What Have You Given Up That You Don't Miss?

If you haven't noticed, we're in a bad recession. The median family has lost some 25-30% of its net worth over the past two years and unemployment is heading to 10%. The thought of cutting back on unnecessaries and saving the difference doesn't seem quite so quaint anymore.

There is no better way to save extra money than to stop spending on things that don't matter to you. Thanks to an idea I first saw in The Reductionist and then in No More Spending, I'd like to share with you CK's own list of things we've given up over the years that we do not miss.

What's on your list?
Carbonated soda: One of the worst forms of second-order foods.
Branded boxed cereals
Expensive cuts of meat: steaks, veal, etc.
Prepared foods/ready-made meals
Juices and fruit drinks, excluding orange juice
Most restaurant meals
Candy and sweet snacks: excluding dark chocolate, see below.
Spreads: margarine, mayonnaise, relish, hummus--these are all second-order foods that we either make ourselves or simply no longer buy.
Store-bought bread
Branded salad dressings
Fruits and veggies out of season: they cost more and taste worse.
Premium alcohol: uh, excluding Laura's weakness for single-malt Scotch.
Bottled water

Non-Food Related:
Books: with the exception of the occasional cookbook, we haven't bought any books in over a year.
Driving late-model cars: Most people experience severe cognitive dissonance when they find out that during most of my Wall Street career I drove a 2000 Chevy Prizm back and forth to my commuter lot. Guess what? I'm still driving it.

On the Short List of Items to Nix:
Cable TV: We're turning increasingly bearish on paying $75 a month to Cablevision for something that seems to waste so much of our time.

Things I'll Never Give Up:
Premium dark chocolate: giving up good chocolate is utterly inconceivable. I'd rather not live.
Travel: See Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club for ideas on how to save enormous amounts of money on travel.

Readers, what are your thoughts?

Related Posts:
A Recession-Proof Guide to Saving Money on Food
Spending to Save: Frugality and Expensive Food
Three Easy, Delicious and Inexpensive Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes

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Dwane Lay said...

Meat. I became a vegetarian (again) in February. While the rest of the family hasn't really jumped in, I do the cooking, so they kind of have to.

Also, outside of specialty items, we haven't bought bread all year. We regularly bake sandwich loaves, as well as breakfast scones, on the weekends. (It's a big win for me, since the DW doesn't cook, but she has taken over the bread making duties as well!)

Wirehead said...

Over the past few years, starting when things were looking good, we've been trying to live better. And part of this has been spending less money for better food by making it ourselves.

So it's funny because we've given up a lot of things over the past few years... and I've had to give up a lot of things over the past 16 years for health reasons.... but it's not at all motivated by the general economic crash.

I'm even more extreme than you are with respect to cars. I don't drive unless I have to. And, given that I can carry a week's worth of groceries on my bike, there's not a lot that I have to drive.

I've also been totally ruthless, ever since you wrote the second-order foods post, about reducing second-order foods. So now I buy a whole chicken instead of buying just boneless chicken breasts.

Actually, the funny part is that I realized that chicken thighs are always cheaper and we like them more than chicken breasts because of the richer taste.

I gave up carbonated sodas 16 years ago, for health reasons. In the past few months, I discovered that if I wanted to have them, I could. Except I really don't. Not anymore.

I've never been a fan of prepared foods, but I've lately gotten successful at getting the wife to stop eating them too by keeping my homemade clones of those dishes in the fridge.

I've also realized that, except for an occasional trip to a *really* good restaurant, they aren't any fun anymore. Pretty much, only if it's a brilliantly creative chef with a tasting menu do we feel like going out, and that's often fairly expensive.

I find it almost counterproductive to think of the task of not spending money on things that don't matter to you as being reserved for the recession.

Daniel said...

Hi Dwane, thanks for your comment. I would miss meat if I were to cut it out completely, but I certainly have no problems cutting my meat intake.

Wirehead: Great ideas, and an interesting observation on why all this has to be a function of the recession. The answer is, it doesn't.

But I guess the point is things like recession or a sudden job loss often serve as catalysts for people to start thinking about this in the first place.

Thanks as always for reading.


Elizabeth said...

We've started doing a lot of little things. I've started making more breads like bagels and buns, I planted a vegetable garden, we only buy sodas when it's on a good sale. I'm slowly but steadily learning how to make things we normally buy, like taco seasoning or mayonnaise.

I think the main thing we do, though, is pay attention to prices at the store and have learned which groceries are generally cheaper at which stores and will shop accordingly.

We've significantly cut down our going out, but in turn have increased our Netflix membership and bought a couple of video games we both really enjoy. I think in the long run, it saves us a lot on entertainment costs.

Anonymous said...

Pressure cooker. Both for canning and to save a few watts/dollars by cooking things faster.

I'll focus on canning. One thing to consider is that canning supplies are cheaper at the end of the growing season in your area. It's a good time to stock up on jars and seals for next year.

The initial investment is fairly high but you get many returns. First. You know what's in the jar! The jars will last for generations if you're careful and don't chip them. You can preserve almost everything you grow or buy locally. All those organic veggies you bought at the farmers market you miss in Feb? Make hay while the sun shines ..

Canning is an area where communal effort pays off. Having two or three pressure cookers going in a large kitchen with half a dozen people shelling peas, skinning tomatoes or peeling fresh spring potatoes has it's own rewards, saves time and makes a great reason for a harvest get together.

Set a goal. Say 10% of your produce from canning the first year and work up from their.

Lastly. Be safe! The lady I learned to can from had a couple of great tips. USE CURRENT RECIPES FOR CANNING SAFELY and find someone in your area who you know has been canning for years, acts responsibly, and is alive and healthy. Learn from them. The USDA web site is a good place to start for safety guidlines as is the Ball blue book. Be safe and enjoy yourself.

Amanda said...

Most of the things I've given up are due to health reasons--becoming diabetic, learning how to eat better and all.

Recently, however, I gave up my soy milk habit. We're starting to have a tough time of it, and that had to fall off the list of nice-to-haves. I just use regular milk on my cereal and don't drink it as a beverage. Otherwise, not much has changed... less buying in the fresh fruit & veg category, I'm afraid, as well, unless it's a good deal from the farmer's market. It's still not full growing season here yet so everything is trucked in and priced accordingly.

Unknown said...

Clothes. I'm about halfway to my weight loss goal; my clothes don't fit, and I don't want to buy anything since I'm hoping to be one more size smaller by the end of the summer. I'm making do and, as needed, will supplement from Goodwill.

Magazines. Most of what I want/need is online. Ditto cookbooks.

My gym membership is non-negotiable. Besides the obvious relation to my weight loss, it's an investment in my long-term health and short-term mental health.

Kira said...

Interesting because I don't think I've consciously given anything up. But I'm with you on store-bought bread and salad dressing. I never really bought sodas or water, but we're doing well with the no-cereal thing in our house so far!

One thing I could never give up: wine and beer. I know it's not frugal, but it's one thing we really like to enjoy.

edj3 said...

We tried to ditch cable, but here in Boston you pay more for just internet than you do for basic cable plus internet. I'm sure ComCast has metrics that show they can get us to upgrade again. I'm equally sure we will not.

I don't belong to a gym, I work out at home. I know that's not an option for everyone but it is for me and saves a bundle.

I long for the day my husband gives up soda but I'm with Laura--I do love premium single malt whiskey which certainly costs more than his soda (even though I drink far, far less of it).

We still eat out once a week but we no longer drink alcohol at that meal. Living in the South End, we do have to look to find less expensive dining out options but they are there, and we really truly enjoy it.

kimby said...

Here's what I've done:
1. Reduce meat consumption.
2. Buy fresh fruits/veggies at the farmer's market. Supermarket prices are often higher and not fresh. I don't like Fuji apples that are old and dry. Yuck. If you select only essentials you'll use, then the farmer's market can be economical and healthy. I bring only a set amount of cash, so I don't overspend.
3. No more cereal. Only oatmeal for breakfast.
4. No trips to the mall. If I really need something, I will try to research online, and buy it only after the "impulsive period" is over. Meaning I make myself wait at least 1 week before I decide, Is this something I am going to buy?
Anyways, I could go on, but I really like the idea of avoiding those second-order foods. And of course there are the things that each person decides is worth it to keep in the budget. For me, it is wine and cheese. I still shop for deals at BevMo or the supermarkets, but I won't give it up. Also, I believe health shouldn't be cut out of the budget either, so I still have a gym membership at work, and I just bought a road bicycle that I have been saving for.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Liz T. said...

Geez, I don't buy beef,occasionally will buy chicken to make stock and an occasional sausage or chunk of ham to use for flavoring soups/stews.

We make our own sandwich bread, jam (small batches, freeze it instead of canning), mayonnaise, yogurt, frozen waffles, and granola which we then make into granola bars.

I'm working my way up to beans. I was planning on freezing them, but I might have to investigate canning since then I won't have to buy a freezer.

I only subscribe to one magazine and I have it sent to work so we can all share. I don't take the local paper. We 'rent' paperbacks from Booksfree.com (like Netflix for paperbacks) instead of buying.

Gotta have my cable & internet, tho. Luckily right now I can afford it.

I also decided we need a landline phone for safety, even though we both have cell phones, because we live in earthquake country. I also hate the idea of leaving my son with a sitter without a house phone. We just have local service and a 5 cent/min long distance plan which we never use. It's worth it to me for the peace of mind.

Liz T. said...

Oh yeah, bottled water, too! I am embarrassed to think of the amount of plastic I've purchased and tossed over the years. Once I learned that tap water is tested (unlike most bottled water) and, in our area anyway, tasted as good, that was the end of that.

In the past I've had one of those faucet filters to use for drinking water but I've even stopped using that and now just go straight from the tap. My friend uses a Brita pitcher, which you can usually find at the Goodwill/second hand stores.

The only time I buy water now is in the airport after I go through security, if I forget to pack my HDPE water bottle (empty, of course)in my carry on bag.

OK, I'll shut up now. :)

Daniel said...

Thanks for all the great ideas everyone.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I have the most insightful readers!


Cori R. said...

Things I've Given Up...

- Cable. Don't miss it, even if everyone thinks I'm weird for not following the latest fads in television
- Waste and overpaying for groceries. Re-examining my greatly reduced food budget led me to becoming a better shopper and wasting less.
- High fructose corn syrup. I still fall off the wagon sometimes when it sneaks into something I had never thought it could be in..
- The American-sized portions of meat. I really don't need half a pound or more of meat on my plate when a couple ounces is just as satisfying.

Now if only I could give up some more of these pounds; I sure wouldn't miss those!

Daniel said...

Hi Cori,
Good for you. And I wouldn't be surprised if you see a significant correlation between getting rid of extra pounds and getting rid of many of these unneeded things. Good luck!


Crystal Silver said...

Over the past several years, I have given up owning anything I can't carry on my back with me into the cabin of a commercial airplane. What I was unable to sell on eBay or Craigslist, I donated to charity.

Funny thing is I don't feel like I've *given up* anything, really. I actually feel like I've gained so much more through this process. It's been a liberating force in my life to realize just how little I need/want and how much freedom comes from pursuing a minimalist, self-sufficient life.

I still have a weakness for buying fresh juices, smoothies, and veggie wraps from high-quality raw vegan restaurants and health food stores. I'm sure there are a few other things I'm forgetting to mention, but for the most part, I'm relatively happy with my progress.

I also have a weakness for Apple products, which I think is worth the expense, particularly now that everything I own is portable, which means I never buy what I can't comfortably carry. I also still buy 8x5 journals, which is a habit I'm trying to break.

I used to have a problem with books. I spent a lot of money on books, which I guess, on the scale of money zappers, books aren't such a bad thing. I could have had worse addictions.

The only utility I really can't live without is a WiFi connection. But most of the time, I can find one to use wherever I find myself. I have no recurring monthly bills, which I love. I try to pay annually for most of the services I do use, including my web hosting.

I no longer own a vehicle, and I do not have a home of my own. I have no desire to clutter up my life with a bunch of stuff. I would rather spend my time on gaining knowledge and experience.

At the moment, I don't even have a bicycle. I sold the two I had a while back and have yet to get a replacement.

I have so much farther to go, though. I still struggle with residual money consciousness issues and the conditioned guilt that goes along with that. But I know I'm on the right track. I just have to step up the revenue streams to move forward from this point.