Do you want to save money and don’t know where to start? Here are the exact things I stopped buying to save money that changed my life!
When you’re cutting expenses and want to save money, it is important to also look at what you’re buying.
So, what things do I stop buying to save money?
Well, I did some thinking about my past purchases…
I came to the conclusion that I saved MOST of my money by becoming more mindful of my spending and simplifying my life.
Overall I’m not a big fan of cutting things that I enjoy. I spent 3 months last year traveling through Central America, that’s not what most people would do if they want to save money.
BUT I spend only $8500 over the entire year.
By eliminating the purchases that were unnecessary and didn’t add anything.
27 Things I Stopped Buying To Save Money
Here are the 27 things that I stopped buying to save money!
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2. Cutting Cable
On average, people paid a shocking $217 for their cable bill, according to research by Decision Data.
While our cable bill wasn’t nearly as high, we stopped spending $50 per month on cable because we weren’t using it.
The average American is watching 3 hours and 35 minutes of TV per day, according to Statista. That’s a decent part-time job at 25,5 hours per week!
While I’m not saying that watching TV is bad, it will make you sluggish and less productive.
That is why I am personally avoiding watching too much TV.
That is also why I have personally decided to cut the cable.
If you do want to cut your cable, here are 16 Cable TV alternatives that will save you money. They include Prime Video, Hulu, and other cable alternatives that can save you hundreds per year!
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3. Eating Out Too Often
Before the times I would be a personal finance geek and spend money on what I think is important, I was spending quite a lot of money going out to eat.
I checked my past finances and when I added it up, I spent over $250 per month going out to eat in 2017. That’s $3,000 per year. For one person.
That’s a lot for me, considering that I was studying back then and was trying to pay attention to my spending.
In comparison, in 2019 I spent $1500 total on going out to eat. Including eating on my couple of months traveling Central America.
That means that I’ve found the balance between eating in and going out to each, which is very important to me.
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4. Grocery Store Hacks
Good job, you’ve reduced your spending on eating out – that’s a great first step!
What I noticed is that I was making grocery trips more often.
You gotta do something, right?
I LOVE grocery shopping and I could be for an hour in the grocery store.
That is when you buy things you don’t need. Trust me on this.
I managed to reduce my grocery spending to around $70 per month!
What did I do? I wrote down the things that I needed and I stuck to my grocery list.
Less fun, more efficient.
Not to think that I stick to it 100% of the time. I’m human and I need snacks.
5. Don’t Buy Brand Specific
There is one side note to all of this: I also stopped buying brand-specific.
Yes, some things are better from a brand. I have to admit that.
I will still buy those.
Apart from that, not so much anymore. The generic brands are just as good.
Did you know that often the generic brand is produced by the same manufacturer as the branded product? That’s why I stopped buying my branded products.
Pro tip: if you want to make some extra money, buying and flipping items to make extra money are perfect with brands. People like brands and want to buy them, also secondhand.
6. Travel-Sized Products
I stopped buying things for convenience.
I used to buy the travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, and all of that jazz.
The small travel-size bottle is more expensive than the big regular bottle.
Go for the money-saving option and put your products in these reusable travel bottles.
7. I Stopped Drinking Coffee
I still need to hit you with the classic: stop buying your lattes and you will be a millionaire in no time.
So let me be clear.
If you do enjoy something, spend money on it.
Whatever it is. I don’t care.
If you don’t enjoy something, don’t spend money on it.
That is what I’m all about.
I stopped drinking coffee and caffeine altogether last year. It was not good for my health. Plus it saves me a lot of money.
8. Gym Memberships
If you’re working out less than twice a week, ask yourself if your gym membership is really worth it.
Did you ever sign up for an annual plan with your gym, only to rarely use it? So did half of the country.
You really have the intention to work out. And you do work out in the first weeks or months of your gym membership.
Somehow something seems to always come in between that. Life happens.
Don’t be a sponsor of your gym.
Options are to get into the habit of working out, working out outside, and make it a weekly appointment with your friend to go running.
If you’re sticking with the exercise, you can always try a monthly membership or try a week for free first.
Where can you find a free workout?
9. (New) Cars
New cars depreciate like crazy over the first couple of years. Did you know that?
Depending on the model, a new car will depreciate 20-30% on average in its first year. In the second year, 15% will be written off. On average, by the time the car is five years old, it will be worth 40% of its initial value.
That’s why I choose to lease my car through my employer.
If you don’t have the option for a leased car with tax advantages, buying secondhand is the best alternative.
Like I just told you, if you buy a car that is two years old, you pay around 35% less.
Is that car worth a depreciation of 35%? Is it any less reliable? Nope, not at all.
See it as a discount.
That is why buying your car second-hand is already a huge step forward!
Be the smart one and buy a car that is slightly used, you will get the initial discount and have many years left on the vehicle.
When you’re thinking about buying a car, think about how reliable the car model is and the quality of the car.
That analysis could save you another thousand along the way (pun intended). A quality car that is reliable costs less in repair and generally lasts longer.
10. Trying To Impress People
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like” – Fight Club.
That’s one of my all-time favorite money quotes.
People buy luxury products, go on expensive vacations, big houses, pricey cars, and more. That’s what all the rap songs are about.
Other people don’t care about you or what you do.
99% of the time people are thinking about themselves. They don’t care if your shoes cost $50 or $500, what car you drive, or what house you live in.
You can save thousands and thousands of dollars by sticking to your regular ride, normal home, and generic brands.
11. Prepared Foods
Often when you go grocery shopping, there are many types of prepared foods that are loaded in the shopping cart. Things like cookies, packaged meals, prepared dinners, prepared pizza, dessert, you name it. You only need to open them and they’re instantly ready.
If you’re buying prepared foods, they are much more expensive than their ingredients.
Do you want to save money? Make these items yourself.
Do you want to control what ingredients go in there? Make food yourself.
When you’re cooking these items yourself, you control how much you spend on them and what ingredients you can put in them.
Cooking from scratch often involves less sugar, less fat, and fewer preservatives. Not that they’re all bad, but you may be allergic or want to control your intake of certain items.
Plus, if you follow a gluten-free or dairy-free diet, making your own has the obvious benefit of making your own replacements.
12. Bottled Water
Let me tell you another thing that is costing you a lot of money – bottled water.
Americans spend over 12 BILLION dollars a year buying bottled water, according to Business Insider.
Next time you want to drink something, grab your reusable water bottle.
If you spend $20 on an awesome bottle, you can bring it anywhere and don’t drink out of plastic bottles anymore. Those times are over. I love Hydro Flasks for that.
Do you have magazines delivered to your door every week? While they are generally not very expensive, the costs can add up over time.
Think about whether or not you’re really reading the magazines. If not, canceling would be a good alternative.
There is an alternative when you don’t want to cancel your subscription entirely but want to save money that way. Go to the library and check out whether or not they have that magazine.
That’s a win!
I LOVE reading books and I can’t get enough of them. However, trying to downsize all the things I own doesn’t fit together with buying books in bulk (sorry Tim, I still enjoyed the Four Hour Work Week).
When I’m buying a fiction book, the chances of me reading it again are very slim. Except for when it’s Harry Potter, I read those books multiple times a year.
What if I don’t live close to a library?
Do you know these cute little front yard libraries that you see popping up everywhere? Start your own.
If you don’t have time for that, know that Amazon offers free ebooks.
Go to Amazon and search for ‘free ebooks’ or go directly by clicking the link here.
If you love listening to books, I have another option for you. Check out Audible.
Whenever you are in the car, running errands, or working out, you can listen to your audiobooks.
15. Do Free Activities On The Weekend
It’s important to start living stingy.
Do you know that expression less is more? Well, that still counts.
Weekends can be an entire money-suck in and of itself. You go do fun things, you go out to eat, and you want to explore new places.
While it is great that you’re trying new things, these things can be done for free as well!
16. Cleaning Supplies
We had cleaning supplies for the bathroom, the mirror, the table, the floor, the wall. You name it and we had something for it.
It is driving me crazy and I could never find what I was looking for when I needed it.
Then this magical thing happened.
I switched to making my own cleaning supply.
Okay, that sounds more difficult than it actually is.
What do I do? I simply mix vinegar and water and we use that for everything.
We use it to clean the shower, the mirror, the windows, and any other dirty spots around the house.
If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, I don’t blame you. Add in some essential oil.
Clothes can cost you a lot of money, especially if you have the feeling that you need to buy expensive brands. Let me tell you one thing: you can look fabulous while spending little money on clothing.
A couple of tips:
- Shop second-hand
- Shop while things are on sale
- Stop buying clothes at all for a while
Shopping second-hand is something that is becoming more and more the new normal and I love it! Thrift stores are the perfect place to find quality items for little money. You can even make money flipping clothes or other items from thrift stores.
An alternative to thrift stores is shopping at the Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or your local online second-hand platform.
If you have enough clothes, stop buying clothes for a while. This is called a clothing ban. It can help you appreciate the clothes that you already have and wear them more often.
I have completed a one-year clothing ban and I’m currently in my second year. I didn’t expect that I could last so long without buying anything. Even my business wardrobe is still totally fine!
18. Plastic Bags
People are wired for convenience. What else is more convenient than putting everything in plastic bags?
Your lunch, your sandwich, your wraps. Everything is wrapped in plastic sandwich bags.
You’re doing groceries and everything is packed in plastic and put in a plastic bag again.
This has to stop!!!
Buy these reusable sandwich bags, that you can reuse however long you want.
Or one of these cute linen bags, so you never have to pay for a grocery bag at checkout ever again.
This will help you, the environment, and your budget.
19. Impulse Shopping
Have you ever gone into a store to buy just one thing that you really needed and walk out with an entire load of stuff?
Aka, have you ever been to Target?
Some of the stuff you didn’t even know existed before you headed into the mall. Somehow they convinced you that you needed it.
This is crazy!
To avoid buying things you don’t need, make a list and stick to it. This is the only weapon I have found working against impulse shopping.
Plus, if you stop impulse shopping, you won’t have to worry as much about your debit card declining.
20. Online Shopping
After impulse shopping, spending money online is very easy. You can click a few buttons, your credit card information is already saved, and within 2 minutes you spent a small fortune.
Try to eliminate spending online as much as you can.
I know it’s not always possible, but you can at least start somewhere.
If you’re shopping online, make sure you’re using a cash-back app.
I would recommend Rakuten for cash back on your regular items. They currently have a bonus, where you get $10 if you sign up with my link and spend $10.
21. Snacks & Junk Foods
Soft drinks, energy drinks, and junk food can be a major expense. You don’t realize how much money you’re spending on these items and then BOOM.
I used to go to get junk food with my friend at least once a week when I was in university. Every time it was like $10 total, which means that it added up to over $70 in some months. That’s a lot of money.
All these snacks and junk foods taste super good, but they’re terrible for your body.
Instead of soft drinks, drink water. Take your refillable bottle with you and just fill it up with tap water, it won’t cost you anything. Except getting used to at the beginning of the course.
Snacks like burgers, fries, or donuts can be easily replaced with something like fruits.
It will take some getting used to but in the long term, you will feel much better financially and health-wise.
22. Cell Phones
Cell phones can be a major expense. It doesn’t have to be!
There is very fierce competition out there and phone plans are starting to get better and better.
If your phone plan is fixed for an X amount per year, I would for sure switch after your plan ends. When you don’t, prices often go up a lot.
If you’re checking phone plans, think about what you need.
Do you have a phone that is still working great? That means that you don’t need another one and you can look at sim-only phone plans. With a sim-only plan, you only pay for the data and calling, with no extra charge for the phone involved. These plans are often the cheapest.
Do you need a new phone? Check with your provider what is possible. Often times they will have a deal for you to keep you as a customer.
Don’t forget to check the smaller providers, they can be very cheap if they are competing on price.
Think about what you need and go for it!
Do you enjoy spending your money on the weekends? It can become expensive when you’re going out of the house most evenings.
Just going out to eat and going to the movies can cost you $100-150, including snacks and drinks.
Instead of going out all the time, try to have fun indoors. Have an at-home movie night. Cook a fancy meal. Enjoy a book.
24. DIY Small Repairs
Did you ever need to have something repaired? You had a plumbing issue, had to get your washing machine fixed, or your dishwasher suddenly broke? If you have, you know that having people come over for small repairs can be extremely expensive.
Try to do these things yourself before calling up someone to come and fix it.
Last week our sink was leaking, with a couple of YouTube videos and online instructions we could fix it ourselves. Thank you internet!
Nowadays, you can find anything on YouTube, simply follow instructions and you’ll be good to go.
I am not saying you should tile your bathroom yourself, there are times where it is very smart to call a professional.
Try to do some small repairs around the house yourself and you’ll be amazed by how much you are able to do!
Do you have an entire DVD rack with DVDs you bought? They probably won’t fit anymore, making the movies be placed at different places around your home.
Well, so did I for a period of time!
By now, I’ve sold all my DVDs and I’m happier about it.
When you want to watch videos, it’s much cheaper to rent them for the day. Alternatively, try services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
With Amazon Prime, you get Amazon Prime Video, which has a FREE trial.
If you don’t have a smart TV yet, get a Roku for your TV. They allow you to stream free movies.
26. Going To The Hairdresser
While in quarantine, the majority of the people have probably learned how to cut people’s hair. I really wanted to practice with my partner. He wouldn’t let me, how strange!
Not so long ago I used to spend $40 simply going to the hairdresser, they washed and cut my hair.
Just for that, yes.
The last few times I needed a haircut, I did it myself. It’s super easy and anyone can do it.
I personally used this tutorial for long hair:
If you have shorter hair, check out other tutorials on YouTube and get started!
27. Greeting Cards
It sounds like it’s something small, but when I stopped buying greeting cards this saved so much money!!
You run into the store to get a greeting card a couple of times per month. It’s something that can cost you up to $50 a month without even realizing it. I mean, the fun cards are always $4-5.
That’s a lot of money!!
Personally, I write my message on the wrapping paper or the paper bag I’m gifting. That works perfectly fine for me!
Besides that, you can send cards through email with Hallmark Ecards. They are super fun, easy to create, and 99% of the time they’re FREE.
That’s what we want right!
Bonus: Expensive Vacations
Vacations are a must in the lives of many, including myself. If I’ve been working for the entire year, I think a couple of weeks of vacation are the best thing to recharge.
However, many people take all-inclusive vacations to exotic destinations. These kinds of vacations are priced up to thousands of dollars, plus you need to book your flight to wherever you’re going.
I encourage people to see something of the world and to explore, that doesn’t mean that you need to spend thousands and thousands on your vacation each year.
A couple of tips:
- Make sure you’re flying with a cheap airline to save money on airfare
- If you don’t need to fly, stay relatively close and drive
- Use Airbnb for lodging
- Pack your own snacks and limit your visits to expensive restaurants
I have traveled for almost four months for under $3,500. If you want to know more about saving money while traveling, here are the tips I personally use.
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All In All – Things I Stopped Buying To Save Money
Phew, okay. We’ve covered A LOT. These are all the things I am no longer spending as much money on as I once was. If you want to join the frugal fun, here are 105 fun things you can do without spending money!
It feels great and it is great to know what I do and don’t want to spend any money on.
Of course, my spending is not 100% time-aligned with my values, but I’m doing better and better.
What have you stopped buying to save money this year?
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Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.