Updated on 05.23.11

Ten More Giant Money Wasters

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, CNN Money posted an article listing ten giant money wasters. Here they are, in summary form:

1. ATM fees
2. Lottery tickets
3. Gourmet coffee
4. Cigarettes
5. Infomercial impulse buys
6. Brand-name groceries
7. Eating out
8. Unused gym memberships
9. Daily internet deals
10. Bundled cable or phone services

Undoubtedly, each of these can be a huge money waster. They can each add significant and unnecessary expense to your purchases.

At the same time, almost everyone will look at an item or two on this list and think that specific item is not a money waster. You’ll see something that you yourself do and immediately think of it as a good use of money.

Here’s the truth. That list is a personal challenge to you, particularly the items you have a reaction to. If you strongly feel that something on this list isn’t a waste of money, then you’ve found a particular item that’s worth some careful consideration in your own life. The time you spend considering that item is almost always well worth it.

In order to keep the ball rolling forward with this, let’s look at ten more money wasters. Hopefully, some of these will be a challenge to how you live your life and might open up a new path for you to follow.

Credit card (and other debt) interest Every time you pay interest on debt, you’re giving away money. Avoid carrying credit card debt at the end of the month. When you don’t have an outstanding car loan, make “car payments” each month to a savings account so that you earn interest and can just write a check for the car.

Electronics Does that piece of electronic equipment that you have your eye on do something distinctly different from the equipment you already have? Does it really provide you with anything new? If it doesn’t, it’s an unnecessary expense.

New name-brand clothing A well-made piece of clothing is worth the money, but when there are so many consignment shops out there with tons of well-made used clothing, why would you head to the new clothes store first?

Bottled water Why buy bottled water when you can easily bottle it yourself? Fill up your own water bottles, keep them in the fridge, and drink them at your convenience. Tap water is often held to at least the same standard as bottled water.

Entertainment programming Keep track of what channels you actually watch. How much do you really watch that you can’t watch online, off of Netflix, or with the use of an antenna? The same thing goes for satellite radio – what are you getting that you can’t get with your normal car stereo?

New cars The new car should be your last resort once you’ve inspected the wide variety of top-quality used cars available. Remember, businesses often just lease new cars and many barely-driven used cars come off of lease all the time.

Association memberships Homeowners association? Social clubs? When you’re paying membership fees in these groups, what are you really getting out of them? Are you getting sufficient value for what you pay?

Excessively large homes We have two adults and three kids in a moderately-sized four bedroom home in which one of the bedrooms is used as an office, yet we often ask ourselves why we need this much space. We might use this much effectively if it were reorganized, but even then, it would border on excessive.

Processed foods So often, I see foods that are just combinations of two or three items I can easily buy elsewhere in the store, except the single item costs substantially more than the other items combined. Almost always, things are less expensive when you go for simple ingredients rather than mixes.

Convenience store stops The prices of everything are higher at convenience stores. If you really must stop for a beverage each night, why not just buy them in bulk and keep them at home? Or, better yet, stop at a grocery store as part of your routine?

So often, little things can do just enough to make a big difference. Challenge yourself to make a little change to save money and see what happens.

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  1. Tracy says:

    “Association memberships Homeowners association? Social clubs? When you’re paying membership fees in these groups, what are you really getting out of them? Are you getting sufficient value for what you pay?”

    Homeowners associations aren’t really a membership that you ‘join’ – they’re either mandatory for your neighborhood/condo or they’re not. It can certainly affect a decision to purchase but I don’t think you can put it on the list with social clubs and association memberships in general.

  2. valleycat1 says:

    I’ve lived 2 places (& visited others) where the processed tap water tastes and smells like sulfur or iron. Even though it’s probably safe to drink, it’s not appealing & you can only imagine what tea or coffee would taste like made with it. We would get 5 gallon containers of water, though, not individual bottles by the case.

  3. Luke G. says:

    Also consider that if you ditch more processed foods and make things yourself out of real ingredients you could stand to save on healthcare as well! It’s a means of short and long-term savings.

  4. Deborah says:

    I totally agree with the processed foods, but how do you get out of paying your home owner’s association? In my neighborhood (which is very small and has annual dues that are very low – it’s a garden home community), the HOA can put a lien on your property if you don’t pay them by a certain date every year.

  5. Lise says:

    I expect this post will prompt a spate of defensive replies for items that are cherished by certain people, saying why they are the exception to the rule :) I’ll go first, then!

    Bundled cable/phone services. Well, we tried to cancel our cable, but it ended up being cheaper to keep basic cable rather than just the net connection. Bundles work both ways like that.

    Daily Internet deals were a real problem for me for a while >.< At one point I was getting four different Groupon-type offers a day in my mailbox. I used some of them, but definitely not all. In fact, I just let most of a car wash offer go to waste because it wasn't convenient enough to use before it expired.

    Excessively large homes – my husband and I would disagree on whether or not we have one of these. We have enough space to fit our stuff, but we probably have too much stuff! But alas, once you have a too large home, it's not easy to get rid of. Especially when one partner isn't so excited about downsizing.

  6. LIsa says:

    The majority of the people I’ve met who consume bottled water do not live somewhere where they need to do this because of bad taste, bad smell, or contamination of their tap water. These same people also do not recycle the bottles either. I like to tell them that the majority of bottled water is just city water run through a filter, something you could easily do at home w/ a Brita or Pur filter. My mom drinks only bottled water and on the bottles it even says that they are from a “municipal water supply”, not a spring somewhere in the woods. That’s quite a mark-up for the same water she could be drinking from home.

  7. Johanna says:

    It’s interesting that you’ve switched to plugging consignment shops rather than thrift stores and yard sales for used clothing. Shopping at the consignment shops in my area (at least, the ones I know about) would not be cheaper than buying new clothes on sale. In fact, it might not even be cheaper than buying new clothes not on sale. And as I’ve said before, with new clothes I know where to find the styles that I like, and each item is usually available in every size, so I can find the one that fits. That’s why I head to the new-clothes store first.

  8. Allie says:

    Lisa @#6: Haha, yeah, one time I was looking at a co-worker’s bottled water, and right on the label it said “Source: Municipal Water Supply, [Adjacent Suburb I Live In].”

    As for HOA fees, no, I’m not getting out of them what I pay into them, but this neighborhood did not have an HOA when my husband bought a house in it, and living in a neighborhood with an HOA wasn’t a choice I made either. Removing the HOA dues from our annual budget would require action no less drastic than selling our home. Not at all the same as, say, country club membership or local lodge dues.

  9. lurker carl says:

    I’ve made it a point to avoid real estate controlled by a HOA. Crappy neighbors and unslightly properties can be dealt with using regulations already in place at the local and state level. No need to purchase another layer of governance, although it is impossible to avoid with condominiums and many rowhouse/single family home communities developed within the last 20 years.

  10. Kevin says:


    “Cigarettes” makes the list, but not “Beer/Alcohol?” They’re both vices; if one is considered a waste of money, then the other should too. Perhaps people spend a lot more on cigarettes than beer/wine/alcohol? But then, how did “Unused gym memberships” make the list?

    Do people really spend more on unused gym memberships than beer?

    I’m confused why beer was left off the list.

  11. valleycat1 says:

    I’d love to be able to shop thrift stores or consignment shops. But we live in the poorest county in our state and 99 percent of items in those stores are junk. I rarely have the time or patience to wade through it. We don’t shop high-end name brands but almost everything we own is purchased new.

  12. JS says:

    I’d add smartphones and their expensive data plans to this list. If you can afford it and get value from it, or if it’s necessary for work, great, it’s none of my business. But among all of my friends, family and coworkers who have a personal smartphone, only one uses it for work, and it’s not mandatory. And I can’t believe how many people who are having financial difficulties have these expensive phones and plans. I actually had a friend moan about not being able to afford a car repair the day after he showed me his new iPhone. I know several people who have both credit card debt and unlimited data plans. Like I said, if you can afford it and get value from it, fine, but don’t complain to me about financial difficulties when you throw away money every month just so you don’t have to wait until you get home to play Angry Birds.

  13. bogart says:

    I’m a diligent thrift-shopper and often find great tops, which I tend to buy as one-of-a-kind and to fit into a standard size of. That said, if I need, e.g., 3 pairs of tan slacks for my work wardrobe, it can be easier — and I suspect more cost effective — just to go to one of the relatively cheap local retailers (e.g. Kohls, TJ Maxx) and find a style and cut — for me usually size 10 or 12 but some fit and some don’t — that works for me and buy 3 pairs of same rather than digging through thrift-shop racks and (not infrequently) not finding a single pair (even in “my size”) that fits, never mind meets my style preferences (which include the presence of functional pockets, not a given in women’s attire).

    Totally agree on the house size issue, but note that this is at odds with the oft-recommended approach of buying and living in one home, forever. How much space we need varies as our family shape changes (not just dependent kids, but other family including — gasp — adult kids in transition and aging parents), but the cost of downsizing (for us) exceeds its benefits/savings.

  14. Kris says:

    I’m doing pretty well when it comes to CNN’s list. Outside of work, I don’t eat out that often (I have to when I’m away for work but I get expense money to cover that and I eat my discounted “staff meal” when I’m working at my part time gig at a pub, that’s actually a treat since I wait until my shift is over and eat with friends who tend to come by the bar).

    Those “daily deals” are a bit of a weakness but I’ve only lost out on $10 so far. It was right when I started buying them and I actually forgot I had that voucher. Now I’m VERY careful about which vouchers I buy and I make sure to use them. I’ve managed to treat myself to spa treatments and cheap yoga/dance/equestrian/pilates classes because of those deals. The vouchers are for things I don’t *need* but I’m debt free and they give me an opportunity to “treat myself” at a better price. I know a lot of people who overspend because of them so you have to be careful.

    I’m surprised that CNN didn’t include some of the items off Trent’s list.

  15. Derek says:

    I’m with Johanna on consignment/thrift clothes shopping. The thrift stores around here are awful and I wear “tall” size clothing that is nearly impossible to find used. I only buy clothes with a discount code and the quality is decent so I don’t feel I’m overpaying. Price is not everything, it also needs to fit correctly and not take me an entire afternoon to find a shirt that doesn’t suck. It’s true though that everyone will look at that list and feel something is not a waste of money. To each their own.

  16. Brendan says:

    @10 Many people have memberships and never go to them. This makes the gym lots of money…
    Beer/Wine etc. should be on the list I agree.

  17. Johanna says:

    Kevin, Brendan: If you actually read the article, you’ll see that “bars and alcohol” are included under #7, “eating out.” Not sure how much sense that categorization makes, but there it is.

  18. Dawn says:

    I think that this is a personal list for every person. I also disagree with bottled water. My husband is an over the road truck driver and if he didn’t have bottled water to take out with him, he’d go a week or two without a way to brush his teeth – kind of gross! I’ve seen people give me funny/dirty looks in the grocery store when I buy bottled water but he doesn’t have much of an alternative.

    Don’t judge others based on your lifestyle because we are all different :)

  19. Jill says:

    “Tap water is often held to at least the same standard as bottled water.”

    I don’t think there are any standards for bottled water.

  20. Adam P says:

    1. ATM fees – don’t pay these
    2. Lottery tickets – don’t buy these unless work group does then I’m forced into it (but $2 every month isn’t going to hurt)
    3. Gourmet coffee – see eating out
    4. Cigarettes – don’t smoke
    5. Infomercial impulse buys – don’t
    6. Brand-name groceries – not an issue
    7. Eating out – I eat out a lot but watch this
    8. Unused gym memberships – gym 7days a week
    9. Daily internet deals – nope
    10. Bundled cable or phone services – just cancelled cable

    So of these, eating out is my only issue and to be truthful, I probably do spend more than I should (but less than I did since I started monitoring this).

    Eating out in a group of friends builds social bonds and “breaking bread” with friends is a primevil ritual among us. However, eating at home is cheaper and provides the same benefit, unless your friends want to eat out (mine do). I’ll give myself a 9/10!

    Trent’s list? I can excusably not buy in bulk as I live alone and don’t have a lot of storage space. UNPROCESSED food is likely to go bad if I buy in huge quantities even if I had the space to store it.

    As for beer or wine v cigarettes, a glass of red wine a day is good for your heart. A few cigarettes a day is bad for you in almost every way. How about that?

  21. Justin says:

    Daily internet deals! I know so many people who are/were addicted to those sites.

    They’re great if they happen to have something you’ve been wanting for a very long time, but 99% of the time the stuff on there are “wants”, definitely not things you need.

  22. LIsa says:

    @#19 Jill

    Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and there are standards. Tap is regulated by the EPA. The thing is that consumers of tap water can trace the water to a source and find out what’s in it. I don’t think you can do that with bottled.

    @#18 Dawn
    I would hope that most people realize that there are some people who have legitimate reasons for purchasing bottled water. I think the point Trent was making is that there are people who buy bottled water who do not have anything wrong w/ their tap water. They could save money by using a Brita or Pur filter. Plus, I know some people think bottled is more portable, but it would save them money to just buy a couple reusable bottles or mugs and refill them.

    I’m bothered by the people who assume that bottled is always the way to go because they’re paranoid about the tap water being somehow “bad” for them. Seriously, our water here is not bad (no smell, not contaminated), yet some people have this stigma against tap water. Of course, I can’t tell what you think by just looking at you, so I’m not going to assume the person in the store buying bottled water is doing it for this reason.

  23. Ajtacka says:

    @ Dawn: Have you thought about getting some reusable bottles and filling them for your husband? There’s almost always an alternative to buying bottled water and filling up landfills with the bottles!

    I think I’m doing pretty well on almost everything, except eating out (my financial vice that I’m trying to break out of!) and ATM/bank fees, which are pretty much unavoidable where I live – banking here is still pretty under-developed, and we all have to pay for it!

    About smart phones: I have one (my husband won it last year but preferred his 1st-gen iphone so kept that and gave me the new one). I have a prepaid plan, which has a per-day data charge if I use it. I almost always have the data turned off (using wifi when it’s available), but occasionally I will turn it on, like if I’m in town and deciding whether to go to the bus stop or train station to get home. I’m not sure exactly what the charge is, but it’s small enough that if I need the data it’s not going to break the bank. Works for me!

  24. Monica says:

    I think Trent makes a very valid point about many items on the list being a potential money waster. Like he and another poster said, the list is personal for each person.

    For example: New name-brand clothing. My size is almost impossible to find in a regular store, let alone a thrift or consignment store. I work really hard to buy all my clothing on sale, especially since my size often means the cost is a bit more.

    A lot of stuff on these lists is intangible, but I think a secondary point could be made here about excess. Seeing the pictures of the devastating tornadoes in Alabama on April 27 and Missouri yesterday — how much stuff do we really need? How valuable is all that stuff? If it were all wiped away tomorrow, what would you miss the most?

    Again, that list will vary for everyone. Some would really miss their entertainment room. Others would miss their books.

    But it does kind of make you think about stuff in general … I mean, if we weren’t all so attached to stuff, things like “credit card interest rate” wouldn’t be a frequently-used term.

  25. NewReader says:

    Just another voice to say that if we don’t pay our homeowner’s association fee, the association can put a lien on our home. NOT an optional fee! But we knew about this annual fee when buying our home. It’s about $250/year to cover landscaping and fencing of community areas, though it can vary if extra maintenance is required, and we get advance notice if the fee is changing.

  26. krantcents says:

    I have no problem in saying no! My difficulty is saying yes. I place savings as a priority so it is never in jeopardy. My only debt is a small mortgage.

  27. Katie says:

    Another money waster that is similar to Trent’s last one is vending machines! I see people buy a can of soda at our office vending machine every day. Why not just buy a case of soda at the grocery store and keep it at your desk? It would be so much cheaper!

  28. Steven says:

    You might want to come correct on your assertion that bottled water is somehow held to a higher standard than tap water. That’s false, it’s a lie and I’d really suggest you do your research.

  29. chris says:

    Most of this is very true – except the bundled internet/phone/television deals. These are so much cheaper and if you use these services on a daily basis, the packages (less the premium channels, etc.) are a deal. We have tried numerous times to find cheaper ways to go and have yet to find any options….short of giving up services.

  30. Maria says:

    Dry cleaning is another budget buster. I try to buy clothes that don’t need dry cleaning, but sometimes, it can’t be avoided. My husband’s dress pants cost over $6 to clean, and a good dress can run about $13

  31. Johanna says:

    I think (I hope) that the idea is not “If you buy any of these things ever, then you are a money-wasting money waster!” but rather “These are some things on which people, in general, commonly waste money.”

    “Wasted money” is a loaded term, but I’d define it as “spending a lot of money on something at the expense of something that you value more.” Whether any of these things is a waste of money for any particular person depends on what that person values, and what other uses he or she might have for that money.

  32. Chris says:

    Why is a 4 bedroom home excessive for 2 adults and 3 people? The parents get a room, and each child gets a room. I don’t think this is excessive at all.

  33. Ajtacka says:

    @Stephen: I guess what you’re talking about is this quote: “Tap water is often held to at least the same standard as bottled water”. To me, that doesn’t say that bottled water is held to a higher standard – it implies that there’s a general perception that it is. Perhaps it leaves room for doubt, but perhaps there are some grey areas in water quality standards (eg different areas, bottled spring water, bottled water that crosses state lines).

    @Chris: Does each child *need* there own room? I shared with 1 or 2 sisters for most of my childhood, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We’re currently renovating an essentially 2 1/2-brm home, and expect it to be our “forever” home, even with the 2 (or 3) kids we hope will come along. Yeah, I can see that a 4-brm home for 2 adults and 3 kids could seem excessive.

  34. Melissa says:

    So agreed on the lottery tickets, but it also seems to be the one that people most vehemently defend buying for that “chance” to strike it rich. Nevermind the horrible odds…

  35. Tracy says:


    I’ve heard of a 1/2 bath, but never a 1/2 bedroom … how does that work? A basement or living room space that’s just slept in?

    I don’t think that it’s essential that every child has their own bedroom (I shared with my sister until I was a teenager,) but I also don’t think that it’s excessive. And in Trent’s case, since one bedroom is an office, two of the children are sharing a room anyway!

  36. Andrew says:

    Has Trent priced a “top-quality” used car lately? According to many news reports, there is currently a real shortage of good used cars, and prices have risen accordingly. The WSJ is stating between a $1500-$3000 rise on average in the past few months. Just look at any car dealer’s website, and you’ll find that, in many cases, good, low-mileage 2008-2010 used cars (especially hybrids, Japanese cars, and fuel efficient models from anywhere) can cost MORE than an equivalent new car.

    Furthermore, for those who must finance (I know, I know, not everyone is perfectly frugal) interest rates on used cars are always higher than on new cars.

    I think Trent–and some others–are so fixated on what they believe to be true that they fail to realize that sometimes reality changes.

  37. Kathryn Fenner says:

    If the association you weren’t supposed to join was your neighborhood association–shame shame shame. In my small city of Columbia, we are what keeps the neighborhoods livable, and act as a union against the wealthy developers. I volunteer my time, lots of it, and the dues cover expenses only. A deal!

  38. jim says:

    Alcohol should be its own item. Americans as a whole spend more on alcohol on average than on tobacco.

  39. Allie says:

    I am really glad your neighborhood association is working out well for you, but please bear in mind that in many other cases it does not.

  40. Evita says:

    Am I the only one how finds used clothing icky? Besides, I am petite and hard to fit. Regular stores are bad enough, I am not going to spend hours in thrift shops and consignment stores trying to find decent clothing in my size !
    But I am doing pretty good with the rest……

    I like those finance posts, don’t care much for the touchy-feely family posts….

  41. JS says:

    @Evita: I personally don’t find used clothing any more icky than new clothing that’s been tried on umpteen times by random people (especially in our 110+ degree summers). But everyone has their own personal ick-causing things *shrugs*

    If you can get past that, consignment stores usually have a lot of smaller sizes, as people tend to gain weight over time. Pants are definitely difficult to find, but shirts are abundant, and it can free up money in your budget for the hard-to-find items. I can definitely understand wanting to buy new clothes, but I just wanted to pass on potentially helpful info to a fellow petite :)

  42. KC says:

    If you are paying ATM fees you are likely using independent ATMs, which can be a security risk. Those machines are most targeted for scanners which will read your info – or hidden cameras, which will get your pin number. You are safest sticking with bank ATMs that are serviced almost daily. Your best bet is to stick with your bank ATM for safety and to avoid fees.

    I agree on the new car – I’ve always been a used luxury car kinda person. I get the car I want and get quite a deal on it. But the economy has turned and there aren’t many used cars out there for a variety of reasons. My family situation is about to change and I’m in need of a van or SUV – used is almost as expensive as new. I honestly can’t say I’d rather cut a check for $30k for a used car when the new model costs $35k. Right now the economics of most cars leans towards buying new. Obviously I’m referring to someone able to pay cash. I firmly believe no matter what you buy (except for maybe your house) you should always pay cash and only buy what you can afford.

  43. SwingCheese says:

    When my son was an infant and just starting to teethe, my pediatrician asked me if we used tap or bottled water for mixing his formula. She then went on to say that she had patients whose parents thought that bottled water was better, and so they used it exclusively for their children’s drinking water. As the children grew up, they were having trouble with their baby teeth being soft because they weren’t getting enough flouride, which is present in tap water. I thought that was interesting.

    And as far as alcohol goes, simply because Americans spend more on it than on cigarettes does not automatically mean that it is wasted money. Certainly not every American who buys alcohol buys it daily, or drinks to excess, or drinks a harmful amount, etc. This country has really adopted a puritanical attitude towards alcohol over the last forty years. Plus, as Johanna pointed out, in the original article, alcohol was included in the “eating out” category.

  44. Steven says:

    @Ajtacka: “Tap water is often held to at least the same standard as bottled water”.

    Maybe the statement can be interpreted either way, but to me it reads that bottled water is held to a higher standard, which is not true. Municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and annual reports are provided to those who use that water. Municipalities must meet EPA regulations, while bottled water must meet FDA guidelines (which I’m not sure how often tests or audits are conducted).

    This, of course, ignores every other reason bottled water is bad…it has its place, but that place should be reserved for disasters where reliable or safe drinking water isn’t available.

  45. Gretchen says:

    Floride is not presesnt in well water.
    It would be in (some) public water sources only.

  46. H Lee D says:

    @#22 Lisa: bottled water is regulated only if it travels out of state. In-state bottled water is not regulated at all. (I might have that backwards, but I don’t think so. Either way, not all bottled water is regulated.)

  47. kristine says:

    I agree with the entire list, and the suggested additions: alcohol, beer, dry-cleaning, and vending machines! And I may get lambasted for this, but newspapers. The present day’s news is free online, from the same papers.

  48. Ajtacka says:

    @Steven: I guess we disagree then about that statement, but I definitely agree with your last statement – that bottled water should ideally be reserved for times when safe drinking water isn’t otherwise available.

  49. Kevin says:


    “in many cases, good, low-mileage 2008-2010 used cars can cost MORE than an equivalent new car.”

    I call BS. That sure makes for a great tidbit to tell at parties to get a “Really?!? Wow!” reaction out of people, but I just don’t believe it.

    Prove me wrong. Show me one single used car anywhere in North America that sold in the past 60 days for MORE than an identical brand-new car.

    Just one.

    You can’t. Because it’s not true. It’s a myth, born several years ago back when gas first skyrocketed and people were clamoring for Priuses. There was a shortage of new models, and for a brief period, people were paying more for used Priuses than a brand-new Prius would have cost (because there weren’t any available, so people had no choice but to buy the used models).

    But that was 2008 and this is 2011. It’s no longer true.

  50. Frank says:

    “in many cases, good, low-mileage 2008-2010 used cars can cost MORE than an equivalent new car.”
    “Prove me wrong. Show me one single used car anywhere in North America that sold in the past 60 days for MORE than an identical brand-new car.”

    It’s true. I witnessed this myself earlier this year.

    At a local Honda Dealer there was a 2009 CRV-EX in the showroom for about $500 less than the STICKER price for a 2011 CRV-EX. Once you factored in negotiation and dealer hold-back, the newer CRV was certianly less expensive than the older one. I pointed it out to one of the salesmen and he admitted that there are many people who would buy the older CRV without even looking at the newer one becuase they believe that they are getting a better deal.

    Just because you have not seen it does not make it “BS”.

  51. Kevin says:


    “At a local Honda Dealer there was a 2009 CRV-EX in the showroom for about $500 less than the STICKER price for a 2011 CRV-EX.”

    So the used car was cheaper, like I said.

    “Once you factored in negotiation and dealer hold-back”

    You don’t think they’d negotiate on the used car, too?

    And you’ll never get the dealer hold back on a car that’s already in the lot. You have no way of knowing how long it’s been sitting there, and the dealer will never admit that it’s been less than 30 days (or whatever the “holdback” period is). Your only hope of ever even trying for the holdback is when they have to ship your car to you from the factory, and therefore they cannot deny that the holdback is in play.

    I still think this is just a legend that may have happened a few times when new Priuses were hard to find, and it has persisted because it makes a great story. But I don’t believe it is true anymore.

  52. Andrew says:


    I went to my local Massachusetts Toyota/ Scion dealer’s website, and in about 30 seconds found a 2010 Scion xB (with 6917 miles) on it selling for $17775. They have a new, identical 2011 xB for $17825. That’s $50 more.

    My point–perhaps overdramatized a bit–was that Trent’s assumption that “high quality” used cars are always, automatically a better deal is completely out of date. And saving $50-or $500-by buying a used car is hardly even worthy of mentioning on a blog that purports to be about frugality.

    I wanted to highlight Trent’s laziness and lack of research, that’s all.

  53. joan says:

    I agree, homeowner association dues are hardly an option. It’s nearly impossible to get out of paying them since they’re typically written into your mortgage agreement. I actually contacted a lawyer who specializes in real estate transactions, and he told me it would cost more in legal fees to break contract than the almost $400/year I pay to maintain the neighborhood pool we rarely use (since according to the the annual financial disclosure that’s where nearly all the funds go). What a racket.

  54. Courtney20 says:

    @ Kevin – take this what you will, but we bought a 2011 Ford Focus in November for $16,175 and if I plug it into KBB with the current mileage it tells me it’s currently worth $18,125 used. Even the *trade-in* value is listing $250 higher than what we paid last year. My only theory is that, once it’s been driven for several thousand miles, one can be confident it’s not a lemon?

    @ Ajtacka – I personally believe each child needs a space to call their own. I shared a small bedroom with my sister, who was seven years younger than me, from age 8 until I went to college. I can tell you it was *very* difficult to be a high schooler and having no place in the entire house to go to be alone because you’re sharing a bedroom with a sibling in elementary school. Maybe it would be easier on siblings who were closer in age, but it was an extremely challenging situation for me.

  55. Jon says:

    I used to be a car salesman and on several occasions sold used cars for less than a new one would cost. Current year program cars are often sold for near new car price once you factor in discount and rebates on the new car. Dealers make little to no profit on new cars and several thousand on used.

    One example that comes to mind is a used 2004 jeep grand cherokee that I sold for about 3000 off of the sticker of a new one. The used car had 15-17k miles. The new jeeps had 3500 rebates plus 1500 dealer cash so you could buy the new one for 5k off sticker. I made over $1100 commission on that car deal. If they would have bought new I would have made the 100 flat. Smart salespeople will often try to put you in a used car when new would be a better value because we make a much larger commission on used.

  56. Jon says:

    Oops meant to say sold used for more than new.

  57. AniVee says:

    I would include ALL forms of gambling, not just lottery tickets.

    The amounts dropped in casinos is horrifying. I have a dear relative who used to drop an average of $80 a day in a few hours of “relaxation” each afternoon in the casino, with the rationalization that “it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist” – incredible!

  58. jim says:

    Yeah AniVee is correct. Casino gambling losses nation wide are more than state lottery. Casinos are a bigger drain on household finances.

  59. lurker carl says:

    There’s an explanation why someone would pay more for a used vehicle than the equivalent new one. A fool and his money are soon parted.

  60. Jen says:

    I think the amount and emotion on these responses show how personal our spending choices can be.

    That said, I appreciate these lists (and comments) as a “gut check” for where my priorities lie. Readers of this column are looking to stretch their dollars, and make financial choices that line up with their personal values and priorities.

    For me, personally, the only one that made me squirm a bit is the “excessive house” one. After a four year process of shopping around and considering what we need (and by need, of course, I mean a combination of need AND want), we are building a new home. We considered renovating our current house and buying a different home, but ultimately ended up designing a home with a custom builder.

    Truthfully, it is a bigger home that we NEED, but every room has been designed to fit us over the next 20-30 years as we raise our family, host long-term guests (my in-laws live in Europe and will likely stay for 3 months at a time after they retire in a few years), quite possibly house my mom who osteo-arthritis, and also is built with my own disability (I have a brain injury) in mind.

    The entire first floor is ADA-compliant, and the whole house is quite green and energy-efficient (energy star appliances, water sense fixtures, recycled and reclaimed materials, etc. Our estimated HERS score is 39.). It will cost a bit more, but we’ll save more on utilities over the long haul, and the home is healthier and more structurally sound than anything else we can currently buy. We realize that we are making the choice to spend our money on our housing over areas. We don’t spend much money at all on the other items on the list, are homebodies who like to entertain, and most importantly, can afford it (we have no other debt).

  61. Jen says:

    The whole bottled water v. filter discussion also got me thinking about choices we make as parents. For those you can, nursing is MUCH cheaper than formula, and although cloth diapers are cheaper(and greener) in the long run, they are pricer upfront.

  62. AniVee says:

    #60 Jen – it sounds wonderful and HOME is obviously very very important to you – getting the custome designed-for-your-family Dream House that you dream of and can afford will have many advantages, including:
    1. room for your kids AND THEIR FRIENDS to socialize – this way you have a better chance of knowing *where* your kids are and *what they are doing*
    2. Room for long-stay guests without driving the hosts bonkers
    3. Space for three generations together, if need be, which sets a good example to show the youngest generation what family loyalty really means – helping each other – and not shuffling the old folks off to some questionable-quality nursing home or the country poorhouse.
    4. Room for you to entertain, showing the kids how adults behave in polite company and that people of all ages and types can be friends
    5. Room to entertain so big family reunions or entertaining doesnt have to be done in expensive restaurants or hotels (even if you actually have the food partially or totally catered)

    I believe that having a home that you love, full of good memories helps keep a family together.

  63. Georgia says:

    I,too, grew up in a home where everyone did not have individual rooms and it did not stunt my mental, social or physical growth. We had 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a living room and a kitchen. We had 2 parents and 6 kids most of that time. My sisters were younger than me (3-5 years), but I seldom got upset at them. My brothers got along fine and were 4-13 years apart.

    We are actually still very close as a family, well in love. We all live from 350-1500/2000 miles away from each other. Only reason my kids were able to talk me into a cell phone. My kids are on AT&T and so are many of my family. I signed onto their system and it doesn’t cost me but about $12 a month to talk to most of my family.

  64. Jen says:

    #62, AniVee, I’m going print your reply to remind myself if I ever question our decision. You are absolutely right. Home is VERY important to me. With my brain injury, I only leave the house a few times a week. Most of the time when we socialize, it’s because friends and family come here, and with the sound proofing we’re doing, hopefully my headache will lesson and my quality of life will improve. I am very blessed that my settlement allows us to build this house. Other TBI survivors are not nearly so lucky. I will have a beautiful AND functional home.

  65. Larabara says:

    I grew up in a 2 bedroom house with 3 sisters and only one bathroom. The teenage years were a special level of hell on earth. Trust me, get at least a second bathroom, especially if you have daughters.

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