Stop Wasting Money on These 22 Things No One Really Needs

Between paying bills, buying groceries, and saving for retirement, we could also use a little more money each month. One of the simplest ways to free up a little room in our budgets is to stop wasting money on things we don’t actually need.

Take a close look at what you buy and what you can do without. By carefully examining your purchases, you can find ways to reduce your monthly expenses and put more money towards the things that truly matter. Here are 22 things my family and I stopped buying, and so should you.

1. Brand Names

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Stop paying a premium for brand names when the generic version is just as good and, in some cases, even better. There are regulations in place regarding medication and food. That name-brand sugar was made the same way as the store-brand sugar. It might even have come from the exact same manufacturer. Medication is the same. My pharmacist often swaps out our medication for the generic version if that’s what our insurance company will cover or is the more affordable option for anything out-of-pocket.

2. Books

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I was running errands last weekend and impulsively stopped at Barnes & Noble. As I was wandering around somewhat aimlessly, I realized I was there trying to find something to buy, just for the sake of buying something. My bookcase already had several books I picked up “just because” and haven’t read. Plus, I have a library card and my kids love reading, too. So I left the store empty-handed and took the whole family to the library the next day. The added bonus of seeing my kids sitting with a book instead of an iPad was the perfect finishing touch.

3. Movies

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The days when people had shelves full of DVDs in their living rooms are long gone. Streaming services have made buying movies obsolete. We pay $8/month for Disney+ and have Prime Video included with our Amazon Prime account. These two platforms have more than enough movies and TV shows to keep us all entertained – but there are dozens of free places to watch movies online these days. My TV even comes with dozens of free channels now!

4. Cleaning Supplies

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No, my house isn’t always dirty! We save money by making our own cleaners, refilling our hand soaps, and buying products that last a long time. A 4L jug of vinegar is under $5, lasts for months, and cleans a lot better than a lot of those commercial products. I’m also not worried about using it around my son or our dogs, who always have to watch what I’m doing around the house.

5. Body Wash

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We don’t buy body wash for several reasons. My daughter and I have sensitive skin, and the packaging is made of plastic, which we are trying to avoid. Instead, we buy soap made locally in our area once a year that has better ingredients, lasts a lot longer, has less waste, and costs $2 instead of $10 or more.

6. Kitchen Gadgets

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My countertops and cabinets are cluttered with kitchen gadgets that we’ve used only a handful of times, like the toaster oven I bought and regretted almost right away. We already have a toaster, a microwave, an air fryer, and a full oven—what could this toaster oven do that wasn’t already covered by one of these other appliances? It’s now become an expensive $115 bread box/dust collector.

7. Separate Meals

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My husband and I don’t order delivery or takeout very often. When we do, though, we usually order two meals and split it up between us and our two young kids.  Depending on the restaurant, portions can be way too big. Nobody has to eat all of that food at once. So we spend less money and eat less.

8. Fancy Drinks

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I really enjoy a fancy cup of coffee. But do I like how much it costs? NOPE! Making coffee at home is literally mentioned anytime the topic of saving money comes up. But several other drinks also aren’t worth the price. A nice, cold, bubbly soda sounds good almost everywhere we go, but why spend $3 for one serving when I can buy 2L for $2? And why are you paying for bottled water? Or $15 for a smoothie? Yes, these are all delicious treats – so make them at home.

9. Convenience Foods

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As a mom, I’ve learned not to leave the house without food. Being “hangry” runs in the family! It just costs too much to buy snacks all the time. Instead, when we are going somewhere, I pack snacks and peanut butter sandwiches. The amount of stress it saves is more beneficial than the money – trust me.

10. Bank Fees

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Bank fees really bother me. When I was struggling financially, getting hit with $25 in bank fees for overdrawing my account was gut-wrenching and frustrating. I didn’t have money, so you’re charging me more money? How does that make sense?

My finances are much better now, but those fees still irritate me. When I was first dating my now-husband and found out he was paying $19/month just for having a checking account with his bank, I immediately made him switch to one with no fees. That’s $228 he didn’t have to spend. And neither do you.

11. Too Much Insurance

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When my second child was born, I was very fortunate to be able to work from home part-time rather than returning to the office. This reduced our childcare bill substantially, but it also reduced my car insurance, as I was no longer commuting for an hour every day. My rate went down by just over $30/month or $360/year. When my sister’s job turned remote, her car insurance went down by $48/month, saving her $576 each year.

I know that insurance paperwork is dull and sometimes confusing, but spending a few hours reviewing things could save you hundreds.

12. Extra Cell Phone Data

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On that same note, what does your data plan look like compared to what you use? If you work from home, you’re almost always connected to Wi-Fi, so do you really need ten gigs of data? I was barely using one gig, so I changed my plan and now only pay for what I use.

13. Brand-New Clothes

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Kids don’t need brand-new clothes, and I’ve learned that neither do I. I’m not a trendsetter and have no desire to be one. By not following trends, we save money.

When you buy used things, you save money and help the environment. Consignment sales and Facebook Marketplace have no doubt saved me thousands, and no one but me knows that our clothes didn’t come from a store. But don’t be like me and overdo it just because it’s cheap. My two have more clothes than they need to get through elementary school.

14. Brand-New Toys

little blonde girl and boy have fun, laugh and indulge playing board game
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With birthdays and Christmas, we don’t need to buy our kids toys. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins have that area more than covered already. Our library also lends out toys and board games, which I admittendlty forgot about. Borrowing toys and games means we can change them up every few weeks, which keeps my kids from getting bored of them.

15. Baby Gear

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Now that our baby is a toddler, we don’t need as much “gear” as we used to. And because he is our second, we already had a lot of baby clothes, accessories, and supplies that we used with his sister, so we didn’t have to buy anything new. As he outgrows things, we are passing along these things to our friend’s children, who can still get a lot of use out of them.

16. Cheap Makeup

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Cheap makeup is usually cheap for a reason. Because you have to use more of it to get the full effect, you use up the whole thing faster than you would with a better product. And the chemicals used can be really bad for you, too. That said, you don’t need high-end expensive makeup, either. Store brands are the happy medium here. Or, if you don’t wear a lot of make-up like me, I’ll spend a little on my favorite mascara but buy everything else from Target.

17. Jewelry

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Unless you frequent galas and formal events, you don’t really need a lot of jewelry. I’d rather have a few pieces of high-quality jewelry that I actually wear than dozens of pieces that sit in a box on my dresser.

18. Lottery Tickets

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Do you know anyone who’s actually won the lottery? I don’t mean winning a free ticket or $50, either. I’m talking about life-changing amounts. My parent’s next-door neighbor won $25,000 a few years ago, and they are the only lottery winners I know. Admittedly, I will turn to scratch tickets when I’m looking for a quick gift idea for a coworker, but according to Jonathan Cohen, author of For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America, 1 in 8 Americans buys lottery tickets every week. Most of whom are lower-income. If you spend $10 a week playing the lottery, that’s $520 you could have used for something else.

19. Home Decor

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When you have kids or pets, spending money on home decor doesn’t make much sense. So I’ve stopped buying new home decor to save money. I instead use what I already have to decorate, which includes all my kid’s arts and crafts projects.

But even if you don’t have kids who destroy your home, you don’t need to spend a lot on home decor. Thrift stores are your best friend for knickknacks (especially if you give them a fresh coat of paint). Better yet, use nature to decorate with things like fresh flowers, pinecones, and seashells.

20. Lightbulbs

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When we moved into our new house, we slowly switched to LED bulbs. There was the initial cost to buy the LED bulbs, but we have saved money by using them. They last a lot longer than regular bulbs and use less energy.

21. Cheap Toilet Paper or Paper Towel

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Once, I made the mistake of buying cheap toilet paper. We went through that 12-pack so fast because the sheets were too thin, and the rolls didn’t have much on them to start. So I sat down one day and did the “toilet paper math” to figure out once and for all which was the best way to go. Then I did the same for paper towels. I no longer stand in the aisle for far too long trying to divide X amount of sheets by X amount of rolls. I know what the best deal is and stock up even more when it’s on sale.

22. Candles and Air Fresheners

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When you burn candles and spray air fresheners, chemicals enter the air, which you breathe in. Clearly, that’s not good for your lungs, so we stopped buying them. It’s also a fire hazard I’d rather avoid. I use baking soda or vinegar to absorb bad smells, open my windows as much as I can, and simmer cinnamon sticks or rosemary instead. It smells so good!

Don’t Throw Your Money Away

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Once you cut these 22 items out of your budget, you won’t miss them. Instead, you’ll have more money to spend on your needs and whatever is important to you, and less clutter around the house, too. So what have you cut out of the budget that has saved you money?

Save the Planet (And Money) With a Zero Waste Home

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In case you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to reduce the amount of waste my family and I create and am striving to become a zero-waste home. It’s better the environment, but is also better for our budget.

Save More at Walmart

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You’ve probably shopped at Walmart before. And why not? It’s a great place to save money on groceries, clothes, and other items, but there are ways to save even more money at Walmart. Covering everything from shopping tips to ways to reduce your expenses, you will keep more money in your pocket.

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