Whether you're trying to save up for a big purchase, are looking to spend less to pay off debt or are just frugal by nature, there are plenty of ways you can save money. However, some money-saving measures are just not worth it.
If you're looking to save money, these are the 50 worst ways to do it -- so think twice before trying any of these methods.
Last updated: July 29, 2021
Skipping Your Annual Physical
Many times preventive healthcare is completely covered by your insurance, but even if it's not, paying a co-pay is a small price to pay to make sure your health is on track. Otherwise, you might develop serious health issues that will be more expensive to treat in the long run.
Buying an Ill-Fitting Suit Because It's on Sale
Unfortunately, first impressions really do matter. Wearing a suit straight off the sale rack that doesn't fit right can leave a bad impression at a big meeting or job interview. If you do buy a cheap suit, at least pay for tailoring to get it to fit.
Skipping Your Routine Oil Change
How often you need to get an oil change will depend on your car and the type of oil you use, but cars that use modern lubricants typically need an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, according to AAA. Skipping this routine service can lead to the need for more costly car repairs down the line.
Running Your Sneakers Into the Ground
Yes, running shoes are expensive, but keeping yours too long can lead to injuries.
"A new shoe is always cheaper than a doctor’s visit," podiatrist and athletic trainer Lisa Schoene told SELF.
Canceling Your Gym Membership
Your health is invaluable, so canceling your gym membership is not the best way to save a few bucks every month. If you are in a financial pinch, consider temporarily freezing your membership or joining a less expensive gym.
Not Contributing To Your 401(k)
It can be painful to part with any percentage of your paycheck, but not contributing to your 401(k) now is hurting your future self. This is an especially bad move if your company offers an employer match -- by not contributing, you're leaving free money on the table.
Opting Out of Health Insurance
You might not think you need health insurance if you're in good health, but you'll regret skipping out on the monthly payment if you get hit with an extremely high medical bill in the case of an unexpected health event.
Keeping Your Car Too Long
A car is a major investment, so it makes sense that you'd want to hold onto your vehicle as long as possible. However, when it gets to the point that your car is spending more time at the mechanic's shop than on the road, it's time to let it go.
Giving Up Your Latte
There's a lot of financial advice out there that advocates for giving up your daily latte to save money, but if your Starbucks run truly gives you joy, it's OK to keep this indulgence. After all, it's just a few bucks and there are other, more efficient ways to save money.
Find Out: 50 Ways You're Throwing Money Away
DIYing a Major Home Repair
You can probably handle giving your wall a fresh coat of paint or installing a shelf, but major home repairs -- especially those that involve plumbing or electricity -- should be left to the professionals. Attempting to do these repairs yourself could, in the worst cases, lead to your home flooding or catching fire.
Not Meeting With a Financial Advisor
Financial advisors can help you set financial goals and create a plan for achieving them, as well as offer invaluable investment advice. Yes, meeting with an advisor costs extra money, but it can really pay off down the line.
Opting Out of Life Insurance
If you're young, you probably don't feel like you need life insurance. But if you have a family, you should invest in life insurance to make sure they'll be taken care of in case the unexpected happens.
Not Creating a Will
You can create a will online for under $100, and it will ensure that your assets are distributed as you want them.
Flying a Budget Airline
You might save on the upfront ticket cost, but budget airlines tend to nickel-and-dime you for things that would be included in a standard airline ticket, like having an assigned seat or being able to stow a carry-on bag. In the end, you could end up paying more once these extra costs are added in.
Not Using a Water Filter
Tap water could contain contaminants that can be bad for your health, so it's worth investing in a water filter to make your drinking water safe. You can buy a water filter pitcher for less than $40.
Opting Out of the Extended Warranty on Your Smartphone
Consumer Reports generally advises against purchasing extended warranties but says that smartphones are the exception. That's because these fragile devices go everywhere with you and could easily break. When your screen cracks, you'll be happy you sprung for AppleCare or Samsung Premium Care.
Cutting Your Own Hair
You're much better off going to an inexpensive salon chain than trying to cut your own hair. The results could be disastrous -- and hair takes a long time to grow back.
Eating Fast Food
Ordering off the dollar menu can be tempting when you're trying to save money, but making fast food a major part of your diet can affect your health in ways that become costly to treat. The long-term health risks that can come with eating a poor quality diet of junk food include a higher risk of digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression and early death, according to The Washington Post.
Canceling Your Warehouse Club Membership
When you shop frequently at Costco or Sam's Club, the savings you get can cancel out the cost of your membership. You could end up spending more if you forgo the annual expense.
Not Filling Your Prescriptions
Prescription drugs can be costly -- even with health insurance -- but if your doctor prescribed something, that means you should take it. Skipping a prescription refill to save money could have long-term effects on your health and simply isn't worth the risk.
Not Going To the Dentist
Most people hate going to the dentist, but skipping your six-month cleaning is a bad way to save money. This could lead to dental issues going unchecked, which can necessitate expensive dental work down the line.
Don't Bother: 40 Supermarket Buys That Are a Waste of Money
Not Having Car Insurance
Not all states require auto insurance, but it's always a good idea to have it. Otherwise, you could personally be on the hook for repairs or medical expenses in the event that you hit another car or injure someone.
Using Homemade Remedies When You're Sick
Drinking warm tea, taking a hot bath or eating chicken soup might make you feel better temporarily when you feel ill, but if you have pneumonia or bronchitis, you'll need actual medicine to get better.
Skipping Your Pet's Vet Visit
Pets typically should be seen by a vet at least once a year depending on their life stage, according to WebMD. Skipping your pet's checkup could make them vulnerable to developing major health issues that can be costly to treat.
Buying Something Just Because It's on Sale
Finding a good deal on something that you truly need is a great way to save money. But buying something just because it's majorly discounted means that you're spending money you wouldn't have otherwise. Before you buy something off the sale rack or from a flash sale online, take the time to think about whether or not you actually need it or are just giving in to an impulse.
Buying Perishable Items in Bulk
If you buy something in bulk and end up throwing a lot of it away because it expired, you're not really getting a deal. Only buy in bulk what you know you will use, or stick to only buying nonperishable items in bulk to be safe.
Factoring In a Rebate That You Won't Actually Get
Rebates can be complicated to redeem. If you know you're someone who won't actually take the time to print out receipts and proof of purchases, and mail forms in for a rebate, don't factor the rebate into the cost of an item. Look for an item that's cheaper without a rebate.
Buying Cheap Products With Necessary Parts Missing
Buying a battery-operated device without batteries included or a printer without ink included might seem like a good deal. However, when you factor in the extra costs of batteries or ink, you might find it's a better deal to buy the item with the necessary parts included.
Applying For a Store Credit Card
Retail workers will often try to tempt you with a big discount if you apply for the store credit card. However, retail credit cards have notoriously high interest rates, so the interest you pay on the card can end up canceling out any initial savings.
Skipping Emergency Fund Contributions
Your emergency fund is there to help you when you face an unexpected life event, such as a job loss or a necessary home repair. If you've been skipping out on contributing to this fund, you can be in a vulnerable place if you have a financial emergency. Relying on a loan or credit card to cover unexpected expenses means you'll have to pay back what you owe plus interest, so the emergency will end up costing you more.
Buying Everything at the Dollar Store
A dollar store is a great place to find deals, but for some items -- like sunscreen, power strips and meat -- quality really does matter, and you're better off paying more.
Stealing Office Supplies From Your Employer
Swiping pens, paper and other office supplies for your personal use is a good way to land in hot water with your employer. These items are pretty cheap and not worth putting your job at risk.
Skipping Credit Card Payments
If you can't realistically cover all your bills, try to prioritize the payments that will come with a high interest rate if you don't pay. This means you should be paying as much of your credit card bill as you can. Skipping a payment can not only lead you to pay more in interest, but it can ding your credit score as well.
Many people avoid investing because they deem it too risky. However, this mindset can cause you to miss out on potentially high returns. There are a number of investment options for even the most risk-averse investor, such as a certificate of deposit.
Some expensive items really are worth the cost. For example, spending $1,000 for a name-brand tablet might seem like a lot, especially when you can find a knockoff for much less. However, this cheaper tablet might not work as well or break easily. If it doesn't work, you just wasted hundreds of dollars when you could have invested in a quality product instead.
Paying Your Mortgage Off Early
Before you pay your mortgage off early to avoid paying interest over the whole life of your loan, be sure that your lender does not charge a prepayment penalty, as these fees could add up quickly. You could end up losing money if your lender charges a substantial penalty, according to SmartAsset.
Staying at a Budget Motel
When it comes to vacation accommodations, many times you really do get what you pay for. Staying at a budget motel you spotted on the side of the road might not be worth it if the rooms include uncomfortable beds, bug infestations or bad odors. A better way to save is to search Priceline or Expedia before your trip to find a good deal on a nicer hotel.
Using the Wrong Gas for Your Car
Premium gas is always going to cost more than regular gas, but if your car requires premium, don't skimp out. Using regular with a car that needs premium gas will cause it to become less powerful and fuel-efficient, according to TrueCar. Less fuel efficiency means you could end up having to pay more for gas in the long run.
Never Buying Organic Produce
It's definitely more expensive to buy organic foods, and sometimes it truly isn't worth it. But some foods are more prone to carrying pesticides than others, and in these cases, it could be worth the price difference to opt for organic. The EWG has identified the "dirty dozen" foods that have the most pesticides when nonorganic: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. Opt for organic when buying these foods whenever possible.
Buying Cheap Paper Towels
Consumer Reports tested several brands of paper towels for absorbency, scrubbing and wet strength, and found that Bounty paper towels were worth their premium price. The organization noted that Family Dollar and CVS' house brands both scored poorly in all tests, which means you would need more paper towels to get the job done -- so you could end up spending more in the long run.
Buying a Cheap Mattress
Sleep has a number of health benefits, so it's important to invest in a mattress that can provide you with a restful night. Cheap mattresses leave owners less satisfied and have a shorter lifespan than midpriced and high-priced mattresses, mattress review site Sleep Like the Dead found.
Skimping on Luggage
Travel is stressful enough without having to worry about your luggage falling apart when you're rushing through the airport. Opt for quality luggage that costs more for the extra peace of mind.
Always Saying 'No' to Plans
Attending every wedding, party, dinner and social event can be costly, and it's definitely OK to say "no" to save money. But when you find that you're barely leaving the house in an attempt to not spend, you've probably taken it too far.
Find Out: 19 Effective Ways To Tackle Your Budget
Not Leaving a Tip
Many service industry professionals rely on gratuity to get by. Not leaving tips for your server, bartender, hairdresser or other service worker is truly a terrible way to save money.
Furnishing Your Home With Trash
It's possible to furnish your home with pieces of furniture that others have discarded and left out on their curbs, but this might not be the best way to save money. You have no idea how sanitary the previous owner was, and you could be bringing in germs -- not to mention bedbugs -- into your home.
Holding Onto Moldy Food
It can be painful to throw away an entire piece of fruit or jar of sauce because it has started to grow mold, but for the sake of your health, you really should. Mold can cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems or make you sick.
Diluting Hand or Dish Soap
Adding water to your hand or dish soap to make it last longer is not a good money-saving solution. Diluting the soap makes it less effective, so you're better off buying a new soap that will actually do the job it's meant to do.
Skipping Annual HVAC Checkups
Both your heating and cooling systems should be checked by a contractor once a year to prevent future problems and unwanted costs, according to Energy Star. Skipping this checkup could not only lead to a need for expensive repairs down the line, but could also leave you without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer if you end up needing a major repair.
Hand Washing All Your Laundry
You might save a few bucks on your electric bill by forgoing the washer and dryer, but washing everything by hand is far less efficient. Time is money, after all.
Never Giving Money to Others
Numerous studies have shown that giving makes you happy. Whether you give the barista $5 to cover the next customer's coffee order or donate to a cause you are passionate about, the emotional reward you get from giving is certainly worth more than the money you give.
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