11 Ways You're Wasting Money ...

Even if you feel that you have strong money management skills, you may still find some ways you're wasting money. Times are tough right now, so learning all the ways you can save money is a priority! Companies are suffering along with us, but this means that we need to be extra careful with avoiding fees and keeping an eye on rising costs. Here are 11 ways you're wasting money to help keep you from making silly spending decisions!

1. Expensive Cell Phone Plans

I understand that today, having a cell phone is a necessity, but it's also one of the biggest ways you're wasting money! Studies have shown that the average person spends about $600 a year on wireless service. However, most of us may be paying for services we never even use! So if you have an unlimited plan, ask your cell phone provider how much of it you are actually using. You may be able to drop to a lower (and less costly) plan. Pre-paid phones are also another great way to save money on phone bills and usually come with unlimited texting! So if you're a bigger texter than a caller, switch to a prepaid phone. They even have iPhones and Android smartphones available now!

2. Expensive Cable TV Plans

The average cost of cable is about $100 a month right now! Plus every time I turn around I feel like the cost keeps rising! If you find that you only watch certain shows on TV, try canceling your cable and watching your favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix instead. Both services are only $7.99 per month and will stream many of your favorite TV shows and movies! Many networks also stream their shows on their own websites for free, such as ABC, NBC, The CW and Comedy Central! Get an Internet streaming box such as the Apple TV and you can watch all of your favorite shows on your TV, with no commercials, and a lot more money in your pocket!

3. Forgetting Rewards, Points, or Coupons

Did you know that the average household that's in a loyalty program lets $205 worth of rewards go unused each year? To make sure you don't forget what you've earned, use a free service like Points.com, which lets you compile all your reward programs in one place! Also, keep track of your emailed and paper coupons. However, remember not to use your rewards or coupons as a sole reason to go and spend! Save them to use when you buy things you actually NEED.

4. Buying Brand-Name Products

It’s very easy to get caught up buying brand-name products instead of their (just as good) generic counterparts. After all, these big companies force-feed us advertising with their catchy slogans on a daily basis. However, looking past the pretty labels and catchy commercials will save you money. Plus, many generic brands are made by brand-name companies, so the product is basically the same, but with a better price! This is especially true for prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. So next time you're out, try a generic brand product, you may be pleasantly surprised how similar it is to your beloved and expensive brand-name.

5. Shopping without a Plan

Planning ahead is always a great way to save money, especially when you're going shopping. Before you go shopping (for anything), conduct an inventory of what you have and what you need. For groceries, map out your week’s meals in advance and look through your cupboards to see what ingredients you don’t have. For clothing, comb through your closets to identify holes in your wardrobe so you don’t wind up with yet another blouse you don’t need! Once you are out, commit to your list; no impulse buys!

6. Buying an Entire CD

There are a few albums that you do fall in love with from the opening track all the way through to the last. Usually, however, most of us end up listening to a few favorite tracks and ignoring the rest, yet we paid for every track. Instead, buy the songs that you really want individually. Downloads typically cost between 99 cents and $1.29 per song at Amazon.com, iTunes.com and other digital music stores. Also, you can listen to music without purchasing it via free (and legal) online music streaming services, such as Pandora.com or Spotify.com. There's no need to pay for a bunch of songs you don't even like, so make sure to listen to a sample first of each track before committing to the whole album.

7. Racing through Online Shopping

Shopping online is an amazing way to compare prices and find bargains. This alone can save you tons of money. However, once you have made your choice, take a minute to search the Internet for discount coupons or free-shipping offers. Retailmenot.com is a great website for finding these discount coupons for almost every store. Also make sure to go through your email first before checking for any personal offers or rewards you've gotten from your favorite stores.

8. Being Tardy with Payments

There is no reason (unless you have no money) that you should be paying your bills late! Make sure to always pay your bills on time! Don’t give your credit card company or other lenders extra money just for being late and don't ruin your credit score simply because you forgot to pay something. Also try to pay balances off in full to avoid paying interest, but if that’s not possible, at least pay the minimum to avoid late fees.

9. Not Having a Coin Jar

Carrying change around can be a burden, but it has value that can really add up after a while. Empty out all the change from your pockets, purse, and wallet (except for maybe a dollar or two) and put it into a jar. Treat it as an investment and use the change at the end of the year to go on vacation or buy something big that you've been wanting. You can also try to get your kids into contributing to a coin jar for some simple money management learning.

10. 3-D Movies

3-D movies are usually just a way for movie companies to make extra dough, because it allows them to charge more per ticket to the same movie! Before shelling out more cash, ask yourself, what else could you do with the $3 or $4 extra you spent on the fancier ticket? Seeing a film like "Avatar" in 3-D is probably worth it. However, paying to see the re-release of "Finding Nemo" in theaters just to see it in 3-D? Probably not worth the extra money at all.

11. Gambling

This should be an obvious way we waste money and thus why I left it for last. One out of every three people in the U.S. thinks that winning the lotto is their only shot at becoming financially secure, but the odds of winning a state lotto are roughly 18 million to 1. Buying lottery tickets is fun solely for the wishful thinking that comes along with it, but you’re essentially throwing your money away. The $5 you might spend on one big-number ticket could turn into more than $100 over time, if you invested it for retirement. When you "invest" it in the lotto, it just turns into $0. This is the same for slot machines and tables at casinos. Only pay whatever you are willing to spend for a "good time with friends" out at a casino and stick to that amount!

The easiest way to start saving some money is to track where it's going. Keep an eye on how many times you eat out instead of cooking, how many fees you accrue, and how often you buy wants instead of needs. One of the biggest ways you're wasting money is by not keeping an eye on it! So always make sure you know where it's going and that it's a necessity. How have you stopped wasting money lately?