9 Things People Spend Money on That Ruin Their Finances

Liz Biscevic

Last year, I went from being a daily coffee buyer to quitting all together. Money didn’t have anything to do with it, and if we’re being honest, I hadn’t considered that my $2-to-$4 daily habit had any notable effect on my bank account. But a few months later, I looked at my account and realized there was quite a bit more leftover each month and I was able to save and invest more than I had in the past. Now almost a year later, it’s pretty crazy to see how much money I had spent on something I gave up so easily. Which got me thinking: what else are we doing that sabotages our financial futures?

Trendy group workout classes

The popularity of group workouts is on the rise, but opting for a class over a traditional gym membership isn’t cheap. SoulCycle, for example, prices a single class anywhere from $28 to $40, depending on location. Don’t have your own cycling equipment? Add $3 for shoe rental and throw on another $2 for a single bottle of water and you’re spending up to $45, per class. To put that cost in perspective, a study by Statistic Brain Research Institute found the average gym membership costs $58 per month. Considering you could probably create your own version of SoulCycle using standard gym equipment and a good playlist, you could be spending $122 more a month than regular gym members and $180 more than street cyclists who skip the gym membership altogether for a weekly fancy SoulCycle class.

  • Average annual cost: $1,456 to $2,080

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $4,092

Your fancy e-cig

Traditional cigarettes are costly—to your wallet and your health. In New York, the costliest state in the nation for smokers, prices just jumped to $13 a pack, according to The Washington Post—that’s $3,328 per year for pack-a-day smokers.

JUULS and other e-cigarettes are allegedly healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes, and if you’re using one as part of a solid quit smoking plan, we commend you (at least on the financial side, we’re not doctors). But if you’re vaping just to vape, you’re taking a big hit to your wallet too—especially if you’re opting for the trendy (and pricey) e-cigs like the JUUL. A survey by LendEDU, a website that helps readers compare financial products, found the average JUUL smoker spends $180 a month on JUUL pods, while 48 percent factor JUUL expenses into their monthly budget. Great that they’re budgeting. Not so great that they’re spending more than $2,000 a year.

  • Average annual cost: $2,160

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $4,249

Going out to lunch during the week

Depending on where you go, buying lunch can cost anywhere from $5 to $20. If you’re lucky—and frugal—you’ll still spend a minimum $25 a week or $1,300 a year. If you’re always stuck going where your way less frugal coworkers want to go, you could be looking at $20 a day, $100 a week: up to $5,200 a year.

  • Average annual cost: $1,300 to $5,200

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $10,229

Bank fees

The average monthly fee for checking accounts is $13.51, overdraft fees are at $32.75 each, and ATM fees hit $4.64 on average, according to a survey by MoneyRates.com. Those small charges add up fast. Even if you never use an out-of-network ATM or overdraft, you’re still looking at 162.12 just in monthly maintenance fees. But if you’re human and you do overdraft, five in a year would take a $163.75 chunk out of your wallet. A once-a-month out-of-network ATM stop could become $55.68 a year (hello nail salons and unexpected cash-only parking lots).

  • Average annual cost: $55.68 per year for out-of-network ATM users, up to $383 for the holy trinity of banking fees.

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $753

Bottled water

Doctors recommend 64 ounces of water a day, about four 16-ounce water bottles. If you buy a 24-pack of 12-ounce water bottles each week, you’re looking at anywhere from $135 to $300 a year on something you can get for basically free by investing in a Brita Filter and a reusable water bottle, or a water bottle with a built-in filtration system. Live with a significant other? The costs for bottles double. And don’t think for one second that just because your kid is small, they’ll use less water. Kiddos are infamous water-wasters. Also, when you think about the environmental implications, it’s just time to let the plastic go.

  • Average annual cost: $135 per person

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $266

Your daily coffee

Sure. It’s only $2 for a small black coffee at a fast food stop or gas station, and there have been countless articles about why cutting down on coffee doesn’t improve your finances compared to cutting back on more expensive subscriptions and habits. But those two bucks a day still add up. If you’re able to exercise an admirable amount of self-control and not splurge on fall favorite PSLs or a pastry on a hungover Sunday (and let’s face it, you aren’t) and stick solely to a small coffee, you’re still averaging around $730 lost each year.

  • Average annual cost: $730

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $1,436

Cable and growing streaming services

Let’s get real: With Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and YouTube, cable is now an expensive luxury that brings no additional value. In most cases, having cable means paying for a bunch of channels you don’t watch anyway, so cutting the cord could be the easiest way to save up for a nice weekend getaway.

But we also have to be honest with ourselves: If you ditch cable for streaming, you’ll probably think you’re doing pretty well. After all, cable costs an average of $85 a month and Netflix is only $99 a year. But chances are you didn’t just subscribe to Netflix. With so many add-on options available now–Amazon’s endless subscription adds, Hulu commercial free, independent premium networks, and YouTube’s Red– those little monthly hits can quickly put you right back in cable bill territory. Choose which ones you actually watch, and unsubscribe to everything else. If you’re desperate for a one-off show on a streaming service you don’t have, consider splitting the service with a friend or taking advantage of a free trial.

  • Average annual cost: $1,020 and up

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $2,066

  • In-game and in-app purchases

It seems far-fetched, but those $1 to $5 purchases are how the app companies get you. A study from AppsFlyer found the average user spends $.50 per month on in-app purchases, and $9.60 per month on paid apps in general. They also discovered iOS users spend more than Android users—with iOS users spending around $12.77 per month and Android users spending $8.80 per month overall. Remove your credit card information from apps where you’ll be tempted to take a shortcut and pay for extra jewels and lives, and remind yourself of all the other stuff you can buy if you don’t waste your money on artificial gains.

  • Average annual cost: $153.24 for iPhone users, $105.60 for Android users

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $301 for iPhone users, $209 for Android users

Unnecessary laundry and cleaning supplies

They smell all right, but dryer sheets and fabric softeners really don’t do much for your clothes. In fact, even chemical-based detergent can be swapped out for cheaper homemade laundry soaps. Unless you’re washing something like fancy upholsteries, pricey laundry products really are a waste of money, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Laundry detergent goes for around $14, dryer sheets for around $5, and fabric softeners for $8. That’s $27 you must spend every couple of weeks that could go towards something better, especially when it’s so easy to make your own.

Cleaning supplies are traditionally made with harsh chemicals that pollute the environment and take a toll on your health—the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. The eco-friendly versions might be safer to use, but they can cost up to double the price of traditional brands. Instead of wasting money, try making your own cleaners with ingredients you probably already have around your house.

  • Average annual cost: $1,200

  • Invested amount in 10 years: $2,361

Though it’s hard to believe how much you could save a year by cutting back on some habits, it’s even harder to believe how much that money would be worth if you’d have invested it instead. We’re talking about adding thousands of dollars to your name. That makes it sound pretty worth it, right?

We used Bankrate’s investment goal calculator for investment calculations and assumes a 7% return, 2.9% inflation, the 25% federal tax rate, and a 6% tax rate.