Finding things to stop buying is a good start when trying to save money or lower your spending.
Since you control your discretionary spending, you can stop buying certain items or find lower-priced alternatives. Cutting expenses frees up extra money for your emergency fund, paying off your student loans, getting out of credit card debt, and other financial goals.
Here are 45 things to stop buying to save money:
1. Premium Gas
You’re wasting money if you’re pumping premium gasoline into a car that doesn’t need it. Premium gas isn’t cleaner or better but is more expensive than regular gas.
Check your owner’s manual. Using higher octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends offers little to no benefit. Unless you drive a fancy car or hear a lot of engine knocks, regular will probably do just fine.
2. Extended Warranties
Extended warranties sound like a good idea, but the reality is different. They often come at a high cost and don’t cover everything that could go wrong. If everything goes well for the warranty period or you forget to use it, your extended warranty is just an extra expense with no benefit.
Paperback and hardback books can look nice on a shelf. Hardcopy books also provide that tactile, more traditional reading experience. They can take up too much space and become cumbersome if you move frequently.
Get a library card if you typically buy a book, read it once, and never touch it again. You can stop spending money on books, read them cover to cover for free, then give them back.
If you buy books for the enjoyment of reading, get a Kindle. Or don’t buy a Kindle. Use the Kindle app and read digital books on your computer, tablet, or phone.
The digital version of a book is usually cheaper. You won’t have to spend on storing, displaying, or hauling it around with you.
There’s a fine line between decor and junk. Things you buy for display only don’t always add much joy or value to your life. Functionality often trumps decorative.
5. Paper Products
Paying for things that wind up in the trash after one use isn’t the best use of your money. Most paper products and things like disposable cleaning cloths fall into this category.
Paper towels and napkins are costly and wasteful. Try cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. Swap out paper towels for dishcloths you can wash, then use again.
Paper plates, disposable dishes, and plasticware are convenient at picnics. Using them regularly because you don’t like washing dishes creates a lot of waste. They will cost you more than buying a simple set of ceramic plates.
6. Non-sale Items
When you run out of something, you might be in the habit of going out and replacing it right away or as soon as possible without checking prices. Many things you use daily are probably on sale somewhere if you have multiple stores nearby.
Things you seldom need to pay full retail for include:
- Pet Food
- Toilet Paper
One area where only buying sale items will save you a lot of money is grocery shopping. When you only purchase what’s on sale, you’ll spend less on groceries and lower your monthly grocery budget without clipping coupons.
Go through your supermarket’s flyer or check their website for the weekly sale items when meal planning. Make your weekly meal plan around what’s on sale and what you already have.
Whether you’re spending on a significant expense or something small you use every day, you can usually find a better price. Look for it.
7. Sale Items You Don’t Need
I can’t count how often I’ve gone to a store and come home with more than planned. It was usually because something on sale caught my eye.
While everyone loves a bargain, not everything on sale is a good buy. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you purchase something you don’t need or wouldn’t otherwise buy. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale.
8. Bulk Purchases That Go to Waste
I’m all for buying in bulk when you’re getting a good deal, you have the storage space, and you’re not buying excess food that will end up in the bin. Often, stockpiling sales items and shopping at warehouse clubs make sense.
With bulk purchases, you pay more upfront and save money in the long run. It doesn’t work if you end up throwing out half your purchase.
Food waste is entirely preventable. Think before buying a lot of something perishable or with an expiration date. Consider whether you’ll use it all and have a place for storing it until you do.
Be aware that food isn’t the only thing that expires. Other items you might buy in bulk with expiration dates include shampoo, deodorant, bar soap, beauty products, and many cleaning products.
9. Bottled Water
Bottled water is bad for the environment. It’s also an unnecessary expense that piles up over time. A water filter or water filtering pitcher for tap water will cut costs.
Get yourself a reusable water bottle or container you can take wherever you go and fill up as needed. If you don’t like the metal ones, plenty of affordable, durable glass water bottles exist.
You can make a fine cup of coffee at home for a fraction of what you pay at your favorite coffee shop. Giving up fancy coffee drinks can put over $1,000 back in your pocket if you’re getting one away from home five days a week.
Despite what you might have heard from some financial gurus, you won’t get rich by giving up coffee. The money you spend on takeaway coffee does add up, of course. So, give it up as part of your plan to cut unnecessary purchases.
11. Prepackaged and Prepared Food
Shortcuts are great when they save you money. Most prepackaged food and ready-to-eat meals are convenient but usually not worth the extra cost. Take these off your grocery list, and spend less every month on groceries.
Skip the cut vegetables, bagged salad, convenience food, and meal kits. Chances are, you can make the same thing for much less.
12. Restaurant Meals
People dine out for social reasons, special occasions, and entertainment. If you’re eating out primarily because it’s convenient or you don’t feel like cooking, cutting back on dining out will save you a lot of money. Make eating at home as easy as possible instead of buying a restaurant meal after a busy day.
Do that by planning your meals for the week. Spend one weekend afternoon preparing meals you can store in the fridge or freezer.
There’s no reason to hit a restaurant if you can have dinner on the table in a few minutes with no prep work involved. You also know the ingredients in everything you eat, and you can control food portions if you’re trying to watch your weight.
You don’t have to cut out restaurant meals entirely. You could go for lunch, which is usually cheaper. Or you could find places running special deals and limited-time offers.
13. Deli Meat
You can spend $12 a pound or more for your sliced sandwich meat at the deli counter. That’s way too much when there are better alternatives.
Find a 5-pound roast, brisket, or turkey breast on sale, then roast it. Slice it thin and pile it high on sandwiches.
14. Fast Food
On the surface, fast food seems like one of your cheaper options when you’re away from home or don’t feel like cooking. It isn’t that affordable in the larger scheme of things, however. Cheap fast-food meals are more costly considering all the chronic diseases linked to an unhealthy diet.
Having a weekly meal plan, spending one day on meal prep for the week, and bringing your lunch to work will help you avoid fast food. They’re better food options in terms of both price and health. Staying away from fast food could also help you bypass all the problems and associated costs resulting from a poor diet.
15. Women’s Products
Ladies, if you haven’t heard of the pink tax, you’ve probably experienced it. It’s not an actual tax but a practice of pricing products marketed to women higher than those marketed toward men.
With some women’s items, you pay more for a smaller version, a pink-colored version, or less of the same product. That’s money you can’t put toward your emergency fund, getting out of debt or other financial goals. If you’re buying women’s razors, deodorant, or body wash, you can save money by purchasing the men’s stuff. Buy unscented if you don’t want to smell manly.
With so many makeup products, brands, and price points, spending on cosmetics can get out of hand. You don’t have to give up wearing makeup. Instead, you can:
- Stop buying more until you finish what you have. Don’t buy new lipstick if you have a drawer full of barely used tubes.
- Avoid the highest-priced cosmetics. Price doesn’t equal quality.
- Compare ingredients. The $10 moisturizer might have the same ingredients as the $100 moisturizing cream.
If you shop smart, beauty products don’t require much of your budget.
17. Salon Visits and Beauty Treatments
Looking your best is not cheap. You can spend a lot on beauty treatments every month, including haircuts, hair coloring, nails, eyebrows, waxing, etc. You could save hundreds of dollars by cutting back on your beauty routine if it involves regular visits to the salon.
You don’t have to avoid the salon altogether. Try scaling back to every six weeks if you go once a month. You might save a bundle if you cut it back to 8 visits yearly instead of 12.
18. Lip Balm
Having dry, chapped lips is uncomfortable and irritating. Unfortunately, lip balm is overpriced and easy to misplace. Fortunately, there’s a way to cut costs. You can make lip balm with beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil, and some empty containers. It’s simple to do and works out to pennies per tube.
Here’s how: Simple DIY Lip Balm
It’s not always easy to get 100% of all the nutrients your body needs daily from your meals. That’s why many people turn to vitamins and other dietary supplements. You might think of a daily multivitamin as cheap insurance against nutritional deficiencies. That might not be the case.
A growing body of research suggests that vitamins might be ineffective at preventing health risks or even harmful if taken in excess. Here’s an excellent explanation: Are there really any benefits to multivitamins?
If you take vitamins every day, talk to your doctor about it. You might be better off skipping vitamins and buying healthier foods.
In addition to newspaper and magazine subscriptions, you can get an endless supply of food and drinks, clothes, health and wellness products, pet stuff, and more sent right to your door regularly. Creators of software, web content, and email newsletters have also adopted monthly subscription models.
Paying for subscription services and other stuff can quickly get out of hand. You might forget to cancel. You might even forget you subscribed until you see the charge.
Go through your credit card and bank statements. Review your subscriptions. Cancel any unused subscription service and any that aren’t bringing much value.
21. Gym Membership
You get value from your gym membership if you live in the gym and regularly use the facilities multiple times a week. But if you signed up with the idea of working out regularly only to wind up not going much or at all, think about canceling it.
You can exercise at home on your own, follow along with the hundreds of free workout videos on YouTube, or take up running or walking for exercise.
If you need equipment to work out effectively at home, check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. We picked up a barely used rowing machine and weight plates for our garage gym.
22. Cleaning Supplies
Commercial cleaning products are expensive and filled with dreadful ingredients. Most aren’t noticeably more effective than good old-fashioned cleaning agents like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. Try making your household cleaners.
Clean your tub and tile by mixing a cup and a half of baking soda, a half-cup of Dawn dish detergent, two tablespoons of white vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
You can make a variety of homemade air fresheners with 2 cups of water, two tablespoons of baking soda, and 20 to 30 drops of your favorite essential oil. Mix it all up, funnel it into a spray bottle, and shake it well before use.
Making your cleaning supplies is quick and easy. Once you try it, you might never return to store-bought expensive cleaning supplies.
23. Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets are unnecessary. If you quit buying them, your quality of life would probably not suffer meaningfully. You’d also save money.
That said, they do have some benefits. Dryer sheets make your clothes smell fresh and your towels fluffier. They also reduce static. If static cling is a problem for you, or you don’t want to give up fluffy towels, you can still get the benefits of dryer sheets without spending much.
You might have seen tutorials for DIY dryer sheets on Pinterest or some frugal living blog. They usually involve putting a few drops of essential oil on a paper towel or cloth and then using it as a dryer sheet. I’ve tried it, but the results were disappointing. Try switching over to wool dryer balls instead. I use them mainly for towels, but you can use them with all your laundry.
With dryer balls, you get some fabric-softening effects, shorter drying times, and no static. They’re not scented, but you might not care, or you could get the scent you want with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. The best part is that they’re sustainable and reusable products, so you cut down on waste and save some money.
24. Laundry Detergent
The bigger your family, the more clothes, sheets, and towels you must wash. The cost of laundry detergent adds up. You can’t avoid washing your clothes, so saving money at the laundromat lowers your budget.
You can make homemade laundry detergent with a few simple ingredients. It costs much less than commercial brands at around $0.05 per load. It also cleans well and works fine in your high-efficiency washing machine.
The downside is that commercial detergents have enzymes for removing stains and surfactants to disperse dirt, while homemade laundry detergents do not. Your DIY detergent might not get clothes as clean as you’re used to.
25. Cable TV
With so many entertainment options available, cable television is unnecessary. If you watch a lot of Netflix or Hulu but hang on to cable for a few shows, start making comparisons.
How much would it cost to subscribe to a cable alternative like YouTube TV instead of cable? If you add another streaming service like HBO Max, does that give you access to your shows and save money? What if you bought only the shows you can’t miss from Apple or Google Play?
Saying goodbye to cable bills can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re paying for channels you don’t watch.
26. Streaming Services
With all the streaming services, getting carried away is possible. If you’ve decided to cut the cord and get rid of cable, you don’t want to go overboard with streaming services. Get rid of it if you’re paying for services you’re not using or aren’t using as much as you thought.
27. Name Brand Items
Brand loyalty is expensive. If you always buy a particular brand, you’re probably paying top dollar, buying your favorites when they’re not on sale, and not considering comparable or better products. Creating loyal customers is in the company’s best interests, not yours. Not acting in your own financial best interests is how money gets wasted.
Store brands and generic products are often just as effective, work the same, or taste the same, but cost much less. You can probably find several name brands you could easily swap out in your house.
We buy all kinds of store-brand or generic food items like broth, tomato paste, beans, frozen vegetables, spices, cereal, etc. We purchase other generic items, including storage containers, trash bags, personal care products, and LED bulbs.
28. Impulse Buys
Stores employ several tactics to encourage impulse shopping. Methods grocery stores and retailers use to get you to make impulse purchases include:
- Lining the checkout area with cheap products you don’t need, like candy and magazines
- Placing unrelated impulse products around popular items
- Putting sale items toward the back of the store, so you have to walk past several displays to get a good deal
- Offering product demos and free samples
Your favorite stores use these tactics and others, so you buy something you don’t need, don’t want, and haven’t planned to purchase. Online sellers do it, too. Amazon has many features designed to get you to put a related item or something you browsed recently in your cart.
These tactics work. You’ve probably come home with something that wasn’t on your shopping or grocery list more than once.
Make a list before you leave your house. If an item isn’t on the list, don’t buy it.
One of the great joys you experience as a parent is seeing your child’s eyes light up. A toy can make that happen. Until your son or daughter gets bored with it and wants something else.
Keep in mind kids outgrow, get sick of, and break toys. Find a balance between your child’s short-term happiness and the money you have budgeted for discretionary purchases.
30. Tech Upgrades
Folks camp out and line up to get their hands on the latest iPhone, even if their current phone works fine. They also pay top dollar. Early adopters sometimes pay for bugs, security issues, and unwelcome changes to standard features.
When a new model or gadget hits the stores, the prior version usually drops in price. Many times, the latest version isn’t a game-changer and is very similar to the old version. If you need to replace your tech gear, you can save a lot of money by buying a slightly older laptop, phone, or tablet.
31. Smartphone Apps
Many free apps are available via the App Store and Google Play. You can probably find a free alternative to most paid apps.
Avoid games that offer in-app purchases of boosters or extra lives. Eventually, you start feeling like you can’t progress without buying something. That’s no fun.
32. Costly Cell Phone Plans
You probably can’t imagine life without a mobile phone. That doesn’t mean paying top dollar for a cell phone plan is necessary. Competition among cell phone providers is fierce. You can usually find a cheaper plan. Sometimes, they’ll even pay you to switch carriers. There are also alternative cell phone providers. Before signing up with AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, check out Mint Mobile, Boost, Google Fi, and Ting.
Smaller providers typically lease capacity from more prominent companies instead of maintaining towers. They often charge much less for similar features and coverage. If all you need is a basic cell phone plan, try the alternative providers first.
33. Kitchen Gadgets and Appliances
Some kitchen gadgets last for years, make meal prep more manageable, and save you time. Others end up forgotten in the garage or donated to thrift stores.
My family’s appliances that see regular use include our coffee maker, blender, rice cooker, stand mixer, and slow cooker. Things we never should’ve bought and ended up being sold at one of our yard sales include a bread maker, juicer, pasta maker, and a deep fryer.
Then there are the little gadgets that sounded like a good idea. The cherry pitter, egg cooker, electric can opener, spiral slicer, and meat claws have proven wasteful. I still haven’t decided if the salad spinner is worth it.
Before you plunk down your money, think about how much you’ll use something. Don’t buy it if you can picture it living in your basement instead of on your counter.
34. Pet Toys and Clothes
Dogs and cats often end up with more toys than you can count. You might also buy sweaters, Halloween costumes, raincoats, and hats.
Pet toys get chewed, damaged, lost, and sometimes ignored. Pets might tolerate the clothes but would probably rather not play dress-up with you. It doesn’t make sense to keep buying stuff your pets destroy or don’t like.
35. Special Occasion Clothes
It is too easy to buy a dress, wear it once, and let it sit in the back of your closet forever. You can recover some of the money wasted by selling on Poshmark, but a more considered approach can save you money.
If you’re considering buying clothing for an event, ask yourself when you’ll wear it beyond the occasion. If you can’t think of a time or place to wear it again, lean toward not buying it. Also, make sure you look good in it and it’s comfortable, so you don’t have any reason not to wear it more than once.
Jewelry is wildly expensive; you might not have occasion to wear it often, and most people don’t notice or care when you do.
You probably own some meaningful pieces, like a wedding ring or something passed on to you by a loved one. Wear what you have, but stop buying new jewelry. It’s not useful, it costs too much for what it is, and it’s not an investment.
37. Lottery Tickets
Buying lottery tickets is a big waste of money. Your odds of winning are so small. You’re essentially lighting your money on fire when you purchase lotto tickets.
When the jackpot swells, buying a ticket or two is OK. Someone has to win. Regularly playing the lottery or buying scratch tickets every time you stop at a gas station is not a good use of your money.
Everyone needs a vacation now and then. Resting, unplugging, and taking a break from work and your hectic life are essential. That doesn’t mean you can’t find inexpensive ways of vacationing.
Try camping. It gets cheaper the more you go since you’ll have the equipment. If you don’t want to buy a bunch of camping gear, go for one night and never go again, so make sure it’s something you see yourself doing long-term.
If sleeping outdoors is not your thing, there are other ways to take a cheap vacation. You can travel during the off-season, take a day trip, book a short weekend trip, or tour your city.
39. Movie Theater Concessions
Movie theaters make huge profits on concessions. You can buy popcorn and candy at any supermarket for a fraction of the cost. Bring snacks. Don’t make a show of it or leave a mess. You probably won’t be asked to leave or have your snacks confiscated.
40. Brand Name Medicine
Both brand-name prescription and over-the-counter medicines are way more expensive than their generic counterparts despite having the same ingredients. According to the FDA, generics are approved only after a rigorous review, work the same way as the brand names, and offer the same benefits. So why pay for the name brand?
Whether it’s aspirin or something your doctor prescribes, see if a generic version is available. You’ll likely save a lot of money.
Bad spending habits cost money. Vices can cost more in terms of money, relationships, and health. Some, like wasting food or habitually paying your bills late, are an utter waste of money you can easily avoid. Others, like smoking and excessive drinking, can also be costly to your health and finances. It’s challenging to shed a bad habit, but it is possible. You’ll improve your financial, physical, and emotional health if you can. If you need help, please get help.
42. Holiday Decorations
Some people go all out with holiday decorations, especially Halloween and Christmas. It helps get them in the spirit, and it brings them joy. The costs of turning your front yard into the North Pole for a month can add up.
Holidays are special days. Creating a special feeling throughout your home is worth doing. Just don’t go overboard. You probably have plenty of holiday-themed stuff already. Use what you have instead of buying new holiday decor every year.
43. Greeting Cards
You might be big on sending cards to friends and family for every occasion, milestone, and holiday. Until you realize you’re spending a couple of hundred dollars a year on greeting cards.
A heartfelt handwritten note is more personal and memorable than a greeting card. It also costs next to nothing. It’s much better than spending $4 or $5 a pop for a piece of paper with someone else’s generic sentiments.
44. Bank Fees
Banks aren’t shy about slapping you with fees. Most of them are avoidable. You can pay nothing in bank fees if you:
- Sign up for direct deposit
- Maintain a minimum balance if required
- Use only ATMs affiliated with your bank
- Don’t overdraw your account
- Open both a checking and a savings account
Sign up for email or text alerts. You’ll get notified when your balance drops below a certain threshold.
45. Late Charges
Late fees will never be an issue if you’re financially responsible and pay all your bills on time. If you’re getting hit with late charges from creditors and service providers, you need to stop that. Late fees are a waste of money, damage your credit score, and are entirely avoidable.
Add due dates to your calendar, set up alerts or reminders, and enroll in autopay.
More Things to Stop Buying?
If you have a hard time living below your means or are tired of struggling financially, then tracking your spending and looking at where your money goes should help you identify things to stop buying. If you feel like you can’t stop buying things, consider how you spend money and what you’ve bought recently. How many hours did you have to work to pay for them?
I don’t miss most of the things I stopped buying to save money. You probably won’t either, but if you do, think about what you’re gaining, not what you’re giving up. Cutting out some things will make more of an impact than others. Every bit counts when it comes to saving money, however.
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Sara Graham is a frugal living and household budgeting expert. Her writing has appeared on MSN Money, The Good Men Project, Fairygodboss, and several other online publications. She is the co-founder of KindaFrugal.com, a personal finance and frugal living blog.