We have spent a lot of time advising families on how to spend less and save more. We have covered extensive reviews of debt management companies, debt settlement companies, loans, and more. But in this guide we’re going to take a different, and at times shocking route and show you some of the ways that Americans are literally throwing money away.

Don’t believe us? Just take a look at these frightening statistics as we’re about to show you four ways that Americans are blowing money every year, accumulating a total loss in the tens of billion of dollars.

Americans Lose Millions of Dollars

Unclaimed Lottery Winnings

One of the stats that will shock you the most concerns lottery winnings. How many times have you played the lottery, only to completely forget you bought a ticket? How many times have you lost or misplaced a ticket? You are not alone, as every year in the US more than $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed, with a huge percentage of those coming from the Powerball and Mega Millions.

To put that into perspective it means that every year more money goes unclaimed than was won on the largest ever Powerball jackpot and the largest ever Mega Millions jackpot combined. Most of it is from smaller prizes and may be the result of players simply not caring about claiming a few dollars, but there have also been many 6, 7 ad 8 figure prizes that have gone unclaimed.

One of the biggest unclaimed prizes in the world was over £64 million, or around $85 million, and was won on the pan-european EuroMillions lottery, but equally staggering jackpots have gone unclaimed on US lotteries as well and it’s more common than you might think.

So, if you play the lottery, make sure you check your tickets. You typically have several months in order to claim your prizes, so there is no rush, but you will need to make sure you keep your tickets safe.

Unclaimed Lottery Winnings

Unclaimed Money

Unclaimed money typically refers to money that the government is sitting on while it waits for the rightful owner. This money can result from a number of things, including forgotten bank accounts, interest payments, inheritances, and more. There is billions of it lying in state coffers across the United States and each state has its own unclaimed money program to help this money find its rightful owner.

It is often very easy to find out if you are owed any money, and if you are above the age of 50, have spent some time moving around, and have owned several bank accounts, then there is a good chance that there is some money waiting for you. Even if you are younger and have not moved around much there could still be something there for you—it’s worth a punt.

We won’t go into great detail here as we have written extensively on the subject of unclaimed money in the past. Just click the link and you’ll find details of how to claim money from all states.

This really only applies to our US readers, as the multi jurisdictional laws help to create a situation such as this. But the same may apply in other countries, in which case there should be equally accommodating systems in place to help you. In the UK, for instance, there are “heir hunters” whose job it is to track down long-lost family members who are then given the estate of recently deceased relatives.

Uncollected Change

A Florida man named Rick Snyder used to walk around his hometown every single day to feed stray cats and as he did so he would stop at car washes and check the change trays of self-serving vacuum machines. He didn't always get lucky, but most of his attempts were fruitful and he collected an average of $5.60 per day, which rose to over $21,000 over the course of a decade.

It’s something we’ve all done: you feed notes into a machine, you pay little attention to the change that it spits out, and you leave without a second thought. It’s a similar story with every pair of jeans that you washed with notes in the pocket, every time you bought something and left before you could collect your change, and every time you dropped coins on the floor and simply walked away.

But that money adds up. It might seem like a trivial amount, but you’d be surprised at how quickly it adds up. It costs about $1.50 to buy a soda from a vending machine. Let’s suppose that you feed $2 into the machine and ignore the change, and that you do this twice a week. That’s only $1 a week, but it adds up to $52 a year or $520 a decade, and that’s only vending machines. If you account for other self-service machines, from tolls to car washes and more, that figure grows.

Give yourself a reason to collect those coins. Buy a piggy bank and make it your duty to fill it. Instead of letting the coins go to waste, drop them into the bank, forget about them, and in a few months you could have saved yourself upwards of $50.

Avoid Losing Millions of Dollars

Gambling

When it comes to gambling, the US lags behind a number of countries in terms of total amount wagered and total availability. Australians, for instance, gamble more per person than any other country and the US isn’t even in the top 10 on that list. However, if you focus solely on land-based casinos then America begins to move up the list and once you factor lotteries into the equation then it becomes an even bigger problem.

Americans lose over $115 billion a year gambling, and the cost to the average American household is over $1,000 a year. Everyone likes to think that they can win, and for a small minority this may be true. But the vast majority are losers and if you want to have more money in your pocket at the end of the month then the only guaranteed way is to avoid gambling completely.

To make matters worse, the US gambling system is geared towards the casinos and not the players. Lotteries and casinos are widespread, from commercial casinos in tourist hotspots to Indian gaming casinos, but sports betting and poker are not. It seems that every game that greatly favors the house can be played without much issue, while every game that can be beaten with knowledge and skill (by some players anyway) has been tightly restricted.

We’re sure that professional poker players will laugh at you if you say that gambling is a fool’s game, but as far as gambling in the US is concerned, it really is.