10 Things we DON’T Spend Money On

posted by Andrea | 11/22/2010

Since I started my business nearly 3 years ago, my #1 goal has always been helping my clients to create their best life by simplifying and organizing {big shocker!} At times this has been a bit overwhelming; but for the most part, I really enjoy what I do and the fact that I am able to de-stress so many people on a weekly basis — honestly, I should be a therapists!!

And throughout the years, one of the main questions I have been asked {besides if I color-code my closet} is how I simplify our spending, organize our budget, and reduce our expenses.

Wow…that’s a biggie!

Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

OK, so I know that every family and situation is completely different, and I am by no means going to tell you how to spend YOUR money. Instead, I’ll simply explain a few choices my husband and I have made to drastically reduce our expenses, improve our budget, and simplify our finances.

Sound good?

First of all, for those of you who don’t know me — I’m obsessed with shopping the sales, using coupons, and finding rebates. These choices save us a nice chunk of change every year, but today, I want to talk about how we save money and simplify our budget by NOT SPENDING {imagine that!}

Let me explain:

When we first got married in 2006, my parents suggested that we try to live off 50% {or less} of our income. That way, we would build up a savings account and if one of us lost our job, we would still be able to manage.

Great advice — except neither one of us made very much money working for non-profit organizations.

However, we figured my parents probably knew what they were talking about {don’t you just hate it when your parents are right!} so we decided to give it a try. But in order to do so, we had to live simply and limit any extra expenses.

So we decided not to spend money on the following things:

Warning — you’re about to see just how cheap we really are!!!

UPDATE: after many life changes, a new house, a new baby, etc. we now do spend money on some of these things :)

1. Restaurants:

I know, this is a big one, but we almost NEVER spend money going out to eat. We do occationally go out to eat, but only if we have a gift card and we use BOGO coupons to make our gift cards last even longer.

2. Magazines, Books, DVD’s, etc:

We don’t subscribe to any magazines, we don’t buy books, we don’t buy or rent DVD’s, and we don’t subscribe to any online movie programs like Netfix. I do get one magazine as a gift and we subscribe to a few free catalogs.

Plus we have a library right down the street from our house, a library at church, and a library at Dave’s school so we can get tons of magazines, books, DVD’s, etc. for FREE. And the best part is, we can return them once we’re finished, which means no clutter in our home!

3. Fancy Electronics:

We don’t pay for fancy cell phones, GPS systems, MP3 players,  Bluerays, DVR’s, HDTV’s, or anything that starts with an ” i “. We only get the free phones that are offered through Verizon every 2 years and we don’t pay for any type of data plan — no text messaging or internet access for us!

We get the most basic internet package from AT&T…and we recently broke down and “splurged” on the basic {23 channels} cable package when our antenna stopped working!

4.  Computer Warranties & Programs:

We get excellent deals on our computers so the warranties are often just as much as the computers — which means it’s probably not necessary to have  the warranty. We also don’t purchase any anti-virus, spyware, software, etc. because we get it all for free online.

Visit Ninite.com to download all kinds of free programs, tools, gadgets, and security essentials.

5. Cleaning Products & Services:

Yes, you read that right — we don’t spend money on cleaning products or services! I am not brand loyal so I simply use anything I can get for free after rebate or for free with a coupon (which is a lot!). I make all our own rags, and I borrow a friend’s steam cleaner for my heavy cleaning — which only uses water.

We don’t pay for any type of cleaning service…however Dave definitely does his fair share of cleaning!

6. Alcohol, Pop, Coffee, and other Fancy Drinks:

OK, let me just assure you that we are NOT against drinking alcohol, pop, coffee, or any other fancy beverages…we’re just cheap!

We don’t pay for drinks at restaurants, and we only buy coffee when we have gift cards or when I redeem my Swagbucks. I never buy wine, beer, alcohol, pop, coffee, or tea from the grocery store unless we have company over AND I can get an amazing deal.  I make my own hot chocolate, I get free coffee after rebate, and believe it or not, I’ve even gotten great rebates on alcohol from Rite Aid!!

7.  Toiletries:

Don’t worry, we still wear deoderant and wash our hair…we just use products I get for free!  As I mentioned before, we are not brand loyal and are satisfied to use whatever I can get for free with rebates, coupons, and sales.

So far, in 2010, I have only spent $3.60 on toiletries — and we have bathroom cabinets filled with extra hair products, make-up, shaving necessities, toothpaste, toilet paper, and more. I also give bags of toiletries away to our church and other community organizations every year.

8. Recycling:

When we first bought our home and started looking into utility companies, we soon realized that recycling was expensive. We still wanted to do our part to be environmentally friendly so I looked around on the web and found loads of free recycling plants in our area. So, every couple of months I deposit our recycling on my drive to work. It takes me about 5 extra minutes and cuts our garbage bill in half!

9. Lawn Care, Plants, and Snow Service:

We do all our own mowing, edging, raking, blowing, weeding, spraying, plowing, shoveling, etc. Yes, it takes time, but we enjoy it…and those services are super expensive.

I’ve also managed to get nearly ALL the plants in our yard for FREE!! How? I found a ton on Craigslist – all for free! I also made friends with our neighbors and offered to split their plants in exchange for a few free sections — they readily agreed! After 2 years, I ended up with so many plants that I was able to give a bunch of them away!

10. Interest, Finance Charges, and Late Fees:

Yup, I’m ending with a big one — but have you ever really looked into how much money you waste on interest, finance charges, and late fees?

Aside from our home and a few student loans we had early on, we don’t buy anything unless we have the cash. We still use credit cards for all our purchases, but at the end of the month, we pay them off — in full.

11. Clothes:

OK, just one more! I just had to throw this one in because in 2009, Dave and I decided not to spend any money on clothes — and we succeeded! We did ask for a few items for Christmas, but other than that, we went an entire year without purchasing any clothing or accessories. And it wasn’t even that difficult to do!
So these are just a few of the things we choose NOT to spend money on, and believe me — it really adds up! Each year, we’ve manage to live off LESS THAN 50% of our income, mainly because we just don’t spend our money. We use the extra 50% to build up our savings, pay down our mortgage, invest, and plan for retirement.

Now again, let me reiterate that my intent is not to tell you how to spend YOUR money. I’m just trying to answer all the questions I get about how we simplify our budget and reduce expenses.

So what can you do to start saving more and spending less?

I’m no financial expert, but my advice would be to start small and pick ONE area that to focus on. Maybe you can reduce your grocery budget by $10.00 a week, or only go out to eat once per month. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s do-able for you and your family…and then commit to sticking to it for several weeks. And remember, every little bit helps!

What do you do to simplify your budget?

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  4. Teresa


    Hi Andrea,

    I was wondering which sites do you buy your gift cards? Can you get them at a discounted price?

    Great article, btw.


    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t usually “buy” gift cards…we just get them as gifts. I also get free gift cards for coffee shops by redeeming some of my Swagbucks (see my sidebar for more info).
    However, if you are looking to purchase gift cards, I would suggest http://www.restaurant.com — you can get $25 gift cards for $10 or less!


  5. Wendy Mihm


    This is incredibly impressive — especially your challenge to not buy a single article of clothing for yourself for an entire year! I am in the process of launching a finance website targeting women called http://www.financialrx.com/ where I try to help them to achieve a healthy, happy financial life. I have to admit that, though I’m dispensing advice on how to be frugal, I’m not sure that I could do that myself, but your example is so inspiring that I think I am going to give it a try…


  6. Lori


    I’m a frugal too. Even though we could afford not to be, it’s a fun challenge to me to save as much as possible and I feel like since I don’t bring in much income (SAHM) I can at least contribute to the family by saving what my hubby brings home. One other suggestion is if you need clothes, I have gotten clothes at Gap/Old Navy/others for about as cheap as I could get them at a thrift store. I go to their clearance and often they’ll have 40% off coupons or just store-wide sales and combine that with their clearance prices and you can spend very little for a new wardrobe or just a shirt!


    Andrea Reply:

    My mom is the same way Lori — and that’s where I learned many of my frugal shopping tips! I too love a good challenge AND saving money so I always try to get the best deal possible…eve if I don’t “have to”.

    And thanks for the tips about Old Navy and Gap. If we do go shopping, we ONLY shop on the clearance racks…but we just don’t need that many clothes right now! So the main reason I’m “not shopping” is because we don’t want the extra clutter — the savings are just an added benefit!


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  8. Lisa


    People are always so surprised that I have kids and don’t eat out and don’t have tv or internet. I’m a librarian–we USE the library for dvds. Occasionally I relent for a few months and we’ll subscribe to Netflix for a while, but when no one knows what they want to watch again I shut it off for several months. Why pay more for bad food? If I want a treat I’ll save up and go to a GREAT restaurant–not a chain unless, like you, we get a gift card! When the kids were younger we got tons of hand-me-downs and they never cared. We do have pre-paid cell phones, but text only since that’s what teens like. Much cheaper! I make laundry soap–one batch lasts 6 months so it’s not a big deal.

    Excellent post!


    nina Reply:

    do you have a recipe for your laundry soap? i have been thinking of making my own. we are a family of 6 and even with coupons i am still spending a pretty penny on laundry products


    Edith K. Reply:

    I have been using HM laundry soap for several months now. I was using Wisk, and have seen no difference in my clothes since we switched (only in my wallet!). I have plans to switch to the HM clothes softner after I finish using the Downy I bought on sale. Both the recipes and others can be found at http://thefrugalgirls.com/homemade-cleaners.com


  9. Liz


    This whole site is just inspirational. Makes me want to leave work, rush home and start getting my home in order and save money. I could use some advice about coupons. I have a weakness for them, but find I end up spending more with coupons than I normally would have… HELP!


  10. Heather


    How in the world did you go a whole year without buying clothes???? Wow! I want to do that!


  11. Adriana


    thanks for share!


  12. Rochelle


    We also use credit cards and pay off the balance in full every month. The nice thing about this is you can use your “cash back” bonuses to get restaurant or clothing store gift cards for free. I have even gotten gift cards to Shutterfly, which I just redeemed for a free photo book & still have some more to spend the next time there is a sale :). Also when you redeem your “cash back” bonus in the form of gift cards you actually get more money back then if you take the cash.


  13. Madonna J


    I don’t understand how people can get so many toiletries for free. I never see any coupons for more than $0.35 or maybe $0.50. If I’m really lucky I’d find a bogo, but free? Never. I’ve never found a store in Austin, Texas that will still double their coupons. And most stores won’t let you use coupons on items already on sale and then put everything on “fake” 10-15% off sales so you can’t use coupons. Am I missing something? I want in on the deals!!


    Cheryl Reply:

    Madonna, I get all of mine free at CVS by combining their sales, extra buck program, store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Then when I earn the extra bucks I spend them on more extra buck items. I also earn my CVS gift cards free online so that I never pay out of budget at CVS. I knot only get free toiletries but much of my food and all of my vitamins and over the counter medicines. I have learned to save so much I started a blog just about CVS with weekly deals and lots of lessons and tips so others can learn to do it, too. Many shoppers do the same with the programs at Rite Aid or Walgreens and there are great blogs and couponing sites out there that give all the details of how.


  14. Sherrie Hagenhoff


    We’re kin folk! We don’t feel deprived, we do feel satisfaction for the self discipline it takes to live this way. Money saved is money we can use on ministry or when others need help. We aren’t stressed about money all the time. And we save for retirement. We have more than we need and more than we even want. Thanks for putting it into words so well. Ok-confession- we DO splurge on coffee and I make sugar free drink mixes by the pitcher and frozen juices. Too funny I have to guess that you don’t buy LOTTERY tickets! Figured that might be the first! followed by cigarettes. The people I know who are most stressed about money and think they are the poorest (because they are) are the ones who buy those and everything else on your list.


  15. Pearl


    Free magazine actually do exist! I get Better Homes and Garden and Fitness magazines FREE through Coke rewards. (If you work in an office environment, just snag those Coke bottle caps and box codes from the recycling bins.) And for those who own Kindle devices, I can also access my 2 magazines for FREE electronic through it. Win – win!!!


  16. Crystal @ Blissful Homemaking


    We are VERY bad about going out to eat. We also do buy soda. Other than that, we follow your list. We are trying very hard not to eat out. Once my second child was born, it was a lot harder to stay organized. I am trying to get organized again, hence why I started my blog.


  17. Denise Best


    We’ve never spent a penny on gambling or traveling to gambling destinations!


  18. Not thrifty Just nifty


    The thing is to remember that it is not about what you give up, but what you get in return!

    I do not use coupons because I have found that they lead me to buy things I ordinarily would avoid. I cook only fresh never frozen foods and do not ever buy prepackaged anything. The only premade thing I buy is sandwich bread, because honestly it is cheaper and I am too lazy to cook loaves of normal white bread.

    I also avoid buying the latest gadgets, however a smartphone to me is a complete paradigm shift and something that i would never want to live without. From being able to access apps that pinpoint where the cheap gas is near my location, to being able to scan items in a cookbook and where to buy odd ingredients close to my house being shown; the smartphone is a true game changer. Add to this the usefulness of always having an mp3 player, internet access, youtube, and video games close at hand, the smartphone is invaluable for those with young and easily bored children… in fact is saves you tons of money instead of paying for impulse purchases to stave off boredom!


  19. Sarah Thompson


    Hmmm…. Don’t you now have not only two iPhones but an Ipad? Confused.


    Andrea Reply:

    Sarah, this post was written over TWO years ago — life changes :)
    Our income is higher, our student loans are paid off, and I run a full-time web-based business from home… so the “tools” I need and use on a daily basis are much different than they were 2.5 years ago.


  20. Julie


    I am just curious as to exactly what you mean by living off of less than 50% of your income. My husband and I recently bought a house and it has significantly changed the inflow/outflow of your money (rent was $850, mortgage payment is almost $1700!). We were doing very well at saving prior to buying our house, but not so much now. Our income will essentially stay the same, but our expenses have sky-rocketed—water, electricity,heat—EVERYTHING. I also have student loans still (we are barely in our mid-20s), and we pay significant money on them as well each month–way over the minimum payment. Do you not consider the extra money paid on that as living on less than 50% of your income? Also, you always talk about free toiletries/hair products/cleaning products. I live in the Chicagoland area. Any suggestions on how to get me plugged into some of these deals?? Just trying to help us not spend a few dollars,and put a few more of them away for another day!


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