18 Ways I’ve Stopped Wasting Money


I bought everything. All the t-shirts. The high end coats. The Keen shoes and Sanuk sandals. The nice shorts and button-up North Face long sleeved shirts. Everything. It was easily $700-$800 worth of clothing, all for less than forty dollars.

It was at the garage sale of a guy who founded an outdoor clothing company. (who just so happened to share my clothing size)  I found it by searching for “Nice mens clothing” in my local Craigslist > Garage Sale section. It took care of my clothing needs for a few years.

For all the effort I’ve put into making money in my life, I don’t have as much as I should to show for it. Up until a few years ago, I blew every penny I’d ever earned or had been given. My problem wasn’t that I needed to make more money to support my habits. I really needed to stop wasting money.

The list below is not meant to apply to everyone. Each person is different, and what’s waste to me, might not be to another. My point is to encourage you to count the real cost of your spending habits. How much of your time is required to finance your purchases? How much of your life is required to pay for these things?

18. I purchased my own cable modem. I got it at a garage sale for $5. Comcast rents them for $7/month. I’ve saved almost $250 over the past 3 years.

17. We buy used appliances. I was doing this before I started buying and selling appliances on Craigslist for a living. When they break, I repair them myself.

16. We buy used cars, with cash. We have no car payments and thus no full coverage insurance. We tend to buy Toyota or Honda made cars because they are very reliable and because we like them.

15. We stopped eating out as much. When we do eat out, we usually go to Chipotle where our entire family eats for just over twenty dollars, and the food is incredible. We usually drink water, which saves a lot of money and is good for us.

14. We don’t buy our kids lots of toys. Most children’s toys are complete garbage. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before manufacturers are going to be required to make the toys recyclable. They all end up in the dump after a few months of lonely neglect. All the boys need is a few legos, a chess set, a couple balls and a few sticks and they’re good to go. Our daughter just needs a baby doll and a stroller and she couldn’t be happier. Kids really don’t need much to be happy. They want to be loved and to spend time with their parents.

13. We only have one car. We save a lot of money on insurance and maintenance this way. If you can get away with it, get rid of a car or two.

12. I dumped my Portland Trailblazer season tickets. I loved going to the games, but that was a huge waste of money. Not only was it expensive for the tickets each game, but it was $8 for a pint of beer, which would be considered theft in some countries. I might to go one game a year now.

11. We use our local library to to check out most of the books we read. We read a lot of books, especially to our kids. We regularly check out 20 books a week or so. It’s a great hobby, and if you read a lot, using your library can save a lot of money.

10. I stopped buying Starbucks everyday. For a stretch of almost three years, I would buy a venti white mocha at least once a day. I was spending over $1,500 a year just on this one vice. When I stopped cold turkey a year and a half ago, I lost ten pounds almost immediately. I now drink locally roasted, french pressed coffee almost exclusively. (I still get a mocha at a coffee shop occasionally) I was working for at least two weeks a year just to pay for my coffee each day. If I would have kept up this habit over 20 years, it would add up to over $30,000. $30,000 will buy you land, and pay for the materials for you to build your own little home on that land out on the Big Island of Hawaii. (More on that another day.) (**Update from reader Aaron** Instead of spending $125 a month on coffee, pretend you took that $125 and invested it in a stock index fund earning an average return of 7% a year. After 20 years, you would have accumulated $65,496, a far cry from the $30,000 you claimed to have saved. Just some food for thought for you and your readers.) Ouch. It’s good to see what investing that money could produce. Thanks Aaron.

9. We buy a lot of clothing used. This is especially helpful for us having children. Why spend $16 on a t-shirt that you can get at a garage sale for 50 cents? Multiply that by our entire family and we save a giant pile of money each year buying from garage sales and Goodwill. One tip is to buy things at Goodwill out of season. I often find name brand board shorts  like O’Neill or Quicksilver, for $5 at Goodwill in the winter. Sames goes with shorts and t-shirts. Then buy pants, sweatshirts, hoodies and coats during the summer. When we do buy new, especially with socks and underwear, we buy them on sale or online. Dealnews.com is an incredible source for clothing deals, as well as every other kind of deal.

8. I found some inexpensive hobbies. In Hawaii, I bought a nice body board  fins and rash guard  and I was set. I would spend at least 8-10 hours in the ocean each week, all for the cost of gas to get there. Now I run, go for walks with the family and play basketball on our street with the boys.

7. We dropped out of college. My wife stays at home with our children and I had no interest or need of a college degree.

6. I only pay with cash. I stopped using our credit cards a few years ago. This really puts more weight on each purchase, and I feel helps me make a more wise purchasing decision.

5. I’ve become very patient when making a purchase. I rarely ever need anything immediately. So, I wait until I can either find the item in great condition used, or it goes on sale in the store. Most of the time we buy items used on CL. I cannot fathom how much money is wasted each year because of impatience. We are told that we need everything, and we need it now. It’s not true. Even if you force yourself to think a purchase over for a few days, often times you will talk yourself out of buying it. That is a victory.

4. I decided I was going to get out of debt and was going to build a house in Hawaii. Having big goals like this really helps when making short term sacrifices, for long term benefits.

3. I drastically cut out the number of advertisements I am exposed to. I stopped window shopping. I stopped reading ads in the newspapers. I don’t watch commercials on television. I needed to stop the incessant advertisements. If I think about something that I want long enough, eventually I will buy it, if at all possible.

2. I’ve been learning more and more over the years that material possessions don’t make me happy. Relationships do. That will really change how you spend your money.

1.The support of my frugal wife. She helped me make the previous seventeen ways possible.

Making money can help someone reach a goal, but a little thrift can make the process much quicker.

What are some ways that you’ve attacked your spending habits? Or things that you’ve cut out all together?


  1. Lots of good ideas, many of which I’ve put in place over the years.

    Consider thrift stores other than Goodwill. Our local Goodwill stores have gone crazy with prices – many things priced at close to retail.

    I totally agree on ordering water when eating out – can often save 25% on total bill when you consider cost of drink (usually $1.99 & up) plus tax plus tip.

    And the library – I used to buy books at Sam’s because they were a ‘good deal’ and then after I read them, sell them at a yard sale at 80% or more discount until it dawned on me I was nuts. I do have to pay an annual fee to check out books from the library because I live outside of the county but still an enormous savings.

    #2 – I read a quote from Jim Carrey in Guideposts earlier this year – that he thought everyone should get rich & famous and do what they had always dreamed of . . . so they could see that it’s not the answer. Good insight from someone I never considered had a serious side.

    On your #1 Way, is there a word or phrase missing from the second sentence?

    • Goodwill prices have been rising, your right. We still find good deals there, but our biggest preference is garage sales. You find the best deals by far at garage sales. The only bummer here is that they don’t go year round because of the weather. #1..I just worded it king of weird. Fixed now, thanks 🙂

  2. One note on #10: You’ve miscalculated the TRUE cost of having that Starbucks every day. Instead of spending $125 a month on coffee, pretend you took that $125 and invested it in a stock index fund earning an average return of 7% a year. After 20 years, you would have accumulated $65,496, a far cry from the $30,000 you claimed to have saved.

    Just some food for thought for you and your readers.

    • Thanks for showing that! Ouch, that’s even more painful. It’s amazing how the little things that we spend money on, can become such large figures over time. I’m going to put your edit into the post, with credit, thanks again.

      • Dear Ryan,

        So many times people will say that they “saved” money by spending less. You don’t “save” it unless you are putting it away in an account. You are merely spending less. If you end up spending that money on something else then you didn’t really save anything.

        One of the ways I talk myself out of spending money frivolously is equating the expense to something that I enjoy. For example: Gasoline is $3.43 a gallon near my home but it is $3.27 a gallon near where I pick up my organic, raw milk. I don’t spend $0.16 a gallon X 15 gallons so I don’t spend $2.40. That doesn’t sound like much but it WILL buy me a Peach-flavored White Tea refill at my local Quik Trip for FOUR days. I love that tea and now I’ve found a way to purchase it guilt-free. No, I didn’t “save” that money but I did get to spend it on something that I completely enjoy.

        One more tip….when eating out, if you choose water, get the lemon wedge. I can’t stand plain water from a restaurant. I squeeze the lemon in my water, add a small amount of sweetener and have a lovely glass of “light” lemonade with my meal. If I had ordered the rgular lemonade, it would have cost me $2.39 plus a sugar overload. No thank you!

  3. People don’t understand how huge #13 is. My wife didn’t want to sell our beloved Honda Accord, that is, until I ran some calculations and showed her that it was costing us $6 just sitting there, just taking into account insurance and depreciation, not maintenance or gas. So the choice was lose $6 a day and have it take up space in our driveway, or lose out on some convenience and sell it for $13k. I bike/walk/run commute anyway, so the decision was easy once we put it in those terms.

  4. #10 is great, but the investment math of course assumes the stock markets will keep rising over the next 20 years. I’m no economist or Ms. Cleo, but I’m afraid we’re due for another sizable crash, perhaps even as soon as this year. And the longer term doesn’t look any better.

    • Matt, I agree, I think the market is going to crash sometime soon as well. That said, I think if someone was buying and selling items on Craigslist on the side, they could do far better than a 7% return. Whether it’s in the stock market or in some other area, getting your money making money as quickly as possible is key.

  5. Nice article. My wife and I are both trying to cut down on our spending. I’m also into basketball and bodyboarding, two nice, cheap, healthy, hobbies that cost just the gas to the beach. Ryan, when do you think the market is going to crash? Dow-Jones is at a all-time high!

    • Thanks! I think another crash is coming soon, but I underestimated how much the federal reserve, and the banks constraining inventory, would manipulate the housing market. The Dow is actually down 11 percent from where it was in 2000 adjusting for inflation. Also, many of these companies are reaching these profits by cutting wages and benefits, and they can because of how bad the job market is. All that to say, most people in the country aren’t benefiting from the stock market being high right now, as most people don’t have much to invest. I think the job market is going to keep getting worse, and we are going to be entering a period of time where a lot of the new jobs that are created (software programming etc) are job killing jobs. 10 years ago it took some skill to train a barista at Starbucks to make latte’s. Now, it’s 90% software and 10% person standing there pressing a button. How long before it will be fully automated at Starbucks? Then where will all the recent college graduates work? I think more jobs are going away never to come back again then are being created, and I think the trend is going to go on for a while.

      I also don’t know how heavily the student loan bubble bursting is going to affect things. That could be the beginning of the crash, because I see college enrollment plummeting in coming years. That will shoot unemployment up as the kids won’t be able to be classified as college students, and colleges and universities will have to lay off workers. But, then the government might step in and make college free for everyone, and kick the can down the road a little further. Eventually there are going to be consequences for our debt based economy, they can’t be put off forever. Predicting when the day of reckoning for the US will happen is like trying to catch a rabbit. So I will just say sometime soon 🙂

  6. Just a comment about saving at thrift stores. Although I’ve noticed prices seem to be rising there too, some have certain days of the week where they have half off. My wife has one store in particular that she goes to in order to buy clothes, shoes and grandkids’ toys. On certain holidays such as MLK’s Birthday, Presidents’ Day, or other what I would call optional holidays (meaning not every business closes down) they offer half off. We’ll go there and pick up some bikes that we can turn around and sell and double our money. It may take a little checking around to see what thrift stores offer discount days but it can be worth it. Also, I really don’t understand how some of these stores price their merchandise. Prices sure vary for similar items. It must be a very subjective thing.

  7. I like the toys idea. Actually I practice it. Toys are just toys and kids don’t need to have plenty of them. In fact it is more valuable for them to play with common things. I have noticed that my daughter plays with whatever she can find and combine them and the few toys she has. That develops imagination, and kids need it nowadays.

  8. I work some pretty long hrs at my full time job and often work through breakfast and lunch. Typically ill make my breakfast and lunch to take along. Lunch is always leftovers from the night before and breakfast is oatmeal or eggs and a piece of fruit. Its healthy, saves time and money! Great read, as usual.

  9. Hey Ryan,

    My wife and I are new to your blog and absolutely love it. I think I’ve read everything on here in a couple hours. I to want to start a Craigslist business and also want to live in Hawaii someday. Very weird but true. My wife and I have paid off about $40,000.00 in just 2 years. How did we do it? Well we don’t have kids yet and we have some awesome parents that let us move into their basement rent free and just pay utilities. We sold our town home and moved into my in-laws basement and we were able to save about $600 a month in rent plus we took to heart everything you have posted and pinched pennies. Every dollar had a name. We knew where it was going and we committed to it. Momentum is very powerful and it can either help you get where you want to be or hurt you. Thanks for the encouragement and can’t wait to read more!

    • Jeff, thanks for sharing your story! I love hearing stories like that. Congrats on paying so much of your debt down, I bet the feeling is incredible! The lifestyle patterns and choices that you’re making now will help guide you when making decisions with children. Kids don’t have to be as expensive as society makes you think. Keep it up and stay in touch!

  10. I found this website from Lifehacker. Good stuff. I’ve been selling stuff here and there on CL and actually really like to do it. I say that, because I keep thinking you can’t make a living on CL or ebay. Well… from your site and others I’ve found you can totally do that. So, I’m gonna start the ball rolling. Thanks for the help Ryan

  11. Hello Ryan,

    I ran into your website because I needed to sell some items on Craigslist. Now only do I like the concept behind your site I like the layout (very clean).
    I especially dig this post. The recession is about re-structuring yourself financially and emotionally. I am a professional poker player who had a half a million dollar bankroll 5 years ago. Now I have 5 grand to my name and I’m a much happier person. I am selling my mother’s house this week as part of an inheritance for 50 K so I’m not totally born again but the last 5 years have taught me that happiness is definitely connected to the strong relationships in your life rather than money.
    I turned #8 ( a hobby) into a lifestyle because I got lucky and won a couple big tournaments and then became a miserable person when I couldn’t re-create the feat.
    I’m not gonna give up playing poker totally because I’m still a winning player but I realize that this isn’t the time period for gambling. If it is you definitely have to do it different. That’s why I set up my blog and I’m on my way to monetizing it.
    I want to know how to mail someone your posts. I don’t see a share button and I definitely want my girlfriend to read this one. That’s what I originally wanted to ask before I went on a tangent. I have the same mindset about working for anyone else. In order not to watch the clock you have to work for yourself and blaze a trail. Good luck and keep posting.

    • Hey Joe, thanks for spurring me to get the share buttons on. Thanks for the encouragement, let me know if there are any topics that you would like to see covered on the site! Thanks for sharing your story as well.

  12. Ryan,

    I have spent the last 3 hours reading most of all your articles. One thing that I can contest to, working for yourself is by far the best way to go. Do not get me wrong, the rest of your inspirational wisdom is great advice and tips. One thing I have always kept to my side; you need a minute or two for yourself and a lifetime with your family. We all get in this mode of work work work and no time to breathe and relax. More importantly, no time for family; 30 years later your kids are having kids and you wondered where the time went.

    There is nothing wrong with hard-work and teaching/showing that hard-work is important, but if you are missing the important things in life, what are you really teaching your kids? It becomes this infinite cycle of worry about money when you do not have to if you had the basic fundamentals of managing your money.

    Most of all your articles have great points and there is so much more that we all can learn from each other…. Thank God for the Internet and blogging!

    Keep up with the great articles!

    • Thanks Bill. Your words are spot on. I go to bed each night and wrestle with the balance. I don’t want to regret how I used my time over the years. Appreciate your words.

  13. I’m still working my way through this process as well.

    My wife started french pressing my coffee every morning to stop me from going to the local cafe, ha ha! She’s better with money than me, and saw how much money I was wasting.

    One thing I do whenever I go to a big box store (which I hate to patronize) for phone cards or whatever it may be… I put my ear buds in a listen to music or talk radio while I’m shopping to avoid listening to the ads over the PA system as well as the ads on end isles… no more subliminal advertising.

    Another thing I do is wear yellow tinted sunglasses. It sounds silly, but BILLIONS of dollars are spent on advertising, to make things look appealing, just the right colors, just the right looks… all busted with yellow tinted glasses.

    So if you see a guy wearing yellow tinted glasses & wearing ear buds at a big box store, you’ll know its me, and now you know why.

    • Haha that’s awesome! Our wives are often a step or ten ahead of us when it comes to being wise with our money. It seems like they tend to see the correlation between wise spending and what’s best for the family a bit sooner. Thanks for sharing!


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