13 Things I Stopped Buying to Save Money & Better Substitutes

13 Things I Stopped Buying to Save Money & Better Substitutes

Do you ever feel like your money has slipped away and you don’t know where it went? You know, you get a big paycheck or take some money out of the ATM. Then a few days or weeks later, you wonder why your bank balance is still low and your wallet feels empty.

It’s happened to me more times than I’d like to admit. That was until I started tracking my spending and ceased buying things that I didn’t really want or need. Here’s a closer look at 13 things I stopped buying to save money and their better substitutes.

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Personal care items

1 | Expensive face creams

My favorite face cream for many years was Clinique’s Superdefense moisturizer. I’ve never been a big spender on makeup, but I splurged on this one time and was hooked!

I justified it because I was a working professional making money that I could spend as I liked. Once I started grad school, however, I could not justify spending $48 a jar. I also felt I was developing wrinkles while using the cream, so I don’t think it lives up to its claims.

Substitute: After trying a few different face creams, I’ve come to love Olay’s Regenerating Cream Face Moisturizer. I’ve found it for about $17-25 for a container of the same size.

I buy it only when it’s on sale such as “buy 2, get 1 free” or “buy one, get one half off.” My mother has even offered to purchase it from the drug store for me on senior days when she gets a senior discount.

2 | Fancy lotions & soaps

I’ve liked fancy lotions, soaps, and floral fragrances for years. Once in a while, I would treat myself to items like this L’Occitane hand cream or Kiehl’s Soy Milk & Honey Body Polish. They smell heavenly! I still like them, but I prefer something that works well, smells good, and is less expensive.

Substitute: I now use regular body soaps and lotions and have found many of them to work surprisingly well. My staples are this Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash and Dove bar soaps. They’re gentle on the skin and smell just as refreshing as some of the fancy lotions and soaps I used to buy.

3 | Shaving gel

Some women swear by a certain brand of shavers and shaving gel. I hate buying these repeatedly because it gets expensive, especially when it gets tossed or washed down the drain after a few uses.

Substitute: For razors, Dollar Shave Club and Dorco USA are great alternatives to what’s in stores. You’ll still have to pay for handles and cartridges, but they’re cheaper so you’ll save money in the long run.

As for shaving gel, did you know that you can use shampoo or hair conditioner instead? I’ve purchased shampoo I didn’t like before and used it for shaving rather than throw it away. I’ve brought home shampoos and conditioners from traveling and even those small bottles last a while for shaving needs.

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Household items

4 | Paper towels

When I first got my dog, I would use paper towels to wipe her paws every time she came in from a walk. I ended up going through paper towels quickly because she goes out at least five times a day. It wasn’t good for my budget and created a lot of paper waste too.

Substitute: A wide variety of items work just as well as paper towels. I now wipe my dog’s paws with these cloths that go in the washer with the rest of the laundry. I substituted paper towels with dish towels and sponges to clean up messes in the kitchen.

5 | Dryer sheets

My mom and dad rarely used the dryer when I was growing up. I’d seen so many commercials for Bounce dryer sheets and the Snuggle bear that once I moved out of the house, I jumped at the chance to use the dryer regularly. That meant I had to use those awesome dryer sheets too.

Substitute: I stopped using dryer sheets simply because I ran out of them and didn’t want to spend money to replace them. Nowadays I use these dryer balls on the rare occasion that I use the dryer. You can make them scented by adding a few drops of essential oils to them.

I prefer to hang dry my laundry. It only takes a day to dry in the summer months. Some people aren’t fond of stiff clothing and towels. I think it’s a small inconvenience to save money and the environment. Plus, towels soften after one use.

6 | Swiffer products

The Swiffer floor mop was another one of those items I had to have when I moved into my own place. I had seen advertisements for Swiffer products and liked the idea of them being disposable rather than having to wash my cleaning supplies. They made cleaning easy.

After trying them out, I realized I was creating too much waste with these single-use products. The final straw was looking at Swiffer supplies on the shelves at Target and thinking about shelling out money repeatedly for something as unfun as cleaning.

Substitute: There are many eco-friendly alternatives to Swiffer products. These are a few of the items I have at home. The upfront cost is more than for disposable products, but they last:

  • Feather duster and dust towels

  • Broom and dustpan

  • Wet mop (I use this one)

  • Vacuum (I use this one)

7 | Disinfectant wipes

I bought tons of disinfectant wipes when I worked with children in the schools. After I stopped working with children, I brought the rest home and used them until they ran out.

Being frugal, I didn’t want to buy them because I don’t like purchasing single-use disposable products when something else may be cheaper and less wasteful.

Substitute: Now I use a cloth and cleaner to wipe down surfaces like the counter and table tops. Sometimes I use an all-purpose cleaner like this Clorox one, and other times I use this more environmentally-friendly Mrs. Meyer’s cleaner. The cloths go in the wash when they’re dirty and they’re ready to be used again soon after.

8 | Seasonal home décor

I love cute home decorations as much as the next person. I want my home to have cute plates with bunnies on them for Easter, a black cat figurine for Halloween, and pretty lanterns for my side tables. But living in a small place, I don’t have much space to display or store seasonal items.

My husband is already unhappy about how much stuff I have for my side hustles. Now I rarely buy seasonal decorations for the house.

Substitute: On the rare occasion that I purchase decorations for the house, there are practical and evergreen like these:

  • Picture frames

  • Plants and flowers

  • Dish towels

  • Mirrors

  • Colored furniture and upholstery

9 | Single-serve foods

Single-serve foods are convenient but cost more than buying multi-serving containers or buying in bulk. Take a look at these comparisons:

  • $3.99 for a single serving of frozen pasta versus $3.99 for a box of pasta and a jar of sauce that will last several meals

  • $0.99 for a single serve cup of yogurt versus $2.79 for a large tub of the same thing

  • $3.99 for a small bag of rice at a standard American supermarket versus $8.99 for a 15 lb bag at an ethnic supermarket

Substitute: Buy the largest container that you can use, store, and afford at the time. I like eating yogurt for breakfast on the go. Instead of buying several single serve cups, I scoop a small portion into a small plastic container and take it with me to work.

I wash the container when I’m done so I can reuse it, making for less waste. It’s a little more work but only takes about 1-2 minutes more to do it.

10 | Granola bars

When I’m hungry, I gravitate towards snack foods such as granola bars, crackers, and snack mixes. My favorite KIND bars run about $1.50 - $2 each. It doesn’t sound like much when you purchase one.

If you purchase one each workday afternoon, that’s $7.5 - $10 a week. This makes a difference when you see your money slipping out of your wallet each week and wonder where it all went. These snacks aren’t the healthiest either.

Substitute: Similar to above, buying items in large packages or buying in bulk reduces their cost. I buy these items in bulk and cheaper at Costco if I really want them. A few other options are to stretch out your meals to give you snacks, eating cheaper snack foods, or skipping snacks altogether.

11 | Bottled water

My mother used to buy us cases of bottled water from time to time just because they were on sale. I asked her to stop because I thought they were a waste of money. Our tap water is drinkable. If you live in an area with drinkable water, there’s no need to buy bottled water.

Substitute: Purchase a water filter and filter your tap water before you drink it. Filters come in a range of designs to fit your needs. There are ones that sit on your faucet and others like this pitcher similar to the one I use.

When I’m on the go, I’ll fill up one of my bottles and take it with me. I’ve collected plastic bottles, glass bottles, and stainless steel bottles over the years. Many of them were given to me so I didn’t even have to pay for them. If you frequently buy bottled water, you’ll find giving it up to be a huge money saver.

12 | Alcohol

I used to go out to happy hour or for dinner with friends every once in a while. This meant buying drinks, which are about $14 each around here. You can really sip your money away.

After tightening my budget, I decided to give this up in addition to eating out as much as I did. I’m not much of a drinker anyway, so it didn’t feel like a sacrifice.

Substitute: Choose a cheaper beverage like beer, soda, or water when you go out. You may not find it as fun to go to happy hour or eat out, but you can feel good about prioritizing your savings. The key is finding a substitute that works for you.


13 | Entertainment products

I’ve purchased lots of DVDs, books, games, and puzzles over the years. I had to have every Jane Austen movie on DVD and my favorite books line my bookshelves.

After viewing them once or twice, these things took up space and collected dust. I donated a lot of these things when I cleaned my place and vowed not to fill up my place with these same things again.

Substitute: Put a ban on purchasing items for entertainment and those you can get in some other way. You can find DVDs, books, and more at the library. Many neighborhood groups and upcycle groups exist online. If you do decide to purchase something, try buying it cheaper such as on sale, second-hand, or at thrift stores.

When you’re looking to save money, even small changes can add up to make a big difference. While some of the above items would be nice to have, I honestly don’t miss any of them much. It feels much better to be saving money instead.

What are some things that you stopped buying to save money?

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