A big coordinated garage sale in my neighborhood gave me a surprising wakeup call. It’s one thing to see a family’s stuff spread out in the front yard, but quite another to see a whole neighborhood’s castoffs at one time.

All I could think of as I walked from one yard to the next was how many dumb decisions led to this colossal display of stuff—purchased with dollars, now offered for pennies.

Imagine how much cash you’d have right now if you could get a do-over on all the thoughtless purchases you’ve made in your lifetime. Me? I’d be one wealthy woman!

I can’t tell you what those little money wasters are in your life (the five pairs of black shoes in your closet? dozens of owl figurines for your collection?).

All you have to do is take a walk through your house to see what you’ve been throwing away your money on. Me, I’ve learned that there are a lot of “conveniences” I don’t really need. Once you put an end to them, it’s like giving yourself a raise.

Just think about it. If you can cut out the stupid stuff, you may have the money you need to start a serious savings program or to pay down your debts. Read and learn from my mistakes.

Extended Warranties 

Generally, they’re not worth the money. (The only thing I have covered with a warranty is my laptop computer, and that’s because I practically beat it to death and computers are sensitive.)

If a new gadget or appliance is going to fail, research tells us it will do so during the manufacturer’s warranty period or long after the extended warranty has expired. That makes extended warranties, which can cost anywhere from $5 to hundreds of dollars, a big profit center for retailers and a pretty useless expense for consumers.

Get Smart: If you’re worried about a breakdown, take the money you’d spend on a warranty and stash it into a special savings account.

If your item fails, you’ll have the money to repair it. If not (which is more likely), in three or five years when everything’s gone well, you’ll have stashed away a nice little nest egg.

Gym Fees 

The sales pitch is compelling and the promise of better health is hard to deny. But getting roped into a legal obligation to pay a big monthly fee for the next two or three years—whether you use the gym or not—makes no sense. 

Get Smart: Find a gym or health club that requires no contract (you pay by the month if and when you desire). Or don’t pay at all: There’s a big wonderful world out there where you can walk, jog or run for free!

Fast-Food Runs 

You know how ridiculous it is to spend $3 or $4 for coffee—over and over, day after day. But how about the other snacks and food purchases that can cause your bank account to evaporate? A morning egg sandwich here, an afternoon bag of chips there…before you know it, you’ve spent $20 or more a week.

Get Smart: Before you leave the house in the morning, figure out how much cash you’ll need for the day, then take only that amount with you. Bring your own snacks and pack a brown-bag lunch to reduce costs even more.

Cell Phone Apps and Ringtones 

OK, so it’s cool to have ringtones, apps and games on your cell. And sure, $2 to $3 a pop or $10 a month may not seem like a lot of money for so much fun. But watch out. You can blow through a lot of cash in no time.

Get smart: Make a hard-and-fast rule that you do not pay for ringtones, apps or games—then find them for free. They’re out there; you just have to search for the ones that work on your particular phone and with your service provider. Check out Phonezoo.com or Myxer.com. You can even make your own ringtones for free, using MP3s you already own.