Thursday, April 26, 2012

10 Things I Don't Have or Buy (or Need!)

I got this idea from Melissa at Mom's Plans, and she referenced a few other bloggers' recent lists. It got me thinking about what sorts of things lots of people spend money on (and think it's reasonable or normal to do so) that I don't. That is, in which Ramsey-ish ways am I "weird"?

10. A television
Nope, haven't ever bought one. Haven't had one in my living space for 5 years now, and even before then I rarely turned it on. When I lived in that house, I had no TIME for TV -- I'd get up, go to work, go to rehearsal, get home, maybe eat dinner, and go to bed. I moved it into the closet one year to set up the Christmas tree in the living room, and didn't realize until months later that I'd never moved it back. The last time I had cable was when I lived with my parents before graduation; I did watch that a lot. But now I can find most of what I want -- including shows currently airing -- on Hulu, which is free, or Netflix (I received a subscription as a gift, but I consider it a reasonable luxury and might pay for it myself depending on other circumstances). It plays in the background while I do homework, and since I pay for Internet for other necessary purposes and wouldn't if it was only for TV, it doesn't cost a thing.

9. A car
In some areas, you need to have a vehicle to get from place to place. However, in the Bay Area (especially in San Francisco), public transit is available. I either walk or take the bus or train to work, church, grocery stores, farmers' markets, the library, restaurants, friends' places, and almost anywhere else I want to go. Yes, it's time-consuming and sometimes inconvenient. But I don't drive, and so I pay less than a car payment for the fares (I buy monthly passes and bulk-value tickets using pre-tax funds from a flex-spending plan.) And I also don't have to pay for parking (very dear in the city -- in terms of both space and money), maintenance, or...

8. Gasoline
I CANNOT believe how much gas costs, considering how much of it is used every day by the average person. Ugh.

7. Cell phone contracts
I'm away from home at LEAST 11 hours of most days. I text more than I talk. I check and my email (and, yes, Facebook) from the bus stop. Cell phone service is essential. We don't even HAVE a landline. I just can't stomach spending so much money! I've been a happy MetroPCS customer for more than 5 years now, because I pay a flat rate at the beginning of the month for unlimited service. No counting minutes. No overage fees. No obligation to continue past the monthly billing cycle, no separation or early-termination fees. Just $50 a month, or $83 for two of us on the same plan. (And that may be reduced after a call to their support line.) Yup. $75 going forward, for both lines combined. We could pay upwards of $150/month for two of us with Verizon, or between $70 and $100 each. A Value Plan with T-mobile could be as low as $70/month for the two of us, but with a 200MB data limit and a 2-year contract with a $200 early cancellation fee PER LINE.

6. Body wash
Shampoo, which I do use, cleans my body as well as my hair. I don't see the need for specific types of soap.    I have dry sensitive skin, so harsh chemicals aren't good for it. Some people really like the versatility of Dr. Bronner's. I like the peppermint version over the citrus. Sometimes I use an exfoliating salt or sugar scrub. (You can make these at home with kitchen ingredients -- they're foodsafe even if they probably wouldn't taste very good!)

5. Newspapers
As a kid and a teen, I remember purchasing (and selling, and seeing for sale) newspapers at 35 cents. Nowadays I'd have to check a newspaper stand outside of the subway, or maybe Walgreens, but around the internet people estimate that a daily paper is between 50 cents and a dollar. A subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle will run you $10.75 a week for daily delivery. While I sort of understand the appeal of spending Sunday morning in bed with the paper and some bagels... I'd rather sleep when I can. And usually I can't -- I have homework to do or somewhere to be. On a weekday, I don't have time or space for a newspaper -- I don't get a seat on the train, and I barely manage to read my book one-handed! So my news comes to me online and by word of mouth.

4. Tampons
Yeah, that's probably a little too much information. And to be fair, my primary concern when making the switch to a reusable product was not cost. But women should know that there are alternatives to buying processed cotton at incredible markups and throwing it out every month. Some frugal options that are also eco-friendly include The DivaCup, The Moon Cup, and The Keeper; you could also use washable cotton pads (like Lunapads) if you want to do the extra laundry (it's kind of like cloth diapering, only they're smaller and less frequently used). There's a startup cost, as there would be when switching to most new habits, but after a couple of months an alternative method will pay for itself. Consider the difference between $40 for The DivaCup, once every 10 years, and $6 for a pack of 40 tampons (once a month? every couple of months? depends on the woman). Even if you only use it for a year, you could save up to $40.

3. Soda
I fished one out of the office fridge the other day, and found I couldn't drink more than a third of it with lunch. It doesn't quench my thirst like water, and the carbonation is, frankly, uncomfortable. Around the house we drink water, diluted fruit juice (usually purchased in gallon jugs on sale), and lemonade from a powder mix. My sweetie drinks milk; I can't and won't. Very occasionally I'll have a Sprite at a party, or I'll ask for a Shirley Temple (don't judge!) when out on a dinner date, but I don't buy it for myself.

2. Alcohol (or cigarettes)
I've realized that I spend less in both grocery and entertainment costs by not drinking alcohol. Too, I wasn't exposed to smoking when I was a child, and I know very few people now who smoke; it was never something that I thought I'd do or wanted to do. (I SING, dammit!) What with taxes, those are both expensive habits. I saw a budget the other day where the weekly grocery budget was equal to the combined weekly budget for alcohol and cigarettes. DOUBLING the grocery bill? I don't think so!

1. Coffee
Here, a literal interpretation of The Latte Factor won't help my budget. I've never bought a coffee drink in my life. (Although I've made enough of them to come home smelling like the stuff.) When my peers were developing a taste for coffee in order to get through late night studying, I found that a)caffeine didn't appear to have any effect on me and b) coffee tastes horrible!! (Without the "benefits" of caffeine to balance the bitterness, I don't see how anyone could acquire a taste for it.) So wipe the #1 (#2?) social addiction off my list, and pretend I sock away $3.25 a day instead. (I don't; I'm sure I would spend it on other stuff if I weren't careful.)

Now, these are not changes that I made in order to save money. They're things that in almost all cases I would do (or not do) anyway. In that way I'm lucky, not virtuous -- I have some habits that I'm sure COST me money, but that's another list. But the part that's not luck is examining my own priorities, knowing what a reasonable cost for something should be, and deciding -- consciously deciding -- whether to pay for it or go without. These are goods and services that I just don't feel are necessary, and even if I had unlimited money, I might not buy.

Is there anything you'd add for your own list?


  1. I don't buy "i" anythings. No ipod, ipad, ibook, etc. I also don't own a kindle or nook or anything like that. You know what I prefer? The feel of a real book. And I get those from the library. I've never bought a dvd player (both of the ones I own were free hand-me-downs). I don't subscribe to netflix or own a blu-ray player. While I DO love tv and subscribe to cable, I don't have a fancy dvr, just the basic one we were given for free with our plan. I'm just not someone who understands why people buy new gadgets and gizmos every two seconds just because something new came out! I rarely update cell phones, because as long as it's meeting my needs, I am just fine with what I have...I don't need the latest and greatest!

    And I almost never go to the movies, especially not anything in 3D. It's really expensive and most of the movies I've seen in the past 5 years have left me beyond bored! The tv shows I watch are far more interesting to me these days...and I'm offended by the notion of paying $17 to see something in 3D, which I hate anyway, because it gives me a headache!

    While I really enjoy the taste of various alcoholic beverages, such as white wine or various cocktails, I don't need fancy brands. I can be perfectly happy with a $5 bottle of wine (living in CA really helps keep the costs down for a decent bottle of wine!). And I never drink to get intoxicated...I drink purely for the enjoyment of the taste. So, I have no use for shots of anything, rarely have more than one drink in a sitting, and never bow to peer pressure to drink more than I really feel like drinking, even if people give me a really hard time. It is rare that I order alcohol at's very expensive in the US and I don't generally feel the need. It's always funny to me how shocked some of my friends get that one time that I DO drink an alcoholic beverage! They've gotten so used to me declining to partake that it seems like they've somehow assigned some greater meaning to my usual abstinence. Maybe they suspect that I'm straight edge (since I also don't use illegal drugs, EVER) or assumed I was a 12-stepper. Whatever the case may be, they seem suddenly uncomfortable or maybe a little too titillated by the notion of me breaking what they thought was some big taboo for me...THAT makes ME feel awkward. Why do things have to be all-or-nothing? Why can't something be an occasional indulgence??

    What else would I put on this list? Meals at fancy foodie restaurants owned by celeb chefs. Getting a new car every few years. High test gas. Toaster ovens (I have one, but it was a gift and I NEVER use it. Ever.).

    Everyone has different priorities. I enjoy many of the things on your list as regular parts of my life. As my grandfather would say, "That's what makes a horse race!"

    1. Good for you for not spending money on things you don't need! I don't buy a new phone just to buy a new phone, either. But I am clumsy as anything, so mine tend to break after about 3 years of being dropped. (I had a SUPER PHONE that got RUN OVER BY A CAR and still worked fine... eventually the slide hinge broke.)

      I think that as long as someone's list of "don't buy"s is longer than their "do buy" list, they're probably doing all right. :)

    2. I have been known to whisper quietly in bookstores 'They're free at the library!' trying to get my message across subliminally. I do buy books as gifts though, especially for children, because they all seem to have enough toys already.

      In defense of the Kindle however, I use it for travelling since books are so heavy, and have only ever 'bought' free books that are out of copyright. It's great to have the classics at your fingertips, but I agree it is totally unnecessary.

      Also, I don't ever buy magazines. They are just one long advertisement. When I don't know about 'new' products, I don't crave them.

    3. *giggle* Yeah, I find it hard to pay retail prices for books (although I do sometimes for children's gifts).

      That is an excellent point about avoiding advertisements! I'll admit that my occasional treat when I am sick is a couple of the checkout-aisle gossip rags or "women's" magazines. Thankfully none of the products are things I want... I only have to guard against the diet tips.

  2. Wow. You really are weird...but in a good way. I have a television I picked up for free from a fellow freecycler a few years ago. It's one of the old school ones, but it's all I need. Like you, I don't have cable and I watch my TV shows and movies over the internet. As I'm typing this, I just remembered I rented the on-demand version of Mission Impossible from Amazon a few days ago. I totally forgot to finish watching the movie. Oh well. I guess movies aren't that important to me.

    1. Totally weird. :) As much as I dislike paying $10+ for movie tickets, I actually would like to see more than 2 or 3 a year (in the theater). Netflix helps with that.

  3. Um, I think you and I are practically the same person!

    10. I've never bought a TV, but my husband bought one before we were married. I would be happy watching all my Hulu/Netflix on my laptop. The only benefit I see of having one is that we can have people over to watch sporting events, which we do frequently during college basketball season. We love having people over!

    8.-9. I have a car now - our city virtually requires one. But my husband and I share one car. And I lived car-free all through college and for one year after and I LOVED IT! I hope I live in a city in the future where I won't need a car.

    7. I pay $35/month for my dumbphone. The contract expired a long time ago so I'm month-to-month now. I've never heard of the company you use but I'll look it up. I've been thinking about getting a data plan through Republic Wireless.

    6. I also have sensitive skin and I use Dove soap. I don't see the point in buying more expensive products that irritate my skin!

    5. Never had a subscription - or to any magazines.

    4. I've been intrigued by the Diva Cup for a while, but now that I've switched to a 3-month monophasic pill I use VERY little in the way of feminine hygiene products. I might buy one when I go off the pill as I can see the benefits.

    1.-3. I hate the taste of both soda and coffee so I've never bought them. I've never smoked. I used to drink occasionally, but I gave that up when I went low-carb.

    So I don't think you're that weird!


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