11 Expenses That Quietly Drain Your Wallet

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A couple and their baby son looking at their household finances
You see an advertisement for that dream home or car -- or the perfect getaway -- and reality quickly sets in: Your desires and bank account are not a match made in heaven.

Many people live paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by. Others have an abundant income, but no idea how to manage it.

Fortunately, there are ways to make your money work for you, no matter where you are on this spectrum.

Don't know where to start? Here are some budget busters that may be quietly draining your wallet.

1. Phony emergencies. A real emergency isn't so quiet. In fact, a layoff, unexpected medical bill or car breakdown tends to announce itself rudely and loudly.

But other so-called emergencies -- like that oh-so-cute, on-sale bedding set for the kids, or that gotta-have-it-now bar of chocolate -- are really just "wants" masquerading as needs.

Save the spending for real emergencies. And to make sure such events don't derail your finances, read 9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money's Tight.

2. Electronics. Are you a gadget junkie? Maybe you have to have the latest and greatest iPhone or tablet?

If you must have a particular gadget, consider buying a refurbished version. You may save up to 50 percent.

3. Groceries. It's so easy to head to the store with a few things in mind, but end up spending $100 or more. That's where discipline comes in.

Use a meal planner so you are buying what you really need, instead of grabbing whatever you desire at that moment. And don't forget your coupons.

Never head to the store hungry, or you will be tempted to leave with every item that whets your mental appetite. (Take a look at 9 Tips to Cut Your Grocery Bill by Up to 50 Percent.)

4. Dining out. Eating out is one of the most insidious ways to bleed your wallet. It's even worse if you spend hundreds at the grocery store each month, only to end up dining out more than you actually cook.

Office lunch dates can put another hole in your finances, especially if they become part of your daily routine.

If you insist on dining out, put the tips from 15 Ways to Cut Your Fine Dining Bill in Half to good use.

5. Entertainment. Your friends are heading out for a night of fun, and you are all for it. After all, you've had a long week at work and the kids are driving you nuts.

But there's a problem: Your bank account is on the brink of going into the red.

Be wise and say no. Even if you have to make up a lame excuse, it's worth it to salvage your budget. (Check out 14 Ways to Have More Fun for Less Money.)

Use common sense before spending needlessly on other types of entertainment. Do you really need to buy a book, CD or DVD? Would you enjoy those items any less if you borrowed them for free from the local library?

6. Travel. There is nothing wrong with heading out of town for the weekend, or even planning an extended excursion. But if you're already struggling to make ends meet, now is not the time to splurge on five-star hotels and first-class flights.

Here are 10 ways to get free lodging.

7. Apparel. Those new heels you've been coveting have finally gone on clearance. But if your budget says no, it's wise to leave them at the store.

Numerous studies have shown that material purchases do not make us happy for long. Instead, we get more satisfaction from spending on experiences.

8. Pampering sessions. While your body may need a little TLC from time to time, heading to the spa or hair salon once a week has the potential to inflict serious damage on your savings.

9. Cable. Instead of signing up for the most expensive plan, try basic cable. Or even better, cut cable altogether and go for much cheaper alternatives, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

See how you can stop paying for cable right now.

10. Gym memberships. Being healthy and fit definitely have their perks, but spending way too much money to reach your fitness goals makes no sense.

Ditch the gym and search for inexpensive or free activities at your community recreation center instead. Or try the great outdoors; a little fresh air won't hurt.

Take a look at DIY Fitness: 10 Tips to Get in Shape Without the Gym.

11. Housing. It is easy to drastically underestimate the monthly costs associated with that new home or apartment.

Before you apply for a mortgage or lease, use an affordability calculator to gauge what you can realistically contribute toward housing expenses each month.

Which expenses pose the greatest challenge to your dreams of financial security? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It's a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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