Stop Buying What You Don’t Use

by Ryan Yates on November 30, 2011

Not Everyone Needs a Blue Dragon

Reducing your debt takes many areas of your life working together in harmony – finding ways to increase your income, tightening your budget and spending habits, identifying and putting an end to wasted money, and initiating a strategy to pay down your debts.

Today I’d like to focus on wasting money; and one of the best ways to stop throwing your money away is to stop buying what you don’t use. Simple idea, tough in practice.

Identify Your Financial Leakage

From childhood to adulthood to parenthood, my experiences have shown me that there are basically 5 areas of overconsumption we Americans can’t help avoiding. The desire for bigger, better, and more stuff reaches into our wardrobe, our house, our car, our food, and non-essential luxury items.

Before you can stop wasting money, you’ve got to first identify the areas in your life where money is being thrown around carelessly. A monthly budget or spending plan will make the identification process much easier.

My Own Miscues – I caught myself in a pretty funny position just two days after I wrote a Black Friday coupon article. (It was a message about taking precautions against coupons that suck you into a store where you wind up spending way more than what the coupon offered.)

I went to a local toy store to buy my 2-year-old son two small battery-operated trucks for Christmas. And what luck I had, these particular trucks were 40% off, marked down to $4.79 each.

I quickly grabbed four trucks and headed to the checkout counter. But I stopped dead in my tracks just yards from the cashier and began to laugh at myself, “This is exactly what I wrote about avoiding, but I’m still getting sucked into the sale.”

I placed two trucks back on the shelf, bought the two I intended on in the first place, and ran home before I spent one more dollar. There’s no way my son needed four of these trucks (he might not even need two), but it’s hard to pass up a deal. Luckily, I recognized the potential waste before it was too late.

Time to Ask the Tough Questions

A good way to identify areas where you’re buying things that you’re not using is to take a personal inventory of your posessions. It’s time to be real with yourself. You’ve got to take this on full steam and don’t shy away from the hard questions.

Clothing – How many shirts, shoes, pants, or skirts are in your closet right now with the original tag still attached? How many pieces of clothing are in your kid’s or spouse’s closets that are outgrown and still brand new? How many versions of the exact same outfit do you own? Are you spending way too much on clothes?

Housing – Are you living in too much house or too much apartment? Does your study, your formal living room, or your dining room just sit there unused and rejected? How long has it been since your third bathroom toilet has been flushed? Were you a sucker for square footage when you were shopping, but you only use 70% of what you bought? Is your variable APR about to smack you in the face?

Vehicle – Who are you trying to impress with your car, truck, or SUV? Have you been regretting your new car decision ever since you had to make the first payment? Do you save for car maintenance? Do you use your vehicle for its intended purposes? Did you get sweet-talked into a bad deal at the dealership, but you’re too embarrassed to make the necessary changes?

Food – Has eating out changed from a special occasion to three or four times a week? Are you spending $250 a month eating out for lunch with coworkers? Are you wasting money at the market? Is your membership to the bulk grocery store resulting in massive amounts of food being thrown into the garbage? Can you remember the last time you actually cooked something at home with more than 3 ingredients?

Luxury Items – Has your definition of needs and wants been totally skewed by advertising and access to celebrity news? Has Twitter given you a fruitless reason to “need” whatever hot topic is on fire this month? Is everything in your life the upgraded version of a less expensive counterpart? Are you ever satisfied with your stuff, or are you constantly on the lookout for the next big thing to add to your life?

Pull Back on the Reigns

The answers to these questions will have a lot to do with your personality, your current lifestyle, how you were raised, and what your future financial goals include.

I’m not saying everyone can or should live a minimalist life. But what we can all do is take a look around and ask ourselves “Do I really need this?” or “Will I ever use this?” or “What’s my true motivation for this purchase?”

We have the ability to control what we spend our money on. Stop letting your house pile up with things that you bought but never use. It’s up to you to make the right decisions based on your income level, your family needs, and your financial future.

What about you? Share an area of your life that you just can’t say “no” to new purchases.

Photo By IntangibleArts

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily Guy Birken November 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

I have trouble saying no to books and craft items. For years, I would go to the bookstore about once a month and buy two or three books. I’d always read one, but before I’d get to the second or third, I’d have found more I wanted to read at the library or go to the bookstore again. So my house is full of second- and third-string books that I still haven’t read. I really should commit to reading everything I own before I buy something new, but part of my love of books comes from a love of having many many options available to me. But it does tend to be an expensive habit! I’ve become more of a used book and library aficionado, but I still spend on books I don’t read.

As for craft projects, my problem is that I get very excited about a project and don’t get it completed (or even started sometimes!) before I’m on to the next project. I really need to focus on one project at a time.

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Ryan Yates December 1, 2011 at 10:38 pm

I was a project-aholic for years. Little things definitely add up, especially when you’ve got shelves, boxes, and closets full of unfinished hobbies.

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krantcents November 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

I can say no to everything, but I usually give in if there is enough of a discount to provide value. I usually replace things as they wear out.

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Ryan Yates December 1, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Very wise.

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Darrence January 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Engilhtennig the world, one helpful article at a time.

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Betsy November 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

This is timely, especially this time of year when the money just seems to be flying out of my hands. I was in Marshall’s the other day and I saw these great mercury glass candle holders…I picked up two of them. And then put them down. We live in such a small house, by design, that we can’t have a lot – and this helps me remember that we just don’t have the room. And we are paying off debt!

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Ryan Yates December 1, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Sometimes having no more room helps us make those tough decisions. That’s how it works around our house, lol. Thanks for the comment Betsy.

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JMK December 2, 2011 at 5:32 am

For many years I bought home decor magazines. I rationalized it as research when we were designing/building/decorating our home. At $5 each 25 years ago and $10 in some cases more recently, it must add up to a fortune. Yes I enjoyed them all at the time, the problem is I have almost never thrown one away… Fast forward to now, and I haven’t bought a magazine in over a year, but at a conservative estimate I probably have about 400-500 magazines tucked away in various places. Last weekend I sat down with a stack 2 feet tall and a pair of scissors. While watching my weekend dose of sports, I went through them and cut out any picture that I felt still had merit as an idea for a future project. I reduced the pile down to about 20 clippings now safely in a folder waiting to be scanned and stored digitally. The rest all went in the recycling bin. I plan to attack another pile of magazines again this weekend and keep repeating the process until I’ve purged them all. I am trying to get over the bad habit of never throwing away anything I paid good money for. It’s a hazard of being frugal I suppose. I always figure if I keep something long enough I’ll find another use for it. The trouble is our house would feel more spacious and frankly more inviting if there was a little more breathing room. It’s not like one of those horder houses you see on TV, it’s just that every bookshelf, drawer and closet is at maximum capacity.

This week I also made a list of decluttering to be done after the magazine situation has been dealt with. None of it is earth shattering. I won’t be tackling entire rooms at once – it’s just too discouraging. I’ll tackle one closet or even drawer at t time if I have to. After putting it off for far too long, I realize I need to do this in baby steps. I’m hopefull that after a few weeks of regularly editing small amounts of stuff I can move on to the larger projects (eg the basement storage area, yikes).

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Marie December 12, 2011 at 1:30 am

Reins. Lol!

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Keyla August 8, 2014 at 6:43 am

Hey, you’re the goto exterp. Thanks for hanging out here.

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ensurance car insurance August 15, 2014 at 11:01 am

That’s going to make things a lot easier from here on out.

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