50 things you’re probably wasting money on right now

WASHINGTON — It’s one thing to splurge on luxuries, but perhaps wasteful to spend money for something promising to be helpful or useful that fails to deliver, according to Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

From dry cleaning to extended warranties — Checkbook has created a list of 50 things you might be wasting money to buy.

For example: “Little mini-insurance policies that people try to sell you — these things are rarely, if ever, good deals,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor with Checkbook.org.

Examples detailed by Brasler include insurance that allows you to rent a car to drive because your car has been in an accident, insurance offered by rental car companies when you rent a car and extended product warranties.

They’re always marketed as a good deal you could use, or need, or has value. “But, they’re just really not,” Brasler advised.

Purchases to think twice about according to Checkbook include:

Extended product warranties

Sometimes sold as “protection plans,” Checkbook believes the billions of dollars people spend on extended warranties is wasted money. On average, less than 20 cents of every dollar taken in gets paid out, Checkbook said. Many credit cards automatically double the length of manufacturers’ warranties and club stores such as BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club offer warranty extensions for free.

Air-duct cleaning

Independent research shows duct-cleaning work may contribute to dust problems, rather than lessen them. “It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Brasler said because the act of cleaning the ducts disrupts dust that’s inert, just sitting there and not going anywhere anyway.

Cloud backup

Dozens of websites offer free cloud storage. “There’s lots of different websites out there that will give you 5 gigabytes — that’s a lot,” Brasler said. “And, if you’re an Amazon Prime member you can actually backup all your pictures and video to its cloud for free.”

Car warranties

For most people, there’s little reason to insure against big repair bills. Checkbook finds most car owners make few service claims because so many new cars are very reliable. Car dealers push extended service contracts because they’re profitable Checkbook, said. Pay $2,000 for an extended service contract and the average payout for claims might be less than $500.

Bottled water

Tap water is a good deal. “It costs almost nothing,” Brasler said. “And also, it has fluoride in it.” Brasler said dentists complain they’re seeing more cavities because so many people are drinking bottled water. Also, it takes a lot of energy to bottle it and transport it. “You’re far better off buying a filter if you don’t trust your tap water supply,” Brasler said.

Add-ons on cruises

Why spend money on a soda package? There’s typically free lemonade, iced tea, and water all over the place on cruise ships. Checkbook believes shore excursions are another spending trap when you usually can book your own adventures more cheaply.

Dry cleaning

Pay attention to labels that say “Dry-clean only.” However, if the label says “Dry clean,” that is only a suggestion. Checkbook finds that “Dry clean,” and “hand wash” and other laundering suggestions mean you can do your own laundry; just be careful.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can have a look at Checkbook’s full report on “50 Things You (Probably) Shouldn’t Pay For” for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has for more than 40 years been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.


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