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Queen of free: Little losses mount up quickly

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No one ever means to overpay. We would never walk up to an individual on the street and beg them to take our hard earned cash or insist we overpay for goods and services.

However, unless we keep a watchful eye on our cash outflow, that’s precisely what can happen. Many times we spend too much every single month (maybe each week) and don’t even realize the impact.

I feel strongly that there are six particular areas that, if not careful, each of us will overspend without even being aware that we’re doing so. Curious?

Leaky Plumbing

That annoying constant dripping just isn’t bad for your psyche, it also effects your checking account. A toilet that runs can nearly double your water bill.

I understand a plumber’s bill seems like a huge upfront expense, especially when what seems like a small problem becomes something much more. However, the amount overspent on your water bill over time far outweighs that bottom line. Either go DIY on that drip or hire someone today.


Odds are good that you’re paying too much for your home, auto or life insurance, especially if you’ve had the same policy for a number of years. Call an independent agent to re-evaluate your plans. See if bundling your policies (purchased more than one from the same company) can reduce your rate. Check for discounts for safe drivers, nonsmokers and good grades.

If you’ve never had a conversation with your agent, today is the day. If for any reason at all, you don’t trust your agent or you feel intentionally confused or beguiled it’s time for a change. A good insurance agent will explain expenses thoroughly so that you can understand, happily answering all your questions.

Late fines, fees

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to pay a late fee? I’m right there with you. They seem so small and inconsequential; however, late fines and service fees add up.

From the Redbox kiosk to the library, returning rental items on time every time requires discipline. Set a reminder on your phone or ink due dates into your calendar to ensure items are brought back before you get blasted with a fee. Carefully check the due dates on bills, too as to not miss an important deadline.

Never, ever, ever use an ATM machine that isn’t from your bank. Most charge a minimum of $3 for withdrawals. If you pull out $20, that’s a 15 percent fee. Who wants to pay 15 percent more money for their own money? The impact might be minimal for a one-time experience, perhaps even necessary in an emergency, but a personal finance practice like this can have a huge impact over time. Go out of your way and be inconvenienced and save the $3 yourself. Before you know it, you’ll have enough for a nice dinner out on the town.

reading your bills

Each month, our bills roll in like clockwork. Typically we pay them without reading the teeny fine print and line item explanations. Not paying attention to your bills can obviously result in late fees, but you just might be overpaying for services, too. From accidental double charges to services that you don’t need or didn’t sign up for, clerical errors abound. Be sure that you pore over your bills so you don’t end up unintentionally poorer than you should be.


If you’ve ever made it to the end of the checkout lane and let some salty language fly in your brain over how much you’ve spent, you know this to be the truth. Shopping without a list or without regard to a running total can wreck your monthly expenses.

Never go to the grocery store without carefully inventorying the items you already have, making a meal plan for the week ahead, and then a list of items you need. It’s also a good idea to avoid the grocery store when you’re hungry or in a hurry to get somewhere else. You’ll end up over-purchasing and picking up items you don’t need or won’t use.


The doctor writes a prescription and the pharmacy fills it. We pick it up based on the drugstore located nearest to our homes. Rarely do we think about getting the best deal or maximizing our dollars. You need to do your homework before picking up those pills. Prices fluctuate from store to store, with each offering their own incentive programs. From free prenatal vitamins and antibiotics to discount cards, evaluate your options.

Call around and price out the prescription. Ask your doctor if there is a generic or over-the-counter alternative for high-priced drugs. Search online for discount cards or coupons for regular prescriptions. These might be available through your particular store or directly from the drug manufacturer’s website. If you do choose to switch pharmacies, ask if the store offers an incentive for transferring a prescription. You may end up with a gift card and saving monthly dollars on a regular expense.

If you’re regularly overspending in these areas, quit it. You wouldn’t offer to give a store more money than necessary.

Change happens in small increments over time. The impact of your dollars carefully watched could yield more than you ever imagine. Your budget will benefit from a watchful eye and intentional living.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net

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