Useless purchases come in many forms. There’s stuff that’s used only a few times before being consigned to the basement or attic; stuff that’s pricey to buy but could be rented instead; stuff that’s outdated or soon to be obsolete; and stuff that you just don’t need to begin with. With the economy currently in uncharted territory, frugality is the order of the day.
Annual gym memberships
Most people with gym memberships don’t actually go to the gym. You can save an estimated $720 a year and with a smarter strategy to stay fit. Cheaper options include stringing together free gym trials, finding free classes in your area through Meetup or online searches, or even using free exercise videos on YouTube.
Sandwich Press and similar devices
Small kitchen appliances that perform only one task are money wasters for many consumers. Designated gadgets for making quesadillas, paninis, and breakfast sandwiches accomplish nothing that ordinary kitchen appliances cannot. They also create annoying cleanup and take up kitchen space — that is, until they’re relegated to storage or a garage sale.
Store-bought cleaning products
Make homemade cleaning products for a buck instead of spending $5 or more on brand-name products. You can save $4 on DIY Drano (by pouring some baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar and hot water), a few bucks on multi-purpose cleaner by mixing up some baking soda, vinegar, and water in a spray bottle). Because you know exactly which chemicals you are using, you can better assess the health risks too.
While rags are inexpensive, unless you are running a commercial kitchen, there is no need to spend money on them. Instead, cut up old T-shirts, stained cloth napkins, or other textiles headed for the garbage bin to use as rags.
Summertime fun splashed all over social media can drive anyone to blow $140 on a big-ass pool flamingo that will probably pop a week later. Instead of overspending on a blow-out vacation, get some real relaxation by only spending what you can afford-whether that means a low-key camping trip or a staycation where your only big expenses are eating out at your favorite restaurants, driving to the beach or treating a friend to a pedicure.
Most people acknowledge that playing the lottery wastes money, but the thought of “why not me?” still lingers. The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries reports that Americans spend more than $91 billion a year on lotto tickets. The odds of winning: A frequently cited statistic is somewhere around 1 in 175 million.
Face it: Babies don’t need shoes. Moreover, children probably won’t tolerate wearing them, so they’ll be kicked off and lost. Infant booties and shoes are cute but senseless expenditures, so don’t open your wallet.
Scented Trash Bags
Scented trash bags can be almost double the cost of non-scented. Rather than paying extra to make trash smell good, use a smaller trash can and bags and take out the trash more often. Or put garbage that’s likely to stink in small plastic shopping bags and throw them out immediately.
Magazines are located by registers for a reason — the covers lure impulse buying. But think about it: As they stack up on the coffee table, the cost mounts quickly. If you read and enjoy magazines, opt for a subscription, which likely costs about $20 for 12 issues, rather than $4 or $5 just to page through one issue. (And libraries let you read them for free.)
Anyone with a smartphone probably has no need for a digital camera. The latest smartphones have powerful cameras with plenty of megapixels, large storage capacities, and a bunch of special features for taking photos and recording video, essentially replacing point-and-shoots.
Fancy body scrubs
Luxurious body scrubs can cost as much as $100 for a small container, but you can actually make delicious scrubs at home. Most scrubs can be created for as little as $2 using ingredients like brown sugar, salt, and honey. For example, an brown sugar scrub costs about $3 to make at home versus $67 for a store-bought version.
Pre-chopped fruit and vegetables
You’ll spend up to eight times as much money for pre-chopped fruits and vegetables instead of buying them whole. When we shopped at Walmart.com, for example, chopped red onion was $4 a pound versus whole ones for 49 cents a pound.
As you wrap those holiday gifts, consider this: Americans spend about $3.2 billion annually on gift wrap. Which means you could be more eco-friendly (and save a boatload of cash) with some creative alternatives. Some ideas include using a paper bag, newspaper, or even an old map as wrapping paper, then adding a pretty bow or attaching a pine cone on top. You can also upcycle empty paper towel rolls, mayonnaise jars, or cookie tines into containers. If you prefer the look of fabric, use a pretty hand towel or extra piece of fabric for the most unique-looking gift under the tree.
Though it can feel virtuous to pop a multivitamin every morning with breakfast, study after study suggests they’re a waste of money for most people. According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spend $5.7 billion on multivitamin/mineral supplements annually and are better off getting their nutrients from food.
Paper Plates and Cups
One-time-use dinnerware wastes money and is not eco-friendly. Although the cost of paper plates might seem low, it adds up over time. Dollar stores usually sell basic ceramic plates, bowls, and glasses that can be rewashed and used for years.