10 Hidden Budget Busters That Will Destroy Your Budget

July 7, 2017

10 Hidden Budget Busters That Will Destroy Your Budget

Updated July 7, 2017. This post may contain affiliate links.

When it comes to watching our spending and living on a budget, most of us are aware of the obvious, big budget busters that can trip us up like eating out, overspending on entertainment, and impulse shopping.

But there are other pitfalls we need to be careful of…the small, almost “insignificant” expenses that kind of sneak up on us. On their own, they seem like nothing, so we dismiss them. But over time — and together — they have a significant impact on our budgets.

Here are ten budget busters that are destroying your budget and some tips to avoid them.

1. Library Fines

You go the library with good intentions. It is, after all, an excellent way to read books and watch movies for free, until…you forget to return that one book, and you keep forgetting, until your fine amounts to what it would have cost to buy the book in the first place!

How to Avoid It:

  • As soon as you check out your books and movies, enter the due date in your phone or put it on a physical calendar. Cushion it by a few days, so you have a little “grace period.”
  • Make sure you receive email reminders from your library.
  • Be realistic when checking out. Are you really going to read all five of those books before they’re due?

2. Overdraft Fees

Now that we rely more and more on online banking, it is extremely common to forget that one upcoming automatic withdrawal…and that other one. Thankfully your bank has got you covered. They’ll honor the expenses — or kindly reject them — for a small convenience fee of $34 a pop.  Nice of them, right?

How to Avoid It:

  • Balance your checkbook! Remember that thing with the lines?
  • Take overdraft protection off your account. You may be unconsciously relying on it just because it’s there. (Your bank may still cover transactions and charge you as a “courtesy” even without being enrolled.)
  • Provide your own overdraft protection. Leave a small cushion of $100 or so in your account, and pretend it’s not there.
  • If you’re a first-time offender, call your bank. Most will waive the first overdraft or non-sufficient funds fee your account incurs. Some institutions will waive one per year.

3. Monthly Bank Account Fees

Depending on your bank and the terms of your account, you may incur a service charge every month or when you fail to meet the minimum balance requirements.

How to Avoid It:

4. ATM Fees

Ahh…more bank fees. Years ago, you would only get charged once to use an ATM from another institution. Now you might get charged twice — first at the ATM when withdrawing money, and later by your bank. It doesn’t make sense to pay a $5 fee to withdraw $20, does it?

How to Avoid It:

  • Be strategic with your trips to the bank. Plan when you’re going, and be sure to withdraw enough to last you until the next trip.
  • Use your supermarket as your ATM. Some stores allow generous cash-back amounts, like Aldi, which allows you to withdraw $200.
  • If you are repeatedly incurring ATM’s fees, it’s time to rethink where you bank.

5. Late Payments

You pay your utility bill late, register for your kids’ sports after the deadline, and return the Redbox rental a couple of days late. These late fees may seem like nothing on their own, but consistently making payments late is like throwing money out the window.

How to Avoid It:

  • Automate payments you typically pay late.
  • Don’t assume you’ll remember when you need to pay/register/return. Create a system (like notifications on your phone, notes on your calendar, or other physical reminders) to help you pay on time.

6. Cell Phone Overages

Going over your data plan is painful. You’re probably already paying a pretty penny for your service. Why add on top of that?

How to Avoid It:

  • If it’s your kids that are causing the overages, make them pay! They may think twice the next time they’re tempted to surf YouTube when not on WiFi.
  • Remind your kids (and yourself) to always check for available WiFi when out and about.
  • If going over your data is a constant occurrence, call up your cell phone provider to evaluate your plan or consider switching companies.

7. Parking Fees

An expired meter, a misread sign, a “quick” run into the bank while your car is parked illegally…A parking ticket later, or worse, paying to get your car out of the impound lot, and you’ll feel silly for not paying the quarter at the meter.

How to Avoid It:

  • If you park at meters often, be prepared and keep a stash of coins specifically for parking, or find meters that take debit cards.
  • Don’t risk getting a ticket or being towed by leaving your car parked illegally — even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Read, re-read, and re-read those parking signs.
  • Park in a parking lot if you have to. It’s cheaper than a ticket!

8. “Free” Trials

We sign up for some cool new service or subscription, and we swear we’ll cancel before the trial ends — really, we will. Sound familiar? Companies offer free trials because they know a decent amount will convert to paid memberships. And they know on average how many months will go by before you get around to canceling.

How to Avoid It:

  • Put that trial period end date in your phone or circle it in red on your physical calendar. Plan to cancel it a couple of days before the actual end date.
  • Think twice about signing up in the first place. If you have no intentions to use the service after 14 days, why bother?
  • If you do forget, call the company as soon as you see the charge. Most will refund your money and allow you to cancel.

9. Subscription Services You Don’t Use

You’re paying for Netflix and Hulu but find yourself cozying up to just one. It’s easy to keep paying monthly fees for subscriptions we don’t use when it’s “only” ten bucks or so. Just bear in mind that over time, you’re wasting a significant amount of money.

How to Avoid It:

  • Be brutally honest about which subscriptions you use and need. Cancel the rest! You can always change your mind later.

10. Unused Gym Memberships

Even if your gym costs just $10 a month, you are throwing away money if you don’t actually go. I know…you’re going to go next week. If you’ve been saying that for six months, are you really headed to your gym anytime soon?

How to Avoid It:

  • Cancel the membership! Even if you end up re-joining later, you’ll still probably save money.
  • Ask your gym if they can temporarily suspend your membership. Some will allow you to freeze your account for specific reasons while others will allow you to do so for any reason, depending on your contract. This lets you retain your initial start-up fee. Resume your membership if and only if you will use it!

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Little Things

Again, these occasional expenses may seem harmless, but these budget busters do have an adverse impact on your budget and your ability to put your money to better use. Wouldn’t you rather put $100 towards a vacation fund instead of covering three bounced checks?

Being mindful of these pitfalls will help you make more intentional decisions about where your money is going. So, take some time to evaluate your expenses and protect yourself against these budget busters.

Related Reading
15 Expenses You Think You Can’t Live Without…But Can
How to Squeeze $500 Out of Your Budget
The 3 Costs of Procrastination

Have you wasted money recently on any of these? What other budget busters can you identify?


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