We all spend too much money on something out there. After all, money in and of itself is useless unless we are spending it. That being said though, some of the everyday things people spend their money on are an absolute waste and a downright scam. Over the course of five posts I will go over what I see as the 10 biggest wastes of money (including 10 (dis)honorable mentions) that people spend their hard earned cash on. I am not here to judge anyone in particular, just the human race as a whole that I am happily a part of. How many of these are you guilty of?
Part 1 of this series can be found here: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 1): Cigarettes, Fashion, Lottery, New Cars
Part 2 of this series can be found here: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 2): Bottled Water, Weddings, Jewelry, Paper Towels
Part 4 of this series can be found here: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 4): Wrapping Paper, Greeting Cards, Vitamins, Cleaning Products
Part 5 of this series can be found here: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 5): Gadgets, Dining Out, Luxury Hotels, Gyms
Fast food: quick, convenient, cheap, and a total waste of money. In 1970, Americans spent $6 billion on fast food. In the year 2000 that number rose to $110 billion and continues to rise year after year. To give you a better perspective of these numbers, every day 25% of the adult U.S. population shoves fast food down their gullets.
Fast food might seem like a bargain, but the truth is that you are scamming your body and your wallet with every bite you take. Sure, you can get a meal that will fill you up for 3 dollars by ordering off the dollar menu, but is it worth it? Is a dollar worth the nutritional value and health detriment of a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger? The simple answer is no. Let’s take a look at the not so simple answer.
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Eric Schlosser describes in his book “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” the ugly truth behind fast food: it tastes good, but is utterly destructive to your body. In an excerpt from Fast Food Nation, Schlosser explains that:
The Food and Drug Administration does not require flavor companies to disclose the ingredients of their additives, so long as all the chemicals are considered by the agency to be GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). This lack of public disclosure enables the companies to maintain the secrecy of their formulas. It also hides the fact that flavor compounds sometimes contain more ingredients than the foods being given their taste. The ubiquitous phrase “artificial strawberry flavor” gives little hint of the chemical wizardry and manufacturing skill that can make a highly processed food taste like a strawberry.
A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amylketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), α-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, γ-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.
Here’s a hint: much of what you just read does not belong in your body, and that is just one example among tens of thousands of products. Despite this, American kids between the ages of 6 and 14 eat fast food 157,000,000 times every month. One of the major reasons is that the flavor wizardry of fast food keeps you wanting more. Simply put, fast food is addictive.
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You’d be hard pressed to find a doctor who would suggest that even a small amount of fast food is okay to eat. In fact, many doctors in the UK are demanding a ban on fast food chains near schools due to how serious of an epidemic fast food, and consequently obesity, is. That is why fast food is an utter waste of money. Sure, you won’t starve if you eat it, but you are far more likely to become obese and have very serious health problems down the road if you eat fast food on a regular basis.
Take a look at the nutrition facts for your favorite fast food chain. A Big Mac alone contains 540 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 1040 mg of sodium. Add the obligatary order of large french fries and you just tacked on an extra 500 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 350 grams of sodium. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, that single meal consisting of a burger and fries accounts for 50% of your alloted daily calories, 83% of your alotted daily fat intake (consisting of a great deal of saturated fats and some trans fats thrown in for good measure), %58 of your daily sodium intake, and 36% of your daily carbs at 108 grams. Not a pretty picture, is it? Let’s paint a complete picture just for fun and eat 3 meals at McDonalds, shall we?
Minutemaid Orange Juice: Calories (190), Fat (0), Carbs(0), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (39mg)
Egg McMuffin: Calories (300), Fat (12g), Carbs(30g), Cholesterol(260mg), Sodium (820mg)
Hashbrown: Calories (150), Fat (9g), Carbs(15g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (310mg)
Big Mac: Calories (540), Fat (29g), Carbs(45g), Cholesterol(75mg), Sodium (1040)
Large Fries: Calories (500), Fat (25g), Carbs(63g), Cholesterol(0mg), Sodium (350g)
21 fl oz Diet Coke: Calories (0), Fat (0), Carbs(0), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (30mg)
Big N’ Tasty With Cheese: Calories (510), Fat (28g), Carbs(38g), Cholesterol(85mg), Sodium (960mg)
Medium French Fries: Calories (380), Fat (19g), Carbs(48g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (270mg)
Mcflurry with Oreo Cookies: Calories (510), Fat (17g), Carbs(80g), Cholesterol(45mg), Sodium (280mg)
21 fl oz Coke: Calories (0), Fat (0), Carbs(58g), Cholesterol(0), Sodium (15mg)
Breakfast: Calories (640), Fat (21g), Carbs(45g), Cholesterol(260mg), Sodium (1169mg)
Lunch: Calories (1040), Fat (54g), Carbs(108g), Cholesterol(75mg), Sodium (1420mg)
Dinner: Calories (1400), Fat (64g), Carbs(224), Cholesterol(130mg), Sodium (1525mg)
Full Day Total: (Daily values based on a 2000 calorie diet)
Calories (3080) 154%DV
Fat (139 g) 214%DV
Carbohydrates (377 g) 126%DV
Cholesterol (465 mg) 155%DV
Sodium (4114 mg) 171%DV
Combine these atrocious numbers with all the artificial additives and preservatives in fast food and its easy to understand why it is so unfathomably unhealthy and not worth a single penny!
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The fats found in most fast food products have been linked to increased fat around the abdomen and an increased risk of diabetes. There is also clear evidence that fast food (constituting the foundation of a poor general diet) is in large part responsible for childhood obesity. Even seemingly healthy options at fast food chains are coated with hidden fats and biologically harmful ingredients. Keep in mind that all of the health problems caused by eating fast food also increases individual and statewide health costs.
What is the point of eating food that only serves to harm you? Doesn’t it make more sense to spend a little extra cash for the sake of actually eating a nutritional meal, maintaining health, and steering clear of medical bills? Paying more for healthy food actually gives you bang for your buck, as opposed to fast food which only serves as a health detriment in the long run.
Besides, eating healthy doesn’t have to be more expensive! In fact, with some careful planning, eating healthy and cooking your own meals at home could be even cheaper than your weekly fast food budget. For example:
Don’t have time to cook? Might as well start making time for more hospital visits. I can’t put this any nicer: find time! It is your life and well being we are talking about here! You could be spending $200 to $400 a month on healthy food, or a ‘fair price‘ of $63,648 on heart surgery. $63,648 is equal to 13 to 27 years of paying for healthy food. It’s your choice.
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If you don’t think eating healthy foods will fill you up enough, remember that getting filled up is entirely dependant on food density, rather than calorie content. While 4 pounds of fruits and veggies will provide about 400 calories, 4 pounds of pop tarts will provide nearly 10,000. If you think 4 pounds of veggies won’t fill you up, give it a try. You won’t even make it a fourth of the way through.
People that struggle with body fat management tend to fill up on energy dense, processed foods. This means stored energy for later.
If we eat 4 pounds of energy-controlled, whole, real food – we get lots of nutrition with a calorie count that our body can handle.
Check out the differences outlined below:
Most people in the U.S. are consuming (on average) the following amounts of food each day:
2.0 pounds of meat, dairy and eggs
1.5 pounds fruits and veggies
0.5 pound grains
0.5 pounds added sugars, fats and oils
= 4.5 pounds
= about 3,700 calories per day
What if we switched this around?
2.5 pounds of fruits and veggies
1.0 pounds of grains and legumes
0.3 pounds nuts/seeds
0.3 pounds meat, dairy and eggs
0.1 pounds added sugars, fats and oils
= 4.2 pounds
= about 2,075 calories per day
You can eat healthy without paying anymore than you would for fast food and still be left completely satisfied. The dollar menu is an illusion; nutritionally the food is worth far less than a dollar.
If you happen to work 120 hours a week for $1 an hour, then there are still options for you. If for whatever reason you must resort to eating fast food, there are ways to make healthier choices when perusing the fast food menu, as well as ways to make normally unhealthy fast food healthier. Some of my favorite suggestions are to drink water instead of a soft drink, undress your meal by removing unnecessary sauces, and to research all ingredients. Don’t waste your money on non-nutritional garbage. Think of healthy food as an investment in yourself.
While some countries enjoy free university and college, here in the U.S. we are stuck paying prices that a Middle Eastern oil mogul would be awed by. From 2008 to 2010 the average tuition cost for American universities rose by 15%. For some schools, it was even as high as 40%. On average, in the 2010 to 2011 school year, the average cost of one year of tuition, room, and board for all insitutions across the U.S. was $18,497. To split that total up, the average 4-year private institution cost $32,617 per year while the average 4-year public institution cost $15,918 per year. That is a whole lot of dead presidents. Some for-profit universites, which are not included in those averages, could cost even more.
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A university education is not a waste of money for everyone out there, but for a huge percentage of the population it absolutley is. Think long and hard before setting foot on campus: there is no return policy. If you are paying $20,000 a year to get a bachelors degree, by the end of 4 years you are looking at spending the price of a brand new condominum, or 2 brand new condos, depending on where in the U.S. you lay your head at night. And that’s IF it takes you 4 years to complete your degree. The average time it takes to complete a bachelors degree is 54 months, or 4.5 years. So, if you are on the upper end of that average, and going to an above average university, you could be spending closer to $200,000. You could completley pay for 2 houses for that price; live in one and rent the other one out. We are talking about a very serious amount of money just to listen to people considered experts in their field give lectures. From my experience it is mandatory to buy the new version of their book each year too.
Despite what society would have you believe, going to college or university isn’t for everyone. A degree does not guarantee success, nor does it guarantee a job. With unemployment currently hovering around 7.5%, employers only plan on hiring an extra 2.1% of graduates compared to 2012, a number that they had originally estimated to be 13% in the Fall of 2012. Unemployment for people under 25 in the U.S. is closer to 16%. Financially, the situation is even more troubling for recent grads:
Young college graduates with full-time jobs earned an average hourly wage of $16.60 last year, roughly $34,500 a year. That is down 7.6 percent from 2007. Benefits are also a problem. Between 2000 and 2011, the share of young graduates whose jobs provide for retirement plans dropped to 27.2 percent from 41.5 percent. The trend is troubling given that most students are graduating from college with huge debts.
Let me reiterate: having a degree does not guarantee success, or even make success any more likely. The most important thing when thinking about university is to consider who you are as an individual, and to remember that there are so many other options. An article from Learnfinancialplanning.com shares a very poignant story.
A friend of mine recently told me the story from when she worked at McDonald’s back when she was still in high school. Someone came along and applied for a job. Under “educational experience”, the individual listed a 6 year degree in Calligraphy.
They hung the application on the wall and had quite a few chuckles.
They laughed because the degree was absurd and stereotypical. There are precious few things one can do with a degree in Calligraphy. Spending $50,000 was probably a bad choice. The individual could have simply learned the trade without the degree, and saved thousands.
Don’t go to a degree it isn’t necessary. If it is necessary, and you can make your money back with a typical job in the field you’ll be getting your education in, then go for the degree. Just rationally analyze your situation, your goals and the necessity of the degree, and you’ll be fine.
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Education comes in many forms, don’t let society convince you that university is the only way. So, what are your alternatives to university? How about traveling the world? Backpacking through different countries is a great way to widen your perspectives and find out what you truly want to achieve in life. It is also one of the best ways to meet other people and create a solid network. The age old saying ‘it’s not about what you know, but who you know’ still applies. Volunteering or interning is also a great way to get experience in a field without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to find out that it doesn’t really appeal to you. You could also apply for vocational training, or even start a business. Ever heard of Mark Zuckerberg? He didn’t need a degree to make Facebook.
While not everyone who starts a business will succeed, the lessons you will learn will be an invaluable tool you can take with you for the rest of your life. PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel is even paying university students $100,000 to drop out of school and attempt to start a business. According to Thiel,
Learning is good. Credentialing and debt is very bad. College gives people learning and also takes away future opportunities by loading the next generation down with debt.
In a similair vein, Cameron Herold, an entrepreneur since he was a child, points out the importance of recognizing and fostering entrepreneurial talent in kids. He gives an extraordinary TED talk on how exactly to raise kids to better their chances of becoming succesful entrepreneurs, if not more successful people in general when they grow up.
Related Article: Paul Ryan: “School? Get a Job! In Fact Get Three!”
Sure, you may be nervous to go against the mold of society, but just remember that there’s no rush. Take some time to think about what you want out of life. Society insists that we go to university, graduate, and start a career as quickly as possible; don’t listen to everything you hear! Your life is yours to live. If going to university/college turns out to be a mistake, it will be a costly one that will haunt you in the form of loans and insane interest rates (6% or more!) for decades to come. You don’t have to waste your money on university if it isn’t right for you, and you can still be a fully capable, and even highly successful member of society.
If you feel alone in choosing not to go to university, check out this endless list of highly succesful people that never went to university or dropped out. Just to name a few:
Sandy Adams, U.S. congressperson. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the Air Force. Later got her GED and attended the police academy before being hired as a deputy sheriff.
Ben Affleck, actor, screenwriter. Left the University of Vermont after one semester; then dropped out of Occidental College to pursue acting.
Chuck Allen, banker, co-founder of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, and founder of the U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association. At the age of 19, he moved from Oklahoma to California and began working odd jobs until he was established enough to move on to a banking career.
Woody Allen, screenwriter, actor, director, and producer. Was thrown out of New York University after one semester for poor grades. Also dropped out of City College of New York. As he admitted, “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”
Hans Christian Andersen, short story author, fairy tales. Left home at the age of 14 to find work. Later attended Copenhagen Univesity.
Peter Arnell, advertising executive. Never attended college. Talked his way into the advertising business after graduating from high school.
Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, software programmer. Studied mathematics at the University of Melbourne but dropped out because other students were doing research for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian. Dropped out of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Keep in mind that this list consists only of famous drop outs with last names that start with the letter ‘A.’
Related Article: Coursera: Free Online Courses from the World’s Top Universities
When you donate to charity it gives you a nice, warm feeling inside. You get to help the world, at least a little bit, from the comfort of your own home. In 2011, individuals, corporations, and foundations in the U.S. collectively donated $298.42 billion to charitable organizations. The sad truth is that a surprisingly large percentage of many charities’ donations do not go to helping anything or anyone at all, but instead cover the costs of overheads.
Even well known organizations such as Feed the Children have been found to be utterly inefficient. While the founder and former president of the organization Larry Jones purchased a $1.2 million dollar house to better “reach out to celebrities,” Feed the Children was caught lying about donating food to the needy in Haiti. They hadn’t fed a single person!
A few weeks ago I was was traveling through Sumatra, trekking through the jungle with a guide. The guide explained to me that people from North America and Europe think that the money they donate to NGO’s such as the World Wild Fund for Nature is being used to make a difference. He expressed a very different reality, telling me that:
They do nothing to help the wildlife here, and often do more harm than good. They helped pay for feeding platforms for the dying organgutans, but this only makes the orangutans dependant on humans for food. It also spreads disease to the orangutans. Because they have nearly 97% identical DNA with humans, they can catch our sicknesses and have no way to cure themselves. WWF is useless.
Even handing out money to homeless people you pass on the street is often totally unhelpful because tiny amounts of money that they do not and cannot save only serves to perpetuate their poverty. What they need is direction, not beer money.
I am not going to claim that every single charity is a waste of money though! You can use the sites Charity Watch, and Charity Navigator to check the efficiency of charities and find out if the money you donate is actually being used to help the needy.
Another option is to look into is microcrediting. Microcrediting is:
a small loan that individuals invest towards small businesses or entrepreneurs in developing countries. It can also help to improve the lives of many women who, unlike men, have less of a chance to find stable employment.
This provides the direction that the needy require, hopefully allowing them to escape from poverty for good.
Related Article: Ever Heard of Microcreditng?
Makeup? More like mark-up! The price of makeup is marked up by 78% on average. Ladies, all 80% of you that wear makeup on a regular basis have seen and paid for these high prices, but is it really worth it?
The average woman spends $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime, money that contributes to an industry worth more than $382 billion. Lost makeup alone costs women $400 a year on average. All of this money to alter your physical self in order to be more comfortable around people that will judge you regardless of the mask you wear. Daily makeup use is also very unhealthy due to the chemicals that are absorbed into the skin, and subsequently the bloodstream. Anything that has a 78% mark-up, is unhealthy for you, and only serves to hide who you really are is an absolute waste of money.
If makeup gives you a greater sense of confidence and security, then I can certianly understand your argument. But ladies, moderations is key. Your health and wallet will thank you dearly!
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