A new study has revealed that we waste a combined £17.6 billion every year on what it is calling 'money leaks'. These are things like takeaways, snacks, coffees and ready meals, which cost us £360 each.
The study, by Gocompare found that the biggest money leak is takeaway meals (which one in four of us are guilty of), followed by paying for lunch or snacks while at work, buying satellite TV subscriptions for channels we hardly ever watch, paying over the odds for gas and electricity, and buying expensive takeaway coffee - all of which around one in five of us fall prey to.
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The top 15 money leaks
1. Takeaway meals
2. Paying for lunch or snacks at work
3. Satellite TV subscriptions for channels hardly watched
4. Paying over the odds for utility bills by not shopping around
5. Buying expensive takeaway coffee
6. Buying too many ready meals
7. Sending too much in the pub or clubs
8. Cigarettes and tobacco
9. Mobile phone contract
10. Paying avoidable bank or overdraft charges
11. Paying avoidable credit card charges
12. Paying too much for home insurance
13. paying too much for car insurance
15. ATM fees
Dealing with money leaks is a five stage process.
1. Look through your statement - or keep a spending diary for a couple of weeks - to identify just how much cash you are wasting in each area.
2. Immediately stop doing the things that nobody wants to do. This includes overpaying for gas and electricity, mobile contracts and insurance. You should be shopping around for the best possible deals, which can save hundreds of pounds a year. You also need to put a stop to bank charges, which means staying on top of your finances - everything from ensuring you have enough cash on you to avoid ATM changes, to making sure you never accidentally go overdrawn.
3. Check your direct debits. Look at how much you are paying for TV subscriptions, Netflix - and (further down the list) magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, subscriptions for apps and Amazon Prime membership. Consider whether you are getting value for money from each, and cancel any that aren't worth it any more.
4. Prioritise the rest. Your spending diary will highlight how much money you are spending in each area, so you need to go through the list and decide how much joy you are getting from your spending. Some experts would argue that you need to cut out all this inessential spending, but unless you are in dire financial circumstances, there should still be room for some joy in life.
If, for example, your takeaway coffee is the highlight of the morning, it's worth a couple of quid. If the pizza is the best part of the weekend, then you may decide to keep on buying it. However, if you get very little joy from buying lunch every day, or from falling back on ready meals, then these are the habits you need to change.
5. Don't try to do it all at once. If you have decided to start a new regime, bringing lunch to work, giving up ready meals, and stopping regular takeaways, then suddenly you'll be spending much longer in the kitchen. If you think this will be a bit of a stretch, start small. Try giving up takeaways, and making a packed lunch a couple of days a week. It takes around six weeks to build a new habit, so once you have six weeks of this under your belt, you can pledge to make more packed lunches, and start batch cooking for the freezer instead of relying on ready meals. This way, you can build gradually on your good habits instead of trying a radical change overnight.
But what do you think? What are your worst money leaks? Let us know in the comments.