing the address of the company on the envelope, and walking to your mailbox. With a few clicks, online billpay takes seconds.

Don’t Review Your Fixed Monthly Expenses

You don’t go to the gym as often as you think you do. You don’t use Netflix as often as you think you do. You don’t watch as much TV as you think you do. If you think I’m wrong, that’s fine, there’s a pretty good chance that even if you do use one of those things often enough to justify the monthly cost, you don’t do all of them enough to justify each of their monthly fees.

Keep a log of how often you use certain services and calculate how much you’re paying per use. Pay $90 a month for a gym membership? Even if you go every single day, that’s $3 a day. Once you do the math, you might be better off paying per visit if they offer it. This applies to almost everything and you’ll be surprised how much you don’t use your monthly memberships.

Don’t Optimize Your Savings

How much money do you have in your checking account? How much do you actually need in that account? This is one leak I know we are currently suffering from and it’s such an easy fix, if we take the time to do it. Money in our checking account earns nothing, whereas money we transfer into our high yield savings account [3] has the opportunity to earn at least a percent or two. We keep a bit of a buffer in our checking account but everything else goes into a savings account where we get a little something while we’re waiting.

Drive Fast, Brake Hard

If your morning commute is 20 miles, it’ll take you about 21 minutes and 49 seconds if you go 55 miles per hour. If you drive 65 miles per hour, you get there in 18 minutes and 28 seconds – or three and a half minutes faster. The difference? You can get pulled over for speeding if you are going 65 in a 55 and while it will probably not happen, it will suck really bad the one time it does. Plan your trips better and stop speeding. You avoid tickets, you improve gas mileage and tire lifespan, and you don’t sacrifice much. (if you drive 80 MPH, you still takes 15 minutes to get there…)

While you’re at it, use Google Maps and map out your daily commute. You can drag your path around to see if you’re really minimizing your total mileage or the number of red lights you hit.

Don’t Review Your Insurance Coverages

When was the last time you took a look at your insurance needs and adjusted your coverage? Here’s a scenario that probably happens all too often – you increase your deductible to lower your premiums (great move) but over the years your car has gone down in value and now it’s worth less than your deductible. It sounds obvious right but do you know the blue book value of your car? Ask your insurer what they think the value of the car is (chances are it’s less than blue book)… you’ll be surprised. Anyway, it’s not an intelligence test, sometimes we just keep doing what we’ve been doing because it made sense once and I’m telling you that you should review them. If things have changed in your life and you need less coverage or a different type of coverage, tell your insurer and get your policies adjusted to fit your current needs.

Don’t Find Ways to Trim Electricity

Finding ways to conserve electricity around your home is a nice way to plug a leak because you often only need to do something once and you reap the savings for months. I personally like CFLs, despite their up front costs, but there are plenty of ways to trim your electricity bill without much up front cost. For winter savings ideas, here a post on ten quick tips to winterizing your home [4]. If you do a quick search on Google on how to conservation, you’re sure to find a lot of tips you can implement to start saving on electricity.

Don’t Review Your Mutual Funds

How has your mutual fund been performing? Are you happy with it? How much are you paying? Do you own the world’s most expensive index fund [5]? (it’s the Rydex S&P 500 [6] and it charges a 2.28% expense ratio!)

My point is that you should review your investments, especially your mutual funds, to see if your investments make sense. Index funds are easy to review because it’s as close to an apples to apples comparison as you’ll ever get and it really makes little sense to pay more for one fund over another (there are some differences, mostly dealing with the speed at which they match index changes, but they’re fairly nominal). You wouldn’t pay $20 for a gallon of milk, right?

I tried to run the gamut from leaks in your home to hard money leaks, like overpaying for an index fund, but I don’t know what I don’t know so I need your help. What money leaks do you see every day that most people don’t seem to catch? What about a leak you may have plugged lately?

On Friday, I’ll pick the top three money leaks and award each those entrants 50 BB you can use in the Bargaineering Bucks store [7]. You must be a registered user [8] to earn Bargaineering Bucks [9].

(Photo: johnx62 [10])