11 Things I Don’t Buy And Do Without

I’ve been part of the frugal game for nearly two years now, and it has paid dividends time and time again. Most of my teen years, and early twenties I considered frugality lame, cheap, and slightly dirty. Today I embrace it wholeheartedly. The simple logic of frugality is to save as much money on a given purchase, while getting the most value out of the purchase. Frugality is not buying the cheapest, and in most scenarios it involves buying quality rather than the most affordable. We know most of the time in order to purchase quality we need to spend a little more. Just as the saying goes – you spend a little more to get a little more.

At the time when I started the frugal turnaround I was smart shopping, planning ahead, following sales, couponing, and not shopping for 127 days in order to eliminate my debt as fast as possible. After a while my frugal ways became exhausting, and I gave up my frugality for sometime. After some rethinking, I regrouped, and got back into it with a new mindset – Keep It Simple Stupid or as referred to by most as the KISS method.

I realized that I don’t need to be frugal in every situation, and that trying to squeeze pennies out of every purchase is exhausting. More importantly I realized things that I didn’t need to buy which were simple money wasters in my budget.

If you want to start living a better financial life but don’t know where to start, I say start with the KISS method.

Listed below are eleven things that you will virtually NEVER need to buy. There are obviously many more items, but this list is a good starting point.

1. Activation or Initiation Fees

I don’t remember the last time I paid one of these fees, but if my memory serves me correctly I recall that I paying an initiation fee was when I joined a local gym about ten years ago. This was a time when gym’s were popping up everywhere, fitness was becoming cool, and everyone was getting a membership. Ten years ago I think I paid $250 initiation fee, plus $55 per month for the next twelve months. Talk about a dumb ass (me) who agreed to something likes this.

Since becoming more financially mature, I avoid initiation fees at all costs. There were even times when I walked away from deals, simply because I didn’t want to become part of someone’s cash grab.  Cell phone companies are notorious for charging activation and re-activation fees. The simplest way to get around it is to tell whatever type of business you’re dealing with (internet, cell phone, cable TV provider or fitness center) that you’ll take their “deal” or service if they waive this fee. It’s worked for me like a charm, and it can work for you.

2. Automatic Car Wash

This is a car wash that gets offered to you every-time you pay for your gas fill-up at the gas station. For example, at a popular local gas station it costs $11.99 for an automatic car-wash without gas, and if you purchase gas, your price goes down to $9.99. WOW!  A whole two dollars saved.

Don’t be lazy, and do the DIY method. I take advantage of my parents driveway, hose, and vacuum to clean my car typically bi-weekly. In winter time, due to all the snow and nasty weather I wash my car at a local car-wash, where you pay per use. If I remember correctly it’s 50 cents per minute, and in less than 7 minutes I can wash and vacuum the car.

3. Bottled Water

Bottled water used to be cool at one point of time. Everyone was hauling one around, because every celebrity that had its picture taken was holding a bottle of water. Bottled water is no more or less healthier for you than any kind of filtered tap water (which offer some essential vitamins that bottled water doesn’t), and the amount of plastic trash generated by this industry is amazing. If you simply can’t drink tap water, invest in a water purifier. If you need water on the go, put it in some sort of reusable container.

4. Software

Why pay for something that already exists for free? It doesn’t make much sense, yet people continue to buy software, and the expensive updates every year. Most predominantly purchased is antivirus software. On average it costs $19.99 on the low end, and goes up to $69.99 for the more expensive stuff. There are quite a few free versions of anti-virus software that should suit your computer just fine. Software developers and computer geeks make you believe that you you need the latest software with the latest updates to get maximum protection. Personally, I have been using Avast Anti-Virus Software for many years, with no hiccups or anti-virus threats. If you’re paying for antivirus software, please stop now! Here are a few links to download FREE antivirus software:

There is tons of FREE and legal software floating around the internet. Whether you need photo software, registry cleaners, hard drive scrubbers, CD and DVD creation-type software, and other type of software, it’s all available online for free.

5. Pre-Cut Fruits and Veggies

I know it’s simple and convenient (especially when you’re entertaining) to just stop off at the grocery store and pick up a platter. Pre-cut fruties and veggies are a huge luxury, and there’s no reason why you can’t cut them yourself. The mark-up for pre-cut fruit is unbelievable, so you’ll save a lot of money on your grocery store bill by avoiding them. My favorite example is of the pineapple – $3.99 for a whole pineapple (unsliced) and $7.49 for half of the same pineapple pre-sliced.

6. Garbage Bags

I don’t purchase garbage bags, and instead re-use the shopping bags from grocery stores for my garbage and compost. I’m also huge on recycling, so all the plastic bottles, cans, boxes or paper materials gets recycled. I realize this may not work for everyone, especially those with larger homes or larger families. Being a singleton and living in a condo, I don’t produce as much garbage, and don’t need to haul my garbage in bags to the curb.

7. Foil and Plastic Wraps

Before my frugal days any leftovers that I had went straight into the nearest container that I could find and were topped with plastic wrap. Then, I got smart, and started using plastic containers with lids to store my leftovers. Not only does this save me money (not having to buy the foil and plastic), but its also very green as well.

8. Cleaning Rags

You don’t need to purchase rags for clean up. Instead I improvise by cutting up old T shirts and bath towels. They are perfect for cleaning around the house, dusting, and even cleaning your car. Most are reusable by putting them through a hot-water wash, and the rest I just throw out.

9. Home Phone

How many phones do you actually need? Cell phones have made home phones virtually obsolete. I been on my own for nearly four years now, and have never had a home phone. My cell phone is my home phone, mobile phone, and business phone. On average the cost of a home phone service is roughly $29.99 per month or $360 per year that I don’t need to spend.

10. Lattes

I don’t know about you, but paying 5 bucks for a shot of coffee is not worth it to me. Just think about the markup. It’s no wonder that the sales of single-serving home brewing machines are soaring. 

11. Plastic Cutlery

Total waste of money. Anytime I host a dinner party or BBQ, I just use my metal cutlery, and after the party ends they go straight to the dishwasher. No clean up, it’s green, and didn’t have to spend unnecessarily.

Final Thoughts

There is money out there just waiting to be saved. Most of you who read Finance Fox have already a good money saving mindset. I’m also most certain that a majority of you also save on some if not all of the items above, however this post is simply a pure reminder for us that saving money doesn’t have to be hard.

Do you have something you want to add to this list? Share it with us below!

May the saving force be with you!

Eddie

Photo Credit ( thewendyhouse, house-n-baby)

Comments

  1. I’m always somewhat shocked when I hear that people STILL have home phone. That’s like having both basic cable and full cable and paying for them separately, to me.
    Daisy @ Add Vodka recently posted..Somebody Stole My WalletMy Profile

    • Yeah tell me about it, never understood that about home phones.
      I like your comparison to cable, that’s pretty funny actually and so true!!

    • I think your “shocked behavior” should be based on the age group. How many kids do you have? Do they have a cell phone at 10 years old? How are they being contacted to meet friends?

      Grand parents definitely still have home phones … I would be curious to see how many single family houses do not have a phone as opposed to singles renting. You might be surprised.

      Sorry I couldn’t resits commenting because we still have a home phone and I can’t do without it without creating a phone tag problem for the kids.

      • Debbie M says:

        Landlines work differently. The connection is always good. It is unaffected by blackouts (and you don’t have to remember to charge landline phones). Landlines apply to everyone in the household (unless you have a separate line for business). You don’t have to remember to turn off the ringer at movies and lectures. You don’t have to decide whether it’s rude to answer the phone in front of other people or whether it’s safe to answer the phone while driving. And the phones get less wear and tear since you don’t carry them around all the time.

      • I have 2 kids and had my nieces live with us for a while and we don’t have a home phone. We have no need. I am friends with my kids friends parents on Facebook and we often message on there, text or arrange things at school. I have not had a home phone for years and feel no need to have one.

        I am on a cap plan with my phone, so my kids could simply use it if they felt the need to call their friends or whatever.

        I don’t actually know anyone with a home phone. None of my kids friends, no family, no one.
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    • A regular old phone is the only phone that is going to work in an emergency. When you have a family you need to have a regular phone. Garbage bags are bad and I am trying to think of what I could use instead. I have a large garbage can. I have done some of the things on the list but not all. I do not like single-use plastics (not just plastic wrap) and once I run of that item, I will no longer be replacing it. Straws, plastic cutlery, dental floss with plastic handles, etc. You get the idea!

    • I have a land line, but no cell phone. Way cheaper.

      I also have an antenna for TV, not cable. Way cheaper.

    • I have a land line, but no cell phone. Way cheaper.

      I also have an antenna for TV, not cable. Way cheaper.

      P.S. My landline service is analogue (i.e. rotary), not digital which makes it even less expensive. And no add-ons like call waiting and caller display.

    • Home phone this is what I have always had with an answering machine. Why pay for a cell ?
      Anybody who wants to reach me can leave a message so I can
      hear the message. It is free all the time.

    • @Daisy:
      I work from home and spend almost all day on conference calls…. There is no way that I would even think of doing that on a mobile phone. My landline costs me $18 a month. I can’t imagine how much a cell would be @6-7hours a day on the phone!

      Dropped lines and crap quality sound is not acceptable for me.

  2. Eddie,
    Perhaps this is a little outside the price range of your list, but I’d add expensive home gym equipment. Tons of little things like exercise balls and resistance bands don’t cost too much and ear easy to find secondhand. But big workout stations are expensive, bulky and unnecessary.

    Plenty of exercises that require only your body’s weight resistance can sculpt you.

    -Christian L.
    Smart Military Money recently posted..Smart Shoppers Praise Consumer Financial Protection BureauMy Profile

    • Christian,
      You raise a very valid point, and gym equipment is expensive and overpriced.
      I converted half of my office in my condo to a gym, and I purchased a set of adjustable dumbbells w/stand for $150 (barely used, and new they go for $499), used bench ($70, and new is $120), and a new pullup bar. I have more than enough to equipment for more than 50 different exercise.
      Thanks for the great tip.

  3. Solid list Eddie. I avoid most of this stuff too. With water I’ve actually decided to even stop using the filters. The tap water here is great. So there is no need to buy expensive filters. The trick is to leave the jug on the counter for 15 minutes to let the chlorine evaporate.

    With garbage bags, you’re probably pretty disappointed how stores now charge for grocery bags and some cities are banning them.
    Modest Money recently posted..Optimizing Blog Loading TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks Jeremy.
      The garbage bags fee is funny here in Toronto. The charge was lifted by the city effective July 1st, but stores still continue to charge. Mostly its the bigger chain grocery stores, if you go to the gas station or smaller store, they give you the bag for free.

  4. I fall guilty into the plastic wrap/foil category. It’s one thing I want to cut out completely. I also use plastic bags as garbage bags!

    As for activation fees, how do you get rid of a cell phone activation fee? As someone who has worked for a cell phone company, I could never waive those for customers.
    From Shopping to Saving recently posted..How to Save Money at the Fair or Amusement ParkMy Profile

    • The activation fees is interesting, although some carriers can’t flat out waive the fee, they can give you freebies in return or the activation fee amount is taken off your next month’s bill.

  5. Eddie I am so cheap I can write a list of 112 things I could do without!

    Just kidding, this is a good list and most people should go through their monthly purchases and slowly purge 10-15% from their budget.
    Steve @ Grocery Alerts recently posted..$1 Off Any Gerber Product – Websaver.ca (Facebook Offer)My Profile

    • Steve,
      Damn I hate it when people say that they’re cheap….because I’m far from that.
      Thanks for the compliment, and yes it’s a good starting point for people to slowly save more moolah.

  6. Great list! I am making it my mission to green the house and stop using plastic wrap and paper towels. Garbage bags may be harder to cut out.
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  7. It’s a very good list. What you are going to find as your family grows one day along with your income, you are going to start making a choice between time and money. We just had this discussion with a new grad starting at the office …

    Young people have time, families have less time and thus must make decisions around the points you present. Imagine a family of two with both parents working and hauling kids around to soccer/hockey practice/games 4 times a week. Time management becomes crucial and you do what you can. If the income is generous, guess what takes a hike.

    Let me know in 10 years how you see the list and if you do the same thing :)

    • I hope we won’t be discussing this in 10 years, and that we will both move onto higher pastures.
      I don’t disagree with you that as a family its tougher, and greater strain on time. Luckily for you, you have a partner to split duties with. There are those in much tougher positions (single moms and dads) who have your duties and two kids, yet are in a situation either by choice or no choice. Trust me, singletons have a it great, families with two parents have it good, and single parent families have it tough.

      • c.loranz says:

        We are family of 4 with two working parents and I still do without most of these things, even though we can afford all of them no problem. (Except the garbage bags, because we do haul out to the alley.) I just can’t bear to buy cut up fruit and veggies when it costs 4 times as much. If I was a single mom, for sure, I might be singing a different tune, but then again, maybe I wouldn’t be able to afford any of these things anyway.

        And, in response to an earlier poster, my kids are 8 and 10 and do not have cell phones or a landline to use. They find out if someone can play by walking over to their house and asking, or asking me to call their parents. Maybe that won’t last too much longer but I suppose they will get cell phones by then. There is no reason for a land line.

        • Christina,
          That’s awesome that you get your kids to walk over, knock, and ask if they kids in the neighborhood can play.
          Far too many parents give their young ones too much accessibility with all these cell phones, gadgets and devices.
          Thanks for your comment.

  8. Activation fees are highly insulting. I’m not sure what type of moron invented them. It’s just so they can say “Our product only costs ten dollars, plus a $20 activation fee.”

    My mobile provider tried to charge me a fee to sign another two year contract. The store wouldn’t/couldn’t waive it so I walked out. Some poor dude probably lost a sale for it, but it was waived when I called in.

    • Good for you John for walking away with the deal.
      You’re very right when you say that the phone guys at the booth can’t do much, but the corporate can do a lot more. Good point. I had a very similar experience.

  9. very good list, eddie.. i hate that we are guilty of using a few of these..

    home phone> our cell service at home just isnt reliable (from any carrier)
    fruits & veggies> we buy frozen, does that count?
    garbage bags> with diapers around, we need somewhere smell proof to put the fallen soldiers.

    that said, we are doing pretty well on the rest.
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  10. Marnie Byod says:

    I definitely agree with you that saving money is not that actually hard to manage. I use to buy Pre-Cut Fruits and Veggies and put it in freezer so that if we eat it on the other day we can eat still fresh. Thanks for sharing your saving money ideas here and I appreciate it very much.
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  11. I’m guilty of:
    - car washes (I pay $6 for guys who wash it by hand)
    - bottled water (rarely when it’s convenient)
    - software (I get what I can for free, but paying for good software that trained professionals worked countless hours on can be worth it)
    - pre-cut fruit/veggies (only when entertaining)
    - garbage bags (clear colour-coded bags are mandatory in my city)
    - foil and plastic wrap (rarely, but I do use it)
    - cleaning rags (can’t be bothered to save and cut up old shirts, but I rarely use them so it essentially $0 anyway)
    - lattes (my wife buys them and it puts a smile on her face when we’re out with the family so it’s worth it – definitely not every day)
    - plastic cutlery (anything to make entertaining quick and easy sometimes)

    So I guess I’m good for 9 out of 11. Oh well, I save enough on other things to pay for all of that easily :) Nice list though and definitely things that are pretty easy to cut.
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  12. I can’t STAND paying for cabs. I always feel like the cheap friend when everyone suggests taking a cab to somewhere thats a 15 minute walk and I vote against it but come on, buses are cheap, walking is free…why take a cab?

    Paying for water still blows my mind…its free and abundant so no thank you, $1.99 bottle of water!
    LittleFrugalista recently posted..LF on being cheapMy Profile

    • The catch with cabs is that they’re worth, because they save time, and you don’t have to risk anything after a few drinks.
      I agree that they’re a bit of a rip-off, but still worth it. Buses are cheap, but the public transit schedule sucks after 6pm usually.

      • Also: sometimes a group of people splitting on a cab is cheaper than public transit. For ex. last week a group of us had to go about 2km to a party, but it was pouring outside. Our group (4) took a cab for $10 ($4 flat + $5 charge + tip). Another group of 4 took the bus which cost $12 (4 x $3.00). They took twice as long to get there and spent more money.

        Point is: sometimes “splurging” on a cab is economical!

    • I must say that the bottled water is a hit or miss type of thing.
      We have well water (yes, it gets pumped up out of a deep well in our back yard). After going through our whole house conditioner, it tastes just like the bottled water.
      With that being said, we do keep bottled water available for very quick have-to-run times, or simply when we loose power (the well’s pump does require electricity). :-)

      Now when I lived in a couple different cities, they used to chlorinate the water rather often to keep bacteria levels down, etc. It literally got so bad that the inside of my nose started to burn from the smell after running it so I could get the bulk of the chlorine out of the water lines.

  13. I have to admit that I use the automatic car wash on occasion…mostly because I’m lazy.

    I am completely with you on the bottled water and pre-cut fruits/veggies. They charge ridiculous prices on the pre-cut fruit and bottled water is simply a complete waste of money.
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  14. Living in Colorado we get some pretty bad salt and sand on the roads in the mountains during the winter. Because it takes a little bit of power to clean it all off the car I usually need to go to the car wash. Instead of using the high priced ones at the gas station I always opt for the ones where you do it yourself and it only costs me about $5.00. During the summer I wash my cars at home.
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  15. I actually have my house’s original phone from 1924 in the basement as a souvenier!

    What I’m finding now that I’m a starving writer only with no day job is that we easily ADJUST to our income levels.

    I love drinking tap water. So yummy! haha.
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  16. Edward Antrobus says:

    It’s tough to avoid activation fees. When we moved, it cost us $20 just to have the phone company turn the internet service on.
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  17. I need to make an amendment to your list. I fix personal and business computers for a living, and while I agree with not paying for software generally, you really benefit from a paid antivirus subscription. Whenever we receive a cursed pc, it is invariably from a user with a free antivirus program, or a lapsed subscription. The fact is that the paid versions are the first updated and screen more comprehensively for issues. And, if you are downloading other software off the Internet, this level of protection becomes even more important. Note: only the antivirus need be paid. Not spyware and backup and all the extras. But a cheap norton license can save literally hundreds of dollars. It is worth the small investment in this case.

    • Hi Jessica!
      Thanks for your comment.
      Although you raise a very valid point, I think it comes down to the user to do the updates. I believe any of the FREE anti-virus programs are independents, and not under a bigger provider such as Norton, therefore everyone does their updates deferentially and frequently. I’m certain that if the FREE anti-virus program didn’t do any updates, that they’d have no existing clientele.

      Cheers.

  18. my land line for my phone is bundled with my internet service (we don’t have cable). When I called asking to unbundle it to reduce our monthly utility cost, they told me unbundling will raise the cost of our internet – so it was actually cost prohibitive to eliinate our landline!

    • Point taken Emily. However, did you work out the numbers for your self, if you canceled the land line (roughly $29.99/month), and your internet will increase by ($5/month), you’d still come out on top. Providers will say anything to scare their customers into believing that its the right thing to do, and no better option exists.

    • I had the same experience. And I did the math myself and it would have been about $5 cheaper a month to cancel the landline in our case. However, without the landline my husband would have to upgrade to more minutes for his cell phone as he calls into conference calls for work from home during the day. I thought it would be cheaper to do that, but it didn’t end up being the case so we kept the landline both for cost and convenience. I think it really depends on your provider(s) too. Some other places in my town there are more options and I notice the prices are lower there, whereas we had 1, and now 2, possible providers of cable/internet/phone and our prices are much higher, probably due to lack of competition. Also, if we were big tv watchers and had the higher priced cable packages, it seems more cost-effective to bundle just cable and internet so maybe in that case losing the landline would be worth it. We barely watch tv so we don’t see a big savings from bundling cable.

  19. I am the same as you for everything except the bottled water. I am saving up for a particular filter I want because the water where I live is terrible and you can smell the chemicals. I can’t stomach it. I have used cheaper filters, but it didn’t really make a difference. A few of my friends have more expensive water filters, so I have been able to try a variety of brands. Once I have the cash for the one I want, I will no longer be buying bottled water. (I buy it in bulk, so no individual little bottles, but it is still an unnecessary cost.)

    So many things are deemed a necessity these days that we don’t really need. Thanks for the list.
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  20. Cleaning products. Not only are they horrible for the environment, you can make your own easily (think baking soda + vinegar for example). Same thing apply to laundry detergent, it’s easy safe and fast to do it yourself.

  21. Great list.
    And you can add — wrapping paper. What a waste of time and money. Buy gift bags and a little tissue paper from the dollar store. My friends and I recycle these things endlessly.
    As for plastic cutlery, I admit to using these for my made-at-home lunches (in reusable plastic containers!) since it cuts a bit of weight. But I use the heavy duty ones and take them home and put them in the dishwasher. They last forever. I can’t remember the last time I had to buy them, in fact.

  22. Hello, very interesting blog.

    Here in Montréal, it is mandatory to use standard garbage bags. Even with a cat (though the modern scoopable litter means less solid waste than with the old-fashioned kind), I rarely fill a garbage bag to more than a third as I do pretty much all the other things you mention.

    Not only are pre-cut vegetables wasteful, they are often not as tasty and fresh as whole ones. I live near Jean-Talon Market in Montréal and the fresh local carrots are much tastier (even this time of year) than the so-called “baby carrots”. True baby carrots are a seasonal springtime treat, and worth the money.

    No cellphone as I usually work at home, but I’ll probably discard the landline if I switch over. I am concerned about the emergency aspect though.

    No carwash as I’ve never owned or driven a car in my life (very proud of that) and I’m in my 50s. I do sometimes spring for taxis – they are part of the “transport cocktail” one needs if living carfree or car-light. Here we also have a carshare scheme, CommunAuto. I have friends with children who are able to live without a private car due to the existence of that scheme.

  23. I found that when I was flush I was eating out with friends and associates all the time – at year end when I calculated my expenses and saw how much I was spending over the course of the year I was shocked. Money got tighter over the last couple of years and now I mostly entertain at home where I can cook a meal for 6 for less than what it would cost for one person to eat in a restaurant! And the atmosphere is better. No loud tables, no having to yell to hear yourself, no tip or taxes required. Just a great evening or brunch or even breakfast. Saved thousands over the year.