5 Things That Happen When You Stop Buying Shit You Don’t Need

Want to stop buying shit you don't need? Struggling to stick to a budget? Looking for budget tips that don't make you feel deprived? This post will help you stick to your budget. Promise! #personalfinance #moneytips #budgeting #FIRE #savemoney

Friends, it’s time to talk about the back corner of our closets.

And the bottom drawer in the bathroom.

And that weird, hard-to-reach cupboard above the fridge.

You know what I’m talking about. And you know what lives in those places.

The dress that still has the tags still on it. The expensive conditioner the stylist said you absolutely needed. The KitchenAid mixer that seemed like a great wedding gift.


For yearrrrrs I’d fill my closet with ‘close enough’ clothes I found on sale. I’d buy any cosmetic that was packaged cleverly or dispensed in a novel way. Oh, what’s that? Spray-on eyeshadow and foam lipstick? Into it.

For a huge swath of my life, I bought shit I didn’t need. Like, lots of it.

But one day, after my second Goodwill drop-off in as many weeks, I took a long, hard look at my spending habits and decided things needed to change.

I decided to stop buying shit I didn’t need.

Of course, these changes didn’t happen overnight. Habit change is hard.

But little by little, Target run by Target run, I started spending my money more intentionally. I started to make my spending align with my happiness and my values.

And interestingly enough, I don’t get a lot of happiness out of $17 Target sundresses that fall apart after two washes or a tube of clear lip gloss when I already have five at home!

Without exaggeration, my life changed when I stopped buying shit I didn’t need. And I bet yours will, too.

5 things that happen when you stop buying shit you don’t need

First, let’s define “need”

I would never suggest that you should limit yourself to only buying food, rent, and one pair of sensible shoes. No one wants to live that life.

Instead, let’s define “something you need” as “something that is frequently used, actively improves your life, or brings you joy.”

But I bet this definition wasn’t really necessary. I imagine you know what it looks like and how it feels when you buy something you don’t need.

You know the slightly icky feeling when you pull something out of a Target bag you abandoned on the entryway. You know the inner grimace when you see a shirt with tags still on it, hanging in the closet.

And you also probably know how it feels when you pull something on in a fitting room and think “OMG I AM A GODDESS WILL THEY CUT THE TAGS OFF SO I CAN WEAR THIS HOME.” You know how it feels open the package in your car.

You also know how it feels to own something that positively impacts your life every blessed day.

For example, I have two pets, two teenage stepsons, and hardwood floors. Yes, I do actually need a $350 robot vacuum that cleans while I do other things.

I also need my beautiful coffee mug, my multiple sets of satin pajamas, and weekly bouquets from Trader Joes.

I don’t, however, need the skirt that was on sale but doesn’t quite fit. I also don’t need a fourth set of serving spoons, any more books for my to-read pile, or more throw pillows. Ever.

When you stop buying shit you don’t need, you have more money

Well, obviously, right? When you stop buying things you don’t need, you have more money to buy things you do.

But it’s about more than that. You have more money for outsourcing tasks that make you miserable. You can get groceries delivered, have a professional do your taxes, or hire a housecleaner.

You have more money to pay off the debt that’s stressing you out and to bulk up your emergency fund.

You have more money for a therapist or the not-covered-by-insurance treatments that make you feel better and happier. You can buy a flight to see Grandma or your niece’s graduation. You have more money to upgrade to a safer, more fuel-efficient car or donate to important causes.

When you stop buying shit you don’t need, you have more time

Most of us exchange our time for money. The more we work, the more money we make.

When we stop buying things we don’t need, we have more money left over at the end of the month which means we can work less. Maybe we don’t need that ‘side hustle’ anymore. We don’t need to take the extra shift or work overtime.

And when we work less, we have more time for the things that make us happy. Things like long, lazy walks with the dog, three-day camping weekends, or just reading a book from cover to cover.

Related: How to figure out what makes you happy so you can add more of it to your life.

When you stop buying shit you don’t need, you feel better about yourself

Do you get a sinking feeling when you look at your bank account statement? Do you wonder “Where does it all go?” or “Welp, I did it again – overspent on things I don’t need.”

When we stop buying things we don’t need, we stop feeling that way.

It doesn’t feel good to see that we’re spending more than we earn. It feel gross to watch people buy things we want but can’t afford because we spent $400 on Target sweaters and novelty pencil holders.
When we take control of our spending, we take control of our lives. And that feels pretty amazing. Click To Tweet

When you stop buying shit you don’t need, you feel better about your space

We all know how it feels to open a cupboard or closet and see regrettable purchases staring back us: the Instapot we never use, the going out shirt we bought in hopes of becoming someone who likes going out.

Is it fun look at Vitamix you couldn’t afford and never use? Nope!

Want to recline against throw pillows that are currently accruing 18% interest on a credit card? Probably not.
When we repeatedly buy things we don’t need or even really want - particularly clothes, beauty products, and home goods - we’re essentially living inside our own personal museums of bad financial decisions. Click To Tweet
When we stop buying things we don’t need – when we use things up before we buy more, when we buy things because we truly want them or they bring us joy – our spaces become happy, light, fun. They’re no longer filled with things that happened to be on sale and reminders of  credit card debt.

When you stop buying shit you don’t need, you trust yourself more

I’ve heard SO MANY PEOPLE say things like “Oh, I can’t be trusted with credit cards!” or “Don’t let me near the Macy’s Labor Day sale – who knows what I’ll come home with!”

This kind of talk is super dis-empowering. We’re all adults here. We’re all responsible for our choices + behavior.  

That being said, when someone regularly buys things they don’t need (or particularly like or want) it’s easy to see why they’d feel like they can’t trust themselves. It’s understandable that they would think their Shopping Self didn’t have their best interest at heart.

When you stop buying things you don’t need, you begin to trust yourself more. You can walk into Target knowing you’re only going to walk out with things you truly need and want. You no longer have a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde relationship with sales racks. You can shop without worrying things will somehow, mysteriously, end up in your shopping cart.

But I want to hear from you! Do you buy a lot of things you don’t need? If you used to and you’ve gotten past it – how’d you do that? Share your insights in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. 9 surprisingly easy ways to avoid buyer’s remorse

Photos by Artem Bali and Laura Marques on Unsplash

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  1. Michele

    I used to spend like this until I moved to NYC and literally came face to face with my museum of bad financial decisions. In the suburbs they weren’t so obvious. In a tiny apartment they haunted me and that was all I needed to change my thinking and my spending habits. Now the problem isn’t poor spending habits, it’s all of the expensive clothes and shoes I no longer wear but feel sick at the thought of just giving away. It’s so overwhelming to go through it all. Proposed solution: Find an app where I can at least attempt to recoup some of that wasted money by selling my “museum pieces.” One step at a time…Thanks for a great post!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      You can do it! You’ll feel so good once you’re not surrounded by things that don’t make you feel bad! I’ve never used it, but I hear great things about Poshmark.

      • Michele

        Yes!!! I could not remember the name. Thank you. I’ll check it out. And by the way..I love your new cut! Super stylish!

        • Sarah Von Bargen

          Thanks so much! I seriously think I’ll have this haircut for the next 10 years!

      • Anonymous

        Donate and throw out all of them

  2. Susie

    I love this. I am getting a lot better about not buying shit I don’t need, but I still just feel completely overwhelmed with all the crap in my house. I think it might be because I have two little kids and not a very big space. But I’m like constantly fantasizing about purging and then sometimes, actually doing it!

  3. Simone

    May I have that old Vitamix of yours that you never use? 🙂

  4. Tis

    Foam lipstick! lololol
    (That’s not really a thing, is it?)

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Not that I know of – but if it was, I’d try it!

  5. Karen Lanzetta

    Amen! I have come to the same insight, I like your “You have enough” phrase. For me it is usually “I am Not Shopping” when my husband asks “Do you want to look around?” at LL Bean or other places.
    2018 is my year without shopping and I have mostly been successful. I feel a lot less of the “what a good sale!” pull than I did before. Now just need to get rid of all the extra stuff in my house 😀

    THanks for a great article!

    Karen | https://OurCarpeDiem.com

  6. Branleigh

    I loved this. And it makes *TOTAL* sense.


    What if I think the items will make me happy? And it’s only later, when my bank account looks pathetic and my apartment is crowded that I realize it was compulsive behavior speaking and not my best self?! It’s a struggle for me still. Any thoughts? Thanks.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I’d suggest doing the work of figuring out what really makes you happy – then you’re less likely to buy these things that don’t add anything to your life <3

  7. Eleanor Nelson


  8. Vanja Adzovic

    I can’t adequately describe just how much I LOVE this. With every paragraph I was thinking, yes, yes, yes!

    You hit the nail on the head. *round of applause*

  9. Mikki

    I came to a screeching halt with shit recently. I said aloud “no more shit, period.” This came after our refrig went out and we needed to decide which one of us would buy new. I asked my group of friends if they knew of a good used appliance place and my friend who flips said come get this one from this house I finished. FREE. It then occurred to me I can work to get mostly everything free or used. This was a month ago. Since then I have not even eaten out. My husband and I “needed” an xmas tree….he got one used from someone moving. Its now becoming an excellent habit. Meantime I am going to start to tackle this museum and put things online and sell. Sick of piles of useless shit. More interested in my family.

  10. Kim

    Oh I can identify. After staring at the hard boiled egg cooker and homemade pasta maker in my overly crammed cabinets, I started looking around for other ‘Shit I don’t need’ and found SO MUCH STUFF. Time to reevaluate how I spend (or save) my money.

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