(Source: www.forbes.com)

We start out with good intentions. We pick magazine-pretty produce to cook for our families; we have a great idea for that bag of zucchini from the farmer’s market; both the surf and turf sound good on the menu, so we order the combo plate. But any time we pass over a funny-shaped eggplant or let the zucchini decompose into its ultimate slimy form in the bottom of the fridge or tell the server to take away the other half of the entrée we can’t finish, we’re contributing to a national epidemic of food waste. In fact, the average American throws out about $640 worth of food each year .

While we’re likely to pounce on an unauthorized $200 charge on our cell phone or credit card bill, there are lots of other ways money leaves our wallets without us even realizing it. Consumer spending expert Andrea Woroch outlined these spending areas prone to leaks, and how to stop them.

When we bite off more than we can chew -- and eat -- we're wasting money. (Photo: Fickr @ 욕망 시리즈)

Expired Food: “Overbuying at the grocery store can lead to waste if those fresh foods go bad before you have a chance to eat them. Always meal plan before shopping to help you eliminate excess grocery purchases and look for recipes that use overlapping ingredients,” Woroch says, adding that you shouldn’t get hung up on dates on the package. Sometimes items items can be safely consumed well past the “sell by” date. Bonus: When you shop only once a week, you save time and gas.

Not Comparing Prices or Missed Savings: “Some retailers inflate prices to make discounts look better than they actually are,” Woroch says. (Amazon is eliminating prices on some items, such as pet food.) She suggests comparing prices with a site such as PriceGrabber.com; you can also download coupons from CouponSherpa to get instant access to in-store savings from your device. Target and Walmart also have savings apps; Paribus tracks online purchases you make that may go on sale shortly after and request price adjustments on your behalf.

Paying Interest on Credit Card Purchases: The average American paid $2,630 in credit card interest last year , says a NerdWallet study. “Though it’s especially tempting to charge purchases with the ‘buy now, pay later’ mantra, refrain from throwing down the plastic and pay with cash instead. When you’re planning your budget for the new year, you’ll be happy you did,” Woroch says.

Useless Bank Fees: You’re chipping away at your net worth every time you use an out-of-network ATM ($4.35), and every time you overdraw your account ($32.74), and any time you dip below your minimum balance ($14.76), according to Bankrate’s annual checking survey. “Transferring your checking account to a local credit union will wipe away these useless fees,” Woroch suggests.

Name Brands: Generally, there’s zero to not much difference between a name-brand product and a generic one, except perhaps up to half the price. “The best products to buy generic include: prescription meds, over-the-counter meds, baby formula, cereal, baking products, herbs/spices, razors, body soap and lotion, and ink cartridges to name a few,” Woroch says.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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