The 7 Spending Mistakes We All Make

How to stop losing money and start saving big.

We’re all guilty of letting cash slip through our fingers without even knowing it. Here’s what to look out for—and how to put a stop to old habits once and for all.

  • Buying chicken breasts instead of bone-in parts: Most people know that a whole chicken costs a lot less than boneless skinless parts, but buying bone-in parts can still mean big savings: about $613 a year per family.
  • Buying lunch: Buying lunch five days a week costs an average of $1,300 per year―and that's just a $5 meal each day. By purchasing lunch only three days a week, you can save more than $500 a year.
  • Ignoring your thermostat: In the winter,L lower your thermostat by one degree. You'll knock three percent off your heating costs. That's $20 annually for a home heated with natural gas, and $27 a year if you use electricity.
  • Not shopping around for prescription prices: Prescription costs differ from pharmacy to pharmacy. Prices for Metformin, a diabetes drug, can vary by as much as $37 for a one-month supply. Seek out the cheapest pharmacy to save as much as $444 a year.
  • Buying in bulk: Sometimes picking up smaller packages can actually save you more. For example, let's say you have a $1.50 coupon for laundry detergent. If you buy the 200-oz. bottle for $7.49, you pay $5.99, or 3 cents per ounce. If you buy the 100-oz. bottle for $3.99, you pay $2.49, or 2.5 cents per ounce. The smaller bottle is a better value. Collect two coupons and buy two small bottles, and you save even more.
  • Relying on your debit card: You can't overspend if you're not carrying any credit cards, debit cards or your checkbook. Instead, use cash as well as a shopping list, coupons, and fliers to estimate how much you'll need. Plan for any in-store steals you run across by bringing an extra $10.
  • Trusting all coupons on eBay: When purchasing coupons from eBay, proceed with caution. Sometimes people make photocopies and try to sell them as legitimate coupons. Check the sellers' ratings and make sure they don't have complaints filed against them.