Americans waste millions of dollars on simple things - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Americans waste millions of dollars on simple things

(FOX19) -

Looking for a way to save some money? Many experts say you don't need to do anything extravagant. Just take a look at your day to day expenses; you could be wasting millions on simple things.

Every year, Americans chomp, slurp, or smoke away their money!

"The road to financial ruin is a little bit here and a little bit there," said Fox19 Financial Expert Nathan Bachrach.

Bachrach said it only takes Americans minutes to blow through millions.
"There's no one big thing that people do that gets them in trouble," said Bachrach. "It's a lot of silly little mistakes, and silly mistakes with money can compound just like investing can compound to great success."

Don't believe it? "Business Insider" crunched the numbers. They found that Americans wasted six-billion dollars on unused gift cards each year; seven billion dollars on ATM fees; $31 billion on lottery tickets; and $49 billion on credit card interest.

Think trying to make that coffee date on time is worth a traffic ticket? The National Motorists Association estimated Americans spend $12 billion on traffic tickets.

"Most people are good drivers," said John Bowman, Communications Director for the NMA. "They drive in a reasonable, safe, and prudent manner. Certainly, there are legitimate speeding tickets and whatnot that are handed out. A lot of them, though are kind of set up as speed traps where people are sort of at a disadvantage."

And those sweet guilty pleasures can also add up to salty financial issues. Americans eat through $29 billion worth of candy; $44 billion worth of tobacco; $50 billion on alcohol; $69 billion at the casino; $76 billion on soda; and $165 billion on wasted food!

"Here's a silly little thing that people do: use your credit card when you go to buy fast food," said Bachrach. "McDonalds found out you'll spend 20-percent more, so when somebody says 'supersize it?' You go, 'Oh what the heck?' Bingo. There's a couple of bucks before you even know it."

That's just the beginning. Americans wasted a ton of money on energy-related costs.  We're talking $146 billion.

Duke Energy's Sally Thelan said that doesn't have to happen. First, Thelan recommends having a "home energy housecall." It's a free service, and you can sign up online or call 1-877-388-7676 to sign up for the visit.

"Having someone from Duke Energy come out and really take a good look at your home," said Thelan. "Any areas that you can make improvements."

A few things they might tell you?

  • Use CFL's or compact florescent light bulbs.
  • Get rid of energy vampires. Those are the appliances or items you keep plugged in all the time. They're always sucking up energy, and you're always paying for it. To fix that problem, use a "smartstrip" or just unplug things.

"If you leave the room and forget to turn anything off, these are actually smart enough to turn the devices off for you," said Thelan. "So that they're not utilizing power once you leave the home."

  • Also, heat up small snacks in the microwave or toaster oven instead of your oven.
  • You should install insulation behind the faceplates on your outlets.
  • Try a sensor gun on your windows and doors to detect drafts.
  • Consider washing your clothes using cold water to give your water heater and your bill a break.
  • Install faucet aerators on your kitchen sinks and a low-flow showerhead in the bathroom.

Last month, Duke Energy also started an appliance recycling program. The company rolled out the initiative in five states, including Ohio. It's designed to remove that old fridge or freezer while paying you the customer $30 as an incentive. Thelan said it's a win-win; good for customers, and cuts down on energy consumption on their grid, as well.

In the end, Bachrach said the best way to save money is to sweat the small stuff.

"The greatest way to know the value of a dollar is to actually carry a few of them around," said Bachrach. "When you start plinking out $3 for coffee here and $2 for a donut and something else here, all of a sudden you go, oh that's where the money goes! and then it becomes real clear what you need to do."

And as for how to instill good financial values in your children?

"When it comes to kids, first off, make them earn some money," said Bachrach. "{Make them} do something for it. That's always been my feeling, and secondly, when they've gotta go plink out some money, they've gotta go buy a pair of jeans for $80 and they realize that was like 8 times of babysitting. They'll start to go, you know, maybe we're off to Target or Wal-mart."


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