Don’t let these money-saving strategies exact a price from your budget.

5 minute read

You may consider yourself a savvy shopper, always on the lookout for a good deal. You’ve probably saved a lot of money by clipping coupons, shopping sales, matching prices online and other smart ways to get the best price on purchases both small and large.

But did you know that trying to save money can sometimes backfire and end up costing you more?

Click or swipe to find out 12 ways a seemingly good deal can go bad.

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1. Signing up for free trials

From free streaming services to free trials for supplements, teeth whitening and other health or beauty products, free trials can save money – if you remember to cancel before the trial expires.

However, some free trials are hard to cancel, with hidden terms and conditions, pre-checked sign-up boxes online and strict return and cancellation requirements that make it almost impossible to stop deliveries and billing, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Before you sign up for a free trial, the FTC recommends researching the company online to see what others say about the company’s free trials and its service.

2. Financing with 0% interest

When you can’t pay cash for large purchases, a 0% interest financing offer for a year or longer can be a smart move. However, if you fail to adhere to the offer terms, you could end up paying more than anticipated.

Read 0% offer terms and conditions carefully, paying special attention to the interest rate that kicks in on any remaining balance after the offer expires. On many 0% offers, paying late or missing a payment may cancel the no-interest terms, subjecting you to a higher interest rate. Also, if you owe a balance when the offer expires, you may have to pay interest retroactively on the original purchase amount.

Find out: 8 Credit Card Offers That Could Backfire Later

3. Transferring credit card balances

Transferring credit card or loan balances to a new credit card with an introductory 0% APR for a year or longer can be a wise move when you save more in interest than you pay for the 3% or higher fee on the transferred balance. That’s because payments go directly towards principal, so you won’t pay interest.

If you don’t pay the balance by the time the intro period ends, however, a new, higher interest rate typically kicks in. Carrying a balance with a higher interest rate than the one on the original card may cost more in interest than you’d have paid otherwise, especially if you make purchases on the new card.

4. Abandoning your sales circular shopping mission

When you run into an expensive health food store to grab the advertised head of broccoli for $1, it’s easy to abandon your frugal mission with impulse buys on snacks, pastries and other enticing products.

Before shopping make a list of what you need to buy and take a set amount of cash instead of a credit or debit card to avoid buying more than intended.

5. Buying more online for free shipping

Around 75% of consumers expect free delivery, even on orders under $50, according to a report from the National Retail Federation (NRF). Additionally, 65% of consumers look up shipping costs and free-shipping thresholds before getting to the checkout, according to the NRF.

When you purchase something you need for $25 but then add one or more items to the cart to meet the free shipping requirement, you’re not always getting a good deal. More likely, you’re just spending more money than planned.

6. Buying stuff on sale that you don’t need

Just because it’s a bargain doesn’t mean you need to buy it. It’s hard to pass up a half-price shirt or a pair of pants that are a fraction of the original price. However, if you don’t need the item, you’re spending money on something that may simply hang in the closet until you drag the item out for a thrift-store donation purge.

7. Carrying a rewards credit card balance

If you’ve got a credit card with a high cash back or other rewards program and you pay off the balance each month, you’re saving money on purchases because you get money, miles or other rewards in return.

However, when you don’t pay the balance off each month, you’re canceling out that “free money” by paying interest. Another way to trip yourself up with this savings tool is to charge more purchases than you can pay off that month just to accumulate rewards points or cash back.

8. Skimping on health insurance

The average cost of an individual health insurance Silver Plan for a 40-year-old in 2022  is $541, according to ValuePenguin. Depending on your age and whether you must purchase individual health insurance vs. an employer-sponsored health plan, monthly health insurance premiums can exceed $1,000.

If you’re healthy, you may think going without health insurance is a good way to save thousands of dollars a year. However, skimping on health insurance can cost you later. For example, even if you’re healthy, you could get hurt in a car accident. What if you get a head injury or break a limb from taking a tumble on your bike?

Without health insurance, you could end up with a hospital bill that could lead to bankruptcy. The average cost for a three-day hospital stay is around $30,000, according to Healthcare.gov. Fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500. And comprehensive cancer care can run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

To lower health insurance costs, compare plans and consider a plan with a high deductible for lower premiums to save money.

9. Hiring the cheapest person for home repairs

We all want to save money on home repairs for plumbing issues and replacement of expensive appliances like air conditioners, furnaces, and hot water heaters. And big jobs such as house painting, a new roof and fireplace repairs can run thousands of dollars. So, you might be tempted to hire the cheapest guy you can find on Craigslist. That’s usually a bad idea, though.

The person you hire may not have insurance, which could cost you later if the contractor is injured while working in your home. Someone painting your house for a rock-bottom fee may be using cheap paint, so you may have to get the house painted again in just a few years.

To save money and get the job done right, obtain several bids on repairs and maintenance. Then check Yelp and other reviews to see what other customers have to say before hiring.

10. Putting off routine auto maintenance

If you’re trying to save a few hundred dollars a year by skipping oil changes and other routine vehicle maintenance, you’re probably setting yourself up for expensive repairs later. For example, going too long without an oil change can seriously damage your engine, causing it to seize up, blow a gasket or warp.

Your vehicle’s owner’s manual lists important maintenance schedules, including when you need to change the oil, along with recommended replacement times for brakes, timing belt and other parts that keep your car safe and running smoothly.

AAA recommends setting aside at least $50 a month for routine maintenance and unexpected car repairs. Ask around for referrals to a trustworthy mechanic so you can stay on top of routine auto maintenance and avoid costly repairs later.

11. Not contributing to a retirement fund

If you’re decades away from retirement, saving now so you can retire comfortably at some distant date may not seem like a priority. However, saving for retirement while you’re young can make a huge difference in your life when you’re ready to say goodbye to the workforce.

For example, if you contribute $150,000 to an investment retirement account from age 25 to 40, you could have around $1 million in the retirement fund by age 65, according to Vanguard. If your employer matches your 401(k) contributions, your annual contributions to have $1 million by age 65 could be as low as $2,200.

If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k), enroll in the program, especially if your company matches a portion of your contribution from each paycheck. You’ll barely notice the deduction, and it’s a painless way to save for retirement.

12. Skipping home maintenance

Regular inspection and maintenance for your HVAC system, washer and dryer, chimney, fireplace and appliances is essential to keep appliances running smoothly and avoid costly repairs later.

For example, you may not want to fork over $100 for a furnace or air conditioner inspection and maintenance. However, if you don’t, you may end up paying hundreds of dollars later if the furnace stops working on a freezing night or the A/C quits on a hot, humid weekend.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC