How to Squelch 4 Big Money Wasters

A mother of two discovers small changes can reduce costs.

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I recently chatted with Amy Bordoni, a writer and blogger in the Chicago area. (Disclosure: She is also the sister of my colleague Liz Wolgemuth, author of the Inside Job blog.) As the mother of two young sons, Bordoni said that she has noticed that her family ends up wasting a lot of money on little things that add up over time. "Although we rarely eat out, shop secondhand, strive to be energy-conscious, and avoid developing a Starbucks habit, we still waste a lot of money that could be saved because we are disorganized," she told me. Here are four of her big money wasters—and how she conquered them.

• Overdraft fees. Bordoni and her husband usually pay bills online and write checks without keeping a record of the money going out, so they end up overdrawing their account at least once a month, with a $39 fee each time. When she got frustrated and called the bank to figure out her options, she found that she could open a new credit card account with the bank and have overdraft protection for just $10 each time it is used. "A big 'savings,' especially for a couple with uneven cash flow...and no intention to ever get into Quicken," she says.

• Library fines. When you have a 4-year-old and check out 20 books at a time, library fines can add up quickly. When Bordoni found herself paying a $13 fine recently, she decided to start writing down the due dates on her calendar to make sure she doesn't forget again.

• Passing up free stuff. Bordoni and her husband buy their cleaning and personal hygiene products from an all-natural, environmentally friendly company. If customers place their order by the 15th of each month, they can earn free products the next month. But Bordoni often forgets to take advantage of the deal—something she is changing by writing a note in her calendar.

• Grocery splurges. Bordoni, who loves to cook, says that when she goes to pick up a couple of things at the supermarket, she often ends up getting more than she needs and ends up wasting the food. But if she plans her meals in advance, she sticks to her list.