10 Stupid Ways That Smart People Waste Money

Some people are bad with money and they waste it constantly on stupid crap that they can’t afford and they are sad all the time and have no friends… That’s not you.

You’re smart, but even smart people sometimes do stupid things with their money. Smart people are often forgetful, or lazy, or busy, or have enough money that they don’t worry about wasting it. Bad idea! Wasting money is always uncool. Here are a 10 stupid ways that even smart people waste money… and a few ideas for how to stop the leak.

We know that you already know all of this stuff, smarty-pants, so consider this list a reminder…

1) Forgetting To Pay Bills: Smart people are often forgetful. “Did I pay the credit card bill? I don’t know, I was busy curing cancer.”

Late fees suck! Here are some ways to avoid them:

  • Pay all your bills at once on a specific day each month.

  • Set up auto bill pay with your bank (not with your credit card company).
  • Ask someone for help getting organized.
  • Set up a Google alert.
  • Use fewer credit cards so there are fewer bills to pay.
  • Don’t use credit cards at all.

2) Bank Fees:
Overdrafting fees and excessive ATM and other bank fees are easy to accrue and can be hard to avoid, even for smart people.

Here’s how to get organized:

  • Go to the ATM once a week.

  • If you find yourself always using another bank’s ATM, switch to that bank.
  • Build up a small cushion in your checking account so you don’t have to worry so much.
  • Pay attention to how long it takes your bank to process deposits.
  • Keep an eye on your balance.
  • Switch to a bank that offers ATM fee refunds or that has a large free ATM network.
  • Switch to free checking.
  • Don’t buy things that aren’t in your budget.
  • Add things like coffee, lunches and snacks into your budget. They’re easy to forget.

3) Tickets: Some of the smartest people we know can’t seem to avoid traffic and parking tickets. Speeding and parking illegally is a huge waste of money. Here are some tips that will help you avoid giving your hard-earned cash to the man:

  • Dispute parking tickets in court. Bring photos and other evidence.

  • Don’t park illegally! Easier said than done, we know.
  • Speeding doesn’t save much time, but it will cost you money in tickets, insurance and gas. Stay with the flow of traffic; don’t be the fastest guy on the road.
  • Never, ever, ever argue with a police officer or make up stupid excuses. Look remorseful, but don’t admit that you did anything wrong.
  • If you do get a ticket, and you have the opportunity to attend “traffic school” so that it won’t be reported to your insurance company, do it.
  • Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving. Don’t send txt messages while driving. Just drive.
  • Drive less! Take public transportation if you can. You don’t have to worry about where to park a bus.
  • Avoid the city of Chicago, especially during the “street sweeping scam” season.
  • Pay for parking instead of getting a ticket. If a parking ticket is $75 and parking was $20, who is the sucker now?
  • Don’t forget to feed the meter! Set an alarm on your phone if you’re forgetful.

4) Memberships: How many memberships do you have that you don’t use? Gym memberships, museum memberships, cultural center memberships, Netflix memberships… Enough with the memberships!

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your memberships:

  • “Does it save me money?”

  • “Does it support a charity or non-profit? Is it tax deductible? Do I actually deduct it?”
  • “Do I use it?”

If you don’t use that gym membership—cancel it. Better to be fat and rich than fat and poor.

5) Subscriptions: Do you have a large pile of magazines that you’re “going” to read? Cancel them. You’ll never notice they’re gone.

6) Letting food spoil in the fridge: Yes, we know you meant to make it for dinner, but then Betty called and you went to see that new movie and… and…

  • Plan your meals.

  • Buy things you can freeze.
  • Buy dry goods in bulk and produce less often.
  • If a bunch of food is about to go bad, invite all your friends over and cook for them rather than waste it.

7) Wasting Energy: It’s just so hard to turn the lights off…

  • Use powerstrips to turn off lots of things at once.

  • Don’t leave your computer on constantly for no reason.
  • Turn out the lights.
  • If you’re going to sleep with the TV on, don’t sleep with the TV, the XBox 360, the stereo, the Wii, the CD player, the lights…
  • Insulate your home.
  • Plant trees on the sunny side of the house.
  • Don’t leave the air on when no one is home.
  • Turn the heat down during the day.
  • You don’t need to leave the lights on for the cat. Cats can see in the dark.

8) Letting your money sit in a checking account: You could be earning interest in an online savings account. Why just let all your money sit in your checking account? Stop that!

9) Buying DVDs you will never, ever watch, or books you’ll never read, or clothes you will never wear…: When buying something ask yourself: “Will I watch this more than once?” or “Will I actually read this?” or “Do I really still like Rush?” If you answer yes, buy it. If not, don’t.

10) Paying too much for cable: Ask yourself if you watch all the premium channels you pay for. If not get rid of them. Also, ask yourself when was the last time you called up your cable company and threatened to cancel? You should do this every year. It keeps them on their toes.

We have a lot of smart readers, but no one is perfect. Tell us how you stopped your money leaks!


Edit Your Comment

  1. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    So if I’m guilty of all 10, doesn’t that mean I’m smart?

  2. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    I’m really bad about letting vegetables go bad. One they go in the crisper pan I forget all about them. When I think of them again, usually they are a liquid black mess.

    I actually bought a year’s subscription to the local paper to get the weekly coupons in the Sunday paper. Those coupons usually paper for the paper and them some. Especially if you have small kids (diapers) or a pooch (dog food, dog treat coupons).

    • Anonymous says:

      @Dead Wrestlers Society: Dead Wrestler. Tell me you just get the Sunday paper, cause if you are paying for a week’s worth of newspapers just to get the Sunday coupons you are better off just buying the Sunday paper. Just a thought. :)

      ps: I’m the same with the veggies in the fridge. I have the best intentions when I buy them (“I’ll have a salad tomorrow, and a stir-fry on Wednesday…etc.”), then they end up in my compost bin two weeks later.

  3. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    *pay not paper.

  4. ReverseCarpetbagging says:

    I was a sucker for the DVD/Book thing for the longest time until my old man recommended half.com and subsequently sites like bookfinder.com and directtextbook.com. Combine those sites with the coupon/savings sits (bargainist, etc.) and I’ve saved a ton of money. I also found that law school is quick way to immediately kill the whole “reading for fun” thing.

  5. CrunchBite says:

    @public enemy #1: I’m the same way with veggies. I no longer buy anything I can’t freeze since it’ll just end up rotting anyway. It’s not as healthy as fresh stuff, but it is healthier then rotten stuff…

  6. ReverseCarpetbagging says:

    As far as the checking/savings thing, just watch out if you transfer money between your checking and savings account multiple times during a month (or whatever period it may be) because there are apparently federal regulations for how many transfers or payments you can make out of your savings account. HSBC sent me a letter twice. However, if you just set a monthly budget based on your paycheck, etc., and then transfer the excess to your savings, you should be ok. Also, HSBC doesn’t count transfers from checking to savings made at an HSBC ATM.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ReverseCarpetbagging: There is no federal regulation as to the amount of times that you can access any bank account in your name (the only restrictions are on retirement accounts). This may be a policy of your bank, similar to a minimum savings account balance – this is set by your individual bank. If your bank doesn’t let you access your liquid savings account as much as you want, then you might want to change banks to avoid paying the fees they tack on to your “excessive” transactions.

  7. CaptainSemantics says:

    I saved money buying marrying a man who is a whiz with money. He’s not good at spending money effectively, but that’s where my tightwad tendencies come in. We make a great team when it comes to finances. I take care of the groundwork (grocery shopping, buying clothing, etc.) while he’s moving money around in accounts that’s way above my head. Like that crappy poster from high school: “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

  8. CaptainSemantics says:

    @CaptainSemantics: Oh dear, I just read the first sentence. That is a major typo. I promise I did not buy my husband. Why buy when you can get it for free!

  9. Jim says:

    I’d say the woman in the photo above is pretty smart. It appears she bought a talking coffee mug…

  10. gorckat says:

    Don’t leave the air on when no one is home.

    If no one is home for a week, turn it up to like 82-4. If its just a day (like going to work), a few degrees higher than your normal setting is ok.

    Turning it off completely, especially during periods of high humidity, can cause central air to have to start all over dropping the humidity and then shifting heat outta the house.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @gorckat: Just improving on that one, buy a digital-timer thermostat to set your heat & a/c. For about 40-50 bucks you can get one that lets you set temperatures for specific times for every day of the week. They aren’t much trouble to install.

      Then you won’t have to worry about remembering every day.

  11. 11) Stop buying seasonal decoration crap for Halloween, Christmas, & etc.


  12. vonskippy says:

    Uh, most smart people realize that obsessing over nickels and dimes doesn’t pay over the long run. Saving a $100-$200 bucks a month doesn’t add up to “lets retire to St. Croix type money” anytime soon. My time is valuable (both professionally and personally) so if I save time but waste a few bucks – big freaking deal. At the end of the day, I’ll miss the time, at the end of the year, I won’t miss the two grand or so I “might” have saved.

  13. filmsnack says:

    Gosh, I sure would love to avoid parking in Chicago, particularly during April-November, but unfortunately, both my job and my apartment are located here.

    Thankfully, Chicago has a super-stellar public transportation system, which totally isn’t going bankrupt at the same time that it’s both raising fare prices and cutting services. Whew!

    (I have lived in Chicago for four years and have received exactly two parking tickets, both in the first year, when I lived near Wrigley Field. I agree that the street cleaning system is a total racket, but it IS possible to keep an eye out for those bright orange signs.)

    • cozynite says:

      @filmsnack: Yeah, I kind of laughed at that one myself. But the city has gotten better at putting the signs up on every tree on the block to let you know what day street cleaning is. People just need to read properly.

  14. AnnC says:

    I don’t understand why one should not setup auto pay for one’s credit card with the credit card company. If you pay the entire balance every month (as every smart person should) then only the credit card company will know the balance you have. The bank wouldn’t know how much you owe.

  15. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @AnnC: if you aren’t on a regular pay schedule, like you work on commissions, you need a little more flexibility than auto bill pay offers.

  16. clementine says:

    Medical bills tend to get high. If your doctor tells you to lose weight to avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., try and get it done. It’s rough, I’m trying to do it myself; but I don’t want to be like the rest of my family with their lines of pill bottles that they have to take every day. They tell me how much each prescription costs and that is scaring me more than the diseases themselves.

  17. AnnC says:

    @vonskippy: uh, at $200 a month, that $2400 a year. If you have more than 20 years until retirement then you can retire to St. Croix. I realize 20 years is not a “anytime soon” but retirement isn’t meant for anytime soon. There’s too many people trying to get rich so they can stop working.

  18. not_seth_brundle says:

    @filmsnack: I have to say, the CTA is an enormous PITA, but driving and parking around here is even worse. At least for me, considering where I live (Boystown) and work (the Loop).

  19. Murph1908 says:

    I keep seeing, “Don’t admit to anything” when getting pulled over. I haven’t gotten a ticket in about 12 years. The few times I have been pulled over since, I did not try to BS and say I had no idea why. I admitted to it, apologized, and was respectful, and was let off with a warning.

    When you were going 80 in the 65, and you get pulled over, “No officer, I don’t know why,” seems downright silly.

  20. AnnC says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Many credit card companies have the option to auto pay the full , the minimum, or any specified amount. Some also have onetime payments. I’m not sure what banks can offer that would be better for credit card payments.

  21. stubblyhead says:

    Avoid the city of Chicago, especially during the “street sweeping scam” season.

    How intriguing, please elaborate.

  22. not_seth_brundle says:

    @AnnC: I think some people are wary of giving their credit card companies their bank account info–for privacy or security reasons or just to maintain control over their bank accounts.

  23. enm4r says:

    I’m glad Chicago was pointed out. I have two tickets right now I need to settle from a couple months ago. I swear signs go up the morning of cleaning, or the night before. One of them was legitimately my fault, I left town for a couple days (I would still like to see at least 2-3 days notice at the very least, but I wont ask for too much) and got a ticket for cleaning. The second one I literally saw half my block get tickets for. It’s ridiculous, and no one can ever point me to any rules about how much notice they have to give.

    I’m still waiting to hear how my contest goes, but that’s another story, because contesting a ticket here is like playing slots, you have just as likely chance at getting it dropped whether it was a legit ticket or not.

    But at least I got notice today that my CTA pass is going to be more expensive starting next month! Yay.

  24. filmsnack says:

    @stubblyhead: Many neighborhoods in Chicago have temporary orange signs that they put up on trees from approximately April-November in place of permanent street cleaning periods. You can roughly expect them to go up every 4-5 weeks, but there seems to be no set schedule, and the department responsible for street cleaning is notorious for putting them up at the very last minute.

    @not_seth_brundle: Agreed. When I lived near Wrigley, I would try to use my car only for groceries and the occasional trip to the suburbs.

  25. mrmysterious says:

    Wow, that article hit the nail on the freakin’ head. I’m guilty for all except the tickets.

  26. Pasketti says:

    @AnnC: As a general rule, NEVER allow your creditors access to your bank account. That means things like utilities and gym memberships, too.

    It means that they have the power to deduct however much they think you owe them. If they screw up, and think you owe more than you really do, or if you have a dispute over something, then they’ll have your money for however long it takes to get it straightened out.

    Doing it through your bank means that you control when and how much money gets sent.

  27. betatron says:

    I learned how to cook. Really cook, with ingredients. Not craft dinner and cheetos. I lost weight, my mad food skilz are the envy of all my friends, and my food bill plummeted. I cook what i buy and eat what i cook and freeze leftovers and eat them later.

    I’m mindful of what i buy at which grocer, as there’s a *500%* difference on some identical item prices between my two faves.

    I buy my very expen$ive cookware at thrift stores for 2~6% retail.

    I dumped cable.

    I made a point to be within biking distance of work and i cyclecommute year-round (west suburban chicagoland, fwiw). Cycle commmuting leverages frugality by limiting impulse visits/spending on the way home from work. (i.e. no more let’s go to best buy and buy something!)

    I switched to compact fluorescents for 90% of my house when Menards had them on sale super cheep.

  28. Pasketti says:

    We installed a motion-sensor light switch in the kitchen. Walk in, the lights go on. Walk out, and they go off after a couple minutes. Before, that light would stay on almost all the time, because we’d either leave via the exit that didn’t have the switch, or because we’d assume that we’d be right back.

  29. theWolf says:


    There are also some neighborhoods which have regular street-sweeping (eg the third Thursday of every month).

    The random street-sweeping is the worst though. There have been many occasions in which I have come home from out of town to find my car ticketed for street sweeping that I, naturally, had no idea was coming. They generally put the signs out a day or two before. And they’ll ticket you multiple times for the same offense. It’s a ridiculous revenue-generating scam.

    The neighborhoods in which parking is at a premium (Lakeview, Ravenswood, Lincoln Park, etc)have much more street-sweeping than the outlying neighborhoods where everyone has a garage. Odd, that.

  30. theWolf says:


    Ha, I need that for my wife, who excels at entering a room, turning on lights, tv, etc, then leaving. I’m starting to think that she is getting paid under the table by ComEd.

  31. protest says:

    that cable tip is right on. i recently called comcast for the first time in a year to ask about getting basic (really basic, like $12 a month basic) cable. the lady told me she found a year long promotion for me that would let me keep my digital cable and save $20/month. sweet, except i wonder how long i’ve been paying more than i needed to.

  32. enm4r says:

    @theWolf: This (wo)man tells the truth. I went from west lincoln park in an apt complex that was mostly around single family homes with garages that averaged cleaning once every couple months to East Lakeview where there isn’t a garage to be found where cleaning is every 3-5 weeks, on a completely irregular schedule. Sometimes both sides, sometimes one with the other the next day, it’s out of control, and trying to ask ahead of time if you’re going on vacation wont get you anywhere, no one knows anything until it’s too late and you have 2 tickets.

    The worst thing has to be the “cleaning” that happened a couple weeks ago. My apt faces the street, so I’d have heard any cleaning going on. Signs went up on a Wednesday night, “cleaning” Friday. They came through with the tickets sure enough, but no street sweep every came through. It’s a complete scam and everyone knows it.

  33. spinachdip says:

    Easy for me to say, living in a city with half decent public transit, but owning a car is pretty stupid for most people.

    1. If you can take the subway or bus to work/school (or even better, walk – you need 40 minutes of exercise a day anywa) and only need a car to run errands, sell your car and sign up for car sharing. I figured that even if I drop $40 a week and $50 a year on Zipcar, it’s still cheaper than paying for gas, insurance and maintenance myself.

    2. If you really, really, really need a car to get to work/school, you’re lazy/disabled/in the middle of nowhere. Chances are, riding a bike to work won’t add that much time to your commute (and may actually shave a few minutes).

  34. Cowboys_fan says:

    Depending on circumstances, it can be advantageous to pay your bills late. A college professor once told us a story of a company(I can’t remember which) who decided to pay all their bills 3 days late every month for a year(basically before the substantial late fees kick in) and at years end, profited over $1 million in interest earned over those 3 days.
    I am guilty on 5 out of 10, so I guess I’m only 1/2 smart.

  35. ivieso says:

    HI, I am gulity of 7. I leave my desk light on at night when I sleep. It is very bright. I only do it because I am afraid of ghost. Serious.

  36. cabedrgn says:

    What kills me on my banking is number dyslexia. I don’t know how many times I’ll stare at my balance and swear up and down it states 192 when its 129. I’m not talking about a quick glance either, its a long 2min stare trying to figure out where the 36 dollars came from. Typically happens when I’m tired, if I’m really tired it happens when I read but not as bad as numbers.

  37. deanfortytwo says:

    I’m 8 for 10 on this list. I don’t subscribe to anything, and my power is included in my rent, but I still way overspend. Just keeping track of everything you spend- I do it in an excel file- really helps. It all adds up so fast, and seeing that really helps curb the addiction, or whatever it is.

  38. Rupan says:

    @spinachdip: Sorry but I have to disagree there. Whether or not you need a car depends on a lot of things.

    Take me for instance. I live in the burbs of Detroit. Because of the whole “Auto Capital of the World” mentality around here there is an absolute need for a car. Public transportation is non existant and there is no way I could ride a bike to work because I have to dress business casual at a minimum. A polo and sweat stains doesnt cut it.

    If I had another choice I would take it in an instant.

  39. racermd says:

    @spinachdip: “2. If you really, really, really need a car to get to work/school, you’re lazy/disabled/in the middle of nowhere. Chances are, riding a bike to work won’t add that much time to your commute (and may actually shave a few minutes).”

    I completely disagree. In the Mpls/St. Paul metro area, the public transportation situation is abysmal (but, I admit, getting better). Of the 11 people in my department at work, only 3 live within reasonable walking/biking distance (under 3 miles). I’m the next closest person at 10.0 miles. While there *is* bus service – heck, there’s a bus depot just 3 blocks from the office and another just 4 blocks from my home – the schedule doesn’t run late enough for any of us to actually use it for evening transportation.

    As for biking/walking the 10 miles? Please… In my car, the morning commute takes 15 minutes and the evening commute is about 20 (I also admit that it’s mostly highway and against the regular rush-hour flows). There’s no way that riding a bicycle is going to be faster than that. If anything, the commute times will go up to at least an hour each way. Forget about trying to ride through the snowdrifts in January.

    I don’t live ‘in the middle of nowhere’, nor am I particularly lazy. Public transportation just doesn’t work out well enough and the bike ride turns out to be an average workout for a triathlete.

  40. spinachdip says:

    @Rupan: I admit, I was painting with an incredibly broad brush. But too many people who think they’re dependent on cars simply haven’t considered the alternative seriously enough. I can definitely see that Detroit is a notable exception.

    So yeah, I’ve exaggerated a little and am now backtracking.

  41. Vicky says:

    @ReverseCarpetbagging: I am perplexed by the federal regulations on the number of transfers to/from your savings account. What is that all about? I got hit with a $10 fee at WAMU one month and the teller told me “federal law prohibits me from refunding that fine.”

  42. mac-phisto says:

    on #1 – sometimes things get a little tight & you cannot avoid a late fee. in those instances, it’s good to prioritize bills based on late fees. for example, a credit card may charge you $40 to pay late whereas your electric co. might only charge 1% of the bill (on a $150 bill, that’s $1.50).

  43. JayXJ says:


    Sure that works for normal, sane jobs. If you work crazy hours or you’re on call, especially if your city’s public transit leaves something to be desired (Louisville area has a ways to go), you HAVE to have a car.

    Besides who doesn’t ENJOY driving? I feel sorry for the people that do not. It is one of life’s simplest pleasures.

  44. GearheadGeek says:

    @spinachdip: You predicted responses like mine. It’s nice that you live in a city with decent public transport. You probably live in a sufficiently dense neighborhood that it’s convenient to walk to the grocery store, too. Kudos for you. When I lived in Milano, I could walk to the grocery store and I took the Metro to work (when they weren’t having a strike.) I liked both of those conveniences.

    Here, it’s 1.5 miles to the nearest grocery store (on the other side of a busy interstate highway with no pedestrian-friendly crossing, and summer highs in the upper 90s are the norm.) It’s even farther if you want something besides groceries, and no I don’t live in a suburb. The nearest ZipCar location is 992 miles from my house, which is not exactly useful, to say nothing of convenient.

    I’m not saying you can’t plan communities for significantly less dependence in the automotbile. Even as a car enthusiast, I think that would be a great idea (assuming Americans would cooperate with the plan.) In much of the US it’s extremely inconvenient to live without a car. It’s not the first thing I’d cut out of my budget.

  45. burgundyyears says:

    Re 10: Just cancel cable completely. If you like TV-based programming, get a Netflix subscription (or, god forbid, Blockbuster subscription). Even a subscription that lets you have an absurd number of discs at a time is probably a lot cheaper than your cable TV bill.

  46. drjayphd says:

    @spinachdip: In re #2: Well, you’re wrong. I admit I’m an outlier, but as a sportswriter, there’s no freaking way I’m biking to road games that are a good 40 miles off. And bouncing between two offices that are also about 25 miles apart. Is it safe to say I exist just to counter the whole “public transport or bicycles uber alles” crowd? ;)

  47. “Cats can see in the dark.”

    My cats can’t! But they only have one eye each.

    I’m bad about #9 (buying DVDs/books/etc). I do watch and read them, usually more than once, but this IS why God gave us libraries and I AM out of storage space already! Sheesh!

    @spinachdip: “If you really, really, really need a car to get to work/school, you’re lazy/disabled/in the middle of nowhere.”

    I live in a city. I work 6 mile from home. The only way to get there is to cross the mile-wide river is on an expressway where bikes are illegal. The next bridge, a few miles downstream, is also expressway. I think it’s about 8 miles downstream before there’s one bikes are legal on, and it’s not real safe. Am I lazy, disabled, or in the middle of nowhere?

  48. brendanm14 says:

    I am so glad i purchased all of those DVDs that I thought I was going to watch over and over in college. They are just taking up space in a cabinet….half.com here i come!

  49. mac-phisto says:

    @Vicky: it’s called regulation d. it’s complicated, but basically, the fed requires banks to create a “capital reserve” of funds on deposit in the event they become insolvent. think of it as an insurance policy. the calculation that determines how much needs to go into this fund varies based on “transactional” (checking/line of credit) & “non-transactional” (savings/certificates/money markets) accounts. if a non-transactional account exceeds 6 electronic transfers/month, then it is deemed to be a transactional account. the bank must then manipulate its “capital reserve” ratios, which quite frankly is a huge pain in the ass.

    so, essentially you can think of this as a “you’re being a huge pain in the ass” fee.

  50. nardo218 says:

    I indulge my book habit at library book sales and thrift stores. The library sells yellowing or raggedy books for ten cents, decent quality paperbacks for fifty cents, and hardbound books for $1, which I never buy. Even better, I volunteer at the library book sale and at the end of the month, when we pull the books that didn’t sell, I go on a spree of books bound for the dump.

    At a thrift store, I got a gorgeous leather bound Crime and Punishment at a thrift store for $2. The library supplements its meager fundage with the book sale, and the thrift store benefits the hospital that’s letting me use their psych services free.

  51. freshyill says:

    Here’s one: Don’t ever let them “attach” anything to your purchases at Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. The cables that come in the box are junk, but you don’t need to buy $100 Monster cables at Best Buy. You can get something just as good for 1/10 the prices at monoprice.com.

  52. HungryGrrl says:

    Being smart means you’re too busy to pay bills, too busy to cook (but not too busy to grocery shop), too busy to read magazines or books (but not too busy to buy them), and too busy to watch movies or cable TV?

  53. spinachdip says:

    Again, I concede, I was way off with “lazy/disabled/middle of nowhere” thing. I should have also included “an area with poor urban planning”, which is to say, most of America.

    I wasn’t out to insult the drivers out there, but to point out that owning a car is very, very expensive, and it’s at least worth considering the alternatives. And it’s definitely worth keeping in mind if you’re relocating and calculating the difference in wages and cost of living.

    And another thing I noticed after going carless is that my sense of distance changed. I used to drive just to get to the store around the corner. Now, walking a couple of miles isn’t that big a deal, and I’ve learned to be efficient with my errands. The added bonus is that I only buy what I can carry, so I’m less likely to buy stuff I don’t need at the grocery store.

  54. swalve says:

    If this is what “smart” people do to waste money, I’d hate to see what stupid people do…

    This list was fine until you titled it as for “smart” people. Because you’re not very smart if you do these things.

  55. SportsCentre says:

    I called my cable provider (Cox), threatened to cancel, asked if there was any discount at all they could give me, and I got nothing.
    What gives?

  56. @Rupan: I know what you mean – I don’t live in Detroit, but biking to work in power suits and heels just doesn’t sound like fun.

    Many small cities, like mine, don’t have decent public transportation. And I really enjoy the luxury of hopping in my car and going wherever I want to on my own schedule. Maintaining my car is really the least of my expenses, and I really can’t see going without it for the $50 a month in insurance and the $60 or so in gas I spend.

    My shoe and bag habit is a much worse financial drain – but I still don’t go into debt over it.

  57. Because you’re not very smart if you do these things.

    @swalve: You’re not very smart about your money. You can be smart when it comes to other things and be dumb with money.

    @brendanm14: What titles ya got?

  58. mac-phisto says:

    @spinachdip: you know what gets me? when someone who only owns a bike is constantly hounding people for rides.

    no lie – i know a kid who literally has an anniversary party every year b/c he stopped driving a car. problem is, he plays drums in a band. not exactly easy to load a trap set onto the back of a bike. so, he spends half his day coaxing people into giving him rides to his gigs. now get this – he gives me flak one day b/c i offered him a ride & my 2-door coupe doesn’t have room for his drums, his bike & him. why do you need to bring your bike if i’m giving you a ride, asshole? b/c i need it. wish you told me you didn’t drive a bigger car when you offered to give me a ride.

    oh, sorry dick. i’ll be sure to keep the leeches in mind next time i’m looking to buy.

  59. ikes says:

    “Don’t leave your computer on constantly for no reason”

    pfffft. those torrents aren’t gonna seed themselves!

  60. nctrnlboy says:

    I am only guilty of 6 & 7.

    Letting food spoil… I sometimes buy food & then just dont feel like eating it & I put it off for too long (right now I have several red baron pizzas in the freezer I should throw out). I get some food free so it didnt cost me anything (had to throw out 3 lbs of hamburger & some breakfast sausage yesterday).

    Its laziness…. its easier to stop off & get some fast food on the way home from work than to cook. Yeah, I realize fast food is very expensive, but it is one of the few luxuries I allow myself.

    I also am lazy about turning down the AC when it gets a tad too cold. This last month’s electricity bill was over $60 (its usually at about $32) …. I was quite pissed at myself.

    Everything else like cable, subscriptions, bank fees, paying bills late, traffic tickets, extra $ languishing in checking account, buying things i wont use like dvds books etcetc….. I am pretty anal about so I am not guilty of those.

  61. lunatiq says:

    “Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving. Don’t send txt messages while driving. Just drive.”

    I wish I had a dime for every person I’ve seen in Chicago driving one-handed, the other hand keeping a cell phone plastered to their ear. Let me count the ways:

    1) Mommy in a Prius on the Lake Shore Drive on-ramp from Ohio. Her car went BAM! on the curb, PSSST! from the tire, and she stared straight at me as if it were my fault (I was in the right lane). I had to tell her through an open window that her left front tire was flat thanks to making her car jump 2½ feet off the curb (yes, that was a curb). She STILL had her cellphone plastered to her ear, young kid in back seat screaming.

    2) Cabbie decides to turn left .. front the rightmost lane. Too bad I was doing 30 MPH in the left lane, going straight. I applied brakes, loud dying-cat noises emerge from my wheels, cabbie (still holding phone to ear) doesn’t even look in my direction but SLAMS the brakes. I guess he was looking at the cop on the corner waving the cab over so he could write an expensive ticket.

    3) SUV makes lane crossing while navigating two-lane left turn. I’m on a scooter. I lay on the horn (with both my brakes under my full weight). SUV driver, with cellphone plastered to left ear, doesn’t notice, and completes the left-lane-to-right-lane crossover mid-turn. She yells at me for giving her the finger and cussing at her. Yeah, it was only *MY* life at risk. Thanks.

    Not even a hands-free device would have helped. DWD (driving while distracted) should be a criminal offense.

  62. Jesse in Japan says:

    I like number 6. Give your friends food poisoning! Good times!

  63. veronykah says:

    @Murph1908: You are so right. I was pulled over MANY MANY times for speeding and NEVER got a ticket. I always agreed with the officer and told him how stupid I was and I would never EVER do it again. Worked every time.
    Now in my wee bit older age, I just try to not speed TOO much…I do live in California after all so its not like I can drive the speed limit.

  64. Chicago7 says:

    Library, people, LIBRARY.

    Free books, movies, music, books on tape or CD, free museum passes.

    Go, LIBRARY!

  65. Trai_Dep says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: “Cats can see in the dark.”

    My cats can’t! But they only have one eye each.

    Good gods, do you play catch with them using darts?!

    Wait, so can cats see in complete dark? We always leave one light on for them. Figure if I can switch it off then in a couple years, we’ll buy them that BB gun for Christmas they’re nagging us about…

  66. palaste says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I like to have air in my apartment all the time.

  67. G-Dog says:

    I is smart! I is pay $10 a month for cable, make up for not as many picture numbers with Blockbuster mail service.

  68. @mac-phisto: People still give him rides after attending his, “Hey I ain’t gotta car!” parties?

    wish you told me you didn’t drive a bigger car
    Why would anyone assume that someone drives a big car? That doesn’t make any sense. He needs someone to cart around his stuff but can’t be bothered to ask if that person’s car is big enough?

  69. cheesyfru says:

    @vonskippy: If you start saving $100/mo at the age of 20 and you invest it in the stock market with average historical returns, by the time you’re 60 you’d have $867,896. Save $200/mo and you’d have a cool $1,735,792. Smart people understand the power of compound interest.

  70. melmoitzen says:

    “Don’t forget to feed the meter.”

    Meter-feeding in most areas is its own violation, often with fines similar to letting the meter expire.

    The municipality’s point of having a meter that allows a maximum of, say, two hours is that you move your car after two hours so someone else can park there. And around here (D.C.), I get a major fix of schadenfreude watching people learn this for the first time. Read the signs!

  71. mac-phisto says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: yeah, no kidding. he charges a $20 cover for those parties too. the guy’s pretty much just an asshole. classic “i’m doing you a favor just by being here” kind of guys.

    moral of the story is, before you ditch the expense of a motor vehicle (or any expense for that matter), make sure your life can accommodate the lack thereof.

    & don’t be an asshole.

  72. nukethewhalesagain says:

    What do you guys mean by “calling up the cable company and threaten to cancel”? It sounds like a good idea but what exactly should I say? Could you guys elaborate?

  73. brianary says:

    Bah! Capitalism isn’t a meritocracy, it’s an MBA-ocracy.

  74. othium says:


    I also live in the same area. My job transferred me to a new location that made the bus ride over three hours long each day. I moved to a better apartment in Saint Paul (Cathedral Hill area – I love it!) and now the ride to work takes 30-40 minutes. Still have a car, but it stays parked unless I need it for emergencies/longer trips and also if I find a better job that may require a drive to commute.

    The public transportation system in Mpls/St. Paul is pretty bad, but I agree it’s getting better each year. I did notice the drivers do kick off unruly passengers more often and it’s much safer to ride now..

  75. hugh_jass says:

    Here are my tips for saving money:

    – Grow a garden, even if it’s on your window sill, then if your veggies spoil, it didn’t cost as much.

    – If you have a cell phone check if the cost of getting more minutes is less than your home phone.. why have both?

    – NEVER through clothes away (unless they are worn out), everything comes back into style eventually.

    – Replaces all your bulbs with energy efficient ones, I save $20/mth after I did that.

    – I make HUGE batches of food and then freeze. It gives me more food on hand and a full freezer takes up less energy than an empty one. (side note: buy good tupperware to freeze it in, cheap stuff needs to be replaced too often and eats up your savings) I bought a pickling pot to make chili in, my last batch yielded 80 servings. It worked out to about $2-$3 a serving (including tupperware).

    – Make your own beer/wine.. super cheap. I can make wine at $3 a bottle… word of caution: you tend to drink more when you have a crap load of wine laying around.

    – Don’t be stingy with certain items, I used to buy all my clothes at walmart until I noticed nothing lasted more than a year. I pay 3x what I used to pay for clothes but they last 5-10 years.

    – Some satelite companies allow family members to share one bill. My parents, sister and myself all have dishes and share one package. My parents pay the bill and my sister and I pay my parents. Read the small print to find out.

  76. Mr. Gunn says:

    Definitely learn to cook.

    About the parking thing – everybody knows that certain spots are hotspots for getting parking tickets, but not many people realize that there are also cold spots. If you can find one of these spots(and this thread assumes you’re smart, right?), you can park there for an extended period of time with little risk. For example, if there’s a 10% chance per day you’ll get a $20 ticket in a cold spot, you’re looking at ~$60/month. That’s cheaper than a monthly contract in most metropolitan areas, and there are also ways of increasing the likelihood that the ticket, once written, never gets entered into the system or gets entered improperly. I’m not going to divulge my secrets, though, because they’re saving me about $90 a month currently, and I don’t want the loophole to be closed.

  77. Mr. Gunn says:

    Replacing bulbs with CFLs, canceling your home phone, and engineering proper ventilation for your house so the AC doesn’t run constantly are also good tips that are pretty much universally applicable.

  78. Trai_Dep says:

    Regards the move-car-don’t-just-feed-the-meters-past-the-posted-limit comments, traffic cops aren’t psychic. They know who’s been camping past the (say) 2-hr mark because they chalk your tire.

    The trick is when the traffic cop isn’t looking wipe the mark away. If you’re good, you can do it w/o it looking wiped. If you’re not, roll your car forward a foot or so after you wipe. Or back and forth, depending on how clean the road is.

  79. @trai_dep: LOL, no, they came that way from the shelter. Actually, the first one, who was an abandoned kitten, was SO UGLY between the starvation and the mangled missing eye that the shelters wouldn’t take him and we got him privately through a friend who was an ER vet because she didn’t want to see him put down. Then when we thought he needed a buddy, we saw this one-eyed cat at the shelter who was past his “kill-by” date (they only kept them 30 days at that shelter) and we said, “Well, we already know how that works” so we went and brought him home too. They’d kept him alive extra long because he is the SWEETEST cat on the planet, but being an adult with one eye and no tail, he was kind-of a hard sell to adopt out. His primary goal in life is to curl up next to sleeping people and purr like crazy.

    But yeah, there’s a bit of special care. They’re a little more anxious than normal about making jumps, they’re a little leery of wandering around in the dark, and we have to be careful when they get colds (because they get eye gunk and when you only have 1 eye you have to watch in case that turns to an infection). Also if you’re throwing a ball for them and throw it past the no-eye side, they have NO IDEA where it went and the game is over.

  80. Weyrlady says:


    Ok – I LIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Outstate Minnesota really means, if it doesn’t happen in Mpls/St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth, International Falls, St. Cloud – it’s only their imagination!

    My husband works 20 miles west of our town, and the closest towns I can get a job are: 40 miles east, 30-50 miles north or 30 miles south………….

    Unfortunately, bicycling and/or motorcycling in the Northern Plains is not an option from say October to as late as May……..unless you really like being found frozen as stiff as a popsicle!

  81. CoffeeAddict says:

    I’m guilty of all ten from time to time. Some I actually have been working on for two reasons saving money and saving the environment. Some of the bills are unavoidable, unless my boss pays me more and I don’t have to dip into overdraft. All of the recommendations are awesome and some I will definately put into practice.

  82. sakanz says:

    Apparently those energy-saver bulbs use less energy. Not sure if the increased price of the bulb makes up for the difference. The company says they do but I always take what a company says about their own product with a grain of salt. You could probably save money and use up less energy (for the eco-friendly consumer) if what the box is true though.

  83. JanetCarol says:

    To help not let fresh fruit/veggies spoil. We make a weekly menu and only buy what we need every weekend for the following week. It helps. Yes, it occasionally sucks going to the grocery every week, but nothing goes bad and we don’t over spend.

  84. j12 says:

    Only guilty of the food one. Pretty happy right now, no debt. Always pay credit cards off on time. And even though i want a new car, the 20 year old one is running fine. Another good tip is to not buy new cars. Used cars are much cheaper and you can haggle to a much lower price. This actually goes for anything. Try to get it used, browse craigslist and especially forums. Some people on forums are very flexible with their prices.

  85. Christi Berner says:

    Here’s a good idea – we always feel we have a lot of money when we are holding $100 cash on hand, right? Well, that is the same and KNOWING that we have that same $100 in our checking account, but it’s sure easier to spend it with that VISA. If your out to go buy clothes, food, stamps or even a coffee, pay in cash. Cash in hand is a lot harder to let go than that VISA card. Also, actually MAKING a budget helps. If we budget X amount for __, then we know: Well, I can’t buy that because I only have $26 bucks left in that envelope for the monthly budget.

  86. necoates says:

    The thing they don’t tell you about the energy saver bulbs is that they have a small amount of mercury in them, so while they do save some energy in the short term, in the long term the disposal is going to be an issue.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Use E-savings instead of regular savings accounts. Most banks have an electroninc savings program that pays higher returns than regular savings. The catch is that you do your transfers etc. electronically to save utilizing a real person. Cheaper for the bank, better return for you. Ask your bank about E-savings.