How To Stop Buying Stuff and Wasting Money: 21 Smart Strategies

Woman carrying shopping bag learning how to stop buying stuff

Stop buying stuff you don’t need

Many people struggle to save money for their future.  Instead, they spend money on things they don’t really need just to get some immediate gratification.

Small, spontaneous purchases may not seem very significant, but some simple math can reveal their huge impact. Let me give you an example.

If you saved just $10 a day, in an investment account with a 6% average annual rate of return, you would have close to $47,000 in 10 years.

And, if you just left this money in the account without adding any more to it, you’d have over $76,000 after 10 more years.

As you can see, spending an extra few bucks a day on stuff you don’t need can add up to serious money – savings that could support you in your retirement years.

In this post, I’ll give you 21 strategies to learn how to stop buying stuff you don’t need so you can save more money. Once you get intentional with your spending, you’ll reach your financial goals faster.

Get your free Spend Less Plan worksheet to create a personal 5-step strategy to spend less and save more:


21 ways to stop buying stuff you don’t need

I used to be terrible with money. I would use credit cards to buy stuff I had no business purchasing. Expensive clothes, new furniture, a weekend trip. I don’t even want to think about how much money I wasted in my youth.

Now that I’m older, I’ve learned to exercise self-control with my spending. I’ve changed my priorities, and I’m focused on my financial goals. I think a lot about where I want to be in 5, 10, and 15 years from now.

If you struggle with saving, I can relate. However, you can change your mindset and your habits and start making better choices. It all starts with deciding, and then being intentional.

Here are 21 ways you can learn how to stop buying stuff and wasting money. These steps will help you get future-focused and start making savings the priority.

1. Follow a budget & track your spending

Having a budget will keep you grounded and focused on your finances.  Create a monthly spending plan so you can track where your money is going.

Reviewing your financial transactions on a consistent basis will give you a good reality check. When you’re tempted to spend money, just pull up your budget on your mobile phone and see if it’s a wise move. Numbers don’t lie, and they don’t have feelings.

Knowing how much you’re actually spending can give you a much needed wake up call to change your shopping habits. 

2. Have a savings goal

Breaking any bad habit requires replacing it with a better one. So, if you want to stop buying stuff you don’t need, then start creating goals to save more money.

Write down a list of financial goals you’d like to reach, so you have a target you’re shooting for. This will help you stay intentional with your money. 

This way, any unnecessary spending will have a negative consequence attached to it. You either delay achieving your goal, or never reach it, unless you stop buying stuff you don’t need.

Make your goals meaningful and achievable. Take time to know what your priorities are, and why. Having an emotional connection to your goals will help you stick to them.

You can also create visual reminders to keep you on track. Create a chart to log your progress, or print out pictures that represent your goal.

Keeping your goal in front of you will provide inspiration and encouragement when you’re tempted to go spend money.

3. Take inventory of the items you own

Before you head out the door, be sure to take a quick count of what you already have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought stuff that I already had in a drawer somewhere.

This doesn’t just refer to duplicate items. You may think you need a new pair of shoes for a wedding, until you find the pair that’s been under the bed since the last time you saw someone get married.

When you’re unsure, it’s always more fun to spend money – *just in case*. Knowing what you already have can minimize the emotional decision to buy something spontaneously. 

Keep a written list, or create a photo album on your phone. That way, you’ll always have something to reference when you’re at the store.

4. Declutter

Taking an inventory is also a great opportunity to clear some clutter and get rid of stuff that’s just gathering dust and taking up space.

This task will help you become aware of what you’ve bought in the past but never really used. Don’t make that mistake again!

Also, you might be able to make a few bucks by putting your gently used items for sale on an online marketplace.

5. Remove shopping triggers (emails, etc)

Learning how to stop buying stuff can be challenging, especially if you really enjoy shopping. This is why it’s important to set yourself up for success by removing any potential triggers.

These triggers act as temptations to spend money when you really don’t need to.

For example, perhaps you weren’t even thinking about buying a new couch until you saw that email promoting a furniture sale. 

The best thing to do in this case is to unsubscribe from marketing emails. Go through your email account and find those that are from your favorite stores. Open the email, scroll to the bottom, and click on ‘unsubscribe’. 

Voila! No more trigger.

Of course, email marketing isn’t the only trigger to buy stuff. You can also be tempted just by driving by your favorite store. What do you do then? Take a different route.

What if your friends invite you to go shopping? Well, you can decide beforehand how you’ll respond, so you don’t make any impulsive decisions. You could leave all forms of payment at home, so you don’t spend anything. Or, you could choose to do a different, no-cost activity instead every time your friends call.

You must identify those triggers that tempt you to buy stuff. Then, eliminate them or have a plan for when they arise.

6. Hit the pause button

Impulsive purchase decisions often lead to buying stuff you don’t need. To improve your chances of keeping that money in your pocket, create a waiting rule when you go shopping.

If you see something you really want to have, don’t buy it on the spot. Instead, put it back on the shelf and give yourself a good 24 hours before handing over your cash.

Allowing yourself some time and space will give you a more well-rounded perspective, and you may decide you don’t want to spend that money after all. You’ll also have a chance to think about all of the consequences of spending that money, and how it would affect achieving your financial goals.

One way to stick to this rule is to enforce a “no touching” policy. Don’t get overly involved in the purchasing decision. Leave it on the shelf and make a mental note that you might decide to come back tomorrow and buy it.

7. Leave the credit cards at home

It’s tougher to let go of cold, hard cash than to plunk down a plastic credit card or debit card. Although the end result is the same, it’s the psychological difference that will help you to spend less.

Many people use the cash envelope method with their budget, and this could help you as well. Simply put a certain amount of cash in an envelope dedicated to one category in your budget. When the cash runs out, the spending stops.

So, if you budget $100 a month for clothing shopping, then put that cash amount in an envelope labeled “clothing fund”. Then, when you’re emotionally driven to go buy a new outfit, you won’t spend more than you planned.

By implementing this one simple rule, you’ll be able to stick to your budget easier and stop buying stuff you don’t need.

8. Always have a list

A list is like a plan. It creates intention with your discretionary spending, and helps you focus on what you’ve already decided to buy.

You still have to exert some self-control, but having a written list in hand is a physical and visual reminder to stay within the spending boundaries you’ve set. 

One way to help you stick to your list is to give yourself a time limit. If there are 5 items on your list, set a timer for 20 minutes when you walk in the store. This will keep you from wasting time browsing at stuff you don’t need.

9. Practice mindfulness & gratitude

When it comes to personal finances, there are practical strategies you can implement to stay on track with your goals.

But, if your mindset isn’t cooperating, you’ll be working against yourself.

Get your thinking right by practicing a mindset of gratitude, and learn how to be mindful of what’s truly important in your life.

Sometimes we can give too much attention to things we don’t even really value, just because it feels good in the moment. Learn to be thankful for simple things, and your finances will get less complicated.

Adopting an attitude of gratitude will help you stay focused on your money values, and minimize impulse purchases. You could keep a gratitude journal, or even download a gratitude reminder app to create this healthy mindset habit.

10. Know the reasons for buying stuff you don’t need

A little self-awareness can go a long way.

If you’re like the average person, heightened emotions can be a big reason why your credit card bills are too high. 

Before you go to Target or pay for those online purchases, ask yourself a few reflective questions:

  • What am I feeling right now? (lonely, bored, sad, angry, ecstatic, etc.)
  • Are my feelings influencing my decision to go shopping?
  • Do I need something specific, or is this just mindless shopping to buy something new? 
  • Am I going shopping because I think it will make me feel better?

Answering these questions *before* you head out the door may put you in a healthier mindset to make better spending decisions.

Take the time to think about why you’re going shopping before you buy more stuff.

11. Get accountable for your shopping habits

When it comes to making daily spending decisions, it always helps to have accountability. Just knowing you have someone checking in on your financial health can help immensely.

This person could be a spouse or partner, a trusted friend, or a personal finance coach. Whoever it is, give this accountability partner the permission to ask how you’re doing with spending whenever they want.

The benefit of inviting someone to do this is that they will also encourage and cheer you on when you’re getting closer to your goals.

If you don’t feel comfortable confiding in another person about your spending habits, you could also use a mobile app. There are many personal finance apps that will track your spending and your debts, so you can see exactly how you’re doing with your money.

The important thing is to not ignore your actions. It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking things aren’t so bad – but numbers don’t lie. Find a way to stay accountable, so you’re making decisions based on facts.

12. Get intentional

Many people are living paycheck to paycheck simply because they aren’t being intentional with their money. They don’t know what they truly value, so they make financial decisions based on emotion instead of intention.

Take the time to write down how your money improves the quality of your life. Know how you want to spend it so you can reach your long-term goals. Be intentional about how you use your money.

This means having written goals, a monthly budget, and an eye on your financial future. Learn to consider your future self when you’re making money decisions. Think of the consequences of your actions not just for today, but years from now.

Having this lens will help you resist impulse buys and minimize emotional spending. Get intentional with your finances, so you know *why* you choose to spend or not spend money.

13. Prioritize your purchases

Write down a list of 4 to 5 things that you want to buy. They could be as small as a pair of shoes, or as big as a European vacation. Then, prioritize your list.

Having a written list will be a good reminder that you have better things to spend your money on than a meaningless, spontaneous purchase.

When I decided I wanted to save for a Hawaiian vacation, that became my priority. It was my motivation to work more hours, and prioritize savings over spending. So, even though my favorite pair of shoes were looking a little worn, and my smartphone was getting a little slow, I had already decided these weren’t important. 

And, guess what? Hawaii was amazing! And I never regretted once saving all that money.

14. Be aware of clever marketing

Big brands are experts at clever marketing. But, that doesn’t mean you need to fall prey to their tactics to get you to spend more.

Just being aware of the purpose behind the marketing can help you resist the temptation to give in. You might think that you’re getting the better deal, but that is seldom true. Most of the time, you never needed to spend the money in the first place.

So, when you’re offered something free or discounted (after you buy a certain amount), take the time to decide if you really need it. The bottom line is, to get something free you usually have to spend more. 

Don’t give in to these marketing tactics. Decide beforehand that you’re only buying what you need, regardless of any tempting offers. If it’s going to cost you more than you were planning to spend, then it’s no deal.

A few retail strategies to get you to spend more include limited-time offers, 2 for 1 deals, discount racks, product samples, free shipping, and display placement. Even the lighting, colors, and aromas in a store are meant to keep you shopping longer.

Don’t fall for it. 

15. Crunch the numbers

Before you put that new big screen TV in the shopping cart, do a little mental math. 

  • How many hours do you have to work to pay for it?
  • How much closer would that money get you to a zero credit card balance?
  • What percentage of your savings account will this purchase take?

Take the emotion out of it, and look at the numbers instead.

Sometimes this is all you’ll need to do to stop buying stuff you don’t really need.

16. Only buy quality

I have been guilty of making price the most important factor in a spending decision. Unfortunately, that mentality has cost me dearly over the years.

I used to buy particle-wood furniture, cheap shoes, and knockoff purses. I’ll tell you right now, you get what you pay for.

Being wise with your money isn’t just about spending less. It’s about spending smart.

When you buy quality items, they will last longer, be more dependable, and you’ll actually appreciate them more.

Sure, higher quality usually means a bigger price tag. But, in the long run, your money will last longer.

So, don’t be swayed by the cheap stuff. If you’re shopping at a second hand store or a swap meet, don’t buy something just because it doesn’t cost much. Save your money for something that will last.

17. Practice minimalism

Minimalism has become more popular in recent years, as more and more people are choosing to own fewer possessions and household items in favor of a simpler life.

A minimalist lifestyle will help you stay focused on keeping a decluttered home, and intentional with every spending decision. If you’re going to buy something, it really needs to count!

Practicing minimalism is a great way to simplify your life. You have less to store, clean, maintain, and use. 

18. Keep yourself busy

If you struggle with impulse shopping and buying stuff you don’t need, you might have too much time on your hands.

Pick a hobby or find an activity that can occupy your time and mind without draining your wallet. This will give you something that’s productive while keeping you out of Target.

There are many options that won’t cost you a penny. Reading books from the library, working out to YouTube videos, or mastering your smartphone’s camera will keep you busy for free.

19. Understand needs vs wants

You might think you really *need* a new fancy dress, when the reality is you don’t. You already have three in your closet that are perfectly capable of doing the job.

Of course, you already know this. You may just have to keep it in perspective.

When you can admit that you don’t need something new, then you’re acknowledging that your choice to spend money is a different kind of need.

Maybe you’re bored, or jealous, or sad, or lonely. Maybe you want to feel better. 

Once you identify any psychological or emotional need that you want to address, you can consider other options. After all, spending money isn’t the only way to feel better. And, there are definitely spending choices that won’t make you feel worse later.

Take your dog for a walk. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Write a letter or journal.

The point is, get in touch with what it is you really need, and differentiate this from what you want. Once you can do this, you’ll spend less money.

20. Keep the big picture in mind

The financial decisions you make today can be far reaching. If you’re short-sighted with your spending, then you’ll struggle to reach your long-term goals.

This is why it’s important to have a specific vision for your future, as well as financial goals that align with your money values.

Don’t limit yourself to just getting by this month, or this year. Think 5, 10, even 25 years into the future. Break down your big picture goals into small steps, so you know what you need to do today. 

Think of your future self as someone who is relying on you to make wise financial decisions today. Someday, you’ll be that person – and you’ll be thankful for your younger self who didn’t waste money on buying unnecessary purchases.

21. You have a choice

You can choose to jeopardize your financial future by giving in to immediate gratification and impulsive spending in the present.

Or, you can decide that you’re going to put your future first, and be intentional with your money.

You have the choice. 

You are not a victim to bad financial decisions. You can take control, and change direction. You can choose to stop buying stuff that’s eating up your savings and stealing from your legacy.

Make the right choice. For you, your future self, and your loved ones.

Why it’s important to learn how to stop buying stuff

Many people waste money carelessly because they think they’ll just make more tomorrow.

Unfortunately, nobody knows what the future holds. This is why it’s crucial to build good money habits today to ensure your financial security.

Statistics show that women typically live longer than men. So, if you’re a woman, I encourage you to consider how you can prepare yourself financially if you end up living longer than your spouse. You can’t just rely on Social Security, because that’s only meant to be a supplement. So, you may need to have the skills to get a good job.

You might also want to consider building passive income streams for additional support.

And, it’s important that you are somewhat financially literate so you can make wise decisions and manage your money well.

But one thing that is critical and will make all the difference is knowing how to control your spending.

If you can learn how to stop buying stuff that wastes money, and develop better shopping habits – such as being frugal or building the discipline of delayed gratification – you will be able to live comfortably on less than you’re used to.

Learning how to stop spending money takes time and intention. If you’re not purposeful about changing your habits, you’ll have difficulty living below your means and saving for the future.

Don’t forget to download this free 2-page Spend Less Plan worksheet!


In summary: Stop buying stuff and start saving more

Nobody else is going to care as much about your financial goals as you are. In order to be successful in achieving financial independence, you must take full responsibility for yourself and your actions.

This means taking the initiative to identify the habits you need to replace, putting your financial future first, getting out of debt, and addressing all the other issues that are holding your back from your money goals.

You’re not a victim of your circumstances.

You are a champion of your choices.

You can choose to respond differently to the temptation of spending money.

You can change your habits so they serve you instead of enslave you.

Take control of your future today. Retirement is so much closer than you realize – and the time to prepare for it is getting shorter by the minute.

Be intentional with your thoughts and actions.  Spend some time thinking about your future and the goals you’ve always wanted to achieve. 

Then, start building your life from your future, instead of your past.  In fact, start building a relationship with your future self as a way to guide your decisions in the present.

Having this mindset will support you in the changes you need to make today, because they will ultimately benefit your future.

Learning how to stop buying stuff you don’t need is so much more than just making sacrifices. It’s about investing in your dreams, your goals, and yourself.

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How To Stop Buying Stuff and Wasting Money: 21 Smart Strategies

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