This article is brought to you by T-Mobile.
When it comes to money, there are few more frustrating realizations than the moment you find out you’ve been wasting money on something without even realizing it. Maybe you thought you cancelled a membership but didn’t, maybe you bought something full-price two days before it went on sale, or maybe you just signed up for something you never ended up using. The point is, we are all constantly letting money slip out in little, unnoticed streams — a few dollars here, a few dollars there — which add up to an enormous amount of wasted potential.
Personally, I once signed up for the gym that was located one floor down from my office in the same building. I thought that the insane level of convenience would motivate me, and that the $100/month price tag (complete with luxe sauna and steam rooms) would provide an added incentive to transform into a Fit Person. Turns out, saunas make me feel like a rotisserie chicken, the proximity only provided an excuse to say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and motivating myself to use the machines properly proved impossible. Yet I kept that membership for an additional three months of non-use, mostly because of my bruised ego refusing to admit I wasn’t actually going to go. Now. I pay around the same amount every month, but for studio classes I actually go to religiously — and still rue every penny I wasted on that dumb, fancy gym.
Another place I let money slip (and it’s likely you’ve done the same) was in a phone plan that didn’t work for me. I can’t count the times I’ve overspent on data, particularly when going abroad, only to realize after the fact that the right phone plan would have changed everything. If you’re looking for a good option, T-Mobile offers texting and data abroad in more than 140 countries, plus in-flight texting and an hour of data on qualifying flights. And if you’re just going to Canada or Mexico, you have unlimited texting and talking and up to 5GB of data. For all of you planning study abroad trips soon, T-Mobile has a special offer of $100 off for college students and teachers of all grades.
And in partnership with T-Mobile , we thought we’d bring together some of TFD readers’ own stories about their wasted money, so we can feel a little better about our mistakes, and maybe even avoid them next time.
1. “UGH so, like 4 years ago I signed up for the free Audible trial, and I swore I canceled it at the end of my free month! At the time I was not GREAT with my money at all (I was in college and having a major ‘live laugh love’ moment, and would carelessly spend money and then freak out when my account got below 10 dollars). Anyways SIX months went by, and then one day I saw an Audible charge go through for $29.99 (I had signed up for a program that gave me two credits a month, so I was getting charged higher than their basic rate). I manically went through my account history and realized I had been charged that amount every month for the prior six months. This added up to a total of $180, which was a fortune to my then 20-year-old, unemployed self (but to be real, I probably would have just spent this on Forever 21 outfits, which would have been just as wasteful). I was pissed because I had really tried to deactivate my account and I was also embarrassed that I had not realized I was getting charged every month. I called Audible, and they said they couldn’t do anything about it. I officially canceled my account, but first I used those 12 credits to download a sh*t-ton of audiobooks! Now I am much more responsible with my money and know what I am subscribed to, but this was a major lesson for me at the time!” – Mona
2. “I found out this year that I was paying for an auto renew Cosmopolitan subscription that was going to my ex-wife. We divorced in 2012.” – Joseph
3. “I realized I was spending wayyyy too much on a gym membership. I wanted to have a full gym and classes, but was paying about $80/month for a gym I barely took advantage of. I now realize with a little more research, I could have saved money and time. I now pay $27/month for the same things at a gym that’s way more conveniently located.” – Sammi
4. “I gave my roommate my debit card info to allow the rent to be automatically deducted from my account (red flag) since she got paid in cash from her job (red flag) and wasn’t always sure she was going to have enough money in her account (red flag). Turns out that she also used my debit card to sign herself up for Netflix, which she justified when I confronted her about by saying that ‘we watch it on the communal TV, so it’s really a house expense.’ I had assumed it was just her account that she was paying for, and had no clue she was just taking it out of my account. Obviously she was a psycho but it taught me the lesson that not reviewing your account statements thoroughly is one of the dumbest money moves you can make.” – Sara
5. “I spend 40-50 bucks on a monthly subscription for a Cantonese language app that I don’t have enough discipline to follow through on an everyday basis. Some context: Aside from English I also speak Vietnamese and wanted to pick up at third language for personal interest and professional reasons. My partner also speaks the language so I thought I’d give it a try. I also thought that I’d have enough discipline and drive to buckle down. The reason why I keep renewing is because I think I’d be better at it next month but I remain the same.” – Cathy
6. “With my current insurance, I usually have something to pay after medical procedures like blood work or office visits for specialists, etc. it’s never anything I can’t pay in full. I used to just send a check when I got the bill, but now I call and pay over the phone, because most of the time you get a discount for paying in full. Also I just found a magazine subscription I’ve been paying for THAT DOESNT EVEN GET SHIPPED TO MY HOUSE. It’s an old address. Cancelled that real quick.” – Jacqie
7. “I had racked up quite a bit of credit card debt and didn’t even realize that I was also paying over $100/month in interest on top of my already-high minimum payment. After reading about balance transfer credit cards, I moved my entire balance over to a new card with 0% interest for transfers and am saving so much money!” – Hillary
8. “My boyfriend and I used to have a lot of combined accounts for things, and although we didn’t always agree on what was really worth our money, I was pretty happy overall to compromise on stuff because I figured that’s what it meant to be in a relationship. For example, he wanted a full cable package for our TV because he watched all these various sports shows, and I barely watched TV. He wanted to get a nicer car than I would have sprung for, but we both decided to go in on the lease. I realized only after I broke up that I was the one who was making the vast majority of those ‘compromises’ to subsidize his lifestyle. And about a year after we broke up, I realized that he had been spending the remaining money in a joint account I totally forgotten we had (it was to save up for a vacation we never ended up taking because we broke up, yay!). That money was just slowly being drained over the year on him going to bars and stuff, probably with other girls. When I confronted him and asked me to pay back half the $800 that was in it, he blocked my number. Clearly I was dating a winner.” – Lola
9. “I enrolled in the transit check at work and knew that it would take a month or so to process, so in the meanwhile I bought metro cards through the machines to hold me over. Two months later I still didn’t receive anything and started to get concerned because the money was deducted from my check — mind you I was spending so much money on metro cards. I go through my mail one day and find the metrocards hidden in the crevices of the envelope. I was very upset.” – Candee
10. “I signed up for a free Audible account and then COMPLETELY FORGOT TO CANCEL. For two years. I looked back through my credit card statements, and realized I’d made this mistake, so I log into Audible and only have “6 audiobook credits” even though I’d paid for 24 credits. So I call customer service, and they say you can only “hold” six credits. I cancelled then, but by that point I had lost $270 for a service I couldn’t even redeem.” – Mehek
11. “$40/quarter for a PO Box and $10/month for a data plan for an iPad that didn’t exist! Found and cancelled both this month.” – Acirella
12. “Last year when I was traveling, my card got skimmed at an ATM and someone spent $140 on it online shopping the day they skimmed it. I guess because I was in ‘vacation mode’ and not closely tracking every transaction, I somehow did not notice that missing money, and the only reason I ended up finding it was because I wanted to dispute a charge from the same online retailer from whom I’d recently bought something and hadn’t gotten a refund when I sent it back. Only by chance did my dumb ass realize that someone had stolen my card and bought themselves over a hundred dollars of stuff, and only almost a year later. I had to argue with my bank for like an hour over the phone to get my money back.” – Nadia
13. “I signed up for a class in college that I ended up not taking, and dropped well within the required time to be refunded for the course. And I did get refunded, but there were two small fees associated with the class (just a few hundred dollars, but still) that I didn’t notice never got refunded when I got refunded for the overall tuition. When I finally discovered it nearly at the end of the semester because I was running out of money and trying frantically where I had lost a few hundred bucks, I basically had to go to my school’s financial office in tears to get the money back. Basically out of pity they gave me a partial refund on the fees, but told me in really stern terms that they are not required to, and that it was my fault that I didn’t get reimbursed because I didn’t fill out my forms properly, which was honestly true on all counts. Point being: when you get a refund, make sure you get every. damn. penny.” -Lana
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