10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

Winking woman with moneyWinking woman with money
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Those of us who are frugal know deep in our bones that there are things we would never, ever pay for.


If you have the tightwad gene, you can probably feel your skin crawl at the mere thought of plunking down hard-earned cash on certain items. Following are some items sensible spenders avoid buying at all costs.

1. Books

Young man with stack of books.Young man with stack of books.
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Some people — even frugal folks — love new books. The romance of cracking open a new book and smelling the pages sends them into bibliophilic ecstasy.

But this is where you can separate merely cautious spenders from the true hardcore tightwads. The latter will only buy a book as a last resort. The library is king for truly frugal readers. We’ll even resort to interlibrary loans if we must.

For more about the great values that you can find at our favorite “home away from home,” check out “Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card.”

2. Bottled water

Woman drinking bottled waterWoman drinking bottled water
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Bottled water is the scourge of cheapskates everywhere. Why on earth would anyone pay for something that is available for nearly free? You might as well charge us for the air we breathe.

Of course, there are times when you need your H2O to go. But a small investment in a good reusable water bottle more than pays off over the years.

3. The latest technology

People waiting in line for an iPhonePeople waiting in line for an iPhone
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Frugal people never buy the latest and greatest of anything. Catch a supposedly careful shopper in one of those long lines to purchase the newest iPhone, and you can officially revoke his or her “cheapskate license.”

Patience is a hallmark of the frugal life. Wait to purchase that iPhone until the price comes way down, and you’ll enjoy it as much as those cutting-edge folks — just a little later, and at a big savings.

4. Lottery tickets

Surprised lottery winner holding cashSurprised lottery winner holding cash
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Get real: No one with an ounce of frugality coursing through their veins is ever going to buy a ticket to the greatest scam this side of a Vegas casino.

We reported that the odds of winning one recent Mega Millions lottery drawing were in 1 in 303 million. How bad is that? Well, you have much better odds of:

  • Being struck by lightning
  • Dying in a shark attack
  • Becoming a millionaire

Have the jones to gamble? Invest money in stocks. Your odds of success are infinitely better. For more, check out “7 Keys to Stress-Free Retirement Investing.”

5. A brand-new car

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In some ways, this is the ultimate sin in the eyes of economically minded folks. You could skip buying every other wasteful thing on this list, yet still blow your budget to smithereens simply by succumbing to the lure of a shiny new set of wheels.

Our mantra at Money Talks News is to never buy a brand-new car. We’re afraid to even look at them. Instead, we avoid the siren song of the latest models by plugging our ears and heading straight for the “gently used” area of the dealer lot.

For more tips on getting a good deal on a car, even during a pandemic, read “This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car.”

6. $5 coffee

Woman sipping coffeeWoman sipping coffee
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Ah, the latte factor. Countless financial experts insist you can slowly get rich simply by skipping that expensive daily trip to the coffee shop.

This tip is lost on true frugalistas, however, because the very notion of darkening the door of our local Starbucks is a nonstarter anyway. We’ll make our coffee at home, thanks — and save a bundle.

7. Cable TV

Unhappy woman watching TVUnhappy woman watching TV
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This is another item that separates the truly frugal souls from the wannabes. A 2020 analysis by DecisionData.org found that the average household cable package costs $217.42 per month.

If you’re a cheapskate, we’ll wait a minute while you pick yourself up off the floor.

Fortunately, you have plenty of options for cheaper — even free — entertainment. Budget-friendly streaming alternatives to cable include:

  • Sling TV: Offers two plans — Sling Orange and Sling Blue — each priced at $35 monthly.
  • Philo: Offers more than 60 channels for $20 a month.
  • Hulu: Offers access to thousands of shows and movies beginning at $5.99 a month.

Or, if you can be happy with a more restrictive library of movies and shows, consider “15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home.”

8. Brand names when generics are available

Generic and brand-name itemsGeneric and brand-name items
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You walk into the grocery store and see two 16-ounce boxes of spaghetti. The Barilla costs $1.25 and the store brand costs 88 cents. You grab the Barilla and toss it into your cart.

Why? For the love of all that is good and holy, why?

Thrifty shoppers will almost always choose the generic over any brand name, unless the latter is on sale. Some might even be accused of occasionally sacrificing a bit of quality simply to save a buck. (And they’d be right.)

In many cases, a generic is almost indistinguishable from the brand-name product, and most of the time it is less expensive. So, find a spot in your heart for those store brands. To get started, check out “32 Products You Should Always Buy Generic.”

9. Dry-clean-only clothes

Dry cleaner workerDry cleaner worker
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They say clothes make the person, but they can also destroy the wallet.

Clothes that must be dry-cleaned not only require you to pay for the service, but also to waste gas — and that most precious of commodities, time — getting your clothes serviced.

Dry cleaning uses chemical solvents — instead of soap and water — to clean your clothes. Some people say you can hand-wash those clothes at home instead. We say you should stick to machine-washable garments.

10. Fancy vacations

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We get it: It’s been a long, ugly year. As soon as the pandemic is history, you plan to book a trip to that lovely five-star resort in Barbados.

And that’s fine. It’s just not the sort of thing frugal people do.

Every dollar you save now gets you a little bit closer to financial independence. When you are just starting the process of saving, a $5,000 vacation can be a wealth-buster. Later on, when you have money to burn, spending several thousand dollars to pamper yourself will hardly put a dent in your overall budget.

Spend now and regret it later, or save now and enjoy it later. The choice is yours. Happy saving!

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