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16 Things Thrifty People Never Buy

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." He perfectly explains the effect small expenses can have on personal finances. Every little bit adds up when you are watching your spending.
Debbie Wolfe Avatar

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Thrifty Habits

The good news: There are many ways to cut costs and build up savings. Here are 16 things thrifty people never buy, and some free or budget-friendly alternatives.


Mulching your landscape helps keep weeds down and gives your yard a finished, defined look. But paying between $4 and $6 per bag adds up. Tree service companies and even utility companies are always looking for a place to dump wood chips. Contact your local tree service company or use a service like Chip Drop to sign up for free mulch. Just be aware that they will drop an entire dump truckload—so you’ll need somewhere to put it.

Landscape Fabric

While landscape fabric is efficient at blocking weeds, it doesn’t do much for the soil beneath. Instead of tossing your cardboard boxes in the recycle bin, use them as a weed barrier. Cardboard is sustainable and will break down over time, adding organic matter to your soil and improving its capacity for holding water.


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Moving Boxes

You should never have to purchase new moving boxes. People move all the time and are always looking for ways to get rid of them without having to haul them off to the recycler or dump. Also, make friends with employees at grocery or liquor stores. They unpack boxes daily to stock store shelves before flattening and recycling them. Try to ask well before your move so they have time to save you the best ones.

New Car

There’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of a new car. However, that feeling alone is not worth thousands of extra dollars. Instead, buy your next car from a rental company. Many of their cars will have been driven for less than two years and are practically new. Best of all, they will be significantly cheaper. Rental companies are motivated to move their inventory, so they sell their cars at no-haggle prices, meaning there’s a good chance you can catch a bargain.


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Bottled Water

Americans drink more bottled water than milk or beer. Water is good for the body, but the plastic bottle it comes in is terrible for the environment. Skip the plastic bottle and invest in an insulated, reusable water bottle you can refill. Your wallet will be happier and the Earth will be better off.

Extended Warranties

Salespeople always push extended warranties for electronics and appliances. A Stanford University study found that consumers overpay for extra protection because they overestimate the likelihood that a product will need a repair. In reality, there’s a pretty slim chance your appliance or device will need repairing during the extended warranty period. Unless you’re particularly accident prone, skip the extended warranty.

Latest Tech

It always seems like as soon as you purchase the latest and greatest smartphone, a new one comes out right behind it. Resist the temptation to buy the latest model of anything. In most cases, the newest technology is still working out bugs and glitches. Do wait for the newest model to be released, but buy the previous version for less.

Related: 18 House Functions You Didn’t Know You Could Control from Your Phone

Cleaning Supplies

There’s no need to spend money on everyday cleaning supplies. White vinegar is the best product you can use. Fill a water bottle with 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water and you can clean practically anything. For extra cleaning power, add a few drops of dish detergent to scrub tubs and toilets. For cleaning rags, reuse old cotton T-shirts. They are absorbent and will leave surfaces streak-free.

Single Task Appliances or Gadgets

Food Network host and celebrity chef Alton Brown has long railed against single-use kitchen gadgets. The same should apply for any single-task appliance or gadget for the home. Do you really need meat claws for shredding meat or a dedicated boiled egg maker? These items take up space in your home and inevitably become a hassle to take out and use. If you decide to add a new gadget to your home arsenal, make sure it does more than one job.

Gym Membership

Some people need comradery when it comes to working out, but you can get that with an app or finding like-minded people to work out with in your neighborhood or a nearby park. Sure, gyms like to lure you in with inexpensive introductory rates, but even $10 a month adds up to $120 a year. Skip the gym and work out at home for free. You don’t need to buy fancy equipment or weights. Do body-weight exercises or get creative with what you already have around the house.


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According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year, many of them young and purebred. Unless you absolutely must have a specific breed for work or sport, adopting a fur buddy from your local shelter or animal rescue is a budget-friendly option. Plus, when you adopt, the animal is usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and received a yearly exam from the veterinarian.

Specialized Power Tools

Sometimes you need a tool like a tile cutter or auger for a one-off DIY project. These tools are expensive and you will probably only need them once or twice in your lifetime. Luckily, many big-box home improvement retailers rent the very same tools for a fraction of the cost of buying them. Plus, when you rent, you don’t have to find a permanent place to store the tools.

Books and Movies

Libraries are woefully underused resources available in just about every city and county, and they offer much more than you might think. In addition to books, libraries have movies for rent, a selection of music, internet access, online course memberships, streaming movies, digital magazine subscriptions, audiobooks, and more. Get to your local library and sign up for a free card now!

Fancy Coffee

There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee to get you going in the morning. According to a study from NextGen Personal finance,  the average 25- to 34-year-old reported spending $2,008 per year at coffee shops. Although getting a latte here and there won’t necessarily break the bank, there are many ways you can enjoy cafe-worthy drinks at home for much less. For example, you can easily recreate the trendy Dalgona iced coffee by mixing two tablespoons of instant coffee and two tablespoons of sugar with two tablespoons of hot water. Whip it with a hand mixer until it forms soft peaks then dollop it on 16 ounces of ice-cold milk.


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ATM Fees

The best way to avoid ATM fees is to only use ATMs within your bank’s surcharge-free network. If you can’t find one nearby, buy something small like a pack of gum at a supermarket and get cash back while checking out. You may need to do some scouting, however, as some supermarkets have gotten wise to this trick and have begun imposing their own fees for cash-back transactions.

Basic Checking Accounts

Checking fees may seem insignificant month-to-month, but why pay for a checking account when you could use one for free? There are still a lot of banks, such as Discover, Simple, and Ally Bank, which offer free checking and great interest rates.

Savvy Spender

The little ways you save will add up big over time.