Stuff I Just Don’t Buy Anymore

Don't buy it

We haven’t had a significant salary raise in this household for quite some time. Yet, despite the fact that our income hasn’t gone up very much, our standard of living has increased. We’re able to travel more and buy more of our wants. Not all, but some. I wondered how this could be. If our income isn’t going up significantly, how is it that we were able to increase our standard of living?

Part of the answer lies in aggressively shopping for the best prices on the items we need and use, using coupons, buying used when possible and using more store brands. In other words, we are more careful to pay the least amount possible for what we buy. However, there is still more money available to us than this can account for. I think the larger part of the answer lies in the stuff we don’t buy at all.

When I gave it some thought, I realized that there are a good number of things that we have stopped buying altogether in recent years. This may be because we stopped needing the item, or because we’ve learned how to get it for free, but more often it’s because we found a better way to do something that doesn’t require the items we used to be purchased. I found that in a lot of cases we were buying certain items out of habit because, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” not because we really needed them. Sometimes it was laziness that was keeping us from finding new ways to do things or acquire items. However we came to realize there were items we could eliminate. Not buying these things has freed up a good chunk of our income and given us more “play money” in our budget, despite not having had a significant income increase.

So what are some of the things which we’re eliminated from our purchases? Here are a few examples to get you started on your own list of “don’t buy anymore” items:

1. Paper napkins. We bought cloth napkins on sale at Target (dirt cheap) and have been really happy with the results. We just toss them in the washer with the regular laundry, so they don’t cost extra to clean. We were using (and wasting) way too many paper napkins and it was costing us about $60-$80 per year. Not a huge amount of money, but it equates to a few good meals out or a night in a no frills hotel.

2. Commercial cleaning supplies. No, we don’t live in filth. I have learned how to clean with baking soda, lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, and a reusable rag. I used to use disposable cleaning wipes, all purpose cleaners like Lysol, Comet for the toilet, and a whole host of other products. Given that the wipes alone were $15/pack at the warehouse club and I bought them about six times per year, that’s $90 I knocked out of our budget right there. Plus there are the savings from not buying other types of cleaning products. My house no longer smells like a hospital, my hands aren’t as dry, and I’m not filling up the landfill with wipes that were too easy to waste. My septic tank is also happier since far less toxic stuff is going down there.

3. Haircuts for the males. For the price of one haircut (about $18), I bought a set of clippers and tools that allows me to do the job at home. We haven’t paid for a male’s haircut in several years. If only I could find a way to have my own hair cut at home without it coming out looking like a bird’s nest.

4. Calendars. This one came up just this week since it was time to bring out the new calendar. We get several decent wall calendars for free each year. Some come from our local banks and others come from charitable organization to which we donate during the year. I used to toss the freebies because I wanted the “cooler,” “more fun” ones from the stores. Then I realized I really don’t look at it that much, so why bother. I just keep the best of the freebies and use those. I also stopped buying “page a day” and desktop calendars because I use the software on my computer or my PDA for all of my scheduling needs. I used to buy two wall calendars (one for home and one for work), a page a day for my desk, and a refill for my Day Timer. All total it was about $50 per year in calendars that I don’t spend anymore.

5. Shampoo. This is one of those things we’ve learned to get for free. There are always free samples available from sites like or Since I’m not brand loyal, it doesn’t matter to me which shampoo I use. Whatever is free is fine with me. I also acquire a lot of shampoo form hotels.

6. Trash bags for small trash cans and “poop bags” for the dog. I used to buy special trash bags and poop bags from the store. Then I realized that I was coming home with all these bags from the store that were the perfect size for these jobs. What I don’t reuse I take back to the store to recycle.

7. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions. I enjoy magazines and newspapers, but rarely spend more than a half hour with any one title. It seemed like a waste to pay for that little bit of time. Now I take a Saturday and go to the library and read my favorites. I also get quite a few magazine subscriptions for free from sites like or

8. Notepads. I used to buy cute notepads to keep by the phone or computer to jot things down or make lists. However, I pick up so many for free from trade shows and events that I don’t need to buy more. If I do need more notepads, I’ll cut up copy paper that was used on only one side and staple it blank side up to make a pad.

9. Pens and pencils. As with the notepads above, I get so many pens and pencils for free from trade shows, fairs, and events that I’ll probably never have to buy any again. They’re not “cool” or “cute” but they write. I keep a stockpile throughout the year and this saves a lot of money at back to school time.

10. Coupon savings books such as the Entertainment Book. I used to buy these thinking I was saving money until I realized that I could find many of the same coupons online for free. The dining coupons largely went to waste because we stopped eating out so often (another huge money saver). We weren’t using it enough to make back the money spent and the few coupons I did need could be found elsewhere.

11. Envelopes. I save the ones that come with junk mail and just slap an address label over the preprinted address. (If they’re postage prepaid I add a stamp because it’s not going back to the company that pre-paid the postage.) It saves money and puts annoying junk mail to better use.

There are so many other things I don’t buy or pay for any longer including books, DVD’s, makeup, pantyhose, dog grooming, dry cleaning, cable TV, and oil changes. I also get what I can from for free. The above listing is just a small sampling of the things we’ve managed to stop buying without decreasing our standard of living.

There is one big limit to this strategy that I’m beginning to discover. The amount of money we’re able to free up is decreasing now due to the higher costs of the items we do need to buy and can’t acquire in other ways or do without. Rising gas and food prices are eating away at some of the savings we’ve created by not buying other things. We’re trying to find other items to eliminate from our purchases and constantly experimenting to see if there are more things we can do without or do differently. However, the amount of play money we freed up initially is dwindling. Still, I’m still glad we’ve stopped buying a lot of things because even if the extra money is no longer used for fun, it’s there in the budget to be used for necessary things. It’s still a winning situation and a good idea to eliminate what you can.

I encourage you to think of things you don’t need to buy anymore and create your own “don’t buy anymore” list. Everyone’s needs, tastes and desires are different, but there are probably many things that, if you gave it some thought and applied a bit of creativity, you would find you could do without, acquire for free, or use other items that you already have to do the job.

Image courtesy of What What

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18 Responses to Stuff I Just Don’t Buy Anymore

  1. zenith says:

    I liked this article and agree that too much money is spent on “stuff” like you mentioned.
    I am reading “The Tightwad Gazette II” and trying out some of the ideas in the book. Some of her ideas are too radical for me, but some things I am willing to at least give it a try to save money.
    You are right. Some times we are too lazy to do things differently, but at this point with gasoline prices and food prices going up so much we have to save where we can.
    I want to try to learn to clean without commercial cleaners.

  2. chris h says:

    I’ve been cutting my own hair for 10yrs. that has saved me more money than probably all the other things combined. Also I read that george clooney cuts his own hair so i drop that tidbit to impress the ladies. I splurged and bought a flowbee a year ago, it’s nice b/c, unlike clippers there is no clean up. It might work for female hairstyles too.

  3. Tim says:

    I disagree on the entertainment books. I got 2 for $8 each with free shipping for 2008. The best deal they have is 5% off a ticket from American Airlines.

  4. I’ll have to remember that about the envelopes!

    I don’t buy magazines or newspapers, either. There’s a free student paper here if I want to read the news in print. Usually, I read it online or watch it on t.v. And I read magazines at the library or gym. I get a couple subscriptions for using

    We use cloth hand towels here instead of napkins most of the time. I need to get out our microfiber clothes so that we think to use them for cleaning.

    I also get a lot of samples of toiletries. I’ve stopped buying conditioner altogether (I don’t even use it that often). I picked up a huge bottle of shampoo for $5 at Big Lots because my hair is picky because it’s so fine.

    Right now, we’re loaded up on pencils, notepads, envelopes, and cleaning supplies and we aren’t going through them too quickly. When we’re done with what we have, then I’ll definitely try homemade cleaning supplies, but getting free pencils might be a little more tricky.

    We got a free calendar from our real estate agent, but we haven’t even hung it up yet. With so many online options, I don’t ever need to buy one.

    I wish my husband would let me trim his hair, but his cuts only cost about $8. I trim my own bangs and sometimes get an $8 hair cut (and the very occasional $50 cut and style).

    We usually don’t use bags in our small trash cans. We put messy stuff in the large can in the foyer where the cats can’t get into it. Then we just wash out the small cans as necessary.

  5. Cortni says:

    My husband recently started cutting his own hair with clippers and that now saves us about $15 a month (he’s in the military so he needs to cut his hair often). Not only that, but he also cuts his 3 brothers’ hair (all also in the military) and makes a little extra cash doing so! And the clippers cost less than $20!

  6. PennyPinceher says:

    What about vegetables? I summer i start a vegetable garden. Its inexpensive and tastes better! In winter i grow herbs on my window sill.

    Keep the seeds from plants and put them back next year!

    Great list, btw.

  7. PennyPinceher says:

    i forgot one thing – Jars.

    I keep every jar that i buy stuff in. after its washed out i use them as cups. i keep the lids for quick storage of a beverage or other leftovers. my goal for my next place is to buy as little kitchen ware as possible.

  8. poundwise says:

    I live in a cave and catch lizards for dinner.

    To be frugal is one thing but give it a start in some people’s lives and pretty soon they aren’t just using cloth diapers and napkins, they’re disconnecting from the power grid and digging a well.

    I’ll pay for some things, be frugal on others, and avoid the rest.

  9. Amy says:

    This is great advice and I couldn’t agree more. I was nodding my head as I read through this as these are all things that we do in our house. Even though we could afford to splurge on these, it seems like a waste now that I know all that I can do myself.

  10. Wow! Impressive. That’s a solid list of frugal choices. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Fred says:

    dont forget about for more free magazine choices…they have hundreds.

  12. Alexandria says:

    We do a lot of the same. I don’t even think about it. The thing is a lot of these choices are also environmental (cloth napkins and using paper envelopes. I have a stack of about 100 unused envelopes since I switched to online bill pay – doubt I’ll ever use them – but I keep getting them. I may freecycle them).

    I think a lot of people are ignorant to how simple some of this stuff is. It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort. Like I said, we do a lot of this without even really thinking about it. Just common sense and conserving. I am kind of responding to the cave comment. I mean, come on. We have that much money for our luxuries then, which is the point. We live pretty darn well.

  13. vsjhoc says:

    You’re not paying for oil changes: I hope this means you’re doing them yourself, rather than not doing them at all!

  14. UrbanFrugal says:

    I still buy calendars, after the new year starts but I use the reverse side of the page a day type calendars for scratch paper. I have tons.

    My friends in Italy do not use paper napkins in their homes they use cloth napkins, a few days per napkin. Each person has an assigned napkin and when it’s too dirty, it goes into the laundry. I have tried this intermittently at my house and this may be the year to try this.

    Plastic bags for small garbage cans, even though I have started refusing bags at many stores I have enough to last me several months!

  15. SMB says:

    Lucky you–my dog poops more than we shop! I supplement store bags with biodegradable poop bags from

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  17. sylvia says:

    I’ve saved money on “female” products by buying a menstrual cup instead of tampons or pads. I read something online about saving all the trash you threw out in a year, and when I really thought about it, the most trash I take out besides the kitchen, is the monthly bathroom bulk. Despite the initial investment ($20-$30), and learning curve, it pays for itself in a couple of months too.

  18. Hilary says:

    I use a menstrual cup too (DivaCup). It is by far the best investment I have ever made from a frugal standpoint. It’s good for ~10 years, and I haven’t had to buy feminine products since (it’s been 3 years now). Also, it’s much more comfortable than the conventional stuff. And it’s much more environmentally friendly, and has no risk of TSS or yeast infections. Basically, it’s my best friend :).

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