20 Little ‘Money Leaks’ That Can Sink Your Budget

20 ‘Money Leaks’ That Can Sink Your Budget

For most of us, budgeting and financial management is a critical work that’s never truly done. And although it’s important to carefully consider the more expensive purchases we make in order to avoid wasting money, it’s easy to forget that the little things we buy day to day can add up in a hurry!

In this post, I’m sharing a list of 20 of those smaller buys that may be eating into your budget. Regardless of your current financial situation, I hope this post inspires you to identify and eliminate unnecessary spending so you can put that money toward something you need (or at least genuinely want!)

Author’s Note: This isn’t meant to be a list of things you should never spend money on, but rather a list of items that are easy to ignore to the point where they can negatively impact your budget. But there’s no harm in occasionally treating yourself to any of these items — “everything in moderation,” as I like to say!

20 Things You Might Be Wasting Your Money On

throwing away money

1. Bottled Water

It is easy to overlook a small amount spent on bottled water everyday, but it adds up! A 16-ounce bottle of water costs about $1.50. Buy a bottle of water five days a week, and you’ll spend $30 a month and $360 a year.

throwing away money

2. Credit Card Interest

If you’re not paying your credit card balance off in full each month, you’re wasting money on interest. Carrying a $1,000 balance on a card with an 18% interest rate will cost you nearly $200 per year.

throwing away money

3. Unused Gym Memberships

Your commitment to working out may have waned, but that won’t stop those monthly membership charges! There are also plenty of exercise options that don’t cost any money at all.

throwing away money

4. Late Fees

If you miss a credit card payment by even a day, you can face a late fee of up to $25 (or more, if you’ve been charged a late fee in the past few months!)

throwing away money

5. Appetizers

Who among us hasn’t chowed down on an appetizer or two while dining out, only to end up feeling full by the time our entree hits the table? (And unfortunately, I’m something of a repeat offender in this regard.) Unless you’re absolutely starving, get either the appetizer or the entree — you’ll get your fill without wasting money on uneaten food.

throwing away money

6. Overdraft Fees

Getting charged an overdraft fee is the financial equivalent of getting kicked while you’re down, isn’t it? Check the state of your accounts regularly — even daily — to make sure you’re not in danger of getting hit with an overdraft fee.

throwing away money

7. Expedited Shipping

Paying a premium for expedited shipping is very rarely necessary, and those costs can be pretty steep! To avoid costly shipping fees, take advantage of free shipping promotions and in-store pickup options.

throwing away money

8. Deal Websites

The discounts available through deal websites like Groupon will only save you money if you actually use whatever it is you’re buying! If there’s a 2-for-1 deal for that new place across town, make sure it’s a place you’re actually interested in going before snagging a deal that could be a waste of your money.

throwing away money

9. Designer Baby Clothes

It’s probably not worth it to spend $20 on a single onesie. That onesie will likely end up covered in stains, or the child will quickly outgrow it anyway!

throwing away money

10. ATM Fees

It’s not just two bucks here or $3 there. It adds up. Fast.

throwing away money

11. Forgotten Movie Rentals

Red Box may only be a buck a night, but rent two and leave them behind the sofa, and that can add up quickly.

12. Unhealthy Habits

Americans burn $44 billion on tobacco and $50 billion on alcohol each year, and that doesn’t begin to take into account the indirect costs related to drinking and smoking. Bottom line: both of these can cost you your health as well as your wealth.

throwing away money

13. Premium Cable Packages

Be honest, you probably don’t watch 90% of the channels that you get with a premium cable package. I know I don’t! Plus, you can get a lot of the same shows on streaming services, which cost about $10 per month compared to ten times that amount for a cable package!

14. Lottery Tickets

Your odds of winning big are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 13 million. With odds like that, the chances of you recouping what you spent on those tickets are slim to none.

throwing away money

15. $8 Coffee Drinks

If you must get your coffee on the go, stick to a gas station or convenience store to lessen the daily blow to your bank account.

throwing away money

16. Tickets & Citations

Speeding and parking illegally is a huge waste of money. Plus, one speeding ticket can raise your insurance rates 10-15%. Do you REALLY save that much time anyway?

throwing away money

17. Not Planning Meals

Without a plan, you risk wasting money at the grocery store or on fast food.

throwing away money

18. Dry Cleaning

Unless the label says “dry clean only,” you can more often than not get away with washing your dress pants, button-up shirts and dresses in cold water. Skip the dryer and hang or lay flat to dry.

throwing away money

19. Magazine Subscriptions

Do you have a large pile of magazines that you’ve been meaning to read? Cancel those subscriptions! You’ll never notice they’re gone. (And if you do, it’s better to buy one issue for $5 when you know you really want to read it.)

throwing away money

20. Premium Gasoline

Many drivers assume using a “premium” gasoline will make their car perform better. That’s not necessarily true! You won’t go faster, get better mileage, or run cleaner using premium fuel. (Some cars may see a minuscule boost in performance, but it wouldn’t make a noticeable difference to the average driver.) Switch to the lower octane options at the pump and see the savings add up.

What’s one thing you do to avoid wasting money?

Read This Next


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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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66 Comments

  1. If you tend to have a lot of lights on in your home, then switching over to LED bulbs can save you money on your power bill. Even if you switched to cfl bulbs previously to save on power, the led’s will save you even more. And buy them in multi packs to cut the cost of buying them, or do what I did and buy them at Ollies, where they are also d̵i̵r̵t̵ ̵c̵h̵e̵a̵p̵ inexpensive.

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  2. We rarely buy bottled water – except for trips. We have a Britta water pitcher. We use Roku to stream things on TV. We live an area that has great garage sales.My mother has found great deals on baby and children’s clothing. She found a lot of my younger sisters clothes and now clothing for the Grandkids.

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    • The water dispenser on our refrigerator has a charcoal filter. That water (and, tbh, our tap water) taste just fine, with the water from the fridge being colder, of course.

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  3. My tip is ‘Don’t buy anything if it isn’t on sale.’ I often think I need something I ran out of but…the truth is I don’t need many things right away! Stay safe America, please, from Colleen in Canada.

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  4. Sometimes I will buy an appetizer instead of a meal. That is often enough food.

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    • Yes, Diane… That’s a great idea. I forgot to mention this one. Sometimes, a family member and I will order one appetizer or salad and one entree and we split them.

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  5. I’m happy to say I do NONE of those things listed. An additional $ saver is to hang clothes (except towels) to dry after “fluffing” a bit from the washer; saves SO much in not running a dryer constantly. Outside smells amazing, and if inside, the extra moisture in the air is a good thing:)

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    • I don’t do any of these things, either. I do what you do with my clothes as well. But only in the winter here in NC!

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    • I don’t do these things either. I use a clothesline. Towels can be put in the dryer on air only.. I also save money by using cereal liners when cooling and freezing cake layers before frosting. They work well for anything wax paper would like rolling pie crusts or separating meat portions.

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      • Here in MA, it is six months of winter and sometimes it seems as if that six months lasts for 15 months :-0.
        However, when the weather permits and it is 60 degrees and sunny, I do love to hang my wash on our clothesline except for the towels that would end up rough and scratchy.
        I had to purchase a new dryer six months ago and it is energy efficient and so much more economical than my old fifteen-year-old dryer. I was amazed at the savings from a year ago.

  6. Before downgrading the fuel in your car check your vehicles manual. Some cars, such as mine, require premium gas. Not using it could cause issues with your cars engine, performance and possibly void your engine warranty.

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    • Ditto for my car! I asked my friend who owns the mechanic shop and he told me it really does make a different in how my car drives and the overall health of my car’s engine.

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    • My understanding is that high performance cars require premium gas.

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      • There should be a sticker on the inside of the fuel door stating exactly what octane is required for the specific car.

    • Pro tip: Look at the required octane rating if for your car. In my case it’s 91 octane. The station where I buy my fuel sells 87, 89, and 93 octane.I’ve gotten good at knowing how low I can go on fuel so that I can first pump 7 gallons of the 93, and then 7 gallons of 87 into the tank that gives me 90 octane, which, in fact has actually proven to give me better fuel mileage than straight 93. There’s a 60¢ difference between them which saves me 30¢ per gallon over the 93 octane. I also get 5% back per gallon by using my Sams Club master card (usable at any station, not just the one at the club), making for even more savings.

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  7. Our Naperville Library offers RBDigital (formerly Zinio) to download magazines free of charge with no return date. I don’t subscribe to any magazines anymore and all are conveniently located on my IPAD, AND they send me an email when the current issues is available.

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  8. A lot of these really just boil down to paying attention and planning well. I know I rack up library fines by forgetting to keep track of when books are due. I now have a designated spot for library books, especially since my little ones often put library books with their own collection and we forget them and I mark the due dates on my calendar and set a reminder that they need to go back.

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    • My local library sends me reminders by email when books or movies are due in 3 days. Incredibly handy and saves me a fortune as movies are $1 a day overdue at the library also.

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  9. U used to subscribe to a newsletter called “Garbage”. It had a constant connection of environment and consumption. The editor said to simply look at your garbage, what is it you’re throwing out. Sure enough, just that concept was worth the cost of my letter. Diapers, paper towels, wipes, dryer sheets (? Seriously?) and embarrassing ly salad dressing bottles!

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  10. About magazine subscriptions,, there are websites that will give you a year of your favorite magazines for free. We are getting about 10-12 magazines a month all for free. I don’t renew any of the subscriptions.

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    • Also the public library allow to to view current magazines online with Zinio for free.

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    • Look out for magazine subscription offers that seem too good to be true. I got several subscriptions for $3.00 a year each from a third party vendor and then had to threaten to report them to the Feds when they wanted me to renew at $44 a year and made it almost impossible to cancel.

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      • The magazing publishers themselves try to pull quick ones on you that way also. They will sell you a super low subscription rate for a year, but in the fine print they tell you that they will then auto renew your subscription at the “current” rate, which is always astronomically higher. Oh, and so does satellite radio, and the only way you can terminate the service is to call them. They won’t just let you cancel on line. That is so they can try to talk you into continuing the service by offering you the discounted rate again. And those rates never include the “hidden fees”, either.

  11. Not all of these tips are for everyone, I just wanted to get people thinking about little ways they could save some money. :-)

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  12. I. guess my pet peeve is all the flats of bottled water I see in grocery carts. Most of it is just reverse osmosis of tap water. Very few people read labels! A 5 stage reverse osmosis system ( with pump) is around $200.
    An average family probably spends more than that in a year + NO plastic bottles. Sometimes I stop folks in the store & tell them. Probably none of my business but I just can’t help myself!

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    • I buy 5 gallon jugs of water and use the machines in stores to refill them – even Walmart has those machines. Individual bottled water is so wasteful – in cost and pollution.

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    • Some of the bottled water has the fluoride removed. Why pay good money to give your kids -and yourself – cavities.

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    • I must admit that I do buy bottles of water that I keep in the refrigerator, in the summer to give to our garbage men. They have a very hot, smelly but very important job and they appreciate a couple of extra bottles of cold water.

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  13. Cabe or dish fees, I use a antenna free after the cost of the antenna at lest $50 saved a month.
    Rabbit ears if you live in a city.

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  14. Two wise things I did about 3 years ago are:
    1. I stopped subscribing to any cable or DTH channels to my TV set. I use my TV only occasionally for watching some good videos, photos, screen mirroring for my smart phone and enjoying good music through Home Theater. I have not only saved a lot of money but there is an immense peace and joy in my house. I use internet for latest news update, YouTube for music and other entertainment.
    2. I stopped buying newspapers and as I said above, depend on various news websites for news updates. Probably, apart from saving money, I must have saved a few trees also!

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    • If one does watch t.v., and doesn’t need to have the latest and greatest offerings via cable or satellite, there are numerous free streaming services that you can download to a smart t.v. that offer literally hundreds of channels and movies. My LG sets themselves have what are called LG channels, of which there are hundreds to pick and choose from, all for free.

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  15. This is a great list! My husband and I use the streaming services, we never even considered cable because of the price! We also hardly ever buy bottled water, investing in a good filter like zero water or brita and a good quality water bottle is the best way to go. I will say though that I am guilty of having a gym membership! I have to admit though that I have exercised more since getting it than not, paying so much each month has actually been a good motivator because I want to get my money’s worth, and I am seeing results!

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  16. If you live in the country and you use well water, a storm can come through and knock out the power so your pump wouldn’t work but, if I lived in the country I’d have a backup generator. I would probably have some bottled water on hand anyway but other than that it’s a total waste of moolah. What really irks me is they throw the plastic bottles in their household trash,…. folks,…. plastic is made from oil plus if you bury plastic do you know it can take 500-600 years for it to breakdown or compost. Plastic is like aluminum, you can recycle again and again, paper on the other hand can make 6 trips through the recycling mill then it’s time to send it back to Mother Nature. I haven’t had a refuse service in 35 years because I recycle 99% of everything, look at the money I’ve saved !

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    • I agree. My pet peeve is all the littering of plastic bottles and fast food trash.

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  17. I use an antenna and get over the air channels free. Use the put channel and your laptop and you get over 30 premium channels free (like hbo, starz, syfy, tlc and more). Use you laptop and get access to movies (even ones just now playing) all for free. I have more tv then I can watch and it is all FREE.

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  18. Great list , I do get a lot of magazines and subscriptions but I don’t pay for them . and this might not be for everyone but i earn points at recycle bank . com and pay for them with points . Bottle water in this house is something we have for those just in case times like when the city told us not to drink our city water or we have guest .

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  19. Water bottles? I live in a city with some of the best tasting water. It blows my mind that people pay on average $1.50 for a 8-10oz bottle and then the environmental damage of the unnecessary plastic. THe few bottles I have I reuse and refill and then when they get uncleanable cause I use them for other than water they generally go into my plants to keep them watered or hundreds of other ideas

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  20. The lottery is a tax on people who don’t understand statistics.
    This is a good list, and a good reminder. Some of these items are a wake-up call to those of us who don’t know that bottled water is a rip-off, that most people who buy gym memberships rarely use them, etc. There are many “traps” out there to part people who are stupid/desperate/ignorant/delusional/whatever from their money.

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  21. Good list. Another horrible waste involves printing and ink. I love sharing these types of lists in financial classes but I will have to type it up without the huge page size pictures.
    I do the magazine thing through discount magazine and subscriptions for common magazines are about $4/year. BUT how many Thanksgiving editions of Rachel Ray or Family Circle do you really need? These are very reusable but a magazine in my mailbox is always a thrill at the end of the day, I will confess.
    When you are at work or away from home, a lot of coffee places charge only a buck or less if you have your own mug.

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    • For me, it’s the redundant billing and envelopes in the mail. We are on every e-cycle for notifications. So, why pray tell are we still receiving tons of paper in the mail and on e-mail (same stuff) it’s frustrating, wasteful in both time and material. Called them, but nobody gets it or understands why. So, we recycle all the paper…………………end of story………………….

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  22. These are great ways to save some cash. Fabulous list for the frugal homemaker.

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  23. I am so guilty of the Groupon thing!! I also went through a stage of purchasing massages and restaurant deals that I didn’t end up using because most were just far enough away that I never had time to use them it just didn’t want to drive that far!
    I do have to say we buy bottled water, but I don’t consider it a waste of money. 99% of the time I purchase a case at Costco for $3.00, and keep some in the fridge so I can grab one on my way out the door if I don’t have time to get my “good” reusable water bottle. That way it works out to be around 15 cents per bottle. It’s also invaluable to us during summer sports practices….I tried one year to get everyone their own reusable bottle, but most would leak if I put them into a bag and they fell over, leaving us less water to drink in the heat! And I agree, if you are somewhere and need a drink, I would rather purchase water out of a machine than soda. I can’t imagine doing it very often though, that would get quite expensive!!

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  24. Quite often I will order the appetitezer as my main dish. With everything larger these days, the appetizer is just the right amount, with no waste.

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    • I agree! A salad or a plate of nachos makes a good meal and if I got one of those PLUS a meal I would be STUFFED and out a bunch of money!

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      • But why not make the same basic food at home? That way control how fresh the ingredients are and you can customize it just to suit your family. It is also so much cheaper then eating out. Plus no leaving a tip since you are the server. I have found that you can generally make a meal of at least half of what they charge to eat out. Cheaper, fresher, tailored to your likes or dislikes and you don’t drive just sit in the comfort of your own home.

    • I order a meal and divide it in half. Eat one half, take the other home for another meal, making it more affordable for me, plus I don’t have to make it……………..WIN – WIN………….

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  25. In some places, people do need to buy bottled water and I think that is necessary as long as it is sourced from real spring source and is owned by a small company that’s not questionable. The reason is there are places where the tap water has fluoride which is a known carcinogen and toxins. The fluoride that is put in our water is not real flouride but a waste product and a biproduct of pesticides company. A healthier and safer alternative would not be bottled water, but investing in a sound water distiller.

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    • As a general rule, distilled water removes not only all of the chemicals from water, but also all of the beneficial minerals that give water its taste. As a result, you end up with totally tasteless water. The only thing I use distilled water for is topping up batteries.

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  26. I do occasionally buy a bottled water. I’d rather have that than a soda. And I do have a case of bottled water for my prepareness pantry. Hubby drinks sodas in 2 liter bottles. I will start saving those for pantry storage. Just wash well and let dry. You can fill them with rice, beans or most anything else. You can even use them for water storage.

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  27. Don’t forget to check out your local library. They have magazines and possibly videos you can borrow. My library lends both of these for a week with a 10-cent/day late charge and no up-front fee for videos. It’s a great way to save!

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    • My library sells old magazines for 10¢ each. A few times a year I splurge and buy 10 for $1.

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    • Many libraries have services where you can download hundreds of current magazines (as well as books, music and movies).

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  28. Awesome ideas. Great blog. My husband is a ASE master certified auto technician. Engines are designed to use a certain octane of fuel. The engine needs to burn hotter when using higher octane. Certain conditions like hot summers or loads like trailers warrant the need for higher octane. Check your car’s owner manual to find out what octane to use. Using higher octane when your car was designed for lower octane can leave residue in your engine.

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  29. After reading this I have just cancelled a Magazine Subscription that I rarely read properly. That’s saved me £24 a year. Thanks Jillee!

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  30. Beware the “restaurant tab creep” particularly in themed casual dining chains. When the dinner bill for two went from $35 to $65 (without appetizers or alcohol!), it was time to eat at home more, or go to In-and-Out.

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    • Not entirely like the “shrinkflation” that is now so prevalent at the grovery stores now, is it? Same price per container, but in a much smaller container.

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  31. For those people who love their magazines, most libraries have magazines for reading and check out. Much simpler and on hot days much cooler.

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    • Excellent point. And they’ve got DVDs, books on tape and many offer online Bonus materials and subscriptions – all as added benefits with your library card. Most libraries are easy to request items they don’t have yet as well.
      Plus, stop won’t time on expensive INK and paper of an at+home printer when you only need a few pages on occasion. Get the file to the library and print there for a nominal fee, sometimes the first 5 pages are even free!
      Have a business office on site at your apartment complex? They’ll often provide free printing, faxing and use of a computer.

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    • I’m a magazine junkie! That is one thing I am not giving up. However, I do purchase several from my local library at dime or quarter each. Others I get when offers are 2 for 1. getting 2 magazine subscriptions for $5 or less! Just recently renewed several for $2 each. Much cheaper than the drive to the library! I do recycle by passing on most to a domestic violence shelter or free clinic ,,,that way they have something a little more current ;-)

      Gave up cable years ago and opted for Netflix. With a good digital converter we get over 50 channels with lots of good viewing.

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