Stuff I Buy (Plus the Monthly Update)

Each month, I answer your questions and share news about future projects. Enjoy the monthly update for July 2011!

A reader named Harper asked:

“What are the material things you absolutely love that you have kept in your life? What are the ones that, although you love them, you have let go? How has this been for you?”

I gave these questions a lot of thought. It brought me back 3 years, which was around the time I was learning to spend less money.

While I buy less stuff now than I did then, but I don’t feel like my quality of life has dropped. The great thing about spending on a budget is I don’t have to worry about money. I know when I can spend and when I can’t. It’s pretty simple. That’s why I love using cash for life’s pleasures. Debit and credit cards make it too easy to overspend.

Stuff I let go (mostly)

  • Home decor. I redecorate with items I already have, kid’s art and photographs. My home is very minimal with decor, so that helps, too. Try it: Move decor into other rooms and see how it works. This year, I used two indoor pillows to spruce up my outdoor swing. Lovely!
  • Stuff from the Dollar Spot or any dollar marketed store. It’s usually worthless and accumulates as clutter.
  • Books. I rent them free from the library.
  • Movie rentals. Two words: Late fees. For this reason, I really, really try to enforce this house rule. Netflix is where we get (most) of our movies.
  • Magazines. I read them free from the library or go online.
  • Annuals. I haven’t planted annual flowers for two years now.
  • Christmas cards. This saves us about $45 per year.
  • Trendy hair-dos. I still get my hair cut and highlighted, but can’t afford the intricate styles I tried years ago.
  • Seasonal or holiday specific stuff. Do I need special glasses for lemonade? No. Do I need snowflake plates for Christmas? No. I have some of these things from the past, but try to avoid buying them anymore.
  • Smart phone. My cell phone minutes plan is the lowest possible. The phone itself was free and doesn’t have any fancy features. For us, it’s cheaper to use the land line for long distance calls.
  • Soda. I prefer homemade iced tea. I will buy it for the kids on special occasions like birthdays or vacations.
  • Bottled water. We refill our own bottles from the tap.

Stuff I buy

Since we’re talking splurges, here are a few things I find worth squeezing into my budget:

  • Food and drinks at local restaurants. This is how I spend most of my personal allowance. I love eating with friends or writing while someone else cooks and cleans up after me. 🙂
  • Quality beauty products. For instance, I love Aveda AirControl hair spray and GloMinerals foundation.
  • Occasionally, new clothes. I don’t shop often, but when I do, I follow the plus one, minus one rule to keep my closet minimal.
  • Upgraded laptop. My old one was getting ridiculous.
  • Writing retreats/blog courses. I am a member & affiliate of the A-List Blogger Club. This fall, I’ll be attending a retreat specifically for children’s writers (my novel is young adult fiction).
  • Quality coffee. We grind our own beans and try to buy only organic, fair trade varieties.
  • Good red wine. Try anything by Bogle, my current fave.
  • As a family – vacations and music. We own Little Girl’s violin; Little Boy rents a cello. (Did you know I play piano?) Mr. Right plays violin and mandolin. Travelling is important to us, too.
  • Halvsies for kids’ wants. This system works great for us. We may not be able to afford the trendy skate shoes, but we will pay half. The kids use their own spending money to pay the rest. We’ve done this for summer camp, jeans, shoes and even treats at restaurants.

Giving up splurges can feel like a punishment. Eliminate the least painful cuts first. Give something up for a week and see if you miss it. Giving up soda was easy for me. Giving up my morning coffee would be incredibly unpleasant. It’s a splurge we’ve kept in the budget.


Reading these lists, I’m reminded how truly blessed I am. There is so much to be thankful for, and pinching a few pennies has helped me appreciate the indulgences I can still afford. I always have food to eat, clean water and a roof over my head. In many ways, I am rich.

Celebrating Your Favorite Posts from July

In case you missed them:

  1. Mr. Right’s Hobbies (Find Time & Money for Yours, Too)
  2. 5 Practices that Cultivate Peace of Mind
  3. 10 Etsy Lessons from a Top Seller

August projects

  • I’m bringing back my stepparenting posts. My plan is to write on a blended family topic once a month. (Check out my past posts on Simple Marriage.)
  • Seriously … I WILL make my own body lotion this month. Unfortunately, the ingredients weren’t available locally, so I need to buy them online. Mountain Rose Herbs was a recommended source.
  • As always, if you have a question, you can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or email melissa [at] peaceandprojects [dot] com.

What stuff do you buy? What have you let go?

Can you help spread the word about my writing? I would be so thankful!

Photo by PierrePocs

* * *

Learn how to spend less money in Melissa’s book, The Hybrid Homemaker: A Guide to Personal and Financial Freedom.

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Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Brittnie August 2, 2011 at 5:35 am

I think this is a great post. I have let go buying bottled water and certain brand name grocery items. Honestly the off brand whole wheat pasta tastes just the same, to me, as the fancier high end brand. Another rule of thumb for me is I try to wait until I am totally out of a product before I go buy the replacement. This eliminates the urge to buy for example another fun body lotion or spray when I have one or two at home that are 1/2 full. Works for me!

2 Melissa August 3, 2011 at 6:52 am

Hi Brittnie,
Yes! Waiting to run out is such a money saver! I won’t have to buy a new lip gloss for years. Same for make up. They say it expires, but so long as I’m not irritated by the product, I don’t pay much attention to that.

Another good point you make – buying off brand. That helps save on toiletries and at the grocery store.
Great suggestions!

3 Nicole August 2, 2011 at 7:19 am

I love that you mentioned the holiday/seasonal specific stuff. I have cut back on this as well. My girls LOVE christmas but I had to stop buying christmassy things and instead focussed on doing festive things rather than decorating the house within an inch of it’s life. I don’t want to sort through plates and bowls with Santa’s face on them to get to something – so they are all gone!
Besides groceries I buy my kids clothes from ebay when someone is selling a large bulk lot of rarely worn clothes in the right size. The other item we spend on is holidays. We love ’em! People keep telling me that we’re “so lucky you get to go on so many holidays”. We are lucky but it’s not luck – it’s budgeting and being minimal with our needs. It makes for a simple, lovely life.
It is so nice to be in control of your money instead of the other way around!

4 Melissa August 3, 2011 at 6:50 am

Hi Nicole,
I know what you mean about people thinking we are lucky. To some, it may appear we have a lot of money – we go on vacation frequently and out to eat. That’s all part of our budget though. Getting new clothes and new home decor isn’t as important.

I love making seasonal treats for the holidays and the kids do, too. For Christmas, I’ll make cookies, cranberry nut bread and maybe some special entrees. That puts me in the holiday spirit just as much as decorating.
Thanks for your comment!

5 Harper August 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

Thanks for this post – and the comments. All of the perspective and suggestions are terrific! Personally, I am trying to eliminate impulse buys. Also, I agree with Brittnie – definitely letting myself run out of things before I buy more.

I recently made over my bedroom organization and storage and did all my “shopping” in my garage – and guess what? It turned out great and it doesn’t look like I pieced it together. Now I am saving up for new blinds from IKEA to complete the look.

Great post! And thanks again. = )

6 Melissa August 3, 2011 at 6:48 am

Hi Harper,
That’s so amazing that you found everything you needed in the garage. I’m impressed. Isn’t it exciting to save money? I think it feels better than spending after a while.

Thanks for connecting to ask the question. Take care!

7 Lauren August 4, 2011 at 11:50 am

I pay $400 a year for my hairstyle, which needs to be maintained every 6 weeks, but it makes me feel beautiful and professional (I work outside the home) so it’s worth it for me. Also, it’s my one thing that I do that makes me feel truly pampered – and all moms need at least one thing.
I don’t buy shampoo for my daughter’s hair (she’s 3 and her hair only needs a rinse most times), themed wrapping paper (a plain roll of white or red works for all occasions), greeting cards (we make them or write a note on stationery), a texting plan for my phone, movies or cable (we stream Netflix and Hulu to our TV) …
The areas I struggle with are home decor and clothing. My simple/frugal side doesn’t want to waste money or buy unnecessary items, but I work in graphic design and have an inherent love of beautiful things. I work constantly to balance these two competing forces.

8 Melissa August 5, 2011 at 7:36 am

Hi Lauren,
Thanks for sharing your list. I know what you mean about beautiful things. I do think that living on a budget makes me a more mindful shopper. So while I may not be able to afford a beautiful new shirt every week, I can save up an splurge on a quality piece every month or two. Also I don’t believe in guilt for purchases, unless that’s what you truly feel. Do YOU feel guilty buying new clothes, or is that guilt someone else is trying to put on you.

It’s important to know how we feel about something, and follow our heart.
Take care,

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