Save Your Money and Never Buy These 13 Things!

I am constantly reviewing my monthly expenses and always looking at ways to save my money and still have some of the things in life that my wife and I need or want. It’s actually a fun activity for me. Yes, it’s a challenge, and since I stopped working full-time a few years ago, I really need a challenge sometimes just to keep alert! I know it’s not exactly like finding the long sought after cure for cancer or providing aid and comfort for those who are in a desperate place in life, but for me it has to do with finding ways for us to do better with our money and then ultimately passing that information on to you so you can save your money! Hey, lucky you!!!

When you're looking to save your money, here are 13 things not to buy and what to do instead. Not your same old suggestions!

If you’re out there struggling along, trying to deal with your money problems, but don’t really know what to do, then you’re like millions of others that are in that same boat. That’s why I came up with a list of things that for some reason we spend money on all the time, but really don’t need. We just don’t really think about how easy it is to waste our money on these things, partly because of the masterful way we are conditioned to shop. The advertising mavens have us convinced that we “need” every new, improved, special, and yes, expensive item that someone locked in a lab somewhere was able to come up with!

The Same Old, Same Old?

You often hear the same old ideas about eliminating or curbing your expenses and they are usually wise ones. But, sometimes you have to think a little outside of the box to come up with something new and fresh. So here is my simple list of the things you probably buy all the time that are a complete waste of your money, whether you know it or not. Now, today, you will.

Save Your Money on These 13 Things

1. Scented Trash Bags

Ah those fragrant, flowery or lemon scented trash bags…not! Scented trash bags can cost almost double the price of non-scented bags. Yes, you want your home to smell good, but rather than paying extra to make your trash smell good just use a smaller trash can and bag and take out the trash more often. For your garbage that’s likely to smell immediately (think foods), simply place it in small plastic shopping bags and throw it out right away!

2. Physical Newspapers and Magazines

Newspaper subscriptions can cost up to several hundred dollars a year for daily delivery. Once they were the norm, but now they are really obsolete in the digital age. Newspaper websites post content that is free (or might be a free read before hitting a paywall), while TV news and websites are generally all free. Web subscriptions and e-reader versions for full access cost significantly less than any home delivery. The New York Times, for example, charges $3.75 a week for web and smartphone access versus $9.00 and up for a weekly home delivery subscription and that is almost 60% less.

Magazines you see in the supermarket or drugstore are designed with covers that lure impulse buying. But think about it: as they stack up on the coffee table, that cost mounts up pretty quickly. If you really do enjoy reading a particular magazine, then opt for a subscription which likely costs about 75% less per issue or more than buying one each month separately! Better yet, head to your local library (or its website) and read them there for free anytime you choose.

3. Fancy Formalwear

Wow, I just don’t ever get this. My formal wear attending days are now few and far between more so than ever (how about you?). Rarely do most people find themselves in need of expensive black-tie formalwear, so why do people spend money to own them? You already know about renting a tux. Tux rentals have been around for decades from places like Men’s Warehouse and others who offer reliable and affordable deals and a have a huge variety, too. But did you know that renting party dresses and clothes is a new way for women to get all the latest dresses to wear? You can rent the leading designers for as little as 5% of their retail cost. Why spend money to own something like that and not use it again for years?

4. Ridiculous Appliances

Only in America will you find that (for some weird reason) we think we need every small kitchen appliance that performs only one single, simple task and are real money wasters! Designated gadgets for making quesadillas, panini, grilled cheese, hamburgers, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches accomplish nothing that you can’t easily do yourself without them or by using a “multi-tasking“ appliance known as a frying pan! And by the way, they are also quite annoying to clean and take up kitchen space—that is, until they’re relegated to the garage, sold off when you have a yard sale, or just plain tossed in the garbage.

5. Specialty Food-Prep Tools

Following right in the footsteps of the “single use appliance” is the just as useless “single-use kitchen device” that runs the gamut from “sounds helpful” to “really? they actually make something for that?”. Just gaze for five minutes at the fabulous wonder wall inside any Bed Bath and Beyond store and you’ll see exactly what I mean. It’s wise simply to skip the garlic peelers, melon wedgers, banana slicers, asparagus peelers, peach pitters, avocado cutters, and onion dicers. Regular old knives and forks will take care of all your fruits and vegetables prep and save you mucho bucks!

6. Exercise Clothes

Clothing specifically designed for yoga, weightlifting, CrossFit, and gym styling often remain in your drawer after you buy it. That’s probably because you simply stop working out like you thought you would and so, yeah it sits useless in your bedroom drawer. These items are all basically nothing more than an overpriced fashion statement and really are not necessary. If you do work out, use an old shirt, shorts, or sweatpants because they’ll get just as sweaty and they’re a lot cheaper.

7. Pre-Cut Produce

Pre-cut fruits and vegetables not only waste packaging and may squander nutrients, but their outrageous price markups can top 350% (often $9.99 per lb. or more). So-called convenience foods like these should be the first thing axed from any budget-conscious shopping list. Just buy produce in its natural state and wash and cut at home. It really is a no brainer. Watermelons at less than a dollar a pound, grapes and apples and oranges and cantaloupe similarly priced in season which means you can save as much as 80% on fruits and veggies!

8. Paper Plates and Cups

One-time-use paper and plastic items waste money and are not very eco-friendly. Although the cost of paper plates might seem low, it adds up quickly over time if you use them regularly. What to do? Dollar stores usually sell heavy plastic or even ceramic plates cheaply like bowls, glasses, and plates that can be rewashed and used again for years. Those are just a one-time expense and you’re all set.

9. Fabric Softener

Eliminate the fabric softener from your laundry routine as a way to cut the cost of this household chore. Try adding very inexpensive baking soda to the washer before starting the cycle as it keeps clothes soft for way less and drying them on lower heat to prevent static cling (and that saves money too!). Or try out wool dryer balls.

10. Microwave Popcorn

Besides being costly, store-bought microwave popcorn has chemical additives which you just know aren’t good for you. But that doesn’t mean you need to use an air popper machine to prepare a movie-night treat, especially when these little appliances cost at least $20 to $30 and sometimes leave a trail of stray popped kernels sprayed all over the kitchen. Make your own popcorn with plain kernels you can get at the supermarket by placing the kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, rolling the top shut, and microwave it for simple and healthful popped corn (add a touch of salt and some melted butter after popping if you like). A bag of un-popped corn costs about one third what a box of microwave popcorn does and makes tons more! It’s also more fun to make!

11. Frozen Popsicles

Making popsicles is much healthier and way more fun than buying them at the store, plus it saves you money. A low-cost four-pop mold set on e-Bay sells for under $3 compared to a box of frozen pops at the supermarket which can cost of about $4 each ($0.10 per oz.), and has way less juice per pop! Besides, making them yourself is fun and allows for limitless customized creations. Here’s a great recipe you can try!

1 can of frozen lemonade concentrate thawed
48 oz. of lemon-lime soda (fill up the empty lemonade can 4 times)
Some fresh raspberries – halved
Pop mold and sticks

Pour thawed lemonade into a large pitcher and add and combine the lemon-lime soda and stir. Sprinkle some raspberries into each mold, and pour in the lemonade mixture. Leave about a 1/4″ of room from the top of the molds, to allow for expansion when freezing. Place the lid on pop molds and insert sticks and place pop molds in freezer and freeze for about 4 hours, or until firm. Makes 12 pops at about $0.04 cents per oz. and save 60%!

12. Designer Brand – Anything!

Just say no to any high-fashion clothing labels that are gratuitously expensive and shop the bargain brands for similar looks and styles. They are everywhere and at least 50% or more less. Ask yourself this: why does having a designer name means so much to you?

13. Expensive Wines

Good wine doesn’t have to cost a lot. Educate yourself and learn about the wines you like that suit your needs and tastes that are discounted (often for less than $10.00 a bottle at places like Trader Joes or Costco and BJ’s). Even you own local liquor store often has promotions and wine tastings that feature great deals and when they do, take advantage of it. When you are thinking about some special occasion, forget about the snob appeal of “big name wines”. Seriously, most people can’t tell the differences.

Final Thoughts

So often we get into the bad habit of just doing the same old thing again and again and when it comes to our shopping habits, it is really true. We often don’t connect that a simple, seemingly harmless expense like picking up a magazine at the supermarket or buying an expensive bottle of wine because it has a fancy name or label might be a budget buster. It’s only when we sit down and look at where our money has gone that we begin to see how much it can affect our budget. When you reach that point, it’s time to come up with new creative ways like these simple ideas to stop the bleeding!

When was the last time you went through your monthly expenses and decided to see where you could cut down and save? We all know about packing our lunch or skipping on bottled water and filling up a water bottle instead, but what about other less obvious items? Do you have any you want to brag about and share? If so, do it right here!


  1. The Debt Shrink

    Love the tip about baking soda in place of fabric softening. We have been using distilled white vinegar. Great post as always, Gary! I love learning new ways to save money!!

  2. Eh, homemade popsicles never have the same consistency as the store-bought ones. So those I’d buy, though I’m not a big popsicle buyer in general. Though last year I did try making vodka gummy bear popsicles (in the end, you’d have had to eat too many of them to get any real results, so no further attempts were made).

    I second the “no special workout clothes” thing. I get wanting to not look raggedy at the gym, but I work out from home so a tank top and shorts (or pants in the winter) are just fine. That said, I probably wouldn’t wear half of this stuff to the gym, but I’d probably still just get some newer tank tops and shorts (read: ones where the elastic band isn’t showing through) rather than getting yoga pants or whatever.

    1. I guess there’s a happy medium between high-fashion workout gear and my old worn-out t-shirts and shorts from four summers ago. So I may have to concede that one to you, Abigail. The most important thing is to think about creative ways to save and not just fall into the old standbys and be susceptible to the merchandising traps that we all see. Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. Hi Gary,
    Great list!
    Adding a bit to Pre-Cut Produce, I would also suggest that people stay away from anything that is pre-bagged.
    The classic example is onions – a 1kg bag of onions could be on sale for $2.50, and next to it loose onions are only $2 a kilo. It’s the exact same thing.
    Pick your own!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to save even more?

Join our community today to get our weekly emails including blog posts, updates, saving tips, and more.