5 Simple Ways To Save More By Wasting Less

A penny saved is a penny earned.  You’ll never hear that saying come out of my mouth.  I personally don’t like working for pennies!  But, I might say something like this: A penny saved is a nickel I don’t have to spend later.

In 2012, I’m focusing on saving money by wasting less.  To be honest, I’ve never been that great about making wise use of what I have.  If I get a great deal on something, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend more time and money fixing it when I can just buy another one on sale.

But, prices are rising on just about everything and sales are becoming more scarce.  What I used to be able to easily replace for a dollar may now cost me two dollars, and I’m starting to think about making better use of what I have.

My goal of wasting less is not so much a way to save the money I’ve already spent, but a way to save the money I haven’t yet spent.

Here’s how I’m planning to do this – 5 Simple Ways to Save More By Wasting Less:

Finish unfinished projects instead of starting new ones.

I have little projects here, there, and everywhere that were started with the best intentions and never finished.  I laid out the money for supplies and lost heart or got distracted.  If I don’t get my act together, that money I spend on supplies will be wasted – and I’ll likely continue buying supplies for projects that will remain unfinished.

I’ve got to stop continuing to not use items that I’ve already spent money on and spending more on projects that won’t ever get finished either.

This year, I will be finishing the framed pictures that I started for my boy’s room instead of dreaming up art for my girls’ room.  I will finish printing and framing photos for my husband’s side of our family tree before I re-do some perfectly good framed art in our dining room.  I will touchup the paint smudges leftover from last year’s painting projects before I start brainstorming on new curtains for the master suite.

I will save more and waste less when I finish unfinished projects instead of starting new ones.

Take care of what you have.

In America, we can buy many things so cheaply that I’ve always struggled with spending time and money take care of something that can be replaced for a few dollars.  But, prices on everything are rising and I’m starting to think more about saving by taking care of what I already have.

Practical ways to implement this?  One way is using or freezing food before it goes bad.   I used half a can of pumpkin for a recipe and put the rest in the refrigerator, then realized that I would probably let it go moldy before I used it, so I put it in the freezer.  (The challenge will be to make sure I use it before it’s unrecognizable from freezer burn!)

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a fastidious laundry-doer.  Some people get a thrill out of successfully getting a difficult stain out – my theory is that if you wash the garment enough times, the stain will come out/fade away anyway.

But, I’m trying to take better care of our clothing by at least checking for stains before putting them in the laundry and spraying with stain remover when necessary.  My littlest ones tend to get the edges of sleeves and collars quite dirty, so I’m spraying them before putting in the washing machine.  I’ve become fastidious about turning jeans inside out, as it does seem to keep them from fading as quickly; and socks are getting unwadded before being thrown in the washing machine so that they actually get clean.

I will save more and waste less by taking care of what I’ve already been blessed with.

Under-buy rather than over-buy.

When I open my pantry and linen closet, I see food and personal care items that have been in my possession for a very long time, purchased as a great deal but taking space in my home for years.  I’m learning to be more judicious in what I buy – even if it’s a great deal.

I’m a huge believer in stockpiling good deals to save money – it’s one of the principles I teach in Grocery University – but I’m not confident that buying things and storing them for years is an effective use of money.

Pantene shampoo at 50¢ a bottle?  Great price, but when we use only a couple of bottles a year it doesn’t make sense to spend $5 on ten bottles of shampoo.  I suppose the money didn’t go to “waste” since I have something to show for it and it’s something we would eventually use, but it might have been better to spend $1 on a couple of bottles and save the $4 for something else.

I’m also making it a point to not spend money on things for theoretical events.  Yes, that game of Connect Four for $5 was a great buy and would have come in handy if we’d been invited to a birthday party for someone that it would have been an appropriate gift for, but now it’s sat in my basement for a year and a half and I really would have rather spend the $5 on something else. 

If it doesn’t have a name or specific event attached to it, I’m not buying it anymore.  I’d rather pay full-price for one birthday gift rather than buy three at half-price that never get used.

I will save more and waste less by being cautious about overbuying, even on great deals.

Ask if something can be used before throwing it away.

This goal is going to be prevalent in my kitchen: before I throw scraps away, I will ask if there is another dish I can use the item for, or another way to repurpose the leftovers of a meal that no one really liked.

That quarter-cup of celery that I put in the freezer is worth only a few pennies – but by saving it, I may be able to prevent spending $1 on celery in the future when I want some depth of flavor for a soup or stock.

Last year, I learned that broccoli stalks can be made delicious by shredding them for a salad like this Chinese Broccoli Slaw, instead of purchasing expensive broccoli coleslaw in a bag.  In theory, I would only be throwing away a few cents worth of broccoli, but by making it go farther, I can get another entire side dish out of something I previously threw away, which prevents me from having to purchase another vegetable.

 I willl save more and waste less by finding ways to use perfectly-good items that I am used to throwing away.

Only spend money on what is positively useful.

I keep money in my storage closets and basement – do you?  Well, not literally, but that’s what it feels like when I look around and see a $3 lamp that I bought at Goodwill, stacks of nice scrapbook paper that were purchased for a project that never materialized, or a couple of $10 organizational tools that I was just sure were going to be the solution to our toy mess.

One problem with thrifty shopping is that you often have to be prepared to buy when the deal is hot.  Unfortunately, for me this means that I buy things without a solid plan.  I know we want a lamp and I can’t resist one for just a few bucks, so I buy it and then later realize I don’t really love it, that my ideas of spray painting it won’t look that great, or that it’s going to cost a significant amount more to buy a shade and rewire the lamp.

You can shop frugally and not make these mistakes, though.  I’m working on teaching myself to only purchase what is absolutely, positively useful.  I’m looking past the great price tag to think about where I will put it, how much I need it, if it’s what I really want, how much it will cost to get it where I want it to be, and whether or not I really love it.

If I can conquer that, I’ll stop wasting money on items that get donated back to Goodwill and will then have money to spend on something that is what I really want.

I will save more and waste less by evaluating if something is truly useful and beautiful before buying it.

Save more by wasting less.

I rarely regret not spending money, but I often regret spending a few bucks on this and a few bucks on that.  And now more than ever, those few dollars spent here and there are starting to add up.

In 2012, I will be focusing on saving money by wasting less.  I don’t necessarily expect to see hundreds of extra dollars in my bank account, but I do think that I will learn some things about wise spending and thoughtful using.

How do you save more by wasting less?

More 5 Simple Ways Posts

Nine other bloggers are also sharing five simple ways today – please visit them for some great ideas and inspiration!



  1. LOVE IT!!! These are fabulous idea and ones I SO need to do this year.

    Thanks Carrie!

  2. love the “underbuy rather than over buy”… I tend to always buy when something has a 5 rating, even when I have a year’s worth of the product! Then I have to give away some… not a bad idea if it’s to a food bank or a family member, but when when I have 50 lbs of butter in my fridge… well, you get the idea!

    • Hehe – I don’t think I could EVER overbuy on butter. Oh, see the trouble I’m having with this new resolution?! :)

  3. Tacy Melvin says:

    I remember when I only had a couple of kids, we carried a bit of credit card debt, and I bought anything I thought I might eventually use that I found on a clearance shelf! After a couple of birthdays and Christmases that left enthusiasm lacking when my kids opened package after package of clearance clothing and toys that were great, for older kids I figured out that I’d rather spend a little more on something they would love than buy everything and hope it worked out that they liked it. I still buy ahead some, but not like I used to, and I don’t buy it if I can’t see us using it within a few months. And those holidays with gifts? SO much better now! And that credit card debt? Abolished over 3 years ago! However, I do need to get better at rotating what I have in my freezers!

  4. Once every month or two I don’t buy groceries. Usually when I menu plan I OVER plan and have ingredients for enough meals for at least a week by using up the leftover ingredients I didn’t use when I’d planned!

  5. Thanx Carrie, I do so many of these same things, will be following your example. Even if I get good at only a couple of these, will still save my family!

  6. Several years ago I learned of a group called “freecycle.” They’re a free online group you can join for your local area (www.freecycle.org). On it you can post FREE items that you no longer need, but don’t want to toss or would rather see someone else get them free rather than pay at the thrift stores. I’ve received furniture, children/adult clothes/shoes, organizers, stationary, yard/garden items and the list is endless. There’s also some “market” type places (PikesPeakMarketplace) where you can list your item for sale to see if anyone has interest.
    I agree that buying just because it’s a good deal is usually not the best practice. We can easily nickel and dime ourselves away in that manner.
    Keep up the great ideas!

  7. Came over from HH. This was excellent, thanks!!

  8. I love your thoughts on this topic, Carrie. Thank you for this post!

  9. Great post, Carrie! Such good things to think on. All the little purchases of things that you don’t have a use for right now or a plan for in the near future really add up and complicate homekeeping and clutter control, at least at our house. I, too, am working at completing projects I’ve already started or bought the supplies for and also trying to repurpose items to get the full value out of them (some old placemats became cute little storage bags this week thanks to a little inspiration from Pinterest). I think as Americans we have had such easy access to inexpensive stuff that we have gotten lazy, rather than being mindful of what we buy and use.

  10. Thank you for the inspiration! Simplifying has been a key word in our household lately, and there a few things I hadn’t thought about. Like my unfinished projects!

    We recently experimented by going two months without allowing ourselves a single purchase, except food and grocery items. It was astonishing how many things I thought we couldn’t live without until the time was up and then ended up never buying at all! I would definitely recommend it as a way to gain perspective on all your stuff.

  11. Thanks for this post! I love this topic. I’ve been struggling with the same things for the past couple of years after getting into couponing. I still have products I bought on “great sales” 4 years ago. I figure if it’s been 4 years and I haven’t used the stuff, the sale wasn’t really that great. One idea I have with food is when you’re baking or cooking a recipe that calls for half a can of an expensive or rare ingredient, make extra of the recipe to use it up. I like doubling or tripling my recipes and then freezing the baked goods or already assembled meals. That way my family will want to eat it, instead of letting it getting freezer burnt or forgotten about.

  12. great reminders. i’m bad about buying something that i might use later or give as a gift later. not always a good plan.

  13. I always started projects and never finished it. his year I will finish all I have started. It will start from my cross stitch.

    These tips helps me a lot and makes me rethink what I have done. I am a shopaholic and it’s getting more when I face a grocery sale on the market. I buy things in bulk and save it. But then I forget to use it. That’s terrible.

    I have to be frugal this year.

  14. For all those extra stalks & pieces of herbs, celery, onion, peppers etc, you might consider drying/dehydrating them. If you dont have a dehydrator (oh man they are awesome) you can turn your oven on a very low temp for a couple hours to dry most things, or put them outside in the sun during the summer, then put them in jelly jars in your spice cabinet.
    A full stalk of celery takes up 1/2 cup when its dried. That includes the leaves. Lots of foods can be dehydrated and it lasts much much longer for another day.

    I also put bags in the freezers with meal leftovers using my FoodSaver. Its not the cheapest tool I have, but it pays for itself quickly because the food you do put in the freezer doesnt get tossed out because of freezer burn. I had 2 river trout I foodsavered in my freezer for 4 or 5 years and it didnt have any freezer burn on it. I finally tossed it this year just cuz I needed the space. It was awesome seeing it though.

    When I was younger (Im 50 now) I bought lots of inexpensive stuff, but as I’ve aged, I’ve learned a bunch of cheap stuff is usually just a bunch of cheap stuff.. junk to be honest. I can live without junk.
    That took time to learn. In many different areas of my life.

    Great blog.. thanks! :)

  15. Nerdymomma says:

    This post really resonated with me. I am guilty of many of the same things!! To curb my impulse sale shopping, I’m working on detailed lists and inventories. I plan on inventorying the pantry, the paper/cleaning supply shelf, and my personal care closet. I have already discovered that keeping a freezer inventory helps me in meal planning and saves me bunches in ruined and forgotten food. Keep track of the quantity and date purchased, so you know how fast you use something and when to look for sales to restock.

    • An inventory is a great idea! I’m not sure that I would keep one up but even if you didn’t want to do that, making a one-time inventory would totally be helpful!

  16. Great post, Carrie! Many of the things you mentioned are SO helpful – especially being cautious about buying something only because it is a great deal. Been there and done that! :) Thanks!

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