Fifteen Ways Being Uncool Saves Money

I’ve never been “cool” or “popular.” In certain situations with certain people, I can fake it for short periods of time, but the truth always comes out soon enough. Thankfully, I managed to get over this complex at the relatively young age of 16 and I’ve been benefiting from it ever since. In addition to all of the psychological benefits that come with not pretending to be someone you aren’t or trying to meet others’ expectations all the time, I’ve also found that being uncool can save you a whole lot of money.

As an uncool person, here are a few of the many things you won’t have to spend your money on.

A fancy car, or anything nicer than a functional junk bucket

Other people may laugh at my car behind my back, but I’m laughing all the way to the bank. My car does exactly what a car needs to do: it gets me to where I need to go. While it may not look pretty, it’s dependable and gets good gas mileage. Not only did I save on the purchase price, I also save on insurance year after year.

The latest cell phone

I must look like a total loser to everyone in the “cool” crowd that has the iPhone, but my cell phone works just fine, I didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for it, and I’m not hooked into any long term service contract. If my cell phone ever quits working, I’ll get a new (to me) one on eBay for pennies on the dollar. I may not be cool since I don’t have the latest and greatest toy that’s full of fun but unnecessary gadgets that I’ve successfully lived without for years (how many people use their phone’s built-in camera regularly?), but I do have a growing retirement account.

Anything at full price

While a lot of people are too cool to be buying things from the sale rack, eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, or thrift stores, this has never been a problem for me. Just because an item is on sale or has been used before doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it, at least for those of us that are uncool. Thrift stores, even places like Goodwill and Salvation Army, are generally fairly picky about the quality of merchandise they’ll actually put on the sales floor (try donating a slightly broken desk to them and you’ll see what I mean). Most of their merchandise comes from nice upper and middle class homes and has been well cared for, but the original owner has simply gotten tired of their item, upgraded to something nicer, or had to get rid of non-essentials when they moved.

An overpriced luxury apartment or an expensive home in a prestigious zip code

I once lived in the “cool” expensive area of town, but after a year of paying overpriced rent, I decided to move to an average neighborhood where I get more bang for my buck. By doing so, I save lots of money, which I will one day be able to use for a down payment on a home. With every overpriced rent check you hand over, you’re putting yourself further and further away from owning a nice home instead of owning just a mediocre one or having to keep renting. If you’ve bought a home in a hip area, appreciation may make your home a great investment over the years, but that high mortgage payment may also be standing in the way of your other goals, like socking away plenty of money in your 401k or simply living comfortably instead of living paycheck to paycheck and praying you don’t get laid off.

Bottled water

While the “cool” people walk around with with their $1+ bottles of water, I know most of it is just purified tap water. Plain old tap water is fine for me in restaurants, and at home l use a water filter. I save a ton of money over buying bottled water, and it’s much better for the environment than manufacturing and throwing away (or even recycling) all those bottles. There’s no point in bragging about owning a hybrid car if you’re still drinking bottled water. That being said, I do like to have a couple of water bottles on hand that I re-use over and over again. Taking my own water to sporting events and carrying an empty bottle with me through airport security saves me lots of money on the other side of the gates.

Vacation homes

Vacation homes come with great bragging rights for those who are “cool,” but they’re not a good use of your money if they’re sitting empty when you’re not there. I stay with the uncool, less expensive option of renting my vacation lodging. Owning a vacation home isn’t necessarily a bad use of your money, however, if you make lots of rental income off of it while you aren’t using it, but it would also be uncool letting strangers who are too poor to buy their own vacation homes live in your house…eew!

Name brand clothes, shoes, and accessories

When I walk down the street, it’s rarely in brand name clothing that would make the “cool” people turn their heads in admiration. There are times when a name brand gets you a higher quality product, and in these cases I will certainly buy brand names. However, I don’t buy them just to impress other people. Why spend $300 to carry around free, unlimited advertising for Louis Vuitton?

Fashionably up-to-date clothes, shoes, and accessories

While the “cool” people are making sure their clothing color matches the latest trends, I have no idea if my pants are in style this season or not. All I know is that they fit well, and I got them for 75% off on eBay. While I don’t wear the latest styles or the hottest brands, my clothes cost a lot less initially and I’m able to wear them for longer.

Name brand groceries

Yes, I know I may look uncool purchasing the store brand instead of the ones advertised on TV, but I’m not really attached to the slight difference in the flavor of Oreos over store-brand chocolate sandwich cookies. I save a bundle while still getting perfectly good food by avoiding the brand hype. Many times, even if I have a coupon (being uncool again) to purchase a national brand, the regular price of the store brand will still be a
better deal.

Expensive cosmetics

When you look into my purse, you aren’t going to see the “cool” expensive brands. The same companies often make both an expensive and an inexpensive line of cosmetics, with virtually no difference in quality between the two, so I buy my makeup at the drugstore. For cosmetics that are best tested before I buy (like lipstick), I go for the less expensive lines at Sephora or hit the Clinique counter because they’re the least expensive of the department store brands. Also, I take advantage of the companies that will give or sell you samples (like Mary Kay or Paula’s Choice).

Frequent haircuts and/or stylish hairstyles

I’m not advocating that getting one of those $15 haircuts is the way to save money – that’s a good way to get a hack job done on your hair and have to spend more money to get it fixed than you would have had to spend to
get it done right the first time. “Cool” women know from hairdressers and magazines that they need to get their hair cut every six to eight weeks. Maybe that’s true if you want to have perfect-looking hair all the time, but I find that I can stretch out the time between haircuts a lot by being a bit uncool and simply wearing my hair up or curling the ends under when my hair is getting scraggly. I also avoid the “cool” highlights, salon dye jobs, and complicated haircuts that require lots of styling products to save even more money. Besides, most people look better with their natural hair color, and if you really must dye it, the chemicals in the drugstore dyes are exactly the same ones that go onto your hair at the salon, so you might as well do it yourself for $10.

Dry cleaning

Sure, I know that “cool” people don’t do their own laundry or ironing, but at several dollars per garment, I’d rather remain uncool since dry cleaning is an incredible waste of money. I shop carefully to avoid buying dry clean only clothing, and I don’t let myself be too busy or important to do my own laundry. If I ever got super-busy, hiring someone to do my laundry for me in my home once every two weeks would probably be cheaper and faster than dropping off, picking up, and spending all that money on dry cleaning.

Constant home upgrades

When I buy a house, I know I won’t be keeping up with the “cool” people because my home won’t get a brand-new kitchen or a fountain in the front yard. I spend a lot of time in an upscale residential neighborhood, and I’m stunned by how much construction goes on there. By choosing a home in an uncool neighborhood where competing with your neighbors is not the norm, I plan to save a lot of money and avoid all that construction noise.

Going out

While all the “cool” people are dining at the latest trendy restaurant, bar, or club, I save a ton of money by being uncool and eating at my favorite local Thai hole-in-the-wall. This allows me to enjoy the pleasures of eating out while spending far less money. To maximize my uncoolness, I always take my leftovers with me in a doggie bag.

Alcoholic drinks

I know I don’t meet the definition of “cool” since I’m willing to fulfill my craving for a drink at home instead of blowing $10 a pop on bar drinks at the trendy clubs. My well-stocked home bar was purchased for the cost of several bar drinks, and it will last a lot longer.

The truth is that most financially successful people are very modest in their spending habits and don’t flaunt their wealth, according to Thomas J. Stanley’s excellent book (and audiobook), The Millionaire Mind. Their money is largely socked away, providing them with security and peace of mind, instead of being spent on showy things that will make them look cool to other people. If you make your purchasing decisions based on what really fulfills your needs and wants instead of based on what you’re told to purchase because it will make you cooler, you’ll not only save money, but get more personal satisfaction per dollar spent.

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42 Responses to Fifteen Ways Being Uncool Saves Money

  1. Shannon Christman says:

    Don’t forget your savings on country club memberships and subscriptions to the fashion magazines that tell you how to be cool!

  2. Dr. Jackpot says:

    You’re a spendthrift man!!! Get COOL! I live in the national forest and eat acorns and wild spinach and sleep under a pile of pine needles. I don’t sleep well with all those bears around and sometimes the crawlies get in my crotch but the chiggers are the worst. But I’m saving up money for one of them thangs.

  3. princessperky says:

    Heh, I always knew there was an upside to not being cool!

  4. Quitting smoking is also a good way to save money. Be uncool and live longer.

  5. dan says:

    This goes again to show that so many people purchase things in order to try and impress others rather than purchase the things that make them happy.

  6. Nathan R says:

    Personally I don’t know why people want to spend $800 on the first generation products like the IPhone. It seems silly to me. (Many first generation products have inherently big problems relating to the functionality of the product.)

  7. N Lewis says:

    The person who wrote this article could be my identical twin ! I marvel at how little respect people have for the value of money, but then have much more of it than I have or ever earned. Am senior widow, no pensions from either my husband or myself other than government. Along with conservative investing and saving, by the same methods allows me to get along reasonably comfortably,
    so far.
    On sale, is my motto, and 99% of time is it a want or need. One has to have the odd splurge, but even then often is for something on sale.
    Thought I was the only one these days to handle finances this way.
    Thanks again
    N. Lewis
    Toronto Canada

  8. N Lewis says:

    Love this write up.
    Drive 88 Toyota wagon, in good shape, is seldom want not need – one can splurge the odd time – try to take advantage of sales (i.e pool pucks this week reg $39.99 for $29.99 – will need for next year. Try to do sale food shopping for the on sale items if am using anyway and in the area of the store.
    Of course pay bills on time to never have paid interest. Use my charge card which earns me points which then can be used for free food at a particular store,(have $20 free to spend now) as well as deferrring removal of that money from account till next month.
    If oven cooking meat, bake potatoes rather than element on. Saves bit on hydro.
    There are probably lots more of these sensible things, just can think of them as they are instinctive – some people think they are silly, but it’s my dollars I am saving

  9. Lisa says:

    A woman after my own heart! Geeks R Us! I am often caught wearing the same shirt that appears on my driver’s license [grin]. And in all the birthday pictures…

  10. mom2fur says:

    As far as store vs. name brands, I feel you really have to give both a try and see what you like. I’ve never found a decent store brand of paper towels or any kind of plastic storage bag. Store brand t.p. isn’t bad, but I prefer a brand with the initials A.S. (bought at a discount store, btw).
    Bottled water…we’re lucky enough to live in a water district with superior water. Really, it wins awards for being the best tasting water in the state (NY). Sometimes I’ll grab a store bottle on the fly, and I had been refilling those. Then I learned that icky stuff leeches from the plastic. So now I use a refillable bottle and try to remember to bring it with me, LOL!’
    And clothes…fashion names mean nothing to me, but fit and style do. I stick with the classics and do a lot of sewing!

  11. anonyMOUSE says:

    Be careful re-using water bottles. You should only re-use them a limited number of times or risk bacteria growth and other nasty stuff.

  12. anonyMOUSE says:

    And yes even attempting to washing them poses risks (unless you can get some sort of brush down in the bottle).

  13. Kris says:

    I know I’m ridiculously late with this, but there’s a quote from Almost Famous that goes with this post really well: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world … is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

    Great piece!

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  15. Mike Marcoe says:

    I agree with almost everything here. However, the advice about renting in cheaper parts of town needs to be thought out carefully, because you may find yourself in a high-crime area, as I did a few times in the past. As for name-brand groceries, I’ve found that they often taste much better than their generic counterparts (esp. Cheerios).

  16. Chris says:

    I’m from AZ and it’s too hot to be cool here, but to feel cool the biggest money saver here is the 9pm to 9am hours for electric. Not sure if all electric companies do this but your rates are 50% off during “off peak” hours so run those appliances at night or early in the morning. Also those low rates are good all day Saturday and Sunday.

  17. Kathy says:

    Love it, love it, Amy! I’m proud to say that I do most of the aforementioned uncool things, and will work on further geeking myself up with your other suggestions.

    I read an article recently about store brands becoming more and more accepted and actually competitive, so I think we’re seeing the high-priced brands getting knocked down a peg or two.

  18. Lori Ingram says:

    thats the way I have always been. I buy what I need and ocasinaly something I want but I don’t go overboard.

  19. Non-virgin says:

    You forgot the biggest saving you are making by living an uncool life. Just think of all the money other people waste on condoms because their coolness it getting them laid while you sit alone at home watching TV (14″, used, from craigslist) and drinking supermarket brand beer (bought on sale).

  20. monkeybutt says:

    I think it’s good to be frugal to a certain degree. I am frugal with certain things. But I also know some people who are frugal to a fault. So much so that they want to make sure their part of the dinner bill is calculated exactly so they don’t have to pay a penny more. But you have to remember that one day you might wake up, do your morning thing and look forward to the nice day ahead of you. Then you walk outside and get hit by a bus and now you’re nice and dead. Sometimes spending a few bills to have a good time with your friends and make fond memories is really more of an investment in your life, not an expense. Don’t spend money on stupid stuff. But make sure you at least spend it where it matters.

  21. Joel says:

    I l u. you rock !! thanks for this post, it has really put a smile on face in bad times.

  22. leslie d. says:

    It’s great to hear all the uncool ideas; I do most of them, but could work on increasing my uncoolness factor.

    One thing I love about being uncool and conserving my money is having the chance to put some money into a cause I truly believe in! Being uncool with my money leaves me with extra to share when someone around me is in need. I never feel any richer, in this life, than when I can give freely.


  23. wench says:


    I buy cheap shampoo and expensive conditioner. Shampoo is meant to strip dirt off your hair and rinse away; does anyone think it actually adds vitamins? It’s a rip-off. And you don’t need as much as you usually use – you can cut it with water by about 50% before it actually starts to loose effectiveness.

    I’m so lame. 😉

  24. Toni Gregg says:

    I don’t know where you shop that you pay those high prices for hair dye. The $3 kind from Wal-Mart works just as good as the $10 stuff and my $10 haircuts come out absolutely great at the local beauty school.

  25. Carol Sissom says:

    I drive a 1992 Saturn with 387,000 miles on it and it drives great. First engine and transmission. Just take care of the maintenance.

  26. Cindy M says:

    I’m with you but probably even less cool. I cut my own hair (get more compliments now than I ever did, it’s not hard if you keep your style simple). I seldom eat out, get all my CDs and DVDs at the library (reserve ahead of time, car is 8 years old but paid for, thank you very much, always hit the dollar store and use house brand foods, seldom if ever have a drink (could use one more often, ha-ha), buy what few clothes I need at thrift stores. I don’t take a local newspaper, no magazine subscriptions, no dry cleaning. That’s about it, I think. Always looking for ways to be even more uncool. Hey, it’s hip to be square.

  27. romy says:

    I may like the ‘cool’ clothes at LL Bean and J Jill, but I NEVER buy anything at those stores unless it’s been marked down. And I buy food in quantity when there are 2-for-1 offers.

  28. Nancy says:

    I like high priced clothing like Ralph Lauren, because it is so well made.
    HOWEVER, I buy it at Goodwill. My husband is a professional, and all of his shirts are purchased at Goodwill, and all are high end brands. They cost less than five dollars at Goodwill.
    I make most meals from scratch, and make bread in the bread machine. We use store brands, and get most of our staples at loss leader prices. We eat better than most families.
    I hang our laundry outside becasue I love doing it. Cuts down on ironing too.
    We are not low income, but I think it is foolish to waste money. We will not be worrying about how we will survive in our old age, because we will have money saved, invested, and will be debt free.

  29. P. Smith says:

    Excellent subject – keep using it!

  30. Kristin says:

    When my mother-in-law sees my daughter’s closet jam-packed with hand-me-down and thrift store clothes, she says, “I just don’t want her to look like the poor kid in school.” Whaaa? Little does M.I.L. know with all the money we save on “imgage” stuff (on a THREE YEAR OLD!? Come ON!) we plan to retire by age 55.

  31. Barbydoll says:

    I never realized how “cool” I was with 17 yr old Honda Civic in primo condition, (why have an expensive car to sit under the Texas sun all day in employer’s pkg lot), no cell ph, beautiful newer home -but located in the “hood” so lower price when we bought – yet comparable crime rate to the rich zip codes (I work for police), no vac home, never dry cleaning, no alcohol – I am alcoholic (dry for 26 years)& boy what I have saved
    there along with quitting smoking 25 yrs ago, too.

  32. Preeti says:

    Nice to know there are others who think like me. I cut my own hair – have observed the hairstylist in the past, so I take the time to get the feathering just right! Also, never buy out-of season or expensive fruits and vegetables –
    always wait for the prices to come down. For laundry purposes, I have found that adding a few drops of antiseptic liquid (eg. Dettol or Savlon)to the detergent gets the clothes cleaner and brighter, while needing less of the detergent. Well-cut and well-maintained clothes look as good as anything designer. Just get the colours right – in terms of both fashion and personal colouring.

  33. merry says:

    You know all those coffee’s at Starbucks, the cans of pop that are just astronomical that you buy. I don’t. I’m
    frugal. I just drink water out of the fridge that I got out of the faucet. I could go on and on but won’t

  34. Fatica says:

    I am not one of these so-called “cool” people described by the author. However, while reading this article I couldn’t help notice how insecure and judgmental the author sounds. Took me back to high school.

  35. Kaolin says:

    I like to be different, not following the trends like everybody else, doing my own thing. And I suppose all of you do so too.I will only wear clothes with any brand names (advertising) on it when they pay me to do it. We make our own food from pizzas to cookies according to our own tastes without any preservatives and less salt and sugar. Uncool is cool!

  36. ***** says:

    This is stupid. “I save money by wearing a big plastic bag and by wrapping my feet in old news papers, unlike the evil “cool” kids who wear newfangled clothes and shoes.”

    And also, TheWalletSaver are you twelve? Who still considers it cool to smoke?

  37. Roger Oxford says:

    I don’t worry about if other people think I am cool or not. People accept me as I am, if they don’t then they are probably not what I call good friend materal.
    I choose not to define myself by what I drive, what I wear, etc, etc.

  38. mary o says:

    Enough already about the bottled water. The amount of plastic in a bottle is miniscule, and RECYCLABLE!!! If you buy by the case, it’s only about .15 per bottle. Saves me from the drive through at Mc Donalds, and is a lot healthier than soda! I need to drink a lot of water, and refilling from the tap is not an option at my home, the water is undrinkable well water.

  39. mike d says:

    I agree with all of these except for number 3. The thing is, in order to get those discount, you have to go out of your way to find these deals.

    For instance, pop quiz: where’s the nearest flee market from where you live? Most people don’t know, and even if they did, its usually over an hour away worth of driving. As for buying stuff from ebay or craigslist, you have to deal with the wait time and not always reliable sellers. In the end, its not just about being cool, its about saving some time, money can’t buy.

    As for getting your haircut less often, again, saving some money is nice, but the big payoff is avoiding the hassle and saving that hour or two— that you could better use making some comment on an internet site.

  40. mike d says:

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention.

    I guess the author could have slipped in buying anything made by Apple, which is essentially the same hardware only you’re paying for the name. On second thought, its probably better Amy DIDN’T mention it, as that may potentially start a flame war, as it usually happens when you mention computers.

  41. Jake says:

    Hair products arent the same as in the store they actually have 12% more amonia then professional hair color so get your information right

  42. Philip Parsons says:

    I agree most financial people are literally “stingy” with their money, it really is the most pragmatic approach

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