Five Things You Should Not Spend More Money On

by Kelly · 12 comments

in Living Frugally

As a follow-up to my post Five Things It’s OK To Spend a Little More On, I decided to take a look at some things that you shouldn’t spend too much money on.

Kids Toys and Clothes

As any new parent quickly learns, babies only really cycle between five or six outfits that are the most comfortable and easiest to put on. The great majority of the tiny, adorable ensembles received at the baby shower or handed down from older cousins are worn a handful of times. It’s no different as kids grow either. My boys, although they are only five and four, already have definite preferences for what they wear, and it usually ends up being the same five or six tee-shirts with the same five or six shorts.

You don’t need to have a lot of clothes and you don’t need to spend lots of money on them either. Many of the clothes my kids wear are hand-me-downs. I have had to buy some, as each of my children was born in a different season, but I shop primarily at the thrift store. When I do buy something new, it’s on sale. I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for their clothes, only shoes. Speaking of shoes, we don’t spend a lot of money on those either. I go to the French equivalent of REI and buy good quality tennis shoes or sports sandals. At the most I pay €15, but I think it’s important for them to have new shoes.

Kids toys are another area where you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a lot of satisfaction. Most kids go through a phase where they’re happiest playing with the box the toy came in, and that stage of creativity and imagination can continue a long time. Some recycled scrap paper, a few pens, some thread, a ball, a spoon… none of these costs very much money, but the entertainment factor is huge.


We have two cars, both older models. We bought them the wrong way; by figuring out what car payment we could afford and then looking at how much that gave us total. At least the monthly payments are reasonable. In fact, the only reason we have a car loan for our larger ‘family car’ is because we used the lower interest car loan to pay off a large chunk of our revolving line of credit. Otherwise we would been able to pay for it with the proceeds from selling the old one.

I firmly believe in buying a good quality car, that is several years old, without a lot of bells and whistles, and then taking care of it and driving it for a long time. Some people even, drive their cars for a very long time. We anticipate having our cars until we move, maybe even after if we move within Europe. Remember, as soon as you drive a new car off the lot it turns into a used car- without the used car price. Why not let someone else take the loss for you?


I like decorating and changing the look of my house; I’m addicted to (passed on copies of) Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping and the rest. But there’s no way my budget can afford spending a lot on furniture or decorations.

Here’s where patience pays off. If you know what you are looking for, down to the make and model, then Ebay can be a great place to find furniture for low prices. It’s often in excellent quality, much better than you could find in a second-hand shop. Another great place is to look at Ikea’s bargain section. I found a cover for my Ebay couch there for 50% off. Now my €43 couch and its €35 cover look (and feel) just like its young, new €400 sibling for sale in the showroom.

A lick of paint and an hour or two spent in front of the sewing machine can help to transform a room. If you’re not a sewer or can’t stand painting, why not barter with a friend who does? For more great frugal decorating tips, check out this guest post from Lynnae of Being Frugal.

Organizing Supplies

Confession: I am an organizing junkie. (Proof can be seen here and here.) I love boxes and putting those boxes into smaller boxes and them stacking them on top of more boxes. My favorite magazine, which I can organizing porn for girls, is Real Simple. Why aren’t my kids able to put their own toys away?

Here’s a secret. Organizing supplies won’t make you organized. It’s the marketing strategy of all those (fabulous) stores to make you think that if you just buy this system then your house will be Real Simple cover ready. Of course it won’t; you have to change the way you think and work first.

When you are ready to organize, an expensive plastic box or wicker basket is nice, but a cardboard box nestled into a drawer as a divider works just as well. Think about what you already have in your house that you can re-purpose as an organizing aide. I used to cut off the legs of old pantyhose and hang them over the hinges on the back of a door as a place to store my wrapping paper.


As much as I love organizing supplies, I love books even more. It’s not surprising that I want to buy them as cheaply as possible. Why are you buying the hardback copy as soon as it appears on the shelves? Exercise a little self-restraint and put yourself on the waiting list at the library. I used to do this when I lived in the States and it was like a treat when my turn rolled around. Often times, after waiting for 75 other people to have their turn, I had forgotten I had reserved the book.

Go to a used (independent) bookstore, or the local thrift store. Buy books at $.50 a piece. Then, send them on through BookMooch when you’re finished. Your house will be less cluttered and in turn you’ll earn points to mooch books from others.

Of course there are books that are dear friends that you want to pass on to children or read and reread over and over. It might be worth having a nicer copy for those special ones. But the latest schmaltzy novel? Probably not so much.

So there you have it. My recommendations for five things you should not spend too much money on. What are yours?


1 Nicole July 21, 2008

I think people also go really overboard with their pets (kind of in the same vein as kids). Your pet doesn’t need much (though my 14 year old beagle-corgi-terrier is needing more and more these days!) and they are appreciative of an occasional inexpensive gift as much as anything else.

2 Sarah F. July 21, 2008

We don’t spend more money on delivery pizza. We bought a bread machine, and make our own pizza for a fraction of the cost of delivery, and tastes just as good (if not better :))!

3 Shevy July 21, 2008

Haircuts! Why spend $50 to $70 at a fancy salon (plus all the ‘special’ conditioners, etc. they try to sell you) when you can go to a $10 place? You get a bad cut just as often at the fancy place and its even more upsetting when you paid a fortune for it.

For school age boys spend $20 on a clipper set and just buzz it really short. My younger son and his friends used to take turns buzzing each others hair off every few months when they were teenagers.

Drycleaning. Buy as few things that need drycleaning as possible and have them cleaned as seldom as possible. (That means you should take a little more care with them, trying not to get food on them and hanging them up so they don’t get crumpled, not that you should wear grungy, dirty clothes.) Some ladies rayon clothes that say “dry clean only” can really be machine washed and ironed afterwards. Note that I said “some”, so don’t try this with your favorite expensive outfit and then think you can send me the bill…. (Personally, I’ve had success with all but one or two items, but those ones were a total loss.)

Shevy’s last blog post..After the Fast

4 Suzanne B. July 21, 2008

Well, you took all the words out of my mouth.
Those things are definatly not worth wasting money on.

Another thing, designer foods for kids. I think that buying these juices for 4$ a bottle, when you can buy the adult brand, it’s the SAME thing!!!

Good question!

Suzanne B.’s last blog post..My Weekend!

5 Kelly July 21, 2008

Ooh Shevy and Suzanne, I totally agree! I never buy anything that needs to be drycleaned; for one thing I only wear it once every six months! And special kids food is a total waste of money- but very well marketed! The only special kids food I buy is the alphabet cereal, because my boys like to do their alphabets with it.

6 Kelly July 21, 2008

Sarah, the pizza crust is a great idea!

7 Budget Mama July 21, 2008

Those are such great tips. All I can say is ditto on all the above mentioned. The only other thing I can say is maybe not purchasing those latest and greatest gadgets. Where you spend $400 the day it comes out and then it quickly depricates.

Budget Mama’s last blog post..Looking for a sports bra

8 Rachel July 26, 2008

I couldn’t agree more! I am convinced that organizing is not about buying stuff. I also have a hard time spending money to eat out at average restaurants. I want the food to be really good to be worth the expense.

Rachel’s last blog post..Taste of Summer

9 Gretchen August 7, 2008

Book: join PaperBack Swap online (or sister sites DVD Swap and CD Swap). For the cost of postage (you to new owner) you can get rid of/recycle old books and receive new ones (free!). You post 10 or mote books you are willing to swap out, and create a wish list of titles you want to receive. In four months, I have sent on about 20 books and received about same; in two months of DVD Swap, I have swapped about 10 DVDs. There is even online postage, so that you can mail from your own mailbox without spending gas on driving to the Post Office: double savings!

I also belong to NetFlix and love it. I figure that I save about $20/month on overdue library fines (I was terrible about that!) and not only get DVDs I want mailed to my home, but can access "Instant Play" titles for no extra money. Given that I stopped my cable service (too many useless chanells and continued hikes in fees), this too is a double savings. I figure that I went from paying about $120/month at video stores and cable bill to $20/month for Netflix.

Oh, and I've been driving the same car since 1994. I plan to buy another used car within the year, but I've only got 90,000 miles on this one, and the regular oil changes/maintenance appts. at my local garage have saved me money on car payments, repairs, and gas.

10 cara August 10, 2008

I agree with the commenter about online bookswaps. I use and it’s awesome. Basically, you list books and mail them to whoever wants them and vice versa. You can also donate points to charities. Of course, I do love the library. My local library allows you to reserve any book in its system online (I live in a major city) and they will send you an email when it arrives at your local branch.

I also canceled my cable. $90 a month for what? I missed the Daily Show, but I can watch that on

cara’s last blog post..NIN’s “The Slip” Available Free

11 Kelly August 10, 2008

Bookmooch is one of the best things ever, I agree with you both Cara and Gretchen. I now have so many books to read that there is a huge pile near the bed. Hard life, huh?

12 kat August 19, 2008

As a voracious reader, I gotta echo the recommendations for PaperbackSwap and BookMooch. I don’t know why, but it’s so much more exciting when one of my wishlisted books comes up, and I already have the points sitting there in my account so it’s like getting a book for free! It’s somehow much better than just walking into a store and buying it — maybe there’s something to be said for delayed satisfaction.

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