9 Ways To Avoid Buying Things You Don’t Need

Most people already own many things.  In fact, a lot of our homes are warehouses for our possessions.  I have been steadily going through my stuff and getting rid of everything I no longer have any use for.

We are so conditioned to simply buying a new item that we think we need or want, but there are other ways of getting these items without adding to your clutter and saving you money.  Here are 9 ways to avoid buying things you don’t need:

Serial Ownership

This is merely a fancy way of saying buy used items and, when you no longer require them, resell them.  Not only does this keep still functioning items out of the landfills, but also the cost of ownership is substantially reduced.

Bartering and Swapping

Many things last longer than their owners maintain an interest in them.  Instead of storing them, pass them along so other people may enjoy them.  Books come to mind in this category, as well as CD’s, DVD’s, computer and board games and most exercise and hobby items.  Once you’ve joined a network you will always have a constant supply of new entertainment.  You can trade directly, or set up a credit-based system.

Free Things

You could go dumpster diving or troll your neighbourhood alleys for cast offs.  A better way is to check out sites such as Freecycle or Kijiji.ca.  You can get anything from furniture, children’s toys and even free firewood.  You simply have to pick it up.  If you don’t see what you want, post a “wanted” ad and see how many people respond.  Then when they are no longer needed, put them back into circulation.


How often will you use it?  An expensive power tool that you will use once a year or so could be rented from a home improvement store.  When we went on long road trips, we used to rent a more comfortable (air-conditioned) vehicle for a couple of weeks instead of using our totally option-less Hyundai Accent.


The cardinal rule of borrowing is always to return the borrowed item in the same or better condition – no exceptions.  This is a good way to have access to something without having to store it.

Sharing Ownership

My brother lives on a cul-de-sac in a Vancouver suburb.  Most of the time they don’t get any snow in the winter, so when it does snow the neighbours share a snow shovel! (In Calgary, where I live, all my neighbours aspire to owning their own snow blowers.)  Some things that can be shared are lawnmowers, rototillers, kitchen appliances (everyone gets a chance to try rarely used items such as ice cream makers, waffle irons and chocolate fountains), and tools and sports equipment.  Start a club with friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Use it Up and Wear it Out

If you take care of your stuff you will likely be able to use your current items for several years before they wear out.  You don’t need to buy new sheets and towels every couple of years.  Likewise, if you buy good quality clothing, it should last for a long time.  In fact buy the best quality you can afford for things that are often used.  Learn how to sew on a button, mend a seam and tighten a screw to extend their usefulness.

Live Behind the Cutting Edge

Do you have to be the first to own a new high-tech gadget or see a movie as soon as it comes out?  Wait a few months for the price to come down.  Wait for the DVD.  Last year’s model is effectively the same as the new model in everything from TV’s to shoes.  Watch for the old inventory to be cleared out at discounted prices at certain times of the year.

Don’t Buy Sets of Anything

Do you really need the power drill with the 108-piece bit set or 24-piece flatware?  Most people use only one or two pots most of the time.  You really only need to use two knives – a chef’s knife and a paring knife –  not a complete block set.  Figure out exactly what tools you need regularly and buy them.  You can always add another piece if need be.

Readers, how do you avoid buying things you don’t need?

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  1. Eric J. Nisall on August 2, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Personally, I have a problem with buying anything used. I see how a lot of people fail to take care of things, and it’s not up to my standard, so I would rather just buy new knowing that I’m getting it at an optimal condition. Also, I like having the warranty that comes with buying new, in addition to the benefit of having the extended coverage provided by my credit card, and no one is going to make any warranties on used items.

    • Boomer on August 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      @Eric J. Nisall
      I would also buy new if there was a warranty involved. I normally don’t buy any used items, but I have had things given to me that were still in good shape.

      • Eric J. Nisall on August 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm

        I’ve had stuff given to me, that I gladly accepted. In those instances, I wouldn’t really worry about the warranty too much since it was free, but that’s probably where I would draw the line. Buying used with no warranty isn’t something I’m a big fan of, especially when I don’t know the source. Of course, if you aren’t in a position to buy new, you most likely will have to settle in the meantime.

  2. Ann on August 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I avoid buying things I don’t need by waiting to by something till I am really sure. In other words, I don’t buy on impulse and I make a list when I go to the store and I stick to it.

    When I can buy used, I do that as well.

  3. Boomer on August 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Old electronics are hard to even give away probably because you can buy something more up to date quite inexpensively if you shop around. You can still recycle them. Our local Staples has a drop off for any used electronics.
    It’s too bad that it can be so hard to even give away your unwanted things.

  4. Boomer on August 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    The 30 day rule to think it over avoids impulse buying. Lots of times you don’t really need it and it adds to your clutter.

  5. Travis @debtchronicles on August 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Great points….I should print this out, laminate it, and stick it on my refrigerator as a daily reminder.

  6. financialwizardess on August 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Personally I would recommend not having catalogs delivered to the house (or at least disposing of them unread) and also avoiding groupon like the plague. I see so many of my friends justifying their purchases through these mediums, and to me it’s like inviting a salesperson into your home.

  7. KnowMoney.ca on August 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Another way to avoid buying things you don’t *really* need:

    If your IKEA purchase breaks, ask for spare parts! They have spare parts vending machines that meet many repair needs. If you don’t see what you need, ask at the service desk. Worked for me! For 50 cents, I was able to get 2 new wheels for my Antonius laundry basket, saving me from paying $29 for a new one.

  8. Single and Struggling on October 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t go shopping period. Stay away from the stores and malls, and only shop from the newspaper sale ads when looking for something you need. I need a new muffler and I will check out all the sales I can find, on the internet too. It’s amazing how much money you can save, by not spending in the first place.

  9. FI Journey on July 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I’m also a fan of the “wait a week” method of curbing your impulse spending. 4 times out of 5 I’ve changed my mind in that time and I have no buyer’s remorse. If I still end up wanting the item after a week then I know I will appreciate owning it.

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