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5 Things You Shouldn’t Waste Your Money On

By Heather Levin

All of us want to save money right now. And hopefully, as we climb out of the recession we’ve been in the past few years, we’ll keep up with these good habits we’ve developed out of necessity.

After I bought my first house in 2007, I was gripped by a burning desire to save money (my first mortgage statement had a lot to do with that!). And my desire to cut back on my spending increased with the difficult recession, leading me to find some creative ways to save.

In this post, I want to share with you five things I’ve stopped wasting money on:

1. Commercial Lotion

I love lotion. And I used to buy a lot of it. Fancy lotion, cheap lotion…I had a different scent for every mood and skin condition.

But you know what? Lotion is expensive. And more often than not, it’s filled with chemicals and substances that we can’t even pronounce. Most people don’t realize that the FDA doesn’t regulate personal care products. This means that companies can put whatever they want in there. And they do.

Want proof?

Let’s start with Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database, also known as Skin Deep. Skin Deep is a non-profit group of scientists who banded together for one goal: to educate consumers about the chemicals that are found in the personal care products we use every day. Because of the lack of regulation in the industry, there are substances that are downright shocking to know are in that lotion you’re putting on your skin everyday.

For instance, check out Skin Deep’s breakdown of Suave’s Cocoa Butter lotion. This lotion scored a 7 out of 10, which means it’s fairly toxic (0 or 1 is the most pure). The ingredients contained in this Suave lotion have been linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and allergies.

I used to buy this stuff all the time. But not anymore. I’ve totally stopped buying commercial lotion (including face lotion).

What do I use instead?

Olive oil. Pure and simple olive oil. And my skin has never looked better if I might say so myself.

There’s a good reason why Spanish and Italian women are so beautiful. Yes, okay, genes have a lot to do with it. But many of them use olive oil to moisturize their skin. And they’ve been doing so for thousands of years.

I even use olive oil to moisturize my face. And yes, I do have slightly oily skin. But my skin has never looked healthier. And the olive oil sure hasn’t made me break out.

I’ll never go back to commercial products because olive oil is, in my opinion, far superior. I buy it in bulk at Costco and make several different varieties by soaking herbs in the oil (my favorites are lavender olive oil and rosemary olive oil). Luckily, olive oil is not on my list of things to not buy in bulk.

2. Cleaning Products

One peek under many people’s sinks and you’ll see a dozen or more cleaning products. Wood cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, glass cleaner, shower cleaner, counter cleaner…we simply don’t need all this! Why not instead try some of these tips to save on household cleaning products?

A century ago people had clean homes without spending a fortune on dozens of cleaning products.

What do I use now?

Vinegar. Lemons. You can also use borax and ammonia as well. Want to be really impressed? Check out these amazing ways to save money with baking soda.

Using natural ingredients not only saves you money, but it’s also going to keep your home free of the harmful chemicals in commercial cleaners. This keeps your indoor air healthier and reduces the risk that your children or pets will get sick from those chemicals.

3. New Cars

New cars lose around 20% of their value the moment you drive it off the lot.

Would you invest money in a stock you knew was going to drop 20% in the span of two minutes? Would you buy a house if you knew that tomorrow it’d be worth 20% less?

No way. But we do this with new cars all the time. I made this mistake myself when I bought a brand new Honda Civic in 2006. But, never again will I buy a brand new car.

You can find high-quality used cars anywhere. Buying used will save you significantly over buying brand new. Check out some of these other benefits of buying a used car, and if I’ve persuaded you, check out these 5 tips to buy a used car.

4. Greeting Cards

Some people think I’m a grump for not sending holiday cards. I also don’t send birthday cards, “Happy Halloween” cards, Valentine’s Day cards…Hallmark hates people like me.

Greeting cards cost an average of $3. Then you have to stamp it for what, 41 cents? (I’ve lost track). And 99% of the time, that card ends up in the recycle bin.

Instead of wasting money on a greeting card, call your friends and family. Meet up with them over coffee. Make it personal! Or if they live far away, invest time in making your own card for them. I’m 31, but I still have a huge box of crayons and construction paper. I have glue and glitter, and I’m not afraid to use it. There’s always the e-card too!

5. Subscription Services

Cable TV, Netflix, magazine subscriptions…these are all things I consider to be “money wasters” that I’ve nixed from my life over the past couple years. I actually just recently ditched my TV to save a ton of money.

Often we sign up for subscription services and end up not getting our money’s worth. What are you currently paying for each month that you could axe?

Last Word

What things have you stopped buying to save money? And, what are you using in place of this product or item? I’d love to hear your ideas, solutions, and personal examples of how you’re creatively substituting in your own life.

(Photo credit Pink Sherbet Photography)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • Karmella

    I like to send a handwritten note instead of a card, or I’ll pick one up from the dollar section – but I still like receiving actual mail, so I do still send mail out. And Netflix is actually a way I save money, I finally got it (the $9/month plan) and I stream enough to my TV/get maybe one DVD a week which is a good value for me – I use that instead of expensive cable and/or going out to a movie.

    My biggest change is just to first look to using something I already have, and also not to buy things without a really clear sense of why/where I’ll store it/how I’ll use it/why what I already have won’t do.

  • http://www.moneyforregularpeople.com Trent

    I agree that it is a good idea to review subscription services. I would also like to point out that putting together a line item monthly budget will help such things stand out. That way you get a summarized view of your subscriptions so that you can ask questions such as:

    1) Do I get my money’s worth out of this subscription (repeating your question)?
    2) Is there a cheaper way to get the same thing (such as pay per view via the Internet)
    3) And perhaps the most important question…Why do I even have all of these subscriptions (and other recurring monthly expenses)?

    Even if you make no substantive changes in your budget, I believe going through an exercise such as this – really questioning what’s in your budget – is a healthy thing.

  • http://whatsinitforme-cu.blogspot.com Lauren

    How do you use olive oil as a lotion? Is it the same olive oil you cook with? I use olive oil in my hair and I use it my mix to help fade my stretch marks. (My natural rememdy is actually working quite well on my stretch marks.) I just not sure how I can use olive oil as a daily lotion.

  • Heather Levin

    @Karmella- Thanks for writing in! I do the same thing before I buy anything, especially the “where am I going to put this” question.

    @Trent- That’s a great way to itemize subscription services. You’re right, it’s easy to lose track of what you have coming in, so reviewing everything at once is a great way to figure out if you’re really getting your money’s worth. Thanks for that useful idea!

    @Lauren- Yes, the olive oil I use is the same olive oil you cook with. I put in my skin straight, and it makes it feel very soft. The oil soaks in well (if you don’t use too much). Many commercial lotions leave my skin feeling greasy, but the olive oil doesn’t. After a few minutes it just feels soft! :)

  • http://www.getting-out-of-debt.info Alva M

    Here’s my list:
    1. MagicJack has eliminated my phone bill.
    2. I get free product samples online. They always include coupons so I usually get the following for free:
    lotions, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Check out: freefabstuff.com
    3. I reduce my purchases at DD. I make my coffee at home. Only buy when I’m extremely sleepy and still
    chauffeuring one of my 7 from extra curricular activities or work.
    4. I send free ecards for birthdays. They’re fun and they are always on time. You can even set them up months in advance!

    I’ll stop now. Don’t want to turn this into a post! LOL!

    :)

  • Erik Folgate

    We haven’t had a land line phone in about 4 years. I also slipped back into a bad habit with eating out for lunch, and I caught it, and have only eat out for lunch once a week now.

  • http://change-is-possible.net Heather

    Great list! Just don’t scrimp on thank you notes. They are worth their cost (I buy packages for most occasions) and the postage.

    I’ve stopped using regular shampoo (same reasons) and use baking soda and vinegar. My hair has never felt better (and I don’t smell like vinegar).

  • richard

    Well done, home made greeting cards are much better – more thought is used. also great software available these days.

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