I sort of have a confession to make that I’ve been wanting to tell you all for a while now, but I’ve been wasting money. Now, I’m not talking about wasting money on some big purchase that’s obvious to point out. I’m talking about a combination of smaller everyday things that almost everyone reading this could be guilty of as well, at least at some point in their lives.
And what I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s actually the accumulation of these smaller purchases that can cause the biggest financial issues because not only do these costs add up quickly and hurt our budgets, but they also just add clutter to our homes and take our attention away from spending money on what really matters and what really adds value to our lives. Over the past few months, I did a deep dive into my own budget, and in this blog, I’m going to share the 10 things that I’ve cut out completely and stopped wasting my money on so that hopefully, you can too.
1. Buying a New Phone Every Year
The first item is going to be buying a new phone every year, and believe me when I say that our smartphones are probably the one item that we use the most day in and day out, but the main reason that I’m no longer upgrading to a new phone as frequently as I used to is because of how I relate my phone to time.
I’ve been learning to value my time very highly, and when it comes to my iPhone, I’ve sort of discovered that it’s more of a time liability than an asset for me. I mean, we talk about assets and liabilities in terms of finances, but how we choose to spend our time is directly related to our income and our potential for building wealth. So I believe it is critical to consider how certain everyday items either take away or return time to us.
For me personally, no matter how much willpower I think I have to resist picking up my iPhone to check email or Instagram or the YouTube app, I’ve just had to admit to myself that sometimes it’s become hard to resist, and now I actually consider using my iPhone too much a really bad habit that I want to avoid because the bottom line is that it causes me to waste too much time. Now I’ve been reading and rereading a great book that I have here called Atomic Habits Lately, and the one thing this book talks about for breaking a bad habit like using your phone too much is essentially changing your environment so the bad habit is not as easy to repeat.
To use my phone less, I’ve actually just been locking it away in a safe that’s in my closet while I do work during the day, and I think that upgrading my phone to the newest model with all the latest and greatest features every single year or every two years would just encourage me to start up the bad habit of overusing it again. So that’s why I’m actually perfectly fine keeping my current iPhone for the next four or five years unless I somehow completely destroy the screen or Apple purposely slows it down to force me to upgrade.
2. Travel at Full Price
Now for the second and third items that I’ve cut out, they kind of go hand in hand, but I’m going to focus on one thing first, and that is travel at full price. So I’ve obviously written a lot about this before here on my website and made a lot of credit card content, but one of the main reasons that I got into credit cards and points in the first place was because I wanted to travel to new places and experience new things, but I didn’t really have the room in my budget to afford the prices for most flights and hotels.
So around four or five years ago, I became really interested in the whole online community around using credit cards to earn points and miles that can then be redeemed for heavily discounted travel, and now in recent years, I’ve been able to go on trips and vacations to places like Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Miami, and many more to come, all on credit card points. Basically, I just stick to a budget and use certain credit cards for my regular everyday expenses instead of a debit card, and then I pay off my credit cards in full every month, which allows me to maximize the point miles that I earn.
That way, I can use them to fully or partially cover my travel expenses. Now, I won’t get into too much detail here because there is a lot more to it than that. But the trips that I’ve been on over the past few years since graduating from college would have easily cost me tens of thousands of dollars, and over my lifetime as I continue to do this strategically, the savings are just going to continue, and hopefully I’ll never have to pay full price for any travel again because it can get very expensive.
3. Souvenir T-shirts or Really any Other Type of Travel Souvenir
But that brings me to the third thing that I just don’t buy anymore when I’m out traveling, and that would be souvenir t-shirts or really any other type of travel souvenir that just takes up space in my apartment. So, whenever you visit a new place, there will be guest shops, either at the hotel, you’re staying at, in the airport, or on some random street you’re walking down.
And my cool idea when I first started traveling was that for each new place that I went to, I was going to buy a t-shirt as a souvenir so that I could later wear that shirt and think back to all the memories that I made on that trip. But eventually, I realized that with those t-shirts, even though they only cost maybe 20 or 30 bucks each, they would just take up all the space in my closet. And when I was going through my closet late last year, I found shirts from maybe three or four years ago, and some of those shirts still had the tags attached.
So that was just my sign to get rid of them and stop buying them entirely in the future. Now I see other people doing similar things, such as purchasing mugs, drink glasses, or magnets from all of the places they visit. But what my girlfriend and I decided to start doing is, instead of having all these souvenirs that would lay around and just clutter our apartment, now we just buy one small $10 Christmas ornament from each new place that we go to.
That way, once per year, for the one month that our mini Christmas tree is up, we can go ahead and look at all those ornaments and have fun talking about what we did on all those trips. And to us, that just feels a bit more meaningful when we do that once per year around the holidays. So do what works for you when it comes to travel souvenirs, but don’t feel like you have to buy all these material items to relive those trips. Because all the memories, stories, and pictures that you have are much better, and they’re also free.
4. Items on Sale
Then for item number four that I’ve stopped buying, it’s something a bit more general that applies to a lot of things. and that would be items on sale. Now let me explain because, to me, the important thing to understand with sale items is the difference between buying something on sale versus buying something because it’s on sale.
So notice the wording that I use there, buying something on sale versus purchasing something because it’s on sale. And I mean, sales can seem like a really great way to save money at first, but really, when stores do some sort of 20% off promotion, for example, what they’re really trying to do is get you to spend by making that purchase easier to justify in your mind. So even when something costs $200 and it’s marked down on sale to $160 and that basically gets you
To buy it, you have to make the connection that you’re not saving $40. You’re still spending $160, meaning that you’re now down by a net 160 in your bank account thanks to the sale. And that’s money that can be used for a lot of other things. So I stopped doing that. And now, when I’m considering buying something that’s on sale, I always ask myself, “Was I planning on buying this item in the first place?” A perfect example of this was just a couple of months ago when I bought a new MacBook Pro.
So I knew this was going to cost around $2,000, but it’s for my business and helps generate revenue. So it’s absolutely worth the cost for me as a tool to produce things instead of consuming them. But when I went over to Best Buy to make that purchase, it turned out they were running a special promotion where that specific MacBook Pro was on sale for $200 off for a limited time. Now really, I just lucked out on the timing of the sale because I already saved up and planned to make this larger purchase, and I fully anticipated dropping two grand on this computer.
So for me, that $200 off was a really good deal because yes, I did spend $1,800, but basically, I already accounted for it in my budget months in advance. And now I’ve got to save $200 so I can go ahead and use that to spend on other expenses or just save and invest it. But for someone else who maybe just walked into a Best Buy for fun to look around and saw this deal going on, that sale might make them think to themselves, “Wow, that’s a great deal right now.”
And now that I think about it, I could use a MacBook upgrade. So then they buy it because it’s on sale, even though they had no original intention of spending that money. So the word “intention” is really important to me when it comes to budgeting and spending, especially if you’re using credit cards, which I talk a lot about here on my website because they specifically can make it really easy to spend unintentionally.
5. Impulse Purchases
And something else that goes along with this is the idea of impulse purchases, which are the fifth thing that I stopped wasting money on. So sales are just one way that companies can get you to buy on impulse. And two other big ways are scarcity and time. Now a perfect example of this could be something like Amazon Prime Day, which just happened the other month. And for some reason, there actually seems to be a lot of hype specifically around Prime Day this year.
But what exactly does Amazon do when this event is going on? Well, I mean, they tell you what specific items are going on sale and when. And then they also tell you there’s only a certain number of items available, which adds to the feeling of scarcity. Plus, Prime Day only lasts for two days. So, of course, you better prepare because you don’t want to miss out on that new tablet or new air fryer or something ridiculous like that. But when you take a step back, it’s really just one big marketing trick to get people to spend money on impulse purchases.
And they almost got me this year as well. I saw some crazy good deal where I was going to be able to get one of those cool-looking Amazon Echo devices with a screen on it for only like 20 bucks when they retail for around 130 or something like that. So that seemed like it was going to be a steal because I also had an Amazon gift card balance that would cover the $20 price tag after Amazon Prime Day discounts.
But then I realized that I had to just take a step back. Now, scarcity and time constraints can make it difficult for a lot of people to do this. But I’ve learned to just wait around 24 hours before making a purchase because now I can really think about it. And if I need it and if I still want to buy it a whole day later, then maybe it does solve a problem for me and it’s worth the money. So after thinking about that Amazon Echo device, I realized that even at 20 bucks, there was literally no point at all for me to have this.
And it was just going to collect dust on my kitchen counter. Now, that’s just me. And perhaps this is a useful device for you. But the point is that you can’t fall for these marketing-driven impulse purchases. Just take a step back and give it 24 hours—or even a week for larger purchases—to decide if you really need it. And if you do, then that’s great. But at least you’re putting some more intention behind your spending like I just talked about.
6. Going Out for Lunch at Work
Now onto the six things I no longer waste my money on. And that will be going out to lunch at work. Now, back before working remotely started for me in 2020, I was in an office building for my job five days a week in Old City, Philadelphia, actually right across the street from Independence Hall in the Liberty Bell. And during the busy times of the year or if I was just too lazy to pack my own lunch, I would walk around the area of the city to grab some food in the middle of the day, maybe a couple of times a week.
So I’d go to places like Chipotle or this one food court that was right by all those historical landmarks in Philadelphia. But what I found was that not only were these takeout options all kind of unhealthy, but the prices really started to add up as well, especially since I was in a city. So I gradually reduced my eating out to once a week for lunch and then once every two weeks.
And that’s because it’s not all bad to eat out for lunch, but I just did not want to make it an everyday habit. Instead, I just cooked in bulk maybe a couple of times a week with some healthier food options like a chicken with rice and other similar things. And then, of course, when remote work started in 2020 and has continued for me to this day, now it’s a lot easier to not eat out as much because the temptation isn’t really there.
7. Cable TV
Item number seven that I cut out is going to be one that I think a lot of people also don’t really need that much in the year 2023 and beyond. That is cable television. Currently, I am subscribed to Hulu for live TV so that I can watch things like Philly sports games when they’re on TV with the Eagles and the Sixers. But I realized that, other than that, I really wasn’t watching regular TV that much anymore. Half of that comes down to just not having that much time for TV.
And the other half is because when I do want to watch something, I usually know exactly what that is. So I just flipped over Netflix to turn something on. But I also watch a ton of YouTube as entertainment slash work. And I’ve been a big fan of YouTube pretty much since I was like 11 or 12 years old. So yeah, traditional cable TV really isn’t worth it for me anymore. So I’ve just cut it out. And I know many others like my parents that have done the same thing recently.
8. Brand Name Items
Then next, the number eight thing that I’ve stopped wasting my money on is brand-name items. I just like wearing these plain shirts. And it’s really because I’ve grown to prefer this type of minimal look over the last few years. I don’t really like wearing logos or words on my clothes. If I can avoid that, that probably also explains why I wasn’t wearing the souvenir shirts that I talked about before. Furthermore, when it comes to clothing, you usually pay more for the brand names you wear than the item of clothing itself.
So I just had to find some plain clothes that are good quality and fit well, which worked for me. And wearing more minimal stuff also makes it a lot easier to not follow any fashion trends. And the truth is, I don’t know that much about fashion anyway. So that’s my excuse for keeping it simple. Now, not buying brand-name things goes for other areas of my spending too. So I’m always buying store-brand foods, store-brand cleaning supplies, and stuff like that because it’s basically the same exact thing.
Generic prescription and over-the-counter drugs and other medicines like that are also what I lean towards when that’s an option. So yeah, basically in a nutshell, my simple buying strategy is to just plan out my spending in my budget, go to the store, and then pretty much just ignore sales and impulse purchases to buy store brand or minimal-looking stuff with a credit card. And then I pay that all off in time and information. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, and sometimes I’ll buy stuff outside of that. But overall, I think that’s a good general guideline for people to use to save money and keep clutter down at the same time.
9. Frozen and Junk Foods
Now, when I go to the grocery store, the ninth item on my list that I’ve cut out completely is going to be frozen and junk foods. So this one should be pretty self-explanatory, but I do try to eat healthy when I can. And that just involves eating fresh foods and whole foods whenever possible. A good general rule of thumb is that the fewer ingredients a food item has, the better it probably is for you. So if you read the ingredients for chicken, it’s just going to say chicken. And the only ingredient in broccoli is just broccoli.
And frozen food or pre-cooked meals that you have to heat up are generally not that healthy because they’re usually loaded with preservatives and have a ton of sodium that you don’t really need. And, at the end of the day, they can be quite costly. So you’ll probably save some money on your groceries if you buy good, clean, real foods in both instead. You can always freeze what you don’t cook before the expiration date, or you can refrigerate any leftovers that you do cook. And I’ve learned that’s a much better way to eat instead of microwave meals or frozen pizza and bagel bites or whatever else I was eating back in college or five or 10 years ago.
Then the tenth item that I’ve stopped wasting my money on now is going to be supplements. The one and only exception for me on this one is a whey protein supplement that I use. And I use that for protein shakes after I go to the gym every day for all those gains and stuff like that because otherwise I just don’t get enough protein in my diet. But I’ve cut out things like pre-workout supplements, fish oil, and all these other supplements that I’ve tried over the years. Now I decided to cut these out of my budget because, first of all, I was probably spending over $100 per month on these supplements.
But now I just drink a bottle of water when I wake up and then some coffee in the morning as a pre-workout before I go to the gym. And again, I eat more whole foods now, so instead of fish oil, I just eat fish more regularly. Or I’ll try to eat more vegetables when I can or other healthy foods instead of trying to figure out the best vitamins and other supplements to take. Now, I know that for some people supplements can be necessary, so I’m not saying you have to cut them out yourself. But this is just kind of what worked for me, so I’ve been able to save money by doing this. And I still feel very healthy with what I am eating.