Ask a foreigner to describe the archetypal American and you'd most likely hear a none too flattering depiction of Americans as materialistic, arrogant, wasteful, and well-known for being an overtly consumer society. As Americans, we have the right to object to these insulting descriptions, and we use that right, as we should! However, the truth is that we (yes, even you) do end up leaving a surprising amount of money on the table in a variety of ways.
Bank fees, indulging in conveniences, and a whole slew of small behaviors we partake of as a society involve wasteful money habits.
Making subtle changes in our lifestyle can greatly diminish the amount of money we waste, and can result in having more financial security down the road.
Check out the following and see if any of the figures surprise you! Make it a challenge, and pick at least one item to cut back on.
20. Credit card interest
Currently, the average credit card debt per U.S. household is $15,270, and in total, Americans owe $856.9 billion in credit card debt, based on American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics as of January 2014.
The 39 percent of Americans who carry credit card debt from month to month often need help affording expenses such as unemployment, college expenses for a child, and out of pocket medical expenses.
If you carry an unpaid balance, it's worth considering whether you're a consumer who needs assistance, or if you're simply spending beyond your means.
19. Unclaimed tax refunds
The statistics on unclaimed tax refunds are staggering, as H&R Block's "Get Your Billion Back America" campaign shares.
According to the tax company, Americans who do their own taxes (56 million people), end up collectively leaving $1 billion on the table. Each self-filer leaves behind $460 on average.
18. Unclaimed property
Many Americans actually have revenue they carelessly leave unclaimed.
Property of value you claim can include checks, stocks, checking accounts, insurance payments, certificates of deposit, and anything else of value.
17. Deal sites
Dave Ramsey, money management expert and radio personality, describes the drawbacks of deal websites most accurately with this quote from his list of things Americans waste money on:
"Hey, remember that time we bought a laser hair-removal deal for 78 percent off from that start-up place all the way across town and used it for the full amount and within the specified time limit? Neither do we."
16. Wasted food
According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans waste $165 billion annually by tossing away unwanted snacks and meals. The math works out to approximately $529 per person each year.
15. Bad health habits
Though soda and candy are delicious snacks, they do lower your quality of health and increase your consumption of non-beneficial food.
Americans spent $2.8 billion on candy last Halloween alone, and an annual $117 billion on fast food. Nearly half of Americans drink soda daily.
14. Speedy shipping
Though there is a time and a place for emergency fast shipping, speedy shipping for the sake of getting your hands on your newest purchase as soon as possible is a habit that can burn a hole in your wallet.
13. ATM fees
Using an ATM of a different bank can sometimes be unavoidable. However, it's still important to know the average cost that comes with this convenience.
Current measures are not yet available, but in 2011 the average hit out-of-network ATM users took was $3.81. The annual total amount for ATM fees in 2010 was $7 billion.
12. Designer clothing for babies or children
All parents want their children to look beautiful, but spending money on costly designer clothing is a bit of a moot point.
Kids outgrow their shoes and clothes quickly, and they tend to get them messy too.
Did you know the average American loses almost $400 per year to gambling?
According to one study, 27.1 percent of gamblers who reported spending over 5 percent of their gross family income monthly, also report experiencing serious problems because of their gambling habit, including health problems, high debts, financial issues, or guilt and other negative emotions.
To give an idea of how lucrative gambling havens are, casinos earned a gross revenue of $125 billion in 2010.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American consumer dedicates 1 percent of all their spending to alcohol, or about $1 of every $100!
When absorbing this information, consider this: the Bureau of Labor Statistics says Americans may not necessarily be drinking out more, rather, they are being charged more.
Between the years of 1982 and 2011, there was a 79 percent increase in alcohol pricing in restaurants and bars (adjusted for inflation).
Tobacco products are expensive by themselves, let alone with tax added. In New York State, where taxes on tobacco are high, low-income smokers spend approximately one quarter of their income on cigarettes.
The national average, though less expensive, is still surprising: 14 percent of Americans' incomes are spent on cigarettes, rounding out to roughly one-seventh of their total income.
8. Unused gift cards
Most people enjoy getting money the most as a gift -- after all, you can use it for whatever you like! After money, gift cards are also a popular choice, or so you might have thought.
It turns out, that by one estimate, $41 billion worth of gift cards went unredeemed from 2005 to 2011. In 2012, TowerGroup, a research organization, cited that approximately $2 billion worth of gift cards would go unredeemed that year as well.
When gift cards expire, unredeemed, their value gets absorbed by retailers and the states in which the card was sold. In 2008, New York State collected $9.6 million in unused gift cards.
7. Warranties that cost as much as the product
Buying a warranty can be good sense, and certainly worth it when a new product you've come to love and depend on breaks. However, according to a recent report from Consumer Reports, most products don't break during the two to three year time span covered by an average service plan.
Also, Consumer Reports says that retailers keep 50 percent or more of what you charge for warranty plans.
6. Unused gym memberships
Believe it or not, there aren't many statistics on how many gym memberships go on used annually in the U.S.
However, the International Health, Racquet, & Sportsclub Association released a statistic stating that gyms sell memberships with the expectation that only 18 percent of people will use their membership on a consistent basis.
5. Lottery tickets
According to CNN, Americans spent $66.5 billion on lottery tickets in 2011, an increase of nearly 10 percent from the year before.
It turns out, lottery ticket sales have increased every single year since their inception in the very first state lottery in 1965.
The Huffington Post claims a person's chance of winning the lottery on a single ticket is one in 175 million. The odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime, being injured by a toilet this year, getting killed by a shark, and killed by an asteroid or comet are much more likely.
4. Speeding and traffic tickets
Did you know that one in every six Americans is fined a speeding ticket every year? That equates to roughly 41 million tickets a year, and 100,000 tickets per day according to Mr.Ticket.
Most experts agree that the cost of a speeding ticket varies depending on location and offense, but the average cost is $150 (including court fees).
3. Premium cable packages
Premium cable packages can be pricy, with an HBO subscription alone costing between $15 to $19.99 a month, though larger cable packages usually give customers a discount. However, in our post on things you should always haggle for, cable packages are listed!
2. Daily coffee trips
According to a recent survey of American workers by Accounting Principals, Americans who regularly buy coffee throughout the week spend on average, $1,092 on coffee annually.
1. Wasted energy
Based on annual home energy costs, Business Insider estimates that Americans throw away $443 billion on wasted energy, and government-supported Energy Star says consumers can cut energy costs by a third if they use the recommendations and suggestions on their to-do list.
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