Save Money from Previous Mistakes

We have all done it. We make money mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes continue to cost us. But here are some tips to save money (or even make some money) on previous mistakes.

Cancel Your Whole Life Insurance Policy

Whole life insurance policies are some of the most expensive, oversold, high-commission, non-useful products in the financial industry. You pay a lot of money and get very little in return. Instead you can cash it in for the cash value – or stop making monthly payments on it if you are still paying for it – and use that money for something useful.

Instead, you should have a term life insurance policy that actually protects your family (generally between 5 and 10 times your salary depending on your family situation). The reason you only need term insurance is that:

  1. You can’t afford enough whole life to replace your income and
  2. You won’t need the insurance your whole life

As your 401K and other assets increase you won’t need the cash from the insurance company any more because you will be self-insured. Since insurance is supposed to replace your income, once you have enough saved, you simply won’t need to rely on an insurance company to financially protect your family. You will have already accomplished that on your own.

Cancel Subscriptions and Memberships

You had to have that jelly of the month club membership didn’t you? It seemed like a good idea at the time you set it up. Or maybe the gym membership to run off the calories from all the jelly? Maybe you just had to join the local country club – even though there is a minimum you must spend each month at the dining hall. These are all potential costs that you can recoup – at least a portion. If they deduct money monthly, you can cancel your subscriptions or memberships now and suddenly have a lot more cash available to spend on your other priorities such as paying off debt, building your savings or just buying other things that matter more.

Sell Your Unwanted Stuff – or Donate It

There are plenty of places popping up all over the web where you can sell items you no longer want. I guess we are a society of excess. Regardless, here are a few:

  • Swappa – For phones and similar gadgets
  • eBay – Everyone knows eBay. It is a bit of a hassle, but hey… it’s for the cash, right?
  • Craigslist – You can get locals to buy your stuff as long as you are willing to let it go cheap.. something is better than nothing.
  • TheRealReal – If you have designer clothes you can’t use or don’t want, then this is your place.
  • StubHub – Got tickets you can’t use? This is the place ti unload it.
  • Local pawnshops or consignment shops. Think local. There are places in most towns across the country that will give you cash or help you sell your items.

If you are thinking more about donating the items this can also lead to cash in your pocket – but maybe not right away. If you itemize your taxes, then you can deduct the value of the items you give to non-profits such as these:

  • Salvation Army
  • Goodwill
  • Operation Give
  • Dress for Success
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation

TurboTax has a software called ItsDeductible or you can go here and get the information from Goodwill. I don’t know if they have a more recent version of their donation guide.

Now you can have a cleaner, more organized house and have more cash in your pocket!

Refinance Your House

For many U.S. families, the mortgage represents a large portion of their budget. Depending on your credit score and when you purchased your house, you may be able to refinance at a lower rate and really save money – as in tens of thousands of dollars in the long-run. There are all types of local lenders and online lenders available such as

Transfer Your Credit Card Balance

While you are at it, you can also transfer your credit card balances to a lower rate card, but make sure you understand all of the terms including the transfer fee, how long the 0% or low rate lasts and what the regular rate will be when the promotional period ends. is one of many sites that will let you sift through various cards to see which one is right for you.

Sell Unwanted Gift Cards

Did you know that you can sell your gift cards? You won’t get the full amount from them but you can get pretty close. Of course if you can use the gift card and get something you were going to buy anyway, then do that. But if the gift card is for a store that is not close to you or one where you never shop, then use CardPool or Raise to sell them for cash!

Unload Your Timeshare

Those sales presentations sure are convincing! Plus they are really good at applying the right amount of pressure and convincing you it is the right thing to do for you and your family. And the costs are such a good deal… until you get home and actually do the math. Plus you pay those fees each year. Using companies such as TimeShare Professionals, you can unload your timeshare and save those fees each year going forward!

More Ways to Save Money?

I am sure there are others ways to save money by selling, cancelling, or re-purposing something you already have. Hopefully my list will help get you started. If you have any additional ideas or resources, let me know in the comments section below.

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Bill Pratt

Bill is an Assistant Professor of Business at Piedmont Virginia Community College. He speaks on topics related to personal finance on college campuses across the country and is the author of multiple books on personal finance. He left the financial industry to focus on helping people become personally and financially successful. He lives in Charlottesville, VA with his wife and their three pets.

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