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5 Messy Money Mistakes

Farnoosh Torabi

It happens to the best of us: mysteriously falling short on cash when we could’ve sworn we’d just hit the ATM. Where did all that money go? On any given day, there are a number of ways we leak money - knowingly or not. Here’s a look at how to reclaim some of that money.
One messy money mistake is filling up our grocery carts with way too much. Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that we tend to go overboard on groceries, especially at warehouse clubs, where we think we’re saving money by buying in bulk, but not always, especially considering how much excess food goes straight into the trash. According to the book American Wasteland, families toss out up to 25 percent of their food or roughly $2,200 every year.  [For tips on how to shop smart at warehouse clubs, check out The Best Things to Buy in Bulk]
To save, map out your meals so that you go to the grocery store knowing exactly what you need for the week and stick to your list, and avoid buying too many perishables in bulk. Also, take advantage of your freezer. It's not just for ice or frozen waffles. Everything from meat to bread to fresh vegetables can stay preserved here for a later time.

Premium Gas
Buying premium gas when all you really need is regular is a financial no-no. The experts at Consumer Reports say most engines are designed to take regular gas, with an octane rating of about 87. Filling up with premium – when your car doesn’t require it - doesn't improve performance, either. Over the course of a year, at today’s average pump prices, you could save close to $300 with this one switch.
New Technology
It might make you the cool kid on the block, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny. Many companies charge up a fat premium for first edition gadgets, but prices often drop substantially after a few months, and most certainly by the following year.
Consider waiting until at least the second generation has emerged when all the bugs have been fixed and prices have sunk. Or, opt for refurbished electronics. Many still offer a manufacturer’s warranty and you can save you at least 10 percent.

[Related: How to Finish College With No Debt
Gym Membership

Do you really maximize your gym membership? According to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, 80 percent of gym members with an unlimited monthly plan overestimated how often they would actually hit the treadmill and were better off paying for a pay-as-you-go plan.
Some tips to get the most bang out of your fitness buck include working out with a friend. Researchers at Oxford University have found that by exercising with a friend, you’re more likely to put those running shoes on – and enjoy the workout more!
If you need more motivation, you could go so far as to bet on your ability to hit the gym. GymPact is a new iPhone app that pays you about 50 cents each time you visit the gym, or else you have to hand over five bucks. The app claims 90 percent of its users do, in fact, make their committed workouts.
Music Downloads
And finally, for music lovers, downloading tunes for $2 a pop is sort of wasteful spending since you can get most of your favorite hits for a lot less through monthly music plans on sites available at Spotify.com and Napster.com. For example, if you download an average two to three songs-per-week, a $10 unlimited monthly plan gets you more music and puts more than $100 back in your wallet by year’s end.
What are some messy ways you suspect you’re wasting money? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.