Earn/Save Money

Tough Love: The Top 6 Things You Keep Wasting Money On

If you haven’t already caught on to this, I am really good at saving money – and I really like helping other people save money. This is why it is difficult for me to understand why most people have zero consideration for their savings account, and continue to recklessly spend their money on the craziest shit. Listen up, because you’re likely an offender too. Here is some tough love and the top 6 things you keep wasting money on.

1. Unused gym membership  and/or expensive classes and/or personal trainer

Most gyms are pretty damn expensive. I work out at Equinox, and you would think that you got a free personal trainer and annual lipo for the price of a membership. This is why I go as much as possible, but if you’re not going at least 2-3 times a week, you are NOT getting your money’s worth. I think a membership is about $140/month = $12 each time you go if you make it 3 times a week. This goes up to $23 each time you go if you go just twice a week. Any less than that and you might as well just cancel it and get outside for a run, find a cheaper gym or maybe consider WORKING OUT MORE. Here’s my post on how to save on your workout that’s worth a read.

Classes like FlyWheel and Barry’s Bootcamp in NYC charge $30-$35 per class. Perhaps this is worthwhile if you only go once a week, but otherwise you might as well just pay for an expensive Equinox membership and go to their amazing FREE classes. This is the same for a personal trainer – it’s bullshit that you’ll only work out if it’s with a trainer. Stop making excuses because excuses don’t burn calories. Hit up your gym’s classes – it’s very motivating when the 50 year old woman next to you is kicking your ass.

2. Smoking/drinking 

The average price per pack of cigarettes in the U.S. is $6.03, but the health-related costs per pack are $35, according to the American Cancer Society. Over a year, those added costs can amount to $12,775 for a pack-a-day smoker. Smoking isn’t even cool any more. I don’t see the appeal – especially if you’re already tight on money. Spend the $10 on Alan Carr’s book “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” – a book a few of my friends say worked wonders for them. Chantix may also be a wise investment if you’re really hooked.

Drinking is even worse on your wallet – especially when you’re not an alchoholic who drinks alone, becasue social drinking is a serious budget killer. I skip ordering cocktails or wine with dinner since the price of one drink can almost be as much as an entree, and to be honest, I would rather have the food. Save the cocktails for nights you’re celebrating something or if you’re buying time before hitting the next spot on the weekend. Which leads me to drinking at nightclubs – terrible for you if you’re trying to save money. Firstly because they absolutely rape you on the markup, and second because it’s very easy to get caught up in the energy and end up buying countless rounds in a drunken stupor. My advice is to leave the credit card at home and bring the amount of cash you feel comfortable spending when you’re still sober enough to make good decisions.

3. Credit card interest

I’m not lying when I say that I have NEVER bought something that I can’t afford. Ever. I have always saved up for my big purchases and I’ve never carried a balance on my credit card. I realize that not everyone has the self-control and obsessive saving habits that I do, but you really should try and adopt them if you want to stop being broke. The average American will spend over $600,000 in interest over their lifetime, and that may be because you’re tempted to just pay the minimum due on your bill. Lets take a look at how this works:

Let’s assume you have an outstanding balance of $5,000, the annual interest rate being charged is 12 percent, and the minimum payment is 2% ($100) of your outstanding balance. If you just pay the minimum and have no additional charges, $50 of the payment goes to pay the interest, so your balance is only paid down to $4,950. If you continue on that schedule, it will take you almost 25 years to pay off the balance. On the other hand, if you paid $250 each month, you will pay it off in about 23 months. Bankrate has a calculator you can use to see how long it will take you to pay off your debt with your own planned payments.

With the average American household carrying more than $7,000 in credit card debt and the average credit card interest rate around 15 percent, the average family will face more than $1,000 in pure credit card interest over the next year. That interest is money that’s simply lost – so start saving for your purchases instead of just charging it to your card!

4. Paying full retail price

I understand that shopping is a social activity – that it can make you feel better when you’ve been dumped, and it can be a way to celebrate when you get a raise… but there is never a good reason to walk into a store and pay full retail price for anything. If you must shop in-store, head straight to the sale racks and make sure to ask yourself “would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?” to make sure you’re not just focusing on the savings and buying something you may never wear. My best advice, though is to always grab your phone when you see something you love in store and use an app like ShopSavvy to see if it’s cheaper online. I also always check on eBay, especially if it’s designer – I can usually find it at a discount or even better – buy it second hand for 1/4 of the price.

If you’re buying electronics or anything other than clothes – check with Amazon. They have a price check app and almost always offer the lowest prices. Oh, and don’t forget using promo codes and online coupons. Sites like RetailMeNot will usually be able to nab you codes to get an additional discount from already sale items.

5. Not negotiating your bills

If you haven’t called into your cable, cell phone, or credit card companies in the last year, then I can almost guarantee you’re wasting money. One simple phone call to make sure you’re on the best plan for your usage can result in huge savings. The real trick, though, is to check with competitor prices and threaten to leave if they can’t beat them. This is pretty effective and generally results in them finding some sort of promotion or special deal for you. I also recently read that buying your own modem from Amazon can save you money if you’re with a carrier that charges a rental fee for theirs – definitely something worth looking into.

Credit card companies can also be swayed to lower your interest rate with a phone call letting them know that you’re looking into transferring your balance to a lower interest card. If they aren’t interested in helping you and you have a balance you think you’ll be able to pay off in the next year – maybe consider transferring it to a 0% interest card (just be sure it’s paid off by the time the intro offer expires). Read up on how to sweet talk your credit card company before the big call.

6. Food

I am the biggest offender of this one. This year I have promised myself to learn how to cook, because I waste so much money on snacks and meals outside the house. Especially in NYC, by the time I’ve spent $10 on a salad, $4 on a latte, $2 on a bottle of water and $15 on dinner – I’m at $31/day on food. I know, that is not the way someone who runs a money saving blog should spend, but I’m not into lying, and I love food, and I’m sorry, ok?

I could definitely do without the lattes, and I am getting into the habit or refilling water bottles from my filter at home to bring along with me during the day. When I start cooking I’ll be able to make extra portions of things like pasta and soups that I can freeze in single serving microwave containers and bring with me on long work days. I also wrote a post on how to save money when you eat out, since that’s another thing that can ruin your budget.

We can all get better at saving – even me – and it starts with just becoming more aware of where your money is going and where it needs to stop going. Saving small amounts here and there from daily or monthly expenses really does add up and can make a big difference in how quickly you get to your savings goals. Sorry for the tough love, but I could tell you needed it.



  1. Great ideas here! Thanks for getting me thinking, I really enjoy your blog.

  2. This article made me very annoyed. Whomever wrote it must be very lonely and not a very fun date. I am actually changing my news filter functions so that I no longer get articles from this blogger, but also from this publication.

  3. When you wrote about your gym membership and classes, it made me appreciate living in Houston so much. I’m planning on getting a 2 year contract with 24 hour Fitness (thanks to my Coscto membership) in which it will even out to $15 per month. I can use it in any facility across the country and they include group exercise classes like training camp, yoga, zumba and body pump. And my outdoor bootcamp class is $40/month, which is equivalent to one session at Barry’s Bootcamp.

    I also agree on drinking. When I had my permanent job, a good chunk of my salary went to late night drinks at bars and clubs and I was spending more than I saved.

    Another thing I agree on is on paying full price. With stores these days having a majority of their merchandise (or entire store) on sale or discounted, it is stupid to pay full price. If you befriend enough sales associate such as the ones from Tommy Bahamas or Saks, you can legally use their employee discounts.

    • Hey Lauren! You are so freaking lucky. Gym memberships in NYC are like a luxury purchase. I suppose I could work out at the YMCA but I’ve become such a gym snob. THank you so much for commenting!!

  4. This is all well and good, but please don’t tell people to buy everything they can from Amazon. Many, many products on Amazon are counterfeit. People, please remember that things like cosmetics and skin/hair care should only be purchased from the brand or an authorized retailer. Many brands do not authorize sale on sites like Amazon and ebay, and the product you get on there could be contaminated with bacteria or harmful chemicals, or worse!

    • Hi Karen- I have never had an issue purchasing counterfeit products from amazon. Their partner retailers are trusted, and any time I have had an issue I’ve been able to return them. I appreciate your comment, though – it is certainly important to ensure you are dealing with legitimate companies and products!

  5. I agree with most of your points…. But definitely not all.

    Negotiating your bills is a great idea but, “threaten to leave if they can’t beat them”‘…
    I pray you work in customer service one day. Seriously? That’s an ultimatum and most (if not all) people are ugly when they “negotiate” that way. Yes, look into better offers, let them know you want the same rate. Most places will work with you, if not then leave, but show some integrity and be respectful. You can negotiate politely and get what you want.

    “It’s bullshit that you’ll only work out if it’s with a trainer.”

    First of all, no it’s not. If that’s what it takes and you have health problems, spend your money to make yourself healthier and get off medications and live a better life! Personal trainers have lots of uses besides just getting people to work out. Lots of people have injuries, knee and hip replacements that require specialits to help them achieve things most people take for granted, like walking and straightening their arms up over head. Not everyone looks like a model.. Walking into a gym and working out can be very daunting. You can’t look toyour left and copy what that person’s doing and expect to reach your goals, right?! That’s winging your workout and expecting what you want to happen… What about people that want to be able to achieve training goals but have special diets.. Gosh, even celebrities like Hugh Jackman have a trainer… It doesn’t matter if 50 year old Sally can kick his butt in Zumba, that’s not going to make him look like Wolverine!

    • I told you that it was tough love Jason! I never insisted that you needed to be rude in threatening to leave. Simply making them aware that you are being tempted by another offer does not equate to being rude. I actually did work in customer service for many years, so I would never make this implication.

      I’m also sorry for not addressing those who may have hip replacements or injuries and require the help of a trainer. Unfortunately, most people do not have these special requirements and are just too lazy to workout on their own.Hugh Jackman is very rich. If I got hired to play wolverine, I would hire a trainer also. I would also be slightly concerned.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Hi!

    I was just wondering what your typical gym routine is like? Do you mainly workout in classes or do you follow a strength/cardio routine?

    Something I find cool is there are a lot of fitness deals on sites like Groupon/LivingSocial that offer gym membership and class packs.

    • Hi Minru – I am a dedicated class-taker. I do a kick-ass cardio combat class at equinox twice a week and spin and yoga at least once a week. I also try to run about 3 miles on most workout days (5-6 days/week). The deals on groupon are amazing if you want to try something new to switch up your routine. There my be some duds but at those prices, it’s worth the risk! Goodluck!

  7. I just found your blog last week through a Google search for “frugal nyc” and I love it! I grew up in the South with a lower cost of living before moving to Sydney for 18 months where I first began my frugal, more simplistic, more ecoconscious lifestyle because of their higher cost of living, that prepared me for the shock of NYC. I am already sharing your blog with other ladies around my age (~26) at the office! Please keep it up! Don’t worry about the haters– this is NYC and we each have our own ‘hustle’ to save and make money! Right now I’m working on finding more items to sell on eBay as a side source of revenue, it doesn’t bring in much as I’m only doing it for immediate family but I’m making enough to raid the ‘additional 40% sale items’ at J. Crew in the Time Warner Center once a month!

    • Hi Rachael! THANK YOU so much for leaving this lovely comment. I’m so happy we’ve found one another. NYC is definitely a tough place to live and save money, but it’s possible! Selling on eBay is a great source of extra money if you have the time (which can always be made). I wrote a whole post on selling like a pro that is worth checking out! I really appreciate you sharing my page – good luck with your savings goals and maybe we an meet up one day!

  8. What a good ideas and here is one more. I have a Kindle when I purchase a book I download it on a WIFI network and save myself some band-with. There are so many places that offer it now. Stores, restaurant, and even the place that I work

  9. I’ve been guilty of soooo many of these in the past! Especially spending money like crazy on food out, 2014 is the year of cooking at home…my boyfriend is convinced we are going to starve!!

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