Secret money suckers: Where your money goes when you're not paying attention

Hint: your triple foam, no whip, light sugar, 2 vanilla pump latte might be the culprit.
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Where does your money go when you're not paying attention? 

There's that magazine subscription you've been meaning to cancel, that growing monthly cell phone bill, that daily latte and that gym membership you've neglected all year — costs that can add up quickly. So why don't we stop them?

"The reason many people don't stop money drains is time," said Jordann Brown, a personal finance blogger with My Alternate Life. "It takes time to pack your lunch and make coffee in the morning. It takes time to track your spending. Time is a valuable commodity, and it can be difficult to prioritize a boring financial task over (watching) Netflix."

But if you're serious about cutting back on costs — turning that fleeting New Year's resolution into a foolproof plan — here are the best tips for plugging your money drains from personal finance bloggers Brown, Cait Flanders and Kerry K. Taylor.

The drain: Insurance and cell phone costs

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The fix: Shop around. Comparing home insurance rates, mortgage rates, and cell phone plans and could save you thousands of dollars. Online rate comparison websites such as kanetix.ca specialize in doing just this. And don't be bill blind. Open your mail and look at what your actual costs are.

The drain: Rent

The fix: Negotiate. Never underestimate the power of asking for a lower price. Negotiating can be awkward and uncomfortable if you aren't used to it, but with practice, it will become second nature.

The drain: Your mortgage

The fix: When deciding how big of a mortgage you'll take on, be realistic. If your mortgage payments are going to eat into your savings for your children's education or your retirement nest egg, decide if that house is worth it. Experts recommend not spending more than between 25 to 30 per cent of your monthly net income on home ownership expenses, which include mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance.

The drain: Takeout coffee, lunch or dinner

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The fix: Prepare. On Sunday, make a meal plan for the week, buy the groceries you'll need and pre-prep as much as you can by cutting up vegetables, cooking grains and making sauces. Healthy meals will be much easier to throw together throughout the week with prep out of the way. As for coffee, make it at home or at work. If you don't want to cut out takeout expenses entirely, track how much you spend for one month. At the end of the month, reevaluate your costs and see if you're happy with where your money's going.

The drain: Cable or satellite television

The fix: Go without or go for less. Most broadcasters provide on-demand streams of their new episodes online so viewers can catch up if they missed it on TV.   

The drain: Your line of credit.

The fix: Stop treating it like your bank account. Resist the temptation to pay off your credit card bills using your line of credit — you'll only be transferring debt. Some tough love: if you can't afford it don't buy it. If you don't have the money don't spend it.


Katrina Clarke is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about relationships, health, technology and social trends. You can find her on Twitter at @KatrinaAClarke.