10 Places You Are Spending Without Knowing

By Rubina Ahmed-Haq on October 12, 2016 No Comments

Canadians are suffering with record high levels of debt. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show in the second quarter of 2016, for every dollar of disposal income Canadians owe $1.67. The majority of this is mortgage debt, but 1/3 is consumer debt often held on expensive credit cards and on a line of credit. For anyone worried about their own debt levels there is help. There are many ways we are spending money without even knowing and by making some tweaks to our habits we can save some money to help get our financial situation under control.

Here are 10 was you are spending money without even knowing it.

1. Doing a weekly grocery shop or bulk grocery shopping.

I’m not a fan of bulk shopping. I find in most cases we buy too much and it goes to waste, or we buy the wrong kinds of things and we struggle to make the groceries work in our meal plan. My best advice is to shop every 2 to 3 days for your preplanned meals. You will be more focused in your shopping and the food will be fresher too.

2. Driving a car.

Most of us don’t realize how expensive it is to maintain a car. Since the expenses come in bits we don’t see its total cost. But we should see this as a one annual expense and also take into consideration that a car is a depreciating asset. According to data from Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and Globe Drive research, the average annual cost to own and operate a vehicle is $10,456 a year. This figure is based on the cost of running a 2013 Toyota Camry, 18,000 km a year, with the cost of gas set to $1.23/litre, with regular maintenance and repair.

3. Doing errands at the mall.

If your local drycleaner or grocery store is in the mall you’re probably spending a lot on impulse buys. According to research, on average, shoppers spend $105.11 per visit and average $3,910 at a mall. (Alexander Babbage, Inc.) A lot of those are impulse buys we make because we see something we like. My best advice, take your day-to-day errands as far away from a mall as possible.

4. Shopping when we are tired.

We’ve heard we make bad food choices when we are sleepy but did you know we also make bad spending choices. Retailers know this. In fact one online retailer, recently added 9 PM flash sales on Wednesdays and Sundays to cater to our apparent growing penchant for mid-evening impulse buys. The attitude is, I work hard, I’m tired, and I deserve it. But the real question is can you afford it?

5. Shopping without a list.

Whether it’s for a dinner party or shopping for your daughter’s art supplies. By not making a list before you leave the house you are likely to spend more. We spend more when we are less prepared. Research show we spend 23% more when we go into a shop cold with no plan, (Wharton school of business). Take one minute and make a list and plan, seeing it typed will focus your spending and minimize you impulse buys.

6. Using our credit card.

Credit cards make our life easy but they can also make our life more expensive. Studies show that people who use cash spend less. A credit card makes the tangible move of using something to get something less painful. Cash helps you automatically see what you’ve spent, by looking in your wallet. With credit cards we’re more likely to chase rewards and bonus points, often forgetting what that is costing us.

7. Having too much stuff.

Constantly buying stuff, makes us want to buy more stuff. It also makes us less organized and we find we can’t find the stuff we need. Leading a more minimalist lifestyle helps you enjoy all the thing you already have. You always know where your essentials are and that means you don’t, have to run out and buy something at the last minute. Shopping less starts at home, by purging your closets and cupboards once a year you can easily keep in order all the thing you do need, and donate sell or trash what you don’t.

8. Underutilizing your health benefits.

Many of us at work have health benefits that include not just the basic doctor’s visit, but also massage, acupuncture services and holistic appointments. All of these are already covered by your work insurance. Use these, to not only feel better but also as an alternative to other outings you may take. So rather than a lunch date, how about a massage by a therapist.

9. Having the wrong friends.

You may not realize that who you spend time with affects your financial situation. And having rich friends is actually better than having friends with less money than you. Having rich and successful friends will afford you more opportunity to learn from those who are doing well and make connections you may otherwise not make.

10. Using too many coupons.

I’m all for getting a good deal. But if you’re spending hours clipping coupons and price matching to save 10% on your groceries you are wasting your time. The best way is to multiply the hours you spend organizing you coupons with your hourly wage. If it works out to more than you saved, then it would make more sense to put in few extra hours of work then spend it clipping coupons. What I do is make list and then check if any of those items are on sale on my app that keeps track of flyers. Rather than letting the coupons and sales drive my shopping.

Image credit: Santiago Cancinos

Rubina Ahmed-Haq

Money Expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq's passion is making money matters easy to understand for everyone. Currently she’s the third party spokesperson for President’s Choice Financial. In addition to this she also hosts two weekly columns on CBC Radio on money matters and workplace issues. For the last four years she has been the finance editor at HOMES Publishing Group and has a weekly blog on She is also proud to have her own blog on Yummy Mummy Club, Canada’s largest online resource for moms. Her blog is called “Parenting by the numbers.” She often joins hosts on NEWSTALK 1010 to weigh in on the financial matter of the day. She also appears regularly on Global News Toronto to comment on personal finance matters. Her own website is


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