Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #7: Don’t Buy Crap

This is part seven of the Ways to Save Money Series

So you want to be able to increase your savings or retirement, want to pay down bills, or just have some extra spending money for entertainment, trips, or gifts? Well a good way to make sure you don’t have any spare money is to buy crap.

Perhaps it’s the Soap Opera Digest you picked up at the grocery store, or the broken lawnmowers you keep buying at yard sales, thinking you’ll fix when you get home. Or buying clothes that you really aren’t fond of just because they’re on sale. The list can go on and on, but there’s one point I’m getting at: the key to losing wealth is to waste your money.

Granted, one person’s junk is another’s treasure, but there comes a time when you just don’t need something. Do you need a shelf full of Precious Moments figurines? Why? Do you need that screaming-fast video card, considering you only use your computer for browsing the internet and some word processing?

Currently, I’m battling the urge to buy an 80gb iPod. I have 30gb of music and another 250+ CDs that haven’t been ripped yet (hence the larger capacity). I ride the metro for over 2 hours a day, and I’d also like to get an auxiliary jack in our vehicles for long road trips. I’m trying to justify to roughly $250-450 cost (depending on the jacks and accessories), but I find I’m just trying to rationalize something that my gut is already telling me I don’t need. I tell myself that I’d download podcasts, rip some books on CD from the library (and then promptly delete them after listening of course), or even learn another language. But we have debts to pay off. We have savings to build up.

In my case, I have suitable alternatives. At work, I use my laptop that contains all my music. On the train, I have my phone that stores 1Gb of music (however inconvenient). At home, I have my wife who, thank goodness, doesn’t sing to me. You see where I’m going with this. Look at what you have already and ask whether you NEED that new thing.

But it’s just not limited to new stuff. You don’t need to accept every free item that your neighbors, family or even strangers want to pawn off on you. I support Freecycle and even dumpster diving (we’ve gotten good stuff from right next to dumpsters), but you don’t need to carry home every scrap you can get just because it’s free. But I digress.

Instead of buying that new gadget, skirt, latte, Bowflex, or “prime land in Florida”, think about what you’re really trying to replace in your life. You’re trying to fill some void, however small or large, and you need to just analyze why you want that “thing”, whatever it may be. For me, I almost succumbed to all the iPod commercials and hype, plus seeing every other passenger with white cords popping out of their coats and bags like they’re connected to the machine in The Matrix. Who knows, I might still buy an MP3 player one day, but I’ll be doing quite a bit more research into my long-term needs, our budget and what’s available on the market both new, used and refurbished.

So just think about why you’re buying something before you buy it. Most likely you have a suitable alternative at home, or can get it cheaper new or used.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • What if you sold all your cds (you have the music on your computer right?), then bought the ipod with the money you got from your cds. That way you would actually be getting rid of more crap.

  • I have to disagree slightly with the freecycle/dumpster diving comment. Only because that is a hobby (for lack of a better word) of mine.
    In my case I live in a college community and just last week I made close to $400 by selling things that I found dumpster diving. (Some college kids just don’t know what they are throwing away)
    It’s kind of embarrassing to be seen walking down the street with armful’s of discarded stereo equipment or cases of empty beer bottles, but when it can make you a reasonable profit,.. why not?
    I’ve been doing this for the past year or so and I’ve made some good money. Now I realize that if this habit isn’t kept in check, you could amass a large amount of clutter. But I try to sell things I find within a month of picking it up. And if it doesn’t sell,.. I’ll just donate it and take the tax deduction!

    To be fair though, I’m would agree about the basic premise of not buying things you just don’t need. I’m a chronic Craigslist junkie, and right now I’m fighting with myself regarding a potential purchase of a power washer for $120 that I would like to have, but have no use for (at the moment). And that’s the REAL problem,.. I tend to buy things I don’t need because I justify purchases because 1) It’s a steal of a deal, and 2) I may not need it now, but I’LL NEED IT SOMEDAY. I know,.. it’s not healthy, but everyone has their vices, don’t they?

  • I hardly ever respond to this. I agree in Principle with you. However, what do you need when you get 75? A motorized scooter? You have to strike balance in your life and buy things that you can afford while you are young. I do not want to be 75, have 10 million dollars, have a wheel chair, and let my kids inherit the money just to throw away on their Ipod (or whatever the future holds.)

  • So glad I read this today. This morning I made a list of all new makeup that I wanted. I hardly ever wear makeup lol! It’s just I’m so frugal that I had a weak moment. Thanks for helping me out today 🙂

  • I couldn’t agree more buying junk or crap is pointless and a complete waste of money.

    When I first read the title of this post I thought you were going to write about buying quality items rather than junk. Its a slightly different take on the same idea; if you’re going to buy a gadget for example and you’ve established the need for it buy something that you know has quality and will last a long time rather than cheaping out on something that will break. The perfect example of this would be buying a $500 beater used car versus a more expensive just off lease used car. One will be practically new with the features you want and the cheaper version will probably cost you more than a monthly payment just to maintain. There is no need to buy cheap just to save some money.

    You can in fact save money buy spending a little more up front.

  • Matt, I actually have an article drafted to talk about buying based on quality rather than just price. I did talk about it before so I’m looking at how to put a different spin on it this time around. Thanks for the comments!

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