Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money

A Day of Waste

Have you ever thought about how much money people waste in a given day? Today, I tried to keep track of all of the waste that I witnessed and I was rather surprised, given our economy, how cavalierly people will still waste their financial resources. It made me think back to a time, about 15 years ago, when I was far less frugal, and I was pleased that I have come so far with my financial approach to my life. Indeed, I realized that rather than trying not to waste money, I am at a point in my financial life in which I can actually consistently find ways to spend less while enjoying more.

But back to my original question – have you ever thought about how much money people waste in a given day? That is what I spent today wondering, so I tried to keep track of all of the waste that I witnessed, and here is what I found:

7:12am: I made my Saturday morning trip to the grocery store. Before I had even traveled the three miles to the grocery store, I saw not one, but two, motorists who had been pulled over by the side of the road and were receiving tickets. The minimum ticket on that particular street is about $128. There are also stop lights on that particular street every 2 to 3 miles. Apart from being dangerous and a tremendous waste of gasoline, speeding was not going to get those drivers down the road any faster because they would always be detained by the stop lights. Rather, speeding can only get them ticketed – a tremendous waste.

7:19am As I walked into the grocery store, two people were standing in line to use the ATM while a third fellow used it. There is a two dollar charge at the ATM, a charge that those users might have avoided if they had gone to their own bank or made their purchase at the grocery store using their cash cards (and requesting cash back). That is a $2 waste per person that will be repeated over and over throughout the day.

7:59am I checked out at the grocery store. The three people in line ahead of me had no coupons, even though our local paper had a $5 coupon for our grocery store earlier this week. Shopping without coupons is a huge waste and one that will be repeated throughout the day.
8:06am As I walked out of the grocery store, a young man was using the change coverter at the front of the store. He will feed his loose change into the machine and can then exchange his receipt for cash at the customer service desk. The machine retains an 8% commission. Whatever happened to rolling money?

I dropped my son off at our local youth sports facility so that he could cover a shift working in our concession stand. A parent failed to show up. My son received $10 per hour and the parent who failed to appear for concession duty had to pay $75 for the missed three hour shift. I also know of a local school that charges $15 for each hour that its parents fail to appear for volunteer service – up to 20 hours per year. If you belong to an organization that will fine you for failing to appear for service hours, and you don’t want to perform service hours, why do you join the organization?

12:30pm My younger son finished his baseball game. As we prepared to leave, we heard several kids demand that they be taken out for lunch. The four families who were in hearing range of us agreed to go out to eat. That amounts to 19 people at an estimated cost of $10 per person, spread over 4 families. We ate at home for a cost of about $6 – one homemade pizza with salad for three people and leftovers for a fourth.

2:45pm I washed my car. My son washed my car. A neighbor then hired him to wash his car for $15. My son saw the value of demonstrating a good work ethic. My neighbor has a son the same age as mine so why was he paying my son to wash his car?

3:53pm A neighbor mentioned that she had planned to go out earlier in the day but was already too tired to do so. As a result, she explained, she would have to pay a fine at the library ($1 per day per DVD and she had 6 DVDs that would not be checked in until Monday – two days from now), plus she would probably have to pay a credit card bill by phone because she had missed today’s mail (a $25 charge she explained). She asked me if I knew of any ways to get out of paying the fines and I explained that it was very easy – don’t procrastinate.

5:08pm I went for a walk. A neighbor had already put out his trash (odd since today is Saturday and trash day is Monday) and I found several compact discs and a few DVDs that work just fine sitting in a box, free for the taking. They could easily have been sold for a few dollars on eBay. For that matter, our subdivision garage sale day is only 3 weeks away.

5:49pm I found 27 cents (two dimes, one nickel and two pennies) lying on the sidewalk. Who was careless enough to leave them there?

6:37pm I took one of sons to an ice-cream parlor since he had a free ice cream coupon. He called two of his friends who also received the very same coupons today but they had already lost their coupons (in about 6 hours time).

I think you get the picture. Every day, people throw away money as a result of carelessness, disorganization, procrastination and impatience. How much money have you seen wasted today? Where do you see people wasting money? Where have you wasted money?

16 thoughts on “A Day of Waste

  1. Yes .. I totally agree that the biggest scope of saving lies in smallest things that we do in our laife.. saving has to be a way of life..
    few things we can do
    1. Always walk to your local bank or laundry rather than take car.
    2. Switch off lights when not reqd.
    3.Avoidning eating out too much.
    4. Arranging aprty at home rather than at a hotel..

  2. Great post! My only comment is about rolling coins. We have accounts at two different banks and neither of them will take rolled coins. One has a self-service coin machine in their lobby, but even for account holders, they charge 1% of the total. The other bank spins the coins for you behind the counter, but charges a fee (I’m not sure what it is) for any amount over $30.

    If we take the coins already rolled into either bank, we have to unroll them ourselves; tellers aren’t allowed to unroll the rolled coins. I suppose that’s in case there is any dispute over the amount of money unrolled.

  3. Ran into a thing when I did my tax returns where you could make payments to the IRS and state on-line, as well as pay other bills. Because I was filing my state on-line and owed a little bit, I figured it was easiest to use that and it only cost me a couple of dollars (paying for convenience) and set myself up for reminders for paying estimated taxes. Well, got the reminder for my April 15th payment and STARTED to pay it on-line but the charge was over $10! I immediately cancelled out, wrote a check and mailed in the estimated payment! Good thing I set up the notice to be two weeks early.

    I’m not always good about keeping track of coupons, but I try. LOL

    One good thing about changing eating habits is that fast food is out of the question. Best way to avoid temptation is to never go there!

  4. Ditto on the rolled coins. Banks won’t accept them! You also didn’t mention observing people paying $4.00+ for coffees. And, how about using thermos’ for water instead of bottles (with 4 kids we are guilty of using bottles but getting better – we now have a rule in the house re: no bottled water). Also, we get $$ back at the grocery store for bringing our own bags. And cars that idle for long amounts of time.

    One other thing I noted, most of these money saving ideas would also help the environment.

    Thanks for sharing this post.


  5. Great Post!

    On the volunteering, I understand why some people rather pay though. & same with the DVDs (giving them away). I think somewhat you overlook the value of your time. We will sell anything we can get $20+ for. Sometimes $10+ for. A few old DVDs that aren’t worth much? I’d set them out too. I personally would never envision holding a garage sale. Not worth the effort, in my opinion. Though we sell things on ebay/Craigslist almost every week (around our schedule).

    I can buy my volunteer time at school and put more effort into my work (much more pay). You could argue anyone who lowers their paycheck to volunteer is a money waster. That being said, we prefer to volunteer our school hours (it’s not about the money). But I do understand why many dual income families with little time choose to pay cash instead. It’s a bargain for someone with a high paying job abd little time to spare.

  6. Diane — You make an excellent point regarding water bottles. I use an eco-canteen instead of water bottles. The canteens (we have 6 of them) cost us about $60 but we save about $15 per week by not having to buy bottled water for athletic events.

    Here is a link to the eco-canteen site, in case you are interested.

  7. Regarding the ATM- my bank refunds us for any fee we are charged by an outside ATM. So if I were to go to another’s banks ATM and get charged $2 by the other bank (mine doesn’t charge for any ATM), my bank would refund me the $2.

  8. As for the coins, I use those Coinstar machines to get gift certificates (for the full value of my change — they don’t take the commission on gift certificates) to places like, where I use the GCs to bulk grocery shop (with free shipping). So it’s not always wasteful!

  9. I love this article, it is truly amazing how much money we waste. I love that you took your family home for home cooked pizza and salad instead of dining out. My family paid off $40,000 credit card debt in 2 1/2 years with the help of home cooked meals. Eating at home really helps save money, it was the biggest factor in our debt payoff.

  10. We do most of the things you pointed out. My wife is an inveterate coupon clipper. We usually only buy things that either have a manufacturer’s coupon or store coupon (or both). Our average weekly savings at the supermarket (there are just the two of us) is $30-$35. Our bill after savings is usually under $50. We try to buy in bulk, especially if there are coupons or other savings. As far as water is concerned, we have a few plastic bottles (we usually buy a case for picnics and recycle most of them) that we just refill with tap water. I haven’s bought a cup of coffee in many years. I’ve never even been in a Starbucks.

  11. @ Monkey Mama: We hold one or two garage sales each year and make $400-$500 at each one. We usually run them for 1-1/2 days. Fpr is. they are definitely worth our time.

    I also have no problem selling books, CDs or DVDs for a couple of dollars each. It takes almost no time to list them on eBay or using the ISBN or UPC numbers, and just a couple of minutes to stick them in an envelope and slap on a label.

    Making $2 bucks for 5 minutes of my time is the same as making $24 an hour. So, to me, it’s worth it. Small amounts can add up quickly. 🙂

  12. Another insightful article!

    Cassandra, please tell us what bank you use. What a great service it provides.

  13. Interesting article. I have friends who shop at a convenience store where the prices are much higher, rather than drive the extra mile to a full service grocery store. I can’t understand their thinking.

  14. Insightful article, but I can’t help pointing out that a lot of your observations are short-sighted:
    1. I doubt someone was “careless” enough to leave change.
    2. some banks won’t take rolled coins. The coinstar charges no fee if you get a gift card for Amazon or Starbucks.
    3. Washing your car is better for your wallet but worse for the environment.
    Also, peoples actions are based on weighting different priorities like frugality, entertainment, efficiency “being-green”, etc. It’s impossible to reconcile all these values with every action we take, so give people a break.

  15. I do the water bottle thing too but I recycle Propell or Gateraid bottles and refill from our fridge water spout and then freeze. The water stays ice cold for hours and also works in a cooler to keep cold sodas on trips. The water bottles stay frozen in the cooler for about 24 hours and we can avoid buying sodas on the road or in the hotel. If the hotel has a fridge I refreeze and I have had the same bottles for about a year. Some of the wimpy bottles won’t freeze well. We also save coins-last time we had $400.00 that went toward our vacation fund. As for garage sales I have one twice a year just to clean out and usually make about $400.-$500. each which also goes in the vacation fund.

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