Avoid These ‘Money-Saving’ Habits That Don’t Actually Save You Money

Avoid These ‘Money-Saving’ Habits That Don’t Actually Save You Money

With almost everything—food, shelter, petrol, recreation, you name it—costing more each month than the last, it makes sense to look for any opportunity to adjust spending habits to save a dollar here and a dollar there. There are a few ways to do this effectively, such as cooking at home more and getting take-out less. But not all so-called frugal habits are made equal, nor will they all save you money in the long run.

One part of frugality is finding the balance between the value of your time with the value of your money. Sure, you can spend hours searching for the best deal online or driving to different stores to buy items on sale, and you may actually save a few dollars at the point of purchase. But you may be spending money to do so, and you could be earning money during that time instead or investing in other non-monetary things you value, such as being with friends and family.

Here are six supposedly money-saving habits to reconsider.

Spending just because something is on sale

Spending money to save money, such as shopping sales just because they’re sales, does not generally actually save money. Retailers also use a handful of promotional tactics to get you to spend more during sales, such as promoting scarcity or contrasting a lower price with a higher, original one.

If you weren’t already going to buy something, buying it while it’s on sale is spending money you didn’t need to and could have saved instead. Practice being a conscientious spender who mindfully decides where their money goes.

Shopping at multiple stores to collect deals

Making the rounds to different stores—such as several grocery stores—only to take advantage of a few small-dollar deals at each may seem like a smart strategy, but it may not be worthwhile after you factor in the time and money spent driving all over town relative to the dollars saved.

This can also be true of purchases made on sites like Facebook Marketplace. You may get an item at a deep discount, but there are hidden costs, such as the time and gas required to pick it up or renting a vehicle big enough to transport the purchase (or even the value of the item and whether it’s something you’ll end up replacing anyway, which we’ll get into more below).

Driving out of the way for cheaper petrol

Similarly, it’s tempting to drive out of the way to save a few cents per litre when filling up your petrol tank, and this may make sense if you only have to detour a few blocks or can pair the trip with a relatively efficient reroute or errands you would eventually need to run.

However, travelling across town just for cheaper petrol costs you both time and money (you’re also spending on petrol to get there and back). The difference in price would have to be significant relative to the distance out of the way to be worthwhile, especially if your car gets poor mileage.

Buying everything in bulk

Buying in bulk at places like Sam’s Club, Costco, or even Amazon makes it seem like spending a little bit more upfront will save you down the line because the cost per item or unit is lower.

There are certain products that make sense to purchase in larger quantities (toilet paper and paper towels, for example) because you’re all but guaranteed to use them in a reasonable amount of time. The same goes for staple items you need to feed a large family or entertain a crowd.

However, bulk buying has a handful of hidden costs, and you will probably waste money in the end if you don’t have immediate plans for a 5o-pound case of potatoes or change your mind about a toiletry brand when you’re halfway through a value pack. Plus, you need sufficient storage space for bulk purchases.

Buying cheap

On the flip side, trying to save money upfront by buying cheap items may cost you more in the end. Cheaper versions of products—furniture, shoes, clothing, and tech, to name a few—that are of lower quality may wear out more quickly or break more easily, so you have to replace them more often and end up spending more in total than if you’d bought the better product in the first place.

Instead, when making purchasing decisions, consider an item’s value—for example, the cost per wear of a piece of clothing that’s priced higher but lasts years longer than a less expensive and more cheaply made version you toss at the end of the season. Not everyone has the financial privilege to prioritise value, but if you can, you should consider it.

Taking on (some) DIY projects

We’re obviously believers in doing a lot of things yourself and offer advice on how to save money in the process. But some DIY projects will actually cost you more in the long run than if you hire a professional in the first place because they’re done incorrectly and require fixing, or there are expensive tools involved.

Things like complex home improvement projects and car repairs require a certain skill level, so know your limits. Similarly, consider a project’s upfront cost and value over time if your primary goal for the project is to save money. For example, you may want to start a garden and can your own vegetables, but each of these requires a significant investment in materials to get going and may take several years to break even.

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