I’ve been on a buy-less journey for a few years now, partly for budgeting help, but also because I’ve moved a bunch and just realize how much stuff I have and don’t use. So, I made this list of the 20 things to stop buying to save our spaces and our wallets!
I hate to be wasteful, and after the second time I moved across the country I realized how much I had that I was keeping “just in case.” Some of the stuff that I bought were items that I just “had to have” only to use for a bit and then never pick up again. I’m also doing my best to lean toward a less-waste lifestyle (some call it zero-waste, but that puts too much pressure on it for me).
So, whether you’re aiming to buy less because you’re on a budget, or because you want to live more minimally, or for any reason in between, here is a list of 20 things to stop buying:
20 Things To Stop Buying
Single Use Items:
In an effort to be less wasteful, I’ve done my best to stop buying things that have a short life in use and a long life in landfill. It doesn’t make sense to me to buy something that has a one-time use versus something you can use over and over again.
1. Plastic Water Bottles
Instead, purchase a refillable water bottle, like a stainless steel hydroflask that keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot.
2. Paper Napkins
When I moved back in with my mother while I was in grad school, I realized she had all of these beautiful cloth napkins that she only used for dinner parties. Very quickly I convinced her that we should use them every day (she has at least two dozen cloth napkins in various colors and patterns)!
We’d each use one a day and then just toss in the laundry, and if she had guests for dinner everyone would get a napkin and then toss them right in the wash.
3. Paper Towels
I just couldn’t stand the thought of how many paper towels would go to a landfill to sit there and never decompose unless sent to the incinerator. I live to make messes (because, life is messy!) and I would rather have reusable dish towels and rags and just toss in the wash!
4. Plastic Baggies
Again, I have nightmares about landfills! So, I love to reuse glass jars from pasta sauces or peanut butter jars, or if I want something a little easier to travel with I use stashers silicon resealable bags.
5. Take-out Coffee
This one is HARD to stop buying. I love getting coffee to-go, and pre-pandemic I’d take a reusable cup to my coffee shop for on-the-go fuel. It’s harder now, so I make an effort to make coffee at home to save my spending money and do a bit better for the environment.
Ok, I’ll be the first one to admit how much I love mugs. I have at least 25, and in my last apartment I lived ALONE. How much coffee and hot beverages can one human drink?
Turns out, I can consume a lot of coffee and tea, but that’s beside the point. I realized I didn’t need to have so many mugs even though they are fun souvenirs, and I try to tamper my urge to purchase more.
This is a catchall term for things that have a singular purpose. Think about all of the kitchen gadgets you might accumulate that have very little use but take up a lot of drawer and counter space.
For example, I have a tool to cut avocados…it’s a 3-in-1 tool to make it easier to cut, core, and slice an avocado. You know what? A table knife works the exact same way and I have a set of 8. There’s no point to buying these niche items!
Notebooks are also my kryptonite. I’m a writer, and I’m never without a notebook.
When I’m at a stationary store and see notebooks on sale? I always buy at least two! But, I also have a box of unused notebooks and I just don’t need to be purchasing them.
How often do you use up pens? I am pretty sure I still have a pack of pens I bought on a back-to-school supply trip to Staples in 2007. Also, I accumulated pens like a fiend because any time I was at a hotel I’d snag the one from the night stand as a souvenir.
Listen, we don’t need so many souvenirs! And we don’t need so many pens.
Ok, this one may be location-dependent. As someone who lives in southern California, I don’t need too many throw blankets, especially between March – October. But, I do like to get snuggly and like to have a blanket or two around.
Somehow, though, through the years I have accumulated 9-10 throw blankets and quilts, all in various styles, none of which match my decor. Yet, still, I love to dream of my “perfect” apartment and have itching fingers to purchase more cozy blankets to wrap around my shoulders while I sit in bed and read.
I think many of us are looking for the right fit when it comes to skincare, and it can be easy to accumulate a lot of half-used or barely-used or even “maybe one day” bottles to try. When I was a subscriber of a few beauty boxes I also received more cleansers or lotions than I could use up.
Instead, try to find sample or travel sizes of products before you commit to a full-size purchase, or see if you can get a free sample the next time you’re stocking up on makeup at Sephora, or your favorite beauty stores.
This may resonate with some people more than others. For me, my goal is to build a minimal makeup routine for daily use and then have one or two eye shadow pallets that offer a little something extra for when I want to dress up or play around with my look.
Recently, I realized that I couldn’t remember when I purchased some of my makeup, which means I’ve had the products, open, for over five years. Makeup doesn’t last long, often having more of a 6-12 month life, and it’s important to sterilize or replace your products often to prevent bacteria buildup from causing breakouts on your skin or infections in your eyes.
For more inspiration, check out our very own Nicole shares monthly makeup declutter videos on her GenThirty youtube channel.
13. New Phones
I upgrade my phone every 3-4 years, only when the battery no longer charges or when disaster strikes. Not because I don’t want fancy new features or a better camera, but because phones are SO EXPENSIVE. If you’re someone who upgrades every year, reconsider your “why” and ask yourself if it really fits in with your budget.
14. Food You Already Have
Food waste really hurts me, but that’s an article for another day. Too often we forget what we have in the fridge or pantry. Or, we lean into what we’re craving instead of checking to see what we can make out of what we have first.
Budgeting and less-waste 101 is getting creative with what you have, first. I like to do pantry challenges every couple of months to make sure I use up what might be getting close to its expiry date.
15. Cleaning Supplies
If you stop and take inventory of what you have around your house, you may find that you have an abundance of partially used products just taking up space. And if you take a closer look, some of these products may be more harmful than helpful because of their toxicity.
Instead, try using a cleaning caddy to have one set of cleaning supplies for your entire home. Also, you can make a pretty amazing all-purpose cleaner using vinegar and water…it’s even better than windex!
16. Graphic tees
We love them. But do we need as many as we have? If the ones you have aren’t in your regular rotation, you may want to consider letting them go.
I have so many sweatshirts, and I really only wear the same 2 over and over again. Before you buy another sweatshirt, ask yourself if you really need another one.
18. Hair Accessories
When I chopped my hair off to chin-length, I immediately bought clips and headbands to help keep my hair out of my face and give me some “style.” I also LOVE scrunchies (hello, fellow 90s kids) but before I knew it I had an overflowing container of hair gear that I barely used.
19. Home Decor
I dream of the day I have my own home to decorate. I can spend hours planning the perfect apartment on Pinterest. But often, home decor can be pricey and seasonal, so try to purchase neutral items that can live in your home all year round!
20. Trendy Items
I’m looking at you, cropped tie-dye shirts, sweatshirts with your favorite small shop name on it, and literally anything advertised on Instagram or seen on TikTok. Often these items are either not-well made, or you’ll lose interest quickly and they just begin to take up space in your life. If you want to know what my biggest recommendation for things to stop buying, look no further. Items on trend now have the shortest lifespan.
Ask yourself: are you buying this item to feel joy for a moment? Do you just want it? Do you genuinely need it?
If you understand what your spending goals are and what your intentions for the item might be, it may be easier to pick and choose what you purchase.
Are any of these items on your “things to stop buying” list? Let us know!