If you’re anything like me, those summertime splurges and back-to-school shopping have got you thinking of different ways you could be saving more money. If you’re not anything like me, well, I’m sure you have your own reasons. Who couldn’t use a few extra bucks every month? One of the easiest ways to cut back on spending is to figure out which of your regular purchases you don’t really need. To that end, I’ve come up with a list of things I stopped buying to save money, as well as cost-effective alternatives.
1. Fancy Coffee Drinks
This actually occurred to me because I’ve been experimenting with the keto diet and needed to cut my sugar intake. Even if you’re just buying one drink every weekday and using an app to get a discount, this can easily tack another hundred bucks onto your monthly budget.
Alternative: Coffee is dirt-cheap if you’re willing to spend a few minutes a day making it yourself. You can even fancy it up by frothing your own milk in an empty French press. Skip the K-Cups, as they really add up.
2. Books and Magazines
Raise your hand if you keep buying more books to add to the shelves of other books you mostly haven’t read. It’s an affliction shared by many avid readers, but there are effective treatments available.
Alternative: The library is your friend. You’re paying for it already, so get your money’s worth! Depending on where you live, there’s a decent chance your library will actually buy books they don’t have if you put in a request, or do an interlibrary loan. They’ve got magazines, too. An eReader, such as the Kindle, can also help you save a few bucks and a ton of space. Kindle Unlimited even offers an all-you-can-read subscription, sort of like a Netflix for books.
3. Cable TV
Do you ever sit in front of the TV, flipping through every channel only to find nothing you really want to watch, so you just repeat the process? Yeah, me too. Do you really feel that’s an experience worth paying for? No, me neither.
Alternative: Just about every show or movie you want to see is available on some streaming service or another, ready to be viewed on your own schedule. Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu are the most popular options, and networks like HBO and Showtime even offer their own dedicated apps and subscriptions.
4. Fast Food
This one’s almost a no-brainer. Deep down, I think we all know fast food eats into our budgets and eats away at our health. It’s that allure of effortless dining that sucks us back in, especially when we’re on a tight schedule.
Alternative: Again, this one is going to take a little of your time. With practice, it gets quicker and easier. Check out my list of 20 Amazing Copycat Recipes or this list of 49 Easy, Not-Sad Desk Lunches.
5. Cleaning Supplies
Hear me out before you scoff. Nobody wants to live in a filthy house, and I’m not suggesting you cut out cleaning supplies entirely. However, there’s a decent chance you’re spending way more than you need to.
Alternative: Swapping cloth napkins and rags for paper towels is a safe bet, economically and ecologically. Vinegar and baking soda, which you probably already keep around, can be substituted for many of your favorite, most expensive cleaners. When they’re not able to cut it, you can usually find generic versions of the name-brand stuff.
6. Brand Name Products
The name and logo on the box sometimes makes a big difference on the product inside. Too often, though, we’re just paying more for something because it’s familiar and/or popular.
Alternative: Generic and store brand products tend to be just as good as their branded counterparts. In many cases, they’re literally the same thing. You can save a bundle skipping those coveted Kylie Jenner lip kits and going for something with less hype. The same goes for food, medicine, cleaning supplies, clothing, and a host of other products. When you must have some of that name-brand apparel, because we all do, save by buying last season’s styles at a place like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx.
7. Packaged Fruits and Veggies
Those cups of pre-cut fruit sure are convenient, but have you ever looked at the markup? Yikes! And let’s face it, that bag of spring mix melting into brown sludge in the fridge isn’t saving you any time if you’re not using it.
Alternative: Select your own produce at the store. If your town has a farmer’s market, you can find great deals on the freshest goods available.
8. Bottled Water
Bottled water seems pretty cheap until you sit down and start adding up how much you’re spending per year. Earth’s most abundant natural resource really shouldn’t be that expensive.
Alternative: You’ve literally got this on tap in your own home. Get yourself a filter and a couple reusable bottles (I love these) and you’re golden. If you live somewhere with particularly funky water, get one of the big jugs you can refill at the grocery store.
9. Gym Memberships
If you’re using your gym membership, by all means, keep it! It’s pretty common for people to sign up, go for a while, and then quit using it regularly. If it’s been a month or more, well, that money could probably be put to better use elsewhere.
Alternative: Riding a bike, jogging, or working out at home are cost-effective ways to get your exercise. It’s also perfectly fine to take a break from the gym — just don’t keep paying the membership fees while you do so!
10. New Versions of Things You Already Own
I couldn’t tell if it’s because of advertising or just some inherent need to have the newest thing, but we’re always buying things we already have. Ask yourself, do I really need this new phone, these new shoes, or this new appliance? Are the old ones broken? Chances are, you’re spending more money than you need to.
Alternative: You already own it.
These are just a handful of the big offenders that came to mind. I could probably write a book on the subject. I’d have to check it out at the library since I don’t need to buy any more books. Feel free to chime in below with some of the unnecessary purchases you’ve managed to free from your own budget.