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How Are You Wasting Money?

We all do it, but understanding where you make financial mistakes can stop you from making them.

August 16, 2021

Reaching our financial goals requires making sacrifices. You have to not buy things you want just because you want them and sometimes you have to go without in order to advance your long-term goals. That, however, means different things for different people.

In some cases, eating out or getting food delivered can be a waste of money while, in others, it allows someone to spend more time working (and making money). One person’s wasteful cup of coffee is another person’s affordable indulgence that brings great joy.

We asked the “7investing Now” audience how they are wasting money and shared a number of answers, as well as some advice, on the August 13 edition with Matt Cochrane and Dan Kline.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Dan Kline: And we’re gonna talk about where do you waste money? That is something I asked on Twitter. And for me, Matt, it’s really obvious. I am an impulse buyer of technology. And I can never get it quite right. So I’ll joke I am wearing a Fitbit right now. This is the latest Fitbit Charge 4. In the past two weeks, you’ve seen me on this program with an Amazon Halo.


I could not ever get past the fact that that doesn’t have a watch face. So I would look at it constantly. And it wouldn’t tell me what time it was. That was a problem. And I have an Apple Watch. Why do I have an Apple Watch? because Apple Watch does all this stuff the best, but it only has like a 20 hour charge. And it’s heavy and it’s inconvenient. So, I on an impulse bought a new Fitbit to try to see if, and I have six other fitbits. I have three laptops, I have a Mac desktop. I am very impulsive when it comes to technology, mostly little stuff, mostly things under $100. Matt, where do you waste money and feel free in the chat to share areas you waste money or areas you’re trying to be more careful?

Matt Cochrane: Well, there’s probably a lot of candidates for me, unfortunately. But the the two that stand out the most is one is eating out. We eat out too much. We used to be a lot better at this. But like, just sometimes you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of like shuttling kids everywhere. And just like you, you’re almost too exhausted to make dinner or the leftovers aren’t that appealing. So we go out to eat too much.

And the second one is buying books that I don’t read. I don’t mind buying books that I read, but why do I buy so many books that I don’t read. That is like my, it’s like I can’t help it. It’s like I’m, I’m a moth to flame when it comes to books. And I just buy books that there’s no way this universe that I’m going to get to read at any time. What is even remotely reasonable for buying the book at this point in time. So I don’t know I have a stack of I’m at this point in time. At this point in time, I might have more books in my house that I haven’t read than I have read.

Dan Kline: I have very mixed feelings on takeout and eating out. Because I look at it as a time balance. I am the cook in my house, I make dinner when I’m home, three, four, maybe five nights nights a week. And I plan those, and I get ButcherBox delivered and and I’ll cheat and use Instacart sometimes because I don’t want to go to the grocery store.

But that being said, if my choices is at 4:30pm, Hey, I have a report I need to finish or something I want to read or the work Slack goes crazy and we need to chat. And that means I have to order well. How much value did I create for our company? You know how much quote money did I make? Even though it’s not like I get handed more money? How much value did I create? And does that offset the fact that I just spent $60 for takeout instead of $20 making tacos or whatever, or whatever I would have made now. You know last night I made salmon and I made lobster risotto. And I’m a pretty good cook.

But that being said, people laugh at me for Instacart, or ordering from Whole Foods which I can almost see from my house, it’s less than a half mile away. But here’s the reality. If I’m weighing my time of leaving the house and going to Whole Foods, versus paying a higher price, I believe you pay a higher per item price like you do with Instacart though it’s all a little a little squishy. I might be wrong there. That’s worth it to me. Certainly I know Instacart is more expensive. But the reality is if I don’t have to go to Publix, that’s worth it to me sometimes, so.

Matt Cochrane: If you have four kids, you might think differently though, those kids meals add up quickly at restaurants.

Dan Kline: Ravi Shah says, Dan, you might be the only person who by buys a Mac on an impulse. Yeah. I’m always looking for the best setup to do this show, the best travel setups that is one of those things, and then following up with a comment from Matt here. Yeah, we can we can put that one up JT if you want. I didn’t read it, but I’m gonna assume it’s, it’s okay. Matt? Go ahead.

Matt Cochrane: Sorry. I’m sorry, Matt. I can so relate. I don’t leave empty handed from a bookstore. I bought about 100 books within the last two years”. I’m with you, Ravi man, I have a wish list on Amazon too that’s like a million books long too. So it’s like I don’t think my problem’s getting any better anytime soon. Unfortunately.

Dan Kline: I’ve actually gone full digital on books. I hate to say this because I love bookstores is I’ll go to Books-A-Million, I’ll go to Barnes and Noble and I will take pictures of books to buy in both cases I’ll always feel guilty so I’ll go to a to Joe Muggs at Books-A-Million or Starbucks at at Barnes and Noble and I’ll buy something. But I just feel like when we moved, I got rid of something like 13,000 books.

That’s when we moved from Connecticut to Florida. My son’s not a reader. Yeah, I couldn’t pack them, it wasn’t feasible, I moved myself, I would have had to get like a second truck to do it. So I donated them all. Even that was really, really difficult. And I’ve decided the only physical books I’m gonna own are books written by friends, books that really mean something to me. So I probably own less than 20 physical books. I have a bunch of copies of my own book, “Worst Ideas Ever,” where they don’t send me any money if you buy it. So if it’s in print at the moment, it’s a great book. It’s funny, but again, I don’t get any money. So read it just because you want to read it. Not necessarily because you think I’m gonna benefit.

But let’s go. Well, we’ll go to Bradley Smith’s comment here. We’ve got a whole bunch from Twitter, and then we’re happy to take your comments and questions. JT, if you want to bring that up. I’m hoping you have it if you do not, that is not a problem. So Bradley Smith says, “I don’t know if I waste any money. But I do hate spending the money watering my grass”.  Matt, that’s actually a factor here in Florida, you have no choice but to water your grass, right?

Matt Cochrane: Absolutely. Especially if you don’t get rain for a couple days in the summertime man that sun burns up that grass. Watering the grass is a real thing.

Dan Kline: Stock Investor says “he wastes money on investment advisory services, I pay for almost every one I find, they’re all too good to leave”. Well we appreciate that. We have some friends out there in that space so we love seeing people support multiple ones, I will argue that some are better than others. Ravi Shah says “impulse Amazon buys”. I’ve done better with this Matt. I actually think a little bit before I buy something. But I will say that I probably waste $20 a week on impulse Amazon buys. But I don’t know if it’s waste if I actually use it, eventually. Is this a problem for you as well?

Matt Cochrane: Pro tip, put it in your cart, leave it there for 48 hours if you still want to 48 hours later then buy it. But that’s helped us cut down a lot of Amazon spending, just putting your cart, leave it there for a couple days, come back to it, and if you still want it, then go ahead and buy it. But like there’s so many things that at that moment, you’re like, Oh, I should buy this. Or going back to books I’ll hear someone on a podcast, I need to buy that book or whatever. Just putting it in your cart and leaving it there for a couple days helps me a lot.

Dan Kline:  So we’ve got two, Eric said “coffee”, [unknown name] said “Starbucks”, a bunch of people. Haley Carroll said shooting fish in a barrel and shared a picture of a Starbucks cup. I’m going to push back here and you’ve all heard me say this. But Starbucks can be a waste of money. If you’re somebody who would be just as happy with the free coffee at the office, or making a coffee with a Keurig or programming your Mr. Coffee to make coffee, or you’re a snob who wants to make your French press or whatever it is.

For me Starbucks is a ritual and an experience. I don’t always go to Starbucks, I sometimes go to local coffee houses. But I like taking my laptop or meeting a friend and and having that 45 minute coffee and maybe breakfast experience. So I’m not seeing that as a $5 cup of coffee. I’m seeing that as an hour of joy that I just paid $5 for. That feels like a really good value in a show where we talk Disney where my Disney annual pass is something like $650.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed that Starbucks purchase in a Disney where it’s just what I need to calm down, I need to decompress. I need to relax from all the stress of being at Disney. And I’m going to go wait in line at the Starbucks, I’m going to have my decaf caramel macchiato or, or cold brew or whatever it is. And I’m going to thoroughly enjoy that. So coffee can be a waste of money. It can also be valuable. Matt, your thoughts on this one?

Matt Cochrane: Well, yeah, I mean, your experience is just different than mine. So like I’ll grab it on a commute and for something like that I can make it at home and and save myself five or six bucks. But yeah, as an oasis or, I think we’ve all had that moment where Starbucks has served as a nice oasis from like, from whatever it is, holiday shopping or running errands or whatever. But sure, but like grabbing it for your commute. You can probably do better than that.

Dan Kline: Yeah, I mean, and I’ll point out that for my everyday coffee, I have an Amazon recurring delivery for protein enhanced coffee from the people that I think they’re called High Brew. So I get 12 of those a month. I have Starbucks concentrate, which I forgot was concentrate the other day, so I drank doubly strong Starbucks coffee. I also have a cold brew maker. It’s like a machine I put actual ground coffee in and it sort of whips up the cold brew in like 20 minutes. And I have a Keurig though I don’t think it’s plugged in. I have a Nespresso pod maker. I have at the other house, at least two Nespresso’s.

So I’m not opposed to making coffee. I do often take the cheaper route of having a $2 coffee that I purchased at the grocery store or on Amazon, but I do think there’s a lot of value. Even Matt, we both work from home. You have four kids. I only have the one kid but he likes to play Xbox on the couch where I like to work. There are plenty of times where I’ve decided to, Hey, you know what, I am going to go to Starbucks as a third place.

I’ve said it on this show. I cried the first time I realized I was at a Starbucks and I could sit down at the table inside. I’d been outside. I was meeting you for dinner one night, and I went outside to the Starbucks right there we meet for dinner. And that was pretty joyous. But that was like 5:30pm at night, it wasn’t that hot. It’s typically 80-90 degrees in the summer here. So when they reopen the dining room, that was an event for me.

But let’s plow on here. Will says “food delivery, probably too insensitive to delivery and tip fees”. Again, it depends what that saved you. Like there are times we pick up food because there’s a better chance they’re going to get it right. And I’m pretty critical of all the food delivery services because your order is not often correct. But that being said, if my wife and I are both working, and it doesn’t make sense for us to go across the street to the to the BJ’s Brew House to pick up dinner, and we have it delivered and it cost us 10% more. I think of that as an investment again, I don’t have four kids. Matt, I’ll give you another comment here. And then we can we can move on and wrap up here.

Matt Cochrane: No, I think food delivery is too expensive. So I can’t like I don’t know, like when it comes to Domino’s (NYSE: DPZ), sure. Like because that’s that’s an amazing service. I think most regular viewers know my feelings on Domino’s. It’s a lifesaver as far as it goes for me. But for Uber Eats, or or DoorDash or or anything else like man like those deliveries fees are killer. Usually, like, even what I want to like order food on a food delivery service. I look at those prices. I can’t do it. I can’t do it.

Dan Kline: Yeah, no, we’ve had that problem as well. Mark Holt says “I’m pretty frugal. I clip coupons, I shop the deals and tell the kids/grandkids that ordering soda in restaurants is a ripoff. Save it or earn it baby! Happy to be part of the two comma club”. So I think there is a point to this. Because I’ve talked about traveling a lot. We all know I go on cruises, I go to Vegas, I’m in Disney a lot. I am someone who likes a nice drink, and I’m with friends, I’m absolutely going to order a Manhattan at the bar, I’m going to savor that I’m going to have the experience. I almost never pay for alcohol in a bar, if I’m with my family, or if I’m by myself because of that absolute frugality. Like, wait, I’m going to spend $13 for a drink when I could just make it at home. So I do think there are some choices we make.

Again, if Matt and I go out, and we’re meeting somewhere, I have no problem having a couple of nice drinks, in the bar, because where’s my value? My value is the social experience. But if I’m going out to dinner, I don’t necessarily need to have that drink that’s gonna really pad the cost of my bill. I think we all make choices like that, where it’s like, oh, let’s not get dessert at the restaurant. Let’s go to Dairy Queen on the way home because we’re gonna like that more anyway. Or there’s a 50% chance we’re gonna leave the restaurant and go, Wait a minute, I don’t need ice cream, like, why am I getting dessert? I just had dinner. So I think we all need to make those little choices. I think it’s really important to know what money you are spending and how you are spending it.

We’ve got just a couple more of these. Matt, I’ll leave it up to you. If you want to take Maxx Chatsko’s comment. I haven’t had a chance to read it.

Matt Cochrane: Yeah, no, no, go ahead and put it up. “Matt used to waste money paying for car washes. Since I joined, he makes me do it. Luckily, my 12 month initiation period is over next month”. Look, first of all, this is a lie. My kids used to do it before Maxx. And they’ll do it after Maxx. But it’s been. So that’s it.

Dan Kline: I never used to get my car washed. But Matt, I’m sure you’ve experienced this if you drive from our area, and we don’t live that close to each other about 45 minutes apart. But if you drive from southern Florida to Orlando, the sheer amount of bugs that die on your car, at certain times of year can be astounding. There’s actually a car windshield wiper at the rest stop that like hoses you down but you have like bug impressions.

So I would say in Connecticut, I probably washed my car once a year for like winter salt reasons. And I actually probably go to a carwash like, sometimes I don’t know two or three times a quarter. Now for that reason. It’s just like, I don’t want to walk out and see like 1000 dead bugs on my car.

@Chris000 says, “mortgage”. Well, in most cases, a mortgage is actually a good deal. And I’ve talked about this, as I’m renting right now, because where we live didn’t make sense for the pandemic we sold it bought our vacation property free and clear. And my wife and I are actually looking at getting back into the housing market. Now the home we live in would probably cause more as a mortgage plus HOA than we’re paying in rent. So in that case, renting is a good deal.

But in most markets, in most cases, you are better off owning a home as long as you’re going to stay there for at least a few years, let’s say five, and you’re in a market that’s reasonably stable. Nobody knows where the housing market is going to go. We’ve obviously had a lot of changes due to the pandemic. But in general, you want to look at the 20 year history of that market and have a reasonably good set of odds that you’re going to make money or get your money back. If you’re going to be in a situation, you might have to move quickly, a mortgage may not be a good idea, Matt, anything you want to add to that one?

Matt Cochrane: No, not really, like the only, a little unrelated, but if we’re talking about wasting money, make sure you don’t waste money on credit card interest rates guys. Like, if you’re not in that situation, like don’t use credit cards, and if you are using them and get those reward points, but make sure you pay them off every month. My goodness, that’s the way I used to waste a lot of money every month. And that was like just changing that like was like one of the better financial decisions we ever made. So make sure you’re not in that credit card debt it will absolutely kill you.

Dan Kline: I pay everything with credit cards almost. But I pay it off, not monthly, pretty much daily, like I will look at my credit cards going, Okay, I’ll just move the cash over. And I say daily, it’s probably three or four times a week, I tend to use my Venture card for most things, though, I have some things that I put on my Amex, because some of the rewards are really good there. My Amex just auto pays once a month, that’s not, you really can’t make multiple payments for that one.

But it’s really important. The other sneaky way people waste money is they don’t focus on their credit score, you really want to focus on your credit score, because your mortgage will be cheaper, your car insurance will be cheaper, your life insurance will be cheaper. There are a lot of things in life that if your credit score is in the seven hundreds, you will pay less for.

And I know in my case about two years ago, I didn’t know that much about credit scores. I knew to look at it. But I sat down with our mutual friend Matt Frankel, who is a CFA so he has some ability to to make recommendations. And he said, wait a minute, you only have two credit cards, one with a $10,000 limit and one with a $1,000 limit, and you use them for everything. So like, you may have $5,000 on your credit, which is gonna kill your credit score because you’re using now it doesn’t matter that it’s $5,000, I’m going to pay off in two days, if somebody runs a credit check on me, they’re gonna see I’m at 50% utilization, that’s really bad. You want to be below 25%, maybe even below 10% regular utilization at any point, someone’s running a credit check on you.

So it wasn’t like I was misusing credit. It was just the case of I didn’t really understand what went into my credit score. When we got our last mortgage. Five years ago, we had run up a bunch of credit card bills, because we just moved so I hadn’t paid off all the movers, it was like seven or $8,000. And I was waiting to pay off until we sold our house in Connecticut. And then I was gonna pay those bills immediately. And my mortgage company said actually, can you pay them now because they’re causing your credit score to be 40 points lower. We believe if you paid them off now, and it did, it went up 40 points. So you really need to understand your money.

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