Are You Throwing Money Away? Unused Expenses and Untapped Discounts

Review Your Spending For Unused and Unnecessary Expenses, as well as, Untapped Discounts

A few times a year I take a high-level view of my spending and see if there are any areas where I might be overspending or missing out on a deal.  I’m not necessarily talking about simply cutting back on areas like dining out or entertainment, which actual deliver some benefit (although I do try and spend less when we dine out).

I’m talking about instances where no real value is derived from money spent, OR areas where I could be spending less without any loss in significant time or value.  Since we all could use to have a little extra room in the budget, here’s a few examples of areas where you might be throwing money away:

Common Unused and Unnecessary Expenses

Memberships – Are you paying a monthly fee for any services that you’re no longer using?  A gym membership comes to mind.  Why not explore some fun and frugal activities to replace that costly and unused gym membership.

Banking Fees – In this day and age, it’s just not necessary to have to pay someone to hold your money and make your bill payments.  If your bank is charging you monthly fees, teller fees, bill pay fees, money transfer fees, then it’s time you found another bank or find out what you can do to eliminate those fees.

Magazine Subscriptions – Have you long since stopped reading your monthly issues of Cat Fancy?  If the subscriptions are automatically recurring each period, yet you’re not reading them, it’s definitely time to end this expense.  While you’re at it, why not ask that those free catalogs stop being delivered?  They only waste paper and lead to more spending.  The same info can be found online anyway.

Unused Extras on Your TV Programming – This is a constant source of frustration for me.  I hate spending money on TV.  Don’ you wish you could just pay for the channels you watched?  Anyway, every few months or so, I’ll go over my bill and attempt to trim the fat so to speak.  Take a moment to review your TV programming bill and decide if there are some features you’re not using.  While you’re at it, why not just call your cable/satellite company and ask to get a cheaper rate for the services you do use.  I’ve lowered my satellite TV bill in the past with success.

Too Much Insurance Coverage – This is another expense that requires a periodic check-in.  Review your bill or call in to see if there are any features or coverages on your home and auto insurance policies that may be unnecessary.  If you don’t understand all of the line items your paying for, have your agent explain in detail what the item/coverage is and why you need it.  You should be able to find a few unnecessary or duplicate items.

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Common Untapped Discounts

Reward Programs – Airline frequent flyer programs, other travel reward programs, grocery store membership cards, credit card points, and other retail/service reward programs; if the programs are there and free to sign up, why haven’t you done so?  You could have earned some freebies by now, just for doing what you normally do.  That’s money left on the table.  I always try and get my 10th haircut, sub sandwich, ice cream scoop, and car wash for free.  Before you know it you’ll have a George Costanza sized wallet full of punch cards. 🙂

Shopping Online – Before making any purchases online, it’s a good idea to do a quick Google search for related “coupons, discounts, promotion codes, etc.”  For instance, if you are making a purchase from Best Buy you should always do a quick search for “best buy promo code” and “best buy free shipping code.”  You may not always find a deal, but when you do you’ll be glad, and you will have only taken a few extra seconds or a minute or two to find the code.  Do a similar search for any retailer you are using online.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive – Lastly, if you don’t have a coupon or a reward card, just ask if there is a discount available.  You never know what they’ll have.  Never pass up the opportunity to say, “is that the best you can do?”  Be sure and ask about any community or company related offers.  Since Mrs. PT is now a student again, you better believe we’ll be flashing her student ID whenever practical.

Now It’s Your Turn

I certainly didn’t list ALL of the relevant areas above.  And some of these areas might not even apply to you.  Therefore, I challenge you to take a moment to review YOUR spending and come up with some expenses for things you aren’t using, or areas where you might could begin using a discount.

What are some other things people tend to spend too much on because they aren’t using it, or because they aren’t using the available discount?

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. Good points! In the financial trouble of nowadays, throwing money “away” is a big no-no! One should first reconsider al his expenses and make cuts where possible: cable, magazine subscriptions, landline and cell subscriptions.. etc.

  2. If you use a credit card, make sure it gives you something back. Something that you will actually use (I don’t care to fly, so airmiles do nothing for me. Instead, I get credits I can use for car maintenance/repair).

    I was guilty of not re-evaluating my insurance needs; for years I kept the deductibles too low, meaning premiums too high. Finally, a few years ago, it dawned on me that I would not make a claim unless it was really substantial, so why did I carry such small deductibles? Not smart…

  3. I completely agree: I think most people use cable a lot less than they think they do. Most people probably don’t use the premium channels enough to justify the expense. If you’re just paying to get movies, I’d do the math and see if you can just rent. Or use the money for a subscription service.

    I think most people overpay for their subscription services, too. My husband and I rarely go out, so we use our program a lot. But I’m still tracking how many movies we trade in this month, to be sure it’s worth paying the top rate for unlimited in-store exchanges.

    Also, people often buy things without trying to get around it. There are a lot of ways to get something for free, or very reduced. Check CL, ask friends, check Freecycle. I did two posts on this subject.

  4. Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck says

    Great post! In addition, even if the monthly expense is still appropriate, have your usage patterns changed? If so, switch to a different plan to save (get rid of unlimited texting if you’re only doing 5 a month or change your NetFlix to have only one out at a time if that reflects your reality). There’s always an opportunity to lower your cash-flow requirements without overhauling your lifestyle. That’s the low-hanging fruit.

  5. Until Debt do Us Part says

    Good Post.

    For me it is a case of every little helps. The problem can be trying to keep focused on reducing your spending while at the same time avoiding reducing your lifestyle to that of a monk.

    The danger always is if you cut too deep that you will just get incredibly bored with the lifestyle and be back to the old habits that caused the overspending in the first place.

  6. Great post! I’ve been guilty of racking up bank fees and forgetting to cancel memberships. I also agree that cancelling unnecessary services (cable, etc) is a great way to save money.

  7. Twenties Money says

    I had a similar post where reducing items such as my cell phone plan, cable bill, and auto insurance opened up almost $3000.00 a year extra for me.

    Saving Money by Reducing Bills

  8. Sam of Fix My Personal Finance says

    Some people tend to spend so much money on internet and phone use. This is especially true if 2 different company are taking care of your internet and phone. You can get great discount if you can find a company that offers both services at cheaper price.

    Personally, I used to spend some cash on cable tv. I’ve now unsubscribe from them and subscribed to Joost which gives me free access to TV shows online 🙂

  9. Mr. ToughMoneyLove says

    Good list. I will add these: buying books instead of borrowing from the library; landline telephone extras, including long distance plans; satellite radio; lawn care service