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On my journey to being as financially responsible as possible, I've discovered things I've bought that are just not worth buying anymore. Either they are a complete waste of money, I can do it myself for much cheaper, or I can do it myself better.
One thing is for sure, it might not be quite as convenient anymore. But think about it: one of the main factors in the price of everyday items is convenience. I'm not saying go off-grid and start a subsistence farm (which sometimes sounds pretty tempting). Now, I know everyone has different life demands… I know we have to pick and choose where we are going to save, and where we will opt for the premium pricing of convenience.
But if we can all make just a few changes and save a few more dollars each day we will improve our financial situation. If you can save even $30-$40 a month on a few different things, that's like giving yourself a free tank of gas, or a free cheap date night! That's worth it! Who knows, maybe one of them will turn into a hobby!
*Disclaimer – I do mention coffee a lot. That's because I love it so much and have made it my personal quest to have the best coffee at the cheapest price possible.
Coffee from a drive thru – Seriously. It's either not actually that good or it's basically melted coffee ice cream. You can make coffee at home for around 40¢ a cup or less!
Premixed Antifreeze for your car – Premixed 50/50 antifreeze might seem cheaper per gallon, but that's because it's literally 50% water. Pay the extra dollar and get a gallon of full strength and add the water yourself.
New Cell Phones – Your phone is perfectly fine. When I get a new phone, I buy one that is typically 2 generations behind, used on eBay. Guess what? IT WORKS GREAT. The processor in those phones is fast enough to run every app. To top it off, now I don't have pay extra on my bill every month for the new phone. By the way, when you pay monthly for your new phone, you end up paying full retail price for it. We could be talking upwards of $700 for a phone!
Coffee Syrup – If you like your coffee sweet, you can make your own flavored syrups at home for practically nothing. A simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar. Then add a little vanilla extract or another flavoring. We're talking 10¢ here people!
Cable TV – Streaming services rule the day in our house. They're cheaper and better. There are even alternatives to cable that include sports options!
Full Price Clothing – Seriously. I refuse to walk into a store and just buy a piece of clothing off of the rack. This is a bona fide waste of money! Especially knowing that they are going to mark that item down like over 60% in a couple months. I have found some of my favorite pieces at thrift stores… and even wore them on TV! Here's a little video I did a while back on how to find ‘designer' clothing at thrift stores.
Tons of Different Cleaning Products – If you think you need a different cleaner for your bathroom, kitchen, windows, floors, etc, you've been duped. For a few things, a special cleaner might be necessary, but vinegar and water will clean tons of stuff. If you like essential oils here are 10 different household cleaners that you can make at home. I know essential oils can get a little pricey, but if you already have a bunch, it's another way to put them to good use.
Organic Labeled Food – Ok, just wait. Put down the torches and pitchforks. Certain foods you actually don't need to buy organic to get the benefit. Some foods have always been “organic” and now they're rebranded and the price is raised. It's good to know what's what -what matters if it's organic, and what does not. Here's a great article on how to save on organic food from our friends at SimpleRecipeBox.com.
Prepackaged, Processed, Pre-Sliced – The more processing and packaging that goes into a food before you get it, the more you pay. Makes sense. Don't waste your money on it! Especially with produce! I've seen some of the largest mark-ups on buying pre-cut melons and berries! Steer clear! Bag the snacks yourself for the kids' lunches. Or better yet, get them making their own lunches!
Useless Gifts – Specifically those Christmas gifts that have no purpose. Before I buy someone a gift, I imagine what I'd do with it other than stuff it in a drawer or stash it on the back of a shelf. I'd rather put my money towards something that has more purposeful or sentimental value.
A New Car – We've done the math, and buying a car even a few years old can save you thousands of dollars. In many cases, you can still take advantage of the remainder of the manufacturer's warranty. Cars need repairs. There's no way around that. But, one thing my dad always told me was, “It's still better than a car payment.” He's right. If I have to put $600 into my car one year, it's still better than paying $200 a month for that year. Finding a way to own your car will always save you money.
Extended Warranties from the Store – There are very few occasions when people actually take advantage of these warranties. In fact, that's why they offer them. If everyone was using them, stores would lose money on them and not try and sell them to you. Most people forget that they bought them, or don't bother to keep the original receipt, box and paperwork needed for the entire 3 years of the warranty. Sometimes large appliances are a different story but on the whole, extended warranties are a waste of money.
Bank Fees – Avoiding bank fees just takes a little planning ahead. Make sure you get the cash you need beforehand and monitor your bank balance so you NEVER pay for an overdraft. Another option worth checking out is Chime Bank. They're an online-only bank that has over 24,000 fee-free ATMs and no overdraft fees!
One-Use Kitchen Appliances – They take up so much cupboard space and money! I know it's cool, but let's get real. How often do you actually use it and could you just use something else instead? Remember the Pizza Pizzazz? Can't your oven cook pizza?
Incandescent Lightbulbs – They are cheaper, but I think they're a waste of money. LED light bulbs are dropping in price and they last so much longer and use so much less energy. They are totally worth it in my mind. Plus, my husband doesn't stress out when the kids leave their bedroom light on anymore! Win-win!
To help spread out the cost you can do two things:
Premade Sauces – People. Throw some crushed tomatoes in a pot with some spices. Way better. No preservatives. No additives. Way cheaper. Here's my go-to Spaghetti Sauce recipe.
This Easy Alfredo Sauce is made from stuff you probably already have in your pantry.
If you want Pizza Sauce, the main spice is oregano (as opposed to basil with pasta sauce). So get a can of crushed tomatoes, toss in a bunch of oregano, some garlic, onion, salt, etc. to your liking. Pretty simple. I make it a little different every time. Just taste as you go.
Dough and Crusts – Bread dough and pizza crust are really simple to make. Flour, water, yeast, and not much else. There are tons of recipes available online for each. It might take a little more work, but it's worth it. Have you read the ingredient list on most store-bought dough? Yikes!
Pastry Crust takes a little more finesse, but homemade pastry tastes so much better than the store-bought one you roll out. And you know the 4 ingredients that went in yours as opposed to the 25 ingredients they have in theirs.
Top-Shelf Whole Bean Coffee – Now, I LOVE good coffee. So, to get the best coffee at the lowest price, we just started roasting it ourselves. I know this isn't for everybody, and it's turned into a sort of hobby, but it is so worth it! I am paying roughly $6/lb for coffee that typically costs over $15/lb from gourmet roasters.
Expensive Toilet Paper – I do enjoy expensive toilet paper, but with 4 kids, it just isn't worth it! Whether I buy the 50¢ roll of Scott or the luxurious-satiny-soft Charmin, my kids still spin that toilet paper roll like it's going to spit out gold coins or something. So, unless you have a private master bathroom and want to buy two kinds of toilet paper, I recommend just dealing with it until they move out.
Magazines – Because Internet
Fabric Softener – It sure smells nice, but the ‘good stuff' is pricey, and it's really not that good for your clothes. If you add a little vinegar to the rinse cycle, you can get the same softening results.
Lawn Care – I do all of this myself, and enlist the help of my kids, or do it with them. Doing things like lawn work as a family is a great way to connect and be together.
Room Freshener Sprays – They really are terrible for you. Chemicals, Chemicals, Chemicals. If it's the bathroom… light a match. For everywhere else, even a decent quality candle will smell way better and last much, much longer.
Brand Name Clothing for Kids – Whether those pants for your son cost you $30 or $5, I can guarantee the knees will rip out in less than a year. And if they don't, they'll grow out of them in a minute. With how often kids need their clothing replaced, I can't find value in investing in brand name clothing. If you want proof of how much of a waste it is, look at how much name-brand kids clothing you see for sale on those Facebook buy/swap groups. The turnover in children's clothes is so fast, it isn't worth the investment in brand-names.
Drinks at Restaurants – Especially when I'm out with the family, buying a $2 soda for everyone adds up! And let's not pretend soda isn't awful for you. Alcohol is even more expensive. A special date with your spouse is a slightly different story, but even when it's just us, we almost always get water with some lemon or lime.
Rental Car Insurance – This is a huge money maker for the rental car companies. They are usually pretty good at making you feel terrible for not getting it too! Did you know that between your health insurance, homeowner's/renter's insurance, and your personal car insurance pretty much everything is already covered? Seriously. Check it out. Most of what they are trying to sell you is redundant coverage.
K-Cups – We all know how expensive they are per cup. If you invest a few bucks on one of those reusable K-cup things, you can add your own coffee and it will most likely be fresher and taste better. It might add 35 seconds to your coffee prep time but, that seems worth it to me.