Saving More by Doing Without

posted by Andrea | 03/7/2013

cut up bill

Last month, I blogged about Saving More by Using Less… and there were lots more creative ways to save more by using less in the comment section.

So along those same lines, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on saving more by doing without.

This is a very simple concept — but in our fast-paced, instant-gratification society, it might not always be something we think about. After all, we certainly can’t do without the latest fashions, the most high-tech gadgets, and the best _______ (you fill in the blank!)

However, before I get started, I just want to remind you that how Dave and I choose to save and spend our money is probably quite different than how YOU choose to save and spend your money. After all, saving and spending is a very personal choice.

So while the ideas I’ve listed below might not work for your family, I hope this post gets you thinking about a few things you might be able to do without (or find creative alternatives) and save a bunch of money in the process!

Baby/Kid Stuff

I had to list this one first because it’s seriously insane how expensive some baby things can be — especially since most of the items for sale are 100% not necessary!

There are so many items people said we just HAD to have for our new baby — and over a year later, we are completely fine without any of them (read more money-saving baby tips here).

I’m not going to list off everything we don’t have or everything we did without, but I will say there were people who tried to convince us that we absolutely had to renovate another one of our bathrooms and install a bathtub before Nora was born. Yes, a bathroom renovation will probably happen in the next couple of years, but we’re doing just fine without a bath tub.

In fact, Nora loves her cheap inflatable bathtub!

Along the same lines, I think there are many things older kids (and even teenagers) can easily do without. I personally don’t have experience raising older children, but my parents used a pretty good system for us. If we were begging for something they knew we didn’t need, they would say we could have it if we paid for it.

They knew that if we weren’t willing to spend our own money to buy something, then we obviously didn’t want/need it that badly.

Clothing

I should mention that I don’t like shopping for clothing, but even though I don’t like to shop, there are still plenty of times I look at my closet and think “I wish I had something new/fun/different to wear today” or “I wish I had ______ to wear”.

It would be so easy for me to zip just a few miles down the road to Target or to our massive mall and buy something new whenever I felt this way, but I honestly can’t even tell you the last time I stepped foot in a clothing store. While I’m no fashionista, I usually manage to pull a coordinating outfit together and can always find a way to make do with what I have.

About 3 years ago, I went the entire year without spending any money on clothing, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Not only did I save loads of money by doing without extra clothes, I also saved a bunch of time shopping and space in my closet!

Kitchen Items

One of my weaknesses when it comes to splurging is items for our home — and more specifically, items for our kitchen. I love shopping for small appliances, cool serving platters, fun accessories, handy gadgets, etc. However, I’m fully aware that I can easily get by without most (if not all) of these items — so while I love to drool, I rarely ever make a purchase.

I also save some of these ideas for Christmas gift suggestions as kitchen/home items are also relatively easy to track down.

Expensive Utilities

Dave and I do both have iPhones which means our cell phone bill is more expensive than it used to be; however, we don’t have a land line, and we have the most basic internet/cable package offered.

Yes, Dave would love to have ESPN and I would love to have HGTV (home and garden channel)… but we can do without in order to save $50-$60 per month on a more expensive package.

We could save more by completely doing without TV, but I don’t think we’re ready to go that far just yet.

Fancy Vacations

There is a time and a place for fancy vacations… and right now is NOT our time! We went on a fun honeymoon to Mexico — it was all-inclusive and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. But since then (almost 7 years now) the only vacations we’ve been on are visiting family and friends.

I’m sure once Nora (and any future children) get older, we’ll want to splurge a little on some memorable family vacations; however, I’m fairly certain we will be able to make those memories on a budget if need be.

Brand Name Cosmetics

Dave and I could care less what brand of lotion, razors, body wash, hairspray, or deodorant we use. We actually make some of our own toiletries and use whatever cosmetics are the cheapest after sales and coupons (often, I get them completely free). We honestly notice no difference between products… except the price!

The ONE product I do splurge a little on is my most favorite Face and Eye cream (read more in this post)

Groceries

No, I’m not suggesting you do without buying groceries forever — but have you ever tried skipping just one week of grocery shopping every few months? If you’re like me, you stock up on things when they are on sale and have a pantry and freezer full of extra food.

You might have to get creative with your meal planning for that week (and you might still need to buy milk, eggs, fruit, etc), but just think how much money you could save by doing without more groceries for the week and instead, eating what you already have in the pantry and freezer.

Now think of the savings if you did this 3 or 4 weeks out of the year!

So like I mentioned before, this is just a short list of things Dave and I often “do without” in an effort to save more. There are plenty of other items we could do without but choose not to. I suppose it’s just a balancing act of what’s most important to us at this point in our lives.

I’ve made my share of impulse purchases — and honestly, I’ve regretted those purchases almost every time. Now, I try to always wait 24 hours before shelling out any money… which gives me time to think about whether I REALLY need the item or if I can save the money and do without.

Even when I buy items off Craigslist, I almost always wait until the next day to go look at it so I have a chance to think first. If the people aren’t willing to hold the item for me, then I just call before I come to make sure it’s still available. If it’s already sold, then I figure it probably wasn’t meant to be.

It’s amazing how many times I think I NEED something, but by doing a little creative thinking, I realize how easy it is to do without.

What would you add to my list?

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32 comments

  1. Amy @ Fun With Family and Fitness

    03/07/2013

    I think we do without alot that so many of my friends seem to do or use regularly. The most popular being Smartphones. We still have our good ol plain no frills phones and we dont text. We also pay for the minimum amount of shared minutes possible. Like you guys, we also do not spend on fancy vacations.We do alot of “staycations” , 2 day trips or we stay at my parents condo in Florida (no hotel bill!) and just visit with them or go to the beach. We will not spend $70 per person for Disney parks!. I also only own 2 main pairs of boots, one black and one brown for the fall and winter and the same goes for the warmer months, black or brown/tan sandals. No shoe addiction here! I probably could go on and on! :)

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  2. Lisa

    03/07/2013

    I use two questions daily to examine every purchase I make. The first one is “Is this a need or a want?” I have used this one for a long time, but recently I added another qualifying question if the item makes it in the need category. If this was my last $40.00 that I had coming in for a long time would I be spending money on this item? That second question has further reduced my spending a lot as even things we think are needs, are not always needs.

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    Cathleen Reply:

    Hi Lisa – two great questions! I have subconsciously asked this sometimes, but think I will make an effort to use ask them regularly!!

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  3. Amanda

    03/07/2013

    I love the “wait 24 hours” rule. That’s something that I have implemented and it works wonderfully. I often find that if I pass up something at the store, saying that I’ll come back and it get it the next day, I will go home and figure out a different solution from the items I already own.

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  4. Jen

    03/07/2013

    I love the grocery idea for us. In fact, today is supposed to be grocery day, but instead of doing a big trip I think I’ll make a meal plan using as much of what I already have on hand as possible and then just get stuff to fill it in. Maybe instead of $200, I can get out of there with a bill half that size!

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  5. Melissa

    03/07/2013

    We have decided what works best for our family to do without. Those are designer coffees, tv (we don’t have any package at all and in fact never set up signal on our living room tv-it’s just hooked to the dvd/blue ray player), and jewelry- this is an area where I like to splurge. I have a weakness for costume jewelry but I decided that this year I am not adding any new pieces to my collection no matter how cheap they are at a thrift store or otherwise. This will save me both time and space and money. I’ve also chosen to do without liners for my crockpot. They are quite expensive for the little bit of time and mess they save. I also periodically do without a major grocery trip so that we can eat from the stock pile instead. In fact, I’ve found that forcing myself to be creative with what we have on hand has lead to the invention of some great dinners!

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  6. Evie

    03/07/2013

    We live out in the woods, 25 miles from the closest city, so I grocery shop over there in WalMart just once a month, and then I get the milk, fresh veggies, stuff like that about every ten days in our little near-by village. So anyhow, when I was in WalMart the other day, I played a game I guess I’d call “Money Saved.” I let myself run wild with looking at stuff and wanting….and kind of pretending that I was really going to buy some of it. I “need” a blender, so I found one I liked well enough to live with and picked it up as if to put it in my cart, but then I put it back on the shelf and thought MONEYSAVED. I actually do need a new kitchen curtain, just one valance that goes over the sink, so I found something I actually loved, picked it up, and then gently put it back on the shelf, thinking MONEYSAVED! I would love a cool cover for my iPod touch (that I currently put in a snack size zip lock baggie whenever it goes into my purse LOL), so I looked, chose, and put back. Did the same with a couple very cheerful glazed flower pots that would look great here, a new comforter for my daughter (very nice, good sale, too, but still…), as well as “stock-ups” (like multiple cans of tomatoes or boxes of pasta or whatever). By the time I left WalMart, I’d tallied up how much money I’d saved, about $150. If I can save even just $100 a month by playing my Money Saved game, that’s $1200 a year saved! Trick now is to actually put that money in a savings account. You know what, in the parking lot, thinking about my non-purchases, I truly didn’t feel even one pang of regret. Thinking about all those things now, I do wish I’d gotten a couple of those flower pots…to go with my new yellow house! (not new house, not totally yellow yet, but I’m painting!) So there you go, my two cents (or my hundred fifty dollars) worth. :-)

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  7. Gen

    03/07/2013

    The main reason why I go without a lot of things is because of lack of space. We live in a small 500 sq ft apartment, 1 bedroom, barely any storage (not to mention our furniture doesn’t have a lot of concealed storage either). That GREATLY limits what I buy.
    One thing I think you could add to the list is live without a car, or live with only 1 car. I know it can be very hard depending on your family size and where you live, which is why I also mention having less cars. I don’t have one now, but honestly it would be such a hassle! We’re in walking distance of everything that’s important, and in the warmer seasons we can bike. That also limits how much things I buy, and even the size of said things, because I know I have to carry it back home after without a car.
    I’ve also started living a simpler lifestyle since I did a lot of research on green living (I did a series on my blog back in October for the 31 day challenge). It completely changed my outlook on materialistic things. I had such a hard time coming up with a Christmas list this year, and honestly I’m not missing anything! I have everything I NEED! And lots of things I don’t need still.
    When I have kids I will also be careful of what I buy and mostly get those things that I NEED. But yeah, sometimes it’s hard because of many people tell you you NEED certain things, but you don’t. It’s all about the research!!

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  8. Nem

    03/07/2013

    I completely agree with you. There are many things that we can all do without. Its crazy how many gadgets are out there to “make your life” easier yet, you end up with so much clutter.

    My husband and I do splurge on electronics. We get a decent tv and computer just cause those things have last us a long time, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look for sales and coupons. We definitely don’t buy things full price. When my husband teases me for looking for coupons for groceries, I remind him that every penny saved helps get a tv, or computer or whatever electronic.. and usually shuts him up. :)

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  9. Nicole

    03/07/2013

    We save on cell phones and tv. My husband’s cell is paid for by his company. Mine is not. So I use Virgin Mobile. I have a Samsung Galaxy SII and they even have iPhones. Sure you pay a little more up front for the phone, but there is no contract and my bill is only $35 a month for unlimited internet, text and 300 minutes. There are other plans as well. Love it. Straightalk from Walmart is another cheap cell option. We don’t have cable at all, canceled it 3 years ago. We have a Roku box ($100) and pay $8 per month for Netflix and $8 for Hulu Plus. For those looking for a home phone option, we use Ooma. It uses your internet. It costs $150ish for the unit and then the bill is $3 a month for taxes. We wanted to keep a home phone since our son is in school and didn’t want his friends calling our cell phones.

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  10. Becky

    03/07/2013

    Love your ideas!! So many great ideas, as always :-)

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  11. Lauren {Rustic Honey}

    03/07/2013

    Agree with all your thoughts above!

    My husband and I also don’t eat out very often and bring our lunches to work everyday. Every once and awhile my office caters food in for everyone and sometimes I’ll splurge on a Friday fo fun. Overall, we try to limit buying lunches. We save SO much money by doing this alone.

    Dan and I also have our weaknesses like stopping for a soda or coffee. We both try to limit these purchases on the road by buying soda at the grocery store and making coffee at home before Starbuck’s starts calling my name!

    I am also a huge DIY kind of gal! Even in my teens, I remember I would be shopping and fall in love with something and think to myself… “Could I make this on my own for less money?” Asking that simple question makes me more creative and saves me a lot of money sometimes!

    Everything in moderation is the key to saving BIG money! It is always good to remember that many people are very happy with less than what we have! Count your blessings and you will see that what you “need” or “want” is a lot less than you imagined before!

    Thanks for the tips above! Love this subject!

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  12. vera

    03/07/2013

    I agree a lot about baby/kid stuff! We have been working on skipping the weekly grocery visits and now have stretched it out to once every two weeks and it definitely saves more time, money and gas too!

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  13. Carla

    03/07/2013

    Money not spent is not money saved!! Money saved is put on your account for another day. When you put an item back on the shelf or do without something that is your money not spent. Wanna save that amount then put it in your savings account. Money not spent!!

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  14. Sarah

    03/07/2013

    We save by eating out very rarely (it adds up quickly with 4 hungry boys) and doing most of our cooking from scratch.

    I’m sure we also save a bundle by avoiding the whole “back to school” shopping spree since we homeschool. What a great marketing gimmick that is for the stores, right?

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    Emily Reply:

    We homeschool too and I have always thought that. Granted we buy curriculum and such but I’m not spending a fortune on the latest clothes and school supplies. :)

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  15. Rebecca G

    03/07/2013

    Baby items we did without: An expensive Pack N Play. We got the $50 basic model without all the extra shelving and loved it WAY more than the expensive one we had first picked out – plus we didn’t have to worry about storage of the extra parts as our baby got bigger. Set up was quick and easy. Which brings to me a changing table – everyone said how important it was to have one – we never needed it and saved a ton on that and the accessories required to go with it! The hanging “shelf” raised up the pack n play for when she was a baby and as she got older we just laid out a towel on the bed, hung the diaper stacker on the bedpost and changed her there. We also didn’t invest in all of the matching furniture for the baby room. A crib and an armoire were all we needed. :)

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    Maria Reply:

    We had a changing table attached to our free crib. It was too small for anything but a newborn. The storage underneath was falling apart and awkward. So we tore it to shreds and threw it in the dumpster.

    I used the floor to change the babies. Best part–they never fall off.

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    Ashli Reply:

    I laugh every time someone does a baby post because I was one of those that needed every gadget and gizmo baby related when our first kiddo was born. Every toy available for the stroller? Gotta have ‘em. Fully stocked baby Easter basket? Yup. The cool reusable mat for eating out? Check. The seat cover for restaurant high chairs? You betcha. 3 different diaper bags for different occasions? Oh yeah. Every time we went ANYWHERE with him I had a fully stocked 25 lb diaper bag, deluxe stroller with all the attachments, and a fully stocked car to boot. By the time our third kiddo had joined the family I stuck an extra diaper in my purse and headed out with my cheap umbrella stroller and at home she played with empty yogurt containers. I shudder to think of the money we wasted on baby gear and toys and only wish someone had told me that 75% of the stuff in Babies R Us is a waste of money!

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  16. Carla

    03/07/2013

    Great post, I agree with it all!! I like to kick off the year with a “no spend” month, which means only the very basics! This January I was able to save almost $1K!!! And I do mean save, it all went into our savings accounts. I like to have the odd “no/low spend” week as well and just use up what’s in the house, it’s an easy way to add $$ to our savings! :)

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  17. Jen @ ThisCrunchyLife

    03/07/2013

    There are always so many baby things that everyone says you need to have. I think its great that you solved that one for Nora! I knew someone else who bathed their daughter in a big, deep storage container placed in the shower. Maybe when Nora gets too big for the pool!

    One thing we were told we couldn’t live without was a fancy stroller/travel system and we did receive one as a gift. My 2nd son is 14 months old and I just used it for the first time–to drive him around the basement for fun! We got along great with babywearing and walking and the rare use of a cheap umbrella stroller. It really just depends on how you live your life.

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  18. Deni

    03/07/2013

    Great post Andrea! Last May I decided to stop hi-lighting my hair, mainly because I read about the effects on your health from the chemicals on your scalp, but also to have healthier hair and save a ton of money per year! You all know how much it costs to get good hi-lights. I am so happy with my decision, I actually like my natural hair color and it wasn’t such a big deal. Even if you stretch the time in between colorings, look at how much you will save over time.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Oh that’s a good one Deni. Highlights are actually the ONE thing I do splurge on every now and then (like 4 times a year). Short hair makes it harder to go longer than 3 months… but my cousin does the highlights so I get a good deal!

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  19. Janet

    03/07/2013

    You make a lot of good points, many we have done ourselves. And we don’t miss what we’ve given up. Hubs and son like TV and videos more than I (I don’t remember how to use DVD player it’s been so long). I could give that up easily. We did cut our cable way back, same with our land line phone service. Hubs has reasons for wanting to keep what we have. When something new comes into our wardrobes, etc., something else goes out to Goodwill, etc. If we don’t need new, we don’t get it and DON’T MISS IT. This is my biggest luxury, email, blogging, etc. My grey is showing, I don’t know the last time I colored my hair; my younger sisters both do theirs and say they have more grey in their roots than I have. Genetics. And choices. Thanks for sharing and encouraging as you do.
    Janet

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  20. Shaunna

    03/08/2013

    I like the idea about the skipping a week of groceries. You are totally right. I have plenty in my cupboards and freezer to last us a creative ;) week!

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  21. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    03/08/2013

    I LOVE the little bathtub for Nora. That’s a great idea. It probably saves water, too. I occasionally give my grandkids a bath and it uses a lot of water for just a quick bath.

    Great post. Doing without is definitely a great way to save money, and a lot of those things really aren’t missed anyway.

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  22. Jenni/Life from the Roof

    03/08/2013

    Regarding baby items, someone (with good intentions) purchased a baby food maker for us when I had my 3rd child. I have been making my own baby food since I had my 1st, and was used to using a steamer in a pot and a food processor. Not only did it work just fine, it could also do larger batches. I rarely used the baby food maker at all!

    One thing I like to tell myself when I think I need something is that somehow I have managed to live my life so far without it. Sometimes this thought doesn’t apply if there’s been a major life change which now creates new valid needs, but for many things it helps me to realize that I can certainly live without an item.

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  23. Brigid

    03/08/2013

    Great post! I wanted to add a comment to say that we did give up T.V. due to the continued rising cost of cable…even basic cable. We now have a Wii system for Yoga and other fitness programs, games-which we don’t use yet, AND we watch Netflix through it!! We have the cheapo $7.99/month Netflix plan and we get to watch tons of great stuff w/o commercials. We can watch a whole series w/o missing episodes. It’s great and for what we can’t find we borrow (like crazy) from our local library and for my guilty pleasures like HGTV and all those other decorating and DIY shows we save that for vacations when we are in a hotel. I get my fix and I;m good for a while ;0)

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  24. Kalyn Brooke

    03/12/2013

    I like kitchen appliances that do double duty. It took me forever to finally get a food processor, because my hand grater worked perfectly fine for cheeses, carrots, zuchinni, etc. Even then, I didn’t splurge on it myself. It was a Christmas present!

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  25. Stephanie @ Simply Swider

    03/13/2013

    We don’t have any cable package for our TV. All we have is an old fashion antenna and Netflix. We get made fun of for it a lot, but I love it. Not only does it save us about $1200 a year but it encourages us to watch less TV (especially on the weekends when there is nothing good on network television anyways). I also love my highlights, but I only get a partial done twice a year. In between when my roots begin to show I get add on high lights for around $20 which allows me to go longer between expensive hair sessions.

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  26. Heidi

    03/13/2013

    What we don’t buy to save money:

    - no cable, we watch hulu or basic netflix
    - we graciously accept and use hand-me-downs instead of buying new baby stuff
    - no new cars = no car payment and cheaper insurance (LOVE my used Honda CRV, paid cash)
    - no memberships to gyms; we walk the neighborhood loop around lake, weights & bike
    - no eating out unless its a planned occasion
    - as little prepackaged food as possible, healthier and MUCH cheaper
    - lucky enough to be able to breastfeed easily, no formula costs
    - used books
    - all our furniture is gifted or hand-me-downs (super lucky!)
    - I buy our groceries at discount grocery store (except meat, I wait for good sales at high-end stores)
    - I do not pat retail for ANYTHING, I wait for a sale or get different item on sale

    I don’t feel like we do without anything though :)

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  27. Briana

    03/13/2013

    Family on a single income so have learnt to budget well…

    I cook large meals each evening- often split them into three sevings- one for dinner, some for lunch the next day which I add to salad and freeze a batch if leftover.

    I make bulk muslie for brekkie- oats, raisins, hmde granola, seeds etc- cheap to make and really healthy.

    Shop for 2nd hand clothes or in sales.

    Have a very economical car which really helps save on petrol. (And only have one family car too)

    I use coconut oil in place of heeeaps of beauty products like moisterizer, hand cream, pregnancy oil, baby massage, hair conditioner, sun protection. Great for cooking too!

    Home make all food from scratch- easier then you think, healthier and saves you so much.

    Give my family haircuts- saves lots.

    :)

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