30+ Ways I don’t spend money that may surprise you

ways I don't spend money and save

Are you looking for ways to save money? Do you want to get out of debt or saving for something big? As we progressed on our debt-free journey to financial freedom, we quit spending money on many things that we still don’t miss. Here are more than 30 things we do not spend money on that may surprise and hopefully inspire you.

The truth about saving money

Do you remember that old saying attributed to Ben Franklin, “A penny saved is a penny earned”? I love classic proverbs like that because of the simplicity. The truth is, with money, it is not so much how much one makes, but how much one keeps that is important.

After reading this post you will be inspired to dream of what could be possible with this list of ideas and maybe more that you come up with (hopefully you will share by commenting). A powerful component to feeling peaceful and calm financially is living within your means.

Did you know that some extremely wealthy people live strangled by debt and even file bankruptcy? It is true. Sometimes making more money is not the only answer to one’s money woes. (Occasionally, it is, as Busy Budgeter explains here.)

As with most things in life that are worth working for, we have to choose what we are willing to sacrifice to get there. Sure, there are obstacles to face and setbacks that we cannot control, but often our behavior and choices are the biggest factors that stand between us and what we want most.

We have made some serious sacrifices. Some you would not choose to make, but I share this list with the hope that some of these ideas might inspire you.

Ways I don’t spend money

1. Interest and fee

Loan interest

We are 100% debt-free and do not owe money for a car, student loans, credit cards, or any other loan. Someday, we might get a mortgage again, but we do not have one as of this writing. We sold our home and rent right now.

In addition, my husband and I each have bachelor’s and master’s degrees. That is 4 degrees, which are all paid off and have been for almost a decade. We paid off our loans and cash-flowed what we could with modest paying jobs. This is how we initially became motivated to tighten up.

Do you know how freeing that is?

Not paying interest to a lender has saved us thousands of dollars and priceless energy drained worrying about it. It has been a lot of work and sacrifice, but I am so thankful for the journey toward financial freedom we have chosen.

Late fees

By getting and staying organized and not overextending ourselves financially, we have avoided countless fees and charges. We don’t pay late fees for taxes, late invoices, or late rent, we don’t even pay for late fees at the library.

While I don’t care for his word choice, Dave Ramsey calls these kinds of expenses and mistakes a “Stupid Tax (my kids think it’s like a swear word). It is so smart to avoid them as they are wasted money and most of the time can be avoided with some planning and action.

Bank fees

Like late fees, bank fees can and should be avoided. There are many options for banking and credit unions, so if you are paying bank fees, I highly recommend you shop around. Do not waste your money paying your bank to let you use your money.

2. Things I can do myself

Shredded cheese

I have nothing against people using pre-shredded cheese, like “make America GRATE” (joke!). It is a principle that I would like to share with you that we have chosen to live by. This principle saves us hundreds of dollars every year.

If we can do it ourselves (and it is reasonable enough to do so), we will DIY. This is a principle we strive to live by. So I don’t buy my cheese that is pre-shredded (because they also add cellulose but that is a separate concern). I shred or grate cheese myself. Similarly, I cook from scratch when practical and buy less pre-prepped food.

What other things can you think of that fit in this category? Putting IKEA furniture together? Slicing my own mushrooms?

Gym membership

I will probably get a celebrity personal trainer when I am super-rich and mega-famous (wink, wink). But right now, walking, running, and at-home workouts are sufficient.

I understand the benefits of a gym membership, but if I drop my excuses, the truth is, I have the knowledge and ability to work out on my own and save that expense.

Hair cuts

I did not grow up going to the salon for hair care, because my mom or my sisters did it. After we got married, The Mr. came home from the barber after paying $25 and I was inspired to challenge myself to learn to do it for him myself.

While $25 is affordable, we were working to level up our finances and this small change saved us at least $200 a year. I bought a decent set of clippers and guards and looked up some how-to videos. Now I do his and all of our children’s hair, saving us lots of cash. (I do my own hair, too!)

Manicures/pedicures

When I was delivering our first baby, my nurse noticed my pretty pedicure and asked if I got a Pedi? Did The Mr. do it? Nope, even with my big, over-due belly, I brought those tootsies up, trimmed, and painted my toenails.

I also have a little kit to exfoliate and moisturize my feet and hands and 2 or 3 bottles of nail polish. I take care of my toes and fingernails myself. While I have gone to get them done for a treat, it is not a regular expense, saving us about $1000 a year.

Extra cosmetics and personal care products

I love makeup and taking good care of my hair and skin. It is fun to try new colors and see if we can get better hair with that revolutionary new product. I get that and I do try a few new things. But I no longer have a stash of a bunch of extras – no drawers full of superfluous products. I buy what I need and use what I have.

Car washes

Our local automated car washes average $8 a visit. Because of where we live (house), we can do it at home. In about 15 minutes – that’s like $32 an hour. Sounds like a reasonable wage for a simple job like that.

Simple repairs

I am a scrappy girl who grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Detroit. If I can fix something myself, I will. I know my limits and when to quit and ask for help, but I will usually give it a shot to repair something before I ask a professional or replace the item.

For example, I have learned some basic sewing skills, minor home, and auto repairs, fix broken furniture, for example. Treehugger has 10 things you can fix in 10 minutes to offer more ideas.

Other services I can DIY

Like shredding cheese, hair cuts, and fixing toilets, if we can reasonably do something ourselves, we will save the money and do it. We have done our taxes, I made my own wedding invitations, and even DIY’ed my entire blogging business.

If I can do it, I will give it my best shot. With this attitude and commitment, there is no telling how many thousands of dollars we have saved and will in the future.

What are some things that you can do for yourself that you are not doing…yet?

3. Disposables

As much as is reasonable, we use reusable items in lieu of disposable versions. Here are some examples:

Dinner napkins – we have cloth ones that I toss in with the regular kitchen laundry.

Zipper bags for lunches and snacks – we have small containers and reusable bags

Bottled water – we use reusable bottles and a filter

Too many cleaning supplies – we use mostly white distilled vinegar and a few others, sparingly

Disposable disinfecting wipes – I promise a wipe with a cloth with hot soapy water followed by spritz of rubbing alcohol works.

Kitchen sponge/cloth – we use a new cloth each time we wash the dishes or wipe up in the kitchen – about 5 a day.

Cloth diapers (Parents.com) – we cloth diapered each of our children full time from newborn to potty training, even when they were in daycare full time – no regrets!

Mama cloth (pros & cons)

Facial tissues – we use baby washcloths or squares of flannel and toss in the wash with the rest of the laundry

Paper Towel – we have reusable cleaning rags

Dryer sheets

Paper plates – we use real plates 99% of the time (even when we didn’t have a dishwasher)

4. Ways I don’t spend money on my lifestyle choices

Family Pets

This one might be a little controversial, but we do not spend money on getting or caring for family pets. (This is not only a financial decision for us.)

Between acquiring the animal, food, veterinary bills, boarding, grooming, and everything else, pets can be expensive. We might get a pet someday, but right now we do not spend money on one.

Expensive hobbies

I think creativity, leisure, and hobbies are important and healthy. That said, I do not spend money on hobbies right now. I enjoy reading, writing, and photography, I have a simple watercolor set, and a calligraphy pen, and some nice paper. I ask for these things for gifts and save up for them, but overall, in this season, I spend next to nothing on supplies or equipment for recreation.

Lessons or sports

I played sports as a child, I tried dance class, I had voice and music lessons and they were great experiences for me. I would love for my children to have all of these experiences life has to offer, but we don’t pay for lessons or sports right now.

Our children are in early elementary. As they get older, we might get them into an activity if it especially interests them, but we pay zero dollars for that now.

I taught them to swim, I give basic voice lessons at home as well as music enrichment (this is in my wheelhouse!). I teach them the basics of sports techniques (my husband was a collegiate runner), we bake, craft, sew, crochet, build, and fix things. We use the library to learn about things that interest us and go to free cultural events in the area.

When they were interested in dancing, I looked up tutorials on YouTube, when they wanted to learn certain steps. We listen to John Williams and talk about how he composed the film score to some of our favorite movies and we pick out the instruments and themes.

As their interests become more specific and professional lessons become more necessary, we will probably get them the support they need, but in this stage, we focus on play, enjoyment, enrichment, and discovery.

Retail therapy

I know so many women that enjoy shopping as a hobby. It can be fun and relaxing to browse beautiful stores and products. However, going shopping without a plan or purpose can be a dangerous budget-busting habit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love going to Target, walking around with my over-priced coffee, looking at the clearance end caps for 2.5 hours for a mini-mom-vacation. But I do not “retail therapy” without some specific parameters.

I have a specific amount of money set aside for spending money or pocket cash. In our budget, we have our expenses covered and we budget a regular amount for extras and fun.

A second family vehicle

My husband and I share one car. We have done well with only one car for most of our 13 years of marriage (our children are years away from driving age). We might get a second car at some point, but between buying the car, maintaining it, fuel, insurance repairs and everything else that come with vehicle ownership, we have saved thousands of dollar over the years with just one

Because we do not have a second family vehicle, we make sacrifices and must plan ahead a little more than perhaps another family with more vehicles. Has it been super inconvenient sometimes? Yes. Has it ever been impossible? Resounding, no!

This choice may not be for everyone, but the money-saving power of this decision (not to mention the environment!) has been worth it for us so far. We have cash saved in case our vehicle needs repairs or needs to be replaced (or if we chose to buy a second vehicle).

Alcohol

In the introduction, I shared about sacrifices that we have made that others might surprise you or that you might not choose to make. We do not buy or drink alcohol – at all. While, to be honest, this was not made as a financial decision, it does save us thousands of dollars in comparison to a family that does include it in their budget.

Trendy Clothes

Dressing nicely and looking pulled together is important to me. I like for my children to look cute and tidy, too. However, we do not try to stay on trend all of the time.

We rarely pay full price for clothing. If I can buy it secondhand, I will. 90 percent of what my children and I wear is from the thrift store (and my husband is minimal in his wardrobe).

See my capsule wardrobe guide here.

I do buy some key pieces new and to fill in the gaps. Usually, with some patience, I can find great clothing, in great shape, even name brands at one of my thrift stores. (Full disclosure, I live in a metropolitan area and I believe the secondhand clothing market is more abundant here. I understand that is not true in all locations).

colorful minimal clothing text overlay capsule wardrobe secrets
Capsule wardrobe secrets

5. Ways I don’t spend money on Entertainment

For entertainment, we spend very little. We like to find free things to do with our family and the rest of the time, things are pretty simple for entertainment with us. I am a super playful mom, so we have no lack of fun, but we spend close to nothing doing it.

Here are some examples of ways we do not spend money on entertaiment:

*TV, cable, streaming service – we don’t pay for cable, satellite, or streaming services. We will occasionally pay for a streaming service for a month here and there.

*Music services – I am a musician, but I do not pay for music streaming services and I rarely buy music (unless it is for a gig).

*Online games/in-app purchases – my kids have saved up for specific purchases and paid for them on their own, but we do not pay for online games or in-app purchases.

*Magazines or subscriptions

*Books – we are avid readers and we do buy the occasional book, but we primarily borrow books.

*…and other things I could easily borrow

6. Impulse Buys

Another thing that we rarely spend money on is impulse buys. Those are the unplanned purchases that can throw a budget way off.

I am not saying I never bought something that was not on ‘the list’, but we plan ahead, stick to a budget, and part of the budget includes money set aside for pocket money, spending cash, or as some call it blow money.

Ways I don’t spend money on Impulse Buys:

*Unplanned eating out. By having a meal plan, we rarely end up in the drive-through out of desperation.

*Random toys and gifts for the kids – I might be a mean mom. (PS I’m not.)

*Excess clothes and accessories – we have a plan for clothes, which you can read about in my Capsule Wardrobe post, so we buy what we need and love and not much else.

*Extra stuff like home decor and kitchen gadgets – I love to cook and decorate my house, but I plan ahead and take a minimalist approach. I rarely buy extra stuff like this anymore.

*Convenience store snacks and drinks – check out my post Drink More Water to see how we plan ahead to avoid “emergency” snack stops.

*Latest-model anything – we buy cars, phones, and pretty much everything else after it has been out a while and costs less.

*Wasted food – by using Reverse Meal Planning, we reduce our food waste.

Reverse meal planning food prep family meal healthy child
Reverse meal planning your secret advantage to save more time and money on food

Discussion

Of my list of more than 30 things we don’t spend money on, are there any that surprised you or doubted were possible? Did any of them inspire you? Of this list, there are many things that we still don’t miss. You won’t either.

If you are looking for ways to save big money, try one of these ideas.

Taking Action

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About the author, Jaime

Jaime Ragsdale
Jaime Ragsdale, Founder of Altogether Mostly

Here at Altogether Mostly, you will find grace, compassion, joy, and beauty. I use empathy and a little tough love to bring out the best in people. I live in the Midwest United States with my loving husband and awesome children. For more about me and Altogether Mostly, please visit my about page here.

2 thoughts on “30+ Ways I don’t spend money that may surprise you

  • What an encouraging list! We just sold our second car in order for me to quit my job (crazy to think about). I’ve been watching lots of youtube videos this year on frugal living to respark that mindset. Even though we were a one income family for many years as we homeschooled, just a few years out and I lost my edge. I know people will be motivated by many of your ideas, well done!

    • Christa! Thank you for your comment. As you know, it might feel constricting to say no to some things, but the freedom it offers to make lifestyle choices has been invaluable! <3 Thank you so much!

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