Save Money on Superficiality

Save on Superficial Purchases

People waste a lot of money on superficial choices. But you can change that with some mindful spending. Let’s look at a few examples to help you save money and reduce waste in your business or career.

Ways to Spend on the Superficial

Buying Brand Names

Everyone wants the best, and everyone knows you can save a ton of money if you buy alternatives to big brand names. This principle can be applied to many different areas.

  • Beauty products
  • Groceries
  • Vitamins
  • Tools
  • Most products

Established brands compete with significantly cheaper store brands. When manufacturers have extra capacity, they take contracts to manufacture store brands. This means that your unbranded ketchup might come from the same plant as the fancy stuff. A surprisingly small number of consumers take advantage of this, and although the savings aren’t significant, they can certainly add up. Buying store brands instead of name brands can save a few dollars on every grocery trip. If you go to the grocery store once a week and save three dollars per trip, that’s over $150 per year saved. In fact, if you have a family, this can be even more! Of course, savings can be greatly amplified if you use price matching offered by many larger retailers. Price matching can sometimes get you a better product for the same price – it’s worth considering.

Buying When Convenient

Retailers have become very smart in encouraging consumers to buy things. Candy bars and magazines near the check-out counter are priced significantly and encourage impulse purchases. How often have you popped into the grocery store for one item and left with five? Have you noticed that you have to walk to the very back of the grocery store to get milk, making you walk past many other products?

Similarly, buying at convenience stores, restaurants and gas stations can devastate the wallet. Soft drinks at full price at the gas station can cost over $2 per bottle more than when purchased in bulk at the grocery store. Eating at a restaurant, even a cheap meal, can often cost over 300% more than if you had prepared the meal yourself. Usually, these convenience purchases are made because we fail to plan, are hungry or thirsty, and have nothing to satisfy those cravings. A little planning can do a lot when trying to save money.

Paying for Simple Tasks

Paying someone to do your laundry instead of doing it yourself can cost significant sums.  Other examples include changing your snow tires, cutting grass, shovelling snow, or cleaning your own home instead of paying someone else to do it. Doing things yourself can literally add up to thousands of dollars per year. Plus, if you get exercise cleaning your house, you can also save money on that gym membership.

Status Items


Men can be particularly bad for this, buying a sleek, sexy vehicle that the ladies and their friends envy instead of one that suits their minimal needs. Buying the car is often just the beginning because once they have the car, it has to be customized cars with fancy fenders, exhaust systems, rims, decals and the like. I know of one instance where a gentleman, who made a significant income, had almost nothing left at the end of the year because he kept pouring money into his car. He raced (legally), and the car’s wear and tear required him to work on it every weekend.

Vehicles are negative cash-flow assets. In other words, your vehicle typically doesn’t earn you anything and incurs regular costs to keep on the road – be it gas, oil changes, or customization. In general, I encourage clients to identify their minimum necessities and buy a vehicle that will cost them as little as possible on an annual basis – preferably used – and keep it well maintained. Falling behind on oil changes or not inflating your tires can cost you extra gas or unnecessary repairs.

Luxury Items

Watches are a good example of things people spend tens of thousands of dollars on. But no one needs a watch anymore. All cell phones have a clock built in. It’s a waste of money to buy a $10,000 watch to impress people with your status when you can get time off your phone.

The smartphone is another great example. You can get a decent smartphone for $200 CAD in 2020. Why spend $900 CAD on a smartphone that doesn’t have more than the cheaper one? Those brands aren’t worth the extra money.

Things You Don’t Use or Need

Whether they are magazines, cable TV (ever heard of streaming? you’re already paying for the internet) or mobile phone data, keeping your subscriptions (and mobile purchases) in check is a key way to save money. Magazines can be a huge culprit. How many times have you thrown out a magazine you haven’t read? I know of one instance where a gentleman still continues to buy the subscription he bought his mother for her birthday – even though his mother passed away three years ago (the memories of your mother live in your head, not in a magazine subscription). Last year, about 160,000 cable subscriptions were cancelled, and how did the cable companies respond? They increased prices to the remaining customers to make up for the difference. Read about it here: Review your subscriptions annually to see where cuts can be made – it can be surprising how much they add up.


Listen to bank commercials about the products they provide. Usually, it’s to borrow more money from them at a low introductory rate that disappears after a few months. Besides lending, insurance that is often overly restrictive and not actually useable has become a product that the banks have been pushing. They can collect a regular income from the premiums the consumer pays with little or no risk of paying out a claim. Watch for a clause that nullifies the insurance should you have another source of insurance to avoid these products – commonly in travel and mortgage insurance.

Using credit and debit cards regularly makes it harder to understand how much you’re spending – and makes it easier to make impulse and convenience purchases. Fees from the use of debit cards can really add up as well, and allowing your account to go under the minimum balance can result in significant monthly fees. A little planning and review can help you understand how much your bank charges you. Recently, there has been a trend for free apps from the bank. These are not free – they allow the bank to gather more information about you and your spending habits and target you for more lending.

Your Home

Not keeping your home well maintained can cause you to use extra energy in heating or cooling, resulting in higher hydro and gas bills. Spending a little money to make your home energy efficient can result in thousands of dollars of savings down the road. Simple practices, such as turning off the air conditioning when you leave, can save money too. Taking it a step further and unplugging everything when you go on vacation to prevent phantom draws can result in hundreds more.

Decorating the home can be very expensive. It’s easy to buy new furniture or appliances because they’re on sale, even though you may not need them.

I have seen clients spend tens of thousands of dollars on renovations and then move a few months later, not recovering what they spent. Renovations can add to the value of your home, but only certain renovations are proven to have positive returns on your investment. Renovate to enhance your enjoyment of the home, not as an investment.

When you renovate or decorate your home, you are spending money that will likely earn you little to no return.

Irresponsible Saving

Wait, what!? Isn’t saving responsible? In general, saving has a positive effect on your financial future. However, there are instances where it doesn’t really help you. We’re talking about stocking up on items that are on sale to save money (we highly recommend RRSPs and TFSAs). Sales are everywhere, and often retailers advertise sales that really aren’t that good. When you find a good deal, do you buy dozens of the item or one? Recently, I came across a case where a family was cleaning out a relative’s home after they had passed and ended up throwing out dozens of tins of tuna that had been bought on sale back in the 70s. A deal is only a deal if you need, want and use the product you’re purchasing. If you don’t need it, it’s probably not a deal for you.

Not Paying Attention

Hands down, the main reason most people face financial difficulty is not paying attention to their finances. Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill on time and been charged interest or late fees? Do you have a list of bills you need to pay, the amounts and due dates? Planning these things out helps immensely. Get organized and make a plan – remember, not planning is planning to fail. You cannot get your finances in order without a plan.

Don’t Waste Money

Benjamin Franklin said a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Paying attention to your finances, buying only what you need, and doing things for yourself will help your financial situation improve.

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