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Ten Things I’ll Never Buy Again

By David Bakke

household cleaners to never buy againAn obvious way to impact your personal economy is to save as much money as you can on the things that you buy. Smart shopping, paying attention to sales, couponing and so forth all go a long way towards accomplishing this goal. However, for those of you who are just getting into the “frugal living” game, it can be overwhelming at first. As a matter of fact, the first few times I set out to do it, it seemed so overwhelming to me that I just gave up! If you want to start living a better financial life but don’t know where to start, I say start simple. Listed below are ten things that you virtually NEVER need to buy. And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

In no particular order, here are ten things that I have stopped paying money for:

Paper towels

If you invest in a good set of dish towels or wash clothes, you really don’t need these at all. They are convenient, but by no means necessary. Additionally, by not buying them, it helps out the environment.

Plastic Wrap

Up until recently, I was addicted to plastic wrap. Any leftovers that I had went straight into the nearest container that I could find and were topped with plastic wrap. Then, I invested in a 10-piece set of Pyrex cookware (complete with lids) and bam, no more plastic wrap. Again, you’re also helping out the environment and there has also been research that you can be poisoned by some chemicals in plastic wrap (eg., due to melting in the microwave or slow deterioriation that can’t be seen with the naked eye).

Car Washes

Just wash it yourself. Up until recently, we did have water restrictions that prevented me from fully eliminating this expense, but once those were lifted, I went back to washing it myself. The expense of the water and soap that you use is minimal compared to the cost of an actual car wash. It’s actually kind of fun too!

Bottled Water

To me, this was one of the biggest frauds perpetrated on the American consumer in a long time. A lot of bottled waters are 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.

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. Or, if you’re eating on the go, to buy smaller amounts of these.  Simply put, this is 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.

Activation Fees

It’s been a long time since I’ve ever paid for one of these. The simplest way to get around it is to tell whatever company you’re dealing with (internet, cell phone, cable) that you’ll take their “deal” or service if they waive this fee. It works every time for me.

Bluetooth Headset

For those of you that have or need a blue tooth cell phone, there is no need to ever pay for the headset. A quick internet search should almost ALWAYS yield one company or another where you can get one of these for free.

Household Cleaners

I have recently really gotten into this. Over the past few months, I have eliminated the need for buying dish soap for my pots and pans, toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner and I am about to eliminate a few others. Again, a quick internet search will give you “recipes” on how to make these yourself. The recipes usually involve completely natural ingredients, which will also make your household safer and more environmentally friendly.

Download Tools to Improve Your Computer

Anytime you search the internet for this, you can probably find hundreds of tools that will supposedly “speed up” your computer, or get rid of an unwanted file or something else that might be slowing down your computer for a fee. Guess what?  If you search a little harder, you can also find these tools/fixes for free.

Stamps (mostly)

With the price of a stamp currently at 44 cents, this can actually have a pretty decent impact on your annual household budget. If you’re not already paying your bills online, start. For local bills that you don’t pay very often (i.e. for doctors visits), consider hand-delivering them. Also, most invitations and/or personal letters can usually be handled through email now. Just as a small example, say you pay 10 bills per month and you had been using about 5 other stamps on a monthly basis. Eliminate this and you could save yourself $80 a year.

In short, there is money out there just waiting to be saved. And I am sure there are lots of you out there already of the “saving” mindset that can add many more items to this list. Have something you want to add to this list? Share it with our readers below…

(photo credit: elwillo)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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Comments

  • Karmella

    I’ll stick with the DIY car wash place – it costs a couple dollars but I usually don’t get as wet and messy, and their water pressure is just too good

    I still like to send occasional old fashioned cards and letters, but other than that no stamps for me!

    • David

      Karmela

      Thanks for commenting.

      Hey, if the cost of the car wash place is OK with you, it gives you a better wash and saves you time, I say go for it!

  • http://www.pfsdebtrelief.com Stephan

    while i applaud these recommendations, i really dont see many people making their own soap. but hey, like you said, there is money to be saved out there. i always wash my car at home, so i guess it all depends on how much drive each person has to save some money!

    • David

      Stephan,

      You are absolutely right, and I never ever saw msyelf making my own soap either. It wasn’t until I saw what an icnredibly easy process it was that I decided to do it.

      Will it save you a million dollars? Absolutely not. But to me, every little bit helps.

      When I hit the lottery (LOL) you’ll probably see me say good-bye to my soap-making days!

      Thanks for chiming in…

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com Craig

    I used to enjoy washing my car in high school, but now don’t have the time, and a place really does a much better job.

    • David

      Craig,

      To me, time is just as valuable as money. If I can spend some money to generate (or save) time in my life, then I do it.

      Thanks

  • http://www.blogsmonroe.com/budget Monroe on a Budget

    I have become the master of needing only five quarters to wash off my car at the automated car wash! And I was able to do it in four quarters when I had the compact car.

    On the household cleaners, I have replaced about half of the ones I used to use and that alone saves money. So if you don’t like the results on one cleaning application, don’t toss out the concept. Use alternative methods where and when they work. That’s fine.

    • David

      Man, you must really be moving! I usually can never get out of those places for less than $2.50!!

      Thanks for your words.

  • kyleen

    I agree with just about everything on your list. I haven’t made my own soap yet but I’m researching it. The stamps, though, I still have to buy them. Not for bills but for cards. I love receiving cards and know those I send cards to appreciate them. It’s worth the $80/yr.

    • David

      Kyleen

      The soap thing really is a pretty good deal. It only costs whatever a bar of soap does, which I think for me was about 55 cents.

      IAnd I can certainly understand about the cards thing too.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • http://beyonditall.net Carla

    I agree with everything you said except the part about stamps. Though I do pay most of my bills online, some bills (like my health insurance premium) is only payable via mail for some reason. Also, sending someone a greeting card (100% recycled paper of course) every once in a while trumps anything that can be opened on a computer. Plus my older relatives and friends (especially the once without computers) love them.

    • David

      Carla

      Yes, I know that there are some bills that you can’t pay online.

      I at least try to find a way to do it without wasting a stamp–and its usually faster too.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • http://beyonditall.net Carla

        Frankly, a .44 stamp isn.t going to break me a few days out of the month. But yes, it is faster to do it electronically…

        There are some bills I pay online and some that I don’t. You can say I’m set in my ways. ;-)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XAEMKSC6GPW6HE4IVHYRKFBSZ4 Anonymous

        I said this in a separate reply, but I don’t believe there are any you can’t pay “online”, even if it’s the bank manually paying it by check. I do this for my dentist.

    • Gloria

      Carla,
      If you have a bank account, you should probably be able to pay mostly anything online. When I pay my utility bills or credit cards, I don’t go to each different website. I use my bank’s BillPay system. I can enter any regular payment I want. It took some time to set up, but I didn’t do it all at once. First I started paying only my utility bills. Then, as I would get a bill from a credit card, a doctor, an insurance premium, etc, I would enter the payee into the BillPay system. If it is a recurring payment, I can program it so that it sends the payment at the same time every month. I make sure the payment is sent a week to 10 days before the payment is due. Also, there are several things I pay via direct debit — two charities, my electricity bill, my newspaper bill, and a health insurance plan. I only use stamps for letters to friends and families who do not have computers.

      Thanks, David, for a great article!

      I will have to look up that website which sells stamps at a discount!

  • Vicky

    I already do or don’t do all of these things and you are so right. It saves a ton. It’s amazing what you can clean or clean up with a few micro fiber cloths and some vinegar. Thank you for this article. It is very well written and insightful.

    • David

      Vicky

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Once you get “frugal living” int your DNA, its amazing how much you can save!

  • Justine

    I already do most of these, thanks for putting your suggestions out there for everyone…I personally think it really boils down to how lazy people are, I can’t get a couple of my neighbors to do ‘green’ things just cause they don’t want to and it’s easier to do it the bad way! I always wash my own car, otherwise they always miss parts that are difficult to get to and I prefer my own lawn getting the water…but if you’re in the city it’s probably impossible to do yourself. The only thing I can’t get away from is paper towels, we have a lot of pets and I am extremely sanitary and clean and a towel always has lint or hair on it…Anyway thanks for the ideas :D

    • David

      Justine

      It absolutely comes down to laziness!

      I used to be lazy regarding “green” concepts, until I realized the importance of being a good “Earth citizen” as I like to call it.

      Thnaks for commenting!

  • Olivia

    It’s nice to hear others are doing the same kinds of things. My kid’s think I’m over the top.

    We send birthday and anniversary cards and a year end letter. If you don’t mind licking stamps and putting more than one on an envelope you can buy stamps at discount through Henry Gitner. With postage included and paid by check it comes to 10% off retail. We got $100 worth and that should do us for the year.

    You don’t need to purchase rags for clean up. We get more than plenty by cutting up ratty T shirts and bath towels. I just run them through the hot water bleach cycle in the washer.

    • David

      Olivia,

      I completely forgot about the use of old T-shirts!

      I wish I had included it in my post!

      Great idea about the stamps–I had never heard of that site before

  • Kelly

    Most of this information is right on. I can’t imagine that making your own dish soap is actually less expensive than buying it pre-made. You can get decent stuff at Trader Joes for less than $2. Also, I agree that washing your own car at one of the car washes is better. When you wash it at your own house you simply do not have all the tools to do it the same way. You need to factor in the cost of the water and the supplies and I think you’d have trouble making a less than $2 car wash at the store really cost less than the water, electricity, soaps for washing the car, and then cost of the water, laundry soap, and electricity to wash and dry the dishrags you used since you’re not using Paper Towels.

    • David

      Kelly

      You brought up some good points.

      I’ll have to re evaluate the costs involved–maybe it is cheaper going to the car wash place.

      Thanks!

  • http://exotic1.blogspot.com Rhonda Martin

    Hi David great advise~! I just wish you had gone a little further with this post by not only telling what your list is of things you never need to buy but also how you saved the money. For example the recipe of the home made dish soap and how much it makes and how much it is per quart or gallon. Same with other household cleaners. A few more items you never have to pay for again:
    Wrapping Paper- recycled wall paper is great wrapping paper so have your friends and neighbors give you their left overs or recycle news papers by using the funny pages just color the funnies and it makes great kids wrapping paper~!
    Gift Tags- recycle your Holiday & Birthday Cards by using the front of the card to cut out gift tags. just cut a square and fold over. They make wonderful gift tags.
    Printer Ink- recycle empty Ink cartridges , have your friends , relatives or a local company or school save them for you then turn them in to a local Staples store and get a $3 credit for each one. You can only drop off 2 at a time but if your driving by why not stop and get a $6 credit each time. Every time I turn in 5 of them I make $15 which pays for my black Ink cartridge. If I need a color cartridge I just stop every day for a week and I get a $42 credit and it pays for my color cartridge.
    Hope you didn’t mind me posting a few more items you never have to buy :)
    Now I guess I need to search the net for the dish soap recipe and the window cleaner recipe. Thanks for posting about them.

    • David

      Rhonda

      If you haven’t done so already, here you go–the dish soap is one bar of soap to 6 cups of water (this is what I use anyways).

      Glass cleaner is 1 cup of rubbing alcohol to one cup of water to 1 Tbsp of white vinegar. Again, this is just what I have found to work the best.

      Thanks for your comments!

      • http://exotic1.blogspot.com Rhonda Martin

        Perfect thanks David~! I go through a lot of window cleaner so I can’t wait to try this out. If you google baking soda and peroxide you will find a list of uses for these items for cleaning as well. Coca – cola has a lot of uses too. It even cleans battery cables. Instead of buying disinfecting wipes just dilute peroxide with water and wipe your counter tops or table. Thanks Again David :)

  • http://collegesuitcase.wordpress.com Miss Lissy

    Two points:
    First of all on the bottled water thing, did you know that the first bottled water company ever was Evian? Spell it backwards and you get naive because they thought for sure consumers would never fall for that. Of course, now it’s an industry that makes what – billions of dollars?
    Second – even though you can e-mail a lot of things, there are some things you should just not e-mail. For example, I’m getting married in December and I would never ever consider e-mailing my wedding invitations. That’s just a little too unspecial and informal.

    • David

      Lissy

      I love what you said about Evian!!

      And you are aboslutely right about wedding invitations—I wouldn’t do that either.

      Thnaks for commenting

    • Jessica

      We mailed our wedding invites BUT did not do what a lot of friends did and include a pre-stamped envelope. All of our RSVPs were done on our wedding website. Saved a lot not having to buy double stamps!

  • Dwight

    Did you know that you can use 1/2 cap of concentrated liquid laundry detergent rather than a full cap, and your clothes will be just as clean and smell just as fresh? Try it! Instant 50% savings!

    • David

      More great stuff!

      I’ll start that one with my next load!

      • Wilma Van Schelven

        Same with dishwasher soap – 1/2 the amount cleans as well and it saves the environment too.

  • http://www.joetaxpayer.com joetaxpayer

    Agreed on stamps. Not at zero yet, but I don’t think that was your point. Moving to online bill pay was a time saver, and better way to track payments. I bought the last pack of stamps a long time ago, and there are still many left. Greeting cards mostly.

    I agree with the cut up food, but can’t always execute. When the wife comes home from the grocery store (note – I do all the cooking and most shopping) it’s a frugal fail. And the 11yr old is smart enough to ask mom to go along with her, as she can get away with anything. Wife works, is a great friend, wife and mom, time to grin and bear it….

    • David

      Yes, the execution of some of these can get complicated.

      Understood completely!

      Thanks for commenting

  • Wilma Van Schelven

    Actually the suggestion to wash your own car has been discouraged by our city (Corvallis, OR). They say the water you use along with the soap goes directly into the sewage on the street and that goes straight into streams completely untreated. That soap and chemicals is really damaging to the streams and to the wildlife in and near it. They suggest we get our cars washed at a professional place (even the places where you can wash your own which is a lot cheaper) because that water is almost always treated before it is returned to the streams.

    • David

      Wilma

      I was completely unaware of that–I’ll keep it in mind.

      Thanks for stopping by

      • Wilma Van Schelven

        I do have a few emergency substitutions that I use a lot – not necessarily for substitutions, sometimes I need an item for baking and don’t want to spend the money to buy it so make my own.

        Apple pie spice, 1 tsp – ½ tsp ground cinnamon plus ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ground allspice and dash ground cloves or ginger
        Baking powder, 1 tsp – ½ tsp cream of tartar plus ¼ tsp baking soda
        Bread crumbs, fine dry, ¼ cup – ¾ cup soft bread crumbs; ¼ cup cracker crumbs; or ¼ cup cornflake crumbs
        Broth, beef or chicken, 1 cup – 1 tsp or 1 cube instant beef or chicken bouillon plus 1 cup hot water
        Buttermilk, 1 cup – 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using); or 1 cup plain yohurt
        Cajun spice, 1 tbsp – ½ tsp white pepper, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp ground red pepper, ½ tsp paprika and ½ tsp black pepper
        Chocolate, semisweet, 1 ounce – 3 tbsps semisweet chocolate pieces, or 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
        Chocolate, sweet baking, 4ounces – ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 3 tbsps shortening
        Chocolate, unsweetened, 1 ounce – 3 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tbsp cooking oil or shortening, melted
        Cornstarch, 1 tbsp (for thickening) – 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
        Corn syrup, 1 cup – 1 cup granulated sugar plus ¼ cup water
        Egg, 1 whole – 2 egg whites; 2 egg yolks; or ¼ cup frozen egg product, thawed
        Flour, cake, 1 cup – 1 cup minus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
        Flour, self-rising, 1 cup – 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp baking soda
        Garlic, 1 clove – ½ tsp bottled minced garlic; or 1/8 tsp garlic powder
        Gingerroot, grated, 1 tsp – ¼ tsp ground ginger
        Half and half or light cream, 1 cup – 1 tbsp melted butter or margarine plus enough whole milk to make one cup
        Herb, dried, 1 tsp – ½ tsp ground herb
        Herb, snipped fresh, 1 tbsp – ½ to 1 tsp dried herb, crushed
        Honey, 1 cup – 1 and ¼ cups granulated sugar plus ¼ cup water
        Lemon juice, 1 tsp – ½ tsp vinegar
        Margarine, 1 cup – 1 cup butter; or 1 cup shortening plus ¼ tsp salt (if desired)
        Milk, whole, 1 cup – ½ cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water; or 1 cup water plus 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder (I find that this works great in baking or for pancakes or waffles – you can’t tell the difference in taste there)
        Molasses, 1 cup – 1 cup honey
        Mustard, dry, 1 tsp (in cooked mixtures) – 1 tbsp prepared mustard
        Onion, chopped, 1 small (1/3 cup) – 1 tsp onion powder; or 1 tbsp dried minced onion (by the way onions freeze beautifully – just chop them up and put into freezer bags and use when you cook – that way you can buy them on sale or when someone gives them to you and it makes cooking a lot quicker)
        Poultry seasoning, 1 tsp – ¾ tsp dried sage, crushed, plus ¼ tsp dried thyme or marjoram, crushed
        Pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp – ½ tsp ground cinnamon plus ¼ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground allspice and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
        Sour cream, dairy, 1 cup – 1 cup plain yogurt
        Sugar, granulated, 1 cup – 1 cup packed brown sugar; or 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
        Tomato juice , 1 cup – ½ cup tomato sauce plus ½ cup water
        Tomato sauce, 2 cups – ¾ cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water
        Yeast, active dry, 1 package – 1 cake compressed yeast

        • David

          Wilma

          That is awesome!

          I did a post a long time ago about cooking substitutions but it had none of your ideas and it paled in comparision to your list.

          That’s some really great material–thank you!!

  • http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com Small Footprints

    Love your recommendations and I do almost all of them (haven’t started making my own soap but it’s next on my list). Here are a few more things I don’t buy … any kind of cleaning solution (making them is cheap, easy and Eco-friendly), most processed foods (bad for us, bad for environment and more expensive), vegetable plants (we save veggie seeds and grow our own), aluminum foil (same as plastic wrap), air fresheners (full of chemicals and expensive … use essential oils instead).

    Thanks for sharing your tips with us!

    • David

      Small footprints:

      More great stuff. I’ve learned more new ideas from writitng this article than all the ideas I had in the article!!

      What a deal!

  • Jazzy

    How do you find the free bluetooth headset? I have never heard of this… Do you know of any specific websites?

  • David Bakke

    Man,

    I wish I could remember where I got mine–but they are usually listed on sites at around $4-$5 with a mail in rebate to get your money back.

    After a quick Google search, I found this:

    http://www.meritline.com/samsung-wep650-micro-usb-bluetooth-headset-silver—p-41156.aspx?source=nl100625&hq_e=el&hq_m=1995315&hq_l=45&hq_v=d4104765de

    This one will cost you $1.99–it’s the best I could find right now. If you wait awhile, soon enough you’ll find one for free.

  • Christine

    Great site David! In the past I had to find ways to live frugally out of necessity because I was a single mother and working part time so I could be home with my son. It forced me, in effect, to be a better money manager and now I’m so glad. Almost from the get-go, I paid extra every money toward my mortgage, then refi two years into it for two points less, kept up the extra payments, was able to get an equity loan when it got down to fifty thousand, kept paying extra and just paid it off last year so I paid off a thirty year loan in eighteen years and saved over one hundred grand in interest. Cost saver: Use the Clothesline!! Watch the toilet–it’s forty percent of the water bill!! Dilute the dish soap 50/50.

  • Christine

    To continue: regarding hanging out laundry, there’s nothing negative about it. That fresh air scent, lower electric bill, less wear and tear on the dryer, and your clothes will last longer. Cut your dish soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent with water, cut sos pads in half and you’ll get twice as much. Keep the oil burner on only as long as you need hot water and turn it down to 58 or 60 in the winter, you’ll save a ton, put less wear and tear on it and it’s a much healthier climate in the house! I’ve done this for years and I never get colds anymore.

    • david

      Christine

      That is cetainly a wealth of information.

      I never knew that I had so much more to learn about saving!

      Thanks for opening my eyes!!!

  • http://wealthisgood.blogspot.com Meg

    I disagree with several of these, and if the goal is saving money then I think it’s much better to cut in bigger budget categories. I mean how much will you really save making your own detergents?! I live in a condo building and so can’t wash my own car there, and I live alone so sometimes buying the whole fruit or veggie is a waste of money when I only need a little bit (especially with melons, onions, squash, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, etc). I totally agreed with you on paper towels until I got a dog recently. Sometimes you just need a disposable wipe, or else I’d be doing laundry every day for a couple of soiled towels!

    However I never buy plastic wrap (or tin foil) or computer downloads or activation fees. I really don’t focus on these relatively small expenditures though. I focus on minimizing my big expenses by never buying a brand new car, living in a small condo with a correspondingly small mortgage, etc. Those things save me enough so that I don’t have to scrimp in other areas that offer me convenience and luxury!

  • David Bakke

    Meg

    I guess its all about chocies.

    If you can save enough on the “biggies” then I guess you may not need to worry about the samll stuff.

    Thanks for commenting

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XAEMKSC6GPW6HE4IVHYRKFBSZ4 Anonymous

    You don’t have to hand deliver any bills.. Online bill pay can pay things like the doctor too. I use it for my small payment for my dentist, and AFAIK, they just send a check (with no stamp payment on my end) if they can’t pay it electronically.

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