Even though many work very hard for their money, it seems most still struggle to cover emergencies, fund retirement and keep the basics of home ownership going. Recent studies show that 76 million (one fourth) Americans are struggling financially or are just barely getting by.

This is a sobering number and causes me to wonder why. There would be multiple reasons but I feel one cause could be areas of waste in our life.

I decided to dig deeper and find out, as a society, where we are wasting most of our hard earned money. What I found was interesting and could teach each of us areas where we could save money and ultimately, redirect those dollars into a better place.

Please note, this list is in no particular order.

1. Going out to eat.
Sixty eight percent of Americans say they spend too much money going out to eat. Preparing meals at home is typically cheaper (unless you are eating tacos from Jack in the Box). Furthermore, eating at home tends to be a bit healthier.

The average family spends about $240 per month going out to eat. This isn’t a massive number, however, when you look at the yearly total it adds up to $2880 each year. This number invested each year at a 10% rate of return for 30 years would create a retirement account with over $500,000 in it!

2. Impulse buying.
You are standing in the grocery store line waiting for your turn to check out. There are magazines, snack items, gum, and cheap gadgets right at your fingertips. So, you pick up a Snickers and some bubble gum and throw it in your cart.

The Snickers is for now, the gum is for church when you get sleepy.

Resist the temptation to buy and instead, pick up a magazine and read it for free while you wait! Statistically, we spend over $400 per month on impulse buying. That is crazy! Buy what you need and get out of the store.

3. Alcohol and Drinking.
As someone who doesn’t drink, I am often shocked at what alcohol costs! I could write paragraphs of info on the effects of alcohol, drinking and driving and why it is a good idea for one to consider letting this go. However, for this post, we will stick to cost alone.

Take a look at your grocery bill or your restaurant check next time you go out. Alcoholic beverages are insanely priced! Water is free, a glass of tea is approximately $3 and a soda is a little more than that. Alcohol goes up from there and can account for up to half of your dinner when you go out.

If you are looking for a way to cut costs, this would be a good category to consider.

4. Credit card interest.
Since so many families carry a high balance on their credit cards I felt this would hit close to home. Interest rates on cards can run from 6% to 19% and sometimes even higher if you miss a payment. This type of issue can be totally eliminated with cutting up your credit cards and never using them again.

A better method is save up and pay in cash for those things you want to buy. It doesn’t mesh with today’s society and how quickly we want things but it sure does eliminate a lot of heartache with credit card debt.

Can you imagine how it would feel to have NO credit card debt?  Think about that for a minute.  It would give you a huge raise! 

5. Uneaten or expired food.
Research shows that the average family wastes around 40% of the food they buy at the grocery store. Just to give you an idea here, this would be like buying $200 of food and then finding a good dumpster on the way home where you throw away $80 of it!

No one would actually do that, but studies show this is happening more often than not.
If you grocery shop twice a month with these totals and throw away 40% that adds up to $1920 a year. That invested over 30 years at a 10% rate of return adds up to almost $350,000!

I think it would be a good idea to pay closer attention to what we buy and try hard to consume those items before they need to be thrown out.

6. Un-returned Items.
This would include clothing, shoes, and items you don’t end up using for various reasons. These things add up in terms of dollars. A few bucks here and there add up to hundreds and even thousands when we don’t return those items to get our money back.

Be mindful of these things and be sure to either use what you purchase or return it quickly.

7. The Lottery or Gambling.
This truly boggles my mind! You have a one in gazillion chance of winning yet there will be 20 people in line ahead of you to buy a ticket.

I am one of those weird people who have never bought a lottery ticket. Shocking, I know!

Investing your money into the lottery is wasteful and causes you to put your hopes into something that will ultimately disappoint. Instead, put that same money into an investment account and watch it grow into a nest egg for your retirement.  Another idea is to save that money all year long and go on a great vacation. 

8. Smoking/tobacco.
Although much has been done over the years to change the numbers of people who smoke, it is still a big money waster. If you smoke a pack a day all year long you will have spent over $2,000 just for that one habit.

That money invested over 30 years at a 10% rate of return will turn into $361.000 not to mention you will have extended your life due to fewer health problems.

Just picking ONE item on this list will give you an immiediate raise and ultimately create massive change in your financial future.

What other areas of waste do you see in your own life? Please share below.