13 Things to Stop Buying That’ll Save You Tons of Cash

Updated: May 18, 2024

Cut these routine purchases out of your life and you'll be amazed at how much money you can save.

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Cable Television

Cancel your cable bill. With services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, you can now watch almost anything immediately, and for a fraction of the cost of cable TV.

Options such as HDTV antennas and YouTube TV work for those who love live TV, too.

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zip lock plastic bags nzfhatipoglu/Getty Images

Plastic Baggies

Sure, plastic baggies are incredibly convenient, and we’ve gotten into the habit of buying box after box. But these reusable baggies cost about as much as a big pack of sandwich bags and are easy to wash and re-use.

They seal well and are biodegradable, while typical plastic bags may spend 500 to 1,000 years or longer in a landfill.

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Impulse Purchases

We’re not just talking about the items that catch your eye as you shop hungry or wait in the checkout line — but certainly resist those too.

All the time we spend online makes it easy to see something we never knew we wanted and then, thanks to a few touches and swipes, have it heading our way within minutes. Make a rule that all items must sit in an online shopping cart for a minimum of one day before purchase.

Bonus: Some companies offer you a discount when they notice you haven’t yet pulled the trigger. (Though be sure that in the end, need, not that discount, informs your decision.)

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Cleaning Products

So many of the store-bought cleaning products taking up your cabinet space really could be replaced with a few pantry items (cleaning vinegar and baking soda are two that top the list).

DIYing your own is easier than you think — it’s mostly a matter of getting into the habit — and the right formulas really do work. Commit to replacing just one of your regular cleaning products with a homemade option. Get used to that, then keep going!

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woman put products on cash line in store. grocery shopping.
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Unnecessary Groceries

A recent study at the University of Vermont found that the average American wastes nearly a pound of food daily. That’s bad news for your wallet and the environment.

Some tips to help: Plan your meals weekly, keeping what you already have on hand in mind, and make a grocery shopping list to support it. Stick to that list and shop smart when you do.

Get creative with leftovers and using your freezer. (For example, a running stash of about-to-turn fruits and veggies make perfect smoothie starters.)

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Paper Towels & Napkins

A 36-pack of microfiber cloths costs you about the same as a 12-pack of paper towels, but it will last you way longer. Invest in a stash of pretty cloth napkins, too.

Keep a mini hamper under the sink to corral the dirties — and effectively keep paper products out of your kitchen.

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Dryer Sheets

Invest in a few reusable wool dryer balls instead. You’ll save money on repeat dryer-sheet purchases, plus you’ll cut down on dry-time by up to 40 percent, according to the dryer-ball manufacturer (which then saves on energy costs).

You could also make your own dryer sheets. (It’s not that hard.)

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Greeting Cards

All those $3 and $5 purchases really do add up. Switching to free ecards instead of sending across the miles saves you money on postage, too—Smilebox, justWink and PaperlessPost are some popular options.

Can’t stand the thought of not giving them something to have and to hold? If making cards is up your alley, go for it! (Hold an afternoon card-making session to build up a stash.) Or, just buy an inexpensive box of all-occasion cards, and you’re good to go for years to come.

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Stop before you buy new, and consider less expensive (and more eco-friendly) thrift and vintage items instead. When looking for current fashion, visit thrift stores. There are plenty of online alternatives to your local thrift store (Poshmark and ThreadUp are two popular ones).

Vintage items — those 25 years or older — are great for special occasions and statement pieces, especially. They’re easiest to score at local vintage stores, or online at specialized sites such as the Etsy vintage section.

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Meals Out

Dining out is more than a $3,000 annual expense for most American households, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. While no one wants to give up going out altogether, there are all kinds of ways you can bring that number down.

Plan to bring lunch to work or school more often. (Make it fun so it doesn’t feel like you’re skimping.) Go out during happy hour, meet for lunch instead of dinner or opt for an appetizer potluck at home instead of an evening out once in a while.

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Apps & In-App Purchases

Schedule some time to review your app subscriptions and quit any you no longer use. (Subscriptions that are automatically billed each month are easy to forget about.)

If there are any you do use that have a particularly high in-app purchase rate—Candy Crush, we’re looking at you—research free or low-cost replacements.

You could also set a monthly limit that you’re comfortable with, and disable in-app purchases once you’ve met it. And here’s an idea: Use apps to save money instead. Apps like You Need a Budget and Mint are designed to do just that.

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Bottled and Canned Water

If you haven’t already, it’s time to stop paying nearly $4 for a bottle of water when you can get it at home for virtually nothing. If you’re concerned about taste or quality, invest in a water filter and reusable water bottle.

Canned sparkling water isn’t exactly cheap, either. If you’ve developed a fizzy-water habit, consider an every-other rule to help you cut back: Drink a glass of regular water between every can. Or, if you’re serious about your sparkly, get a Soda Stream and make your own.

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Name-Brand Items

While it’s true that some generics items don’t compare quality-wise to their higher-priced brand-named counterparts, it’s also true that some generic products are literally identical.

This is true of hundreds of items, including patent medicines, food, household items and more. Label-read before you buy.