My personal journey toward freedom, mobility, and more fulfilling work has been transformative in many ways. For example, moving into a smaller home means having less space to heat, cool, insure, and clean. Getting rid of extra clutter reduces my worry about misplacing something or finding room for it.
As I continue to downsize and prepare for a more nomadic life, I’ve noticed a drastic drop in my spending. Part of it’s because I’ll have less space when I hit the road full-time. But it’s also because I want to simplify my life, rid myself of superficial items, and leave more room for the things that make me happy and fulfilled.
Here are the things I have either reduced drastically or eliminated from my spending. Someone else’s list might be different. I only include the cost-draining habits that apply to my life.
Airline Baggage Fees
Air travel is a pain any way you slice it. Lugging around large pieces of luggage is an extra hardship. The worst is paying to check it. In recent years, I’ve learned to pack light. I now only carry a backpack, even on international trips. Besides not paying the baggage fee, I get in and out of the airport a little more quickly.
Knickknacks and keepsakes bring some people real joy. For me, however, baubles, ornaments, and souvenirs just collect dust and take up space. And there won’t be any room in my future camper van for excess bric-a-brac, except one or two special trinkets. If I’m traveling and tempted to buy a souvenir, I remind myself that I can take pictures of the trip. I also have my memory.
Cable or Satellite TV
Two years ago, I called my cable/internet provider to ditch cable TV and just keep the internet. The customer service guy on the phone painstakingly tried to get me to take on a slightly cheaper plan so that I could still keep the cable. I wasn’t having it.
After five minutes, he asked, “Well, if you don’t have cable, how are you gonna get your entertainment and news or relax during your down time?” I replied, “I read!” (Because the call was recorded, I’m sure he would have gotten in trouble if he wasn’t so persistent. But sheesh!)
Ever since I cut the cable cord, I’ve never felt like I was missing out. I only pay for a Netflix account, which is cheaper than a monthly cable bill. If I want to catch the latest SNL sketches or breaking news, I almost always find a YouTube channel that streams what I want to see.
I haven’t given up dining out completely, and I never will. Otherwise, I’d miss out on patatas bravas and pintxos at Mita’s, my favorite local restaurant. But consider this: If you go out for a $15 lunch every workday, that’s $240 a month.
To alleviate the occasional ho-hum of eating in, we started a Sunday brunch tradition at home, which includes fresh waffles and mimosas. For the most part, we’ve limited our eating out to weekends. We haven’t quite saved that weekly $240, but we’re close to it.
I might get pushback from those who designate getting fit as their new year’s resolution, which most people drop by January 19. When it comes to joining a gym to get in shape, the commitment might be gone, but the membership is still there. Research conducted before the COVID pandemic suggests that about 67 percent of gym memberships in the U.S. go unused.
An idle membership of any kind bleeds a budget dry, especially if it’s an automatic monthly charge. Forget the gym and download a free app or two to get your workouts in. Check out Tom’s Guide for a list of workout apps. Some of them cost nothing.
Brand Name Products
Except for cycling gear, I usually don’t wear name-brand clothing. If I wear a t-shirt with a logo, that’s advertising, and I should get paid for it! Besides clothing, there are many other quality products with generic or store brands, such as groceries, skincare, and prescription medicines.
In most cases, bottled water is a scam. Sure, tap water can taste nasty, but that’s what filtered pitchers and filtration systems are for, and they start at less than $40. Over time, replacing the filter for your water pitcher every three months is cheaper than buying multiple packs of bottled water. Besides, think of all the fossil fuels that bottled water companies burn up.
A frothy latte is a nice treat, but stopping at the coffee shop for one every day can be expensive. I’ve broken my Starbucks habit with a pleasurable morning coffee ritual that involves a French press and hand-held milk frother. If you must purchase a coffee drink, at least support a local business instead of one of the coffee giants.
If you spend a lot of time on the computer, chances are you need software to do various things–banking, writing documents, create a schedule, etc. While there are some applications you might need to purchase, check first to see if there’s a free app for what you want to do. Suppose you’re looking for a budgeting app. Do some research to see if there’s a free option that can help you track your spending.
When you buy something major, like a washer/dryer set or computer, you might be tempted to pay for an extended warranty. Chances are it’s not worth the extra cost. Consumer Reports points out that items like appliances rarely break down during the extended warranty period. Also, the credit card you used to buy the item might already have extended warranty protection.
Nevertheless, there are circumstances when an extended warranty might be a good idea. You might consider purchasing one if:
- You have an extreme need for peace of mind.
- You tend to be a klutz and drop stuff a lot.
- You have rambunctious kids or pets (bless ’em!).
- Your stuff gets damaged because you travel frequently.
- You want an option to return something “no questions asked.”
Pre-sliced or Individually-packaged Foods
This one I haven’t completely mastered, but I’m working on it. A package of pre-sliced cheese will yield perfect slices every time, but that costs more than buying a block of cheese that you can cut or grate yourself. Foods like energy bars, fruit, and vegetables in individual packages are generally more expensive.
I always go for the least expensive gas when I’m at the pump. Few cars need the premium stuff, unless the manufacturer recommends it or if you hear knocking in the engine. Besides, it won’t make much of a difference in your gas mileage. If you’re worried about keeping your fuel system clean, pour a bottle of fuel injector cleaner in your tank after each oil change. (However, this bit of advice is debatable.)
Specialty Food Prep Items
If you have a small kitchen, eliminate single-use kitchen utensils like melon wedgers or banana slicers. A good ol’ serving spoon is just fine for scooping out ice cream. However, if you want to keep your small ice cream scooper, then find at one more use for it, like measuring out cookie dough for baking.
Why do stores offer sales and give out coupons? Is it out of the kindness of their heart and concern over your wallet? Yeah, right! Retailers understand that sales and promotions can lure people. Even if you buy a coat for $100 less than the original retail price, are you truly saving money? Think about this:
It doesn’t matter if something is on sale for 75% off. It’s still 25% on if it’s not budgeted for.Adam Hagerman
Of course, I’m not talking about using a coupon or discount code to buy something you’ve already planned to acquire. However, if you purchase an item just because it’s on sale, you’re still spending money. Moreover, you might not have thought to purchase that item if you didn’t see a coupon for it. If you do collect coupons, stick to things you already buy regularly.
Full Price for Clothes
Depending on your location, you can find some pretty cool stuff at consignment shops and thrift stores. I once paid $2.50 for a garage sale dress that got me compliments for several years afterward. In our current age of fast fashion, it’s such a waste to buy brand-new clothes when we can recycle 95 percent of the clothes we currently throw away.
If you want to buy something new or at full price, choose a style that’s classic so that you can wear it for a long time. If you wait a while, the price for that item will go down anyway.
As a recovering bibliophile, getting rid of most of my paperback and hard-cover books was a hard thing to do. I don’t miss them anymore because of the Libby app, which allows me to borrow books from my local library. Do a search on Libby and you might find your library. Other apps offer free downloads of classic works—you know, the books you should have read in high school.
Unnecessary Bank Fees
Bank fees are lurking everywhere. If possible, use ATMs from your bank to avoid those annoying transaction fees. In the age of COVID, it’s probably better to go cashless to lessen the viral spread. How much are your accounts costing you in extra charges? Are there better options? If your checking account isn’t free, take your money elsewhere like a credit union.
Utilities Not in Use
When I go to the bathroom at home during the winter, it’s like walking into a meat locker. That’s because we keep the bathroom closed. There’s no use heating a room where we only spend a few minutes. Also, when you don’t use a room, turn off the light.
Here’s the hill I’m willing to die on: It’s ridiculous to let the water continually run when brushing your teeth. Prove me wrong.
Warehouse Club Memberships
I had a Sam’s Club membership a while back, but I canceled it to cut costs. When researching for this post, I learned there are other reasons to forego the membership fees. It turns out you don’t need a membership at Sam’s or Costco to shop with them.
If your employer has a business membership, you might already have access, or you can shop with a friend who is a member. Some warehouse stores sell alcohol to non-members, depending on the state. Costco provides health services like eye exams to all customers, whether or not you pay to shop there. You can also patronize these companies online without a membership, but you might have to pay a non-member fee.
Unless you have mobility issues or there’s a kid in your neighborhood who could use the extra money, mow your own yard. Remember earlier when I talked about ditching the gym membership?
For most of us, money’s not so easy to come by. There are many modest things we can do to hang on to our hard-earned dollars. Just adopt one or two of these strategies and see how it goes. Not only may you notice a difference in your spending, but you might also find other ways to simplify and de-stress your life.
What things have you stopped spending money on? Feel free to leave a comment below.