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 â‚¬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 â‚¬43 couch and its â‚¬35 cover look (and feel) just like its young, new â‚¬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.
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?