7 Expensive Spending Habits & Their Money Saving Alternatives

Cutting back on spending can be overwhelming. Especially when something has become a habit that you don't even notice can add up to be so expensive. That being said, cutting back on expenses to set more money aside for savings does not need to be a big challenge.

One thing that will make cutting back a bit easier will be to replace the current habit with a less expensive one, not eliminate it altogether.

Why? Because if I tell you to just suddenly stop a spending habit that has become part of your daily routine, it can feel near impossible to do. Plus, maybe that habit (for example, morning coffee) brings you joy and brightens your day. So instead, replacing it with a similar but more frugal habit can be a beneficial way to keep the habit without sacrificing savings.

1. Buying Coffee Instead of Making it Yourself

This is one thing you'll hear me talk about over and over again on the blog because it is such a simple way to save money that many people aren't utilizing to their advantage. Buying coffee even a few times a week really adds up. Even a $2 coffee each day, 5 days a week = over $500/year. However, most coffees are more around the $5 mark which adds up to over $1,200 in the same scenario.


  • buy coffee grounds or mix and make it at home

  • buy instant coffee packets for at work or on the go

  • learn how to make your favorite treat coffee at home

Perhaps you buy coffee because it saves you time. The fix? Set your coffee maker up the night before. Maybe you don't know how to make coffee at home - check out one of the many fantastic Youtube tutorials that teach you exactly how simple it can be. Or maybe you'll just really miss your favorite latte or treat coffee, so find a recipe and duplicate it at home!

If you want to save a few hundred to a thousand dollars a year, coffee is one of the best and easiest places to start.

2. Buying Meals Instead of Making Them at Home

I get it, sometimes nothing beats your favorite meal, the environment of a restaurant, or having a meal ready for you at the end of a long day. But similar to coffee, dining out at a restaurant and even buying fast food are SUPER expensive habits. More expensive than you probably realize.

This expensive habit can really add up depending on the frequency you've been doing it as it proves to be much, much, MUCH (did I say much too much yet?) more expensive than cooking at home.

If you currently dine out once per week for $20, you're likely spending over $1,000 per year on it. Between that and coffee, we're already at huge savings! So check out the alternatives below to make dining out more of a special treat than a regular habit.


  • find a recipe for your favorite dine-out meal and try your hand at making it at home

  • make a list of go-to, simple recipes that you don't mind cooking - keep this list on the fridge, on your phone, or in a recipe book

  • prep a few freezer meals to have on hand for those days that you just don't feel like cooking (because lets be real, it happens!)

If you're looking to get started, I'd suggest using a worksheet to get organized, plan ahead, and stay on track. For this purpose, Intentional Ways offers free printables including a grocery list, meal planner, freezer meal log, and more. Just for you :)

3. Buying at Regular Price Instead of Sale Prices

If you're not looking for sale prices, you're missing out on so many potential savings opportunities. From groceries to clothes to everything in between, almost everything goes on sale at one time or another. If what you're looking at buying is at full price, consider the following alternatives.

I dedicated an entire post to how shopping sales on groceries can save you hundreds of dollars per year - check it out here.


  • take a look through flyers or websites to see if the item you're looking for is on sale anywhere else (chances are, it just might be)

  • see if the store you're interested in offers price match for lower prices elsewhere

  • check out other stores or brands to see if their prices are any lower for the same quality

4. Keeping Unused Subscriptions

Signing up for subscriptions is so easy and can be forgotten about until your credit card keeps being charged monthly. While this is great for things being utilized, sometimes a free trial turns into a year of credit card charges that you forgot about and never used the service for.


  • set a reminder on your phone for the date your free trial ends to make an intentional choice of whether or not you want to continue the service

  • unsubscribe for any unused subscriptions

  • cut back to only one provider of each service (ex: music, movies, memberships, etc.)

5. Withdrawal Fees

Depending on the way your banking is set up, withdrawal fees can be something that are encountered after using a card a certain amount of times. If you forget or don't notice it, they can really add up on a monthly basis!


  • make note of how often you're getting withdrawal fees

  • investigate what your situation is and learn about your options

6. Buying "Just Because" Something is on Sale

This is one that can be so easy to do but such a bad idea! Buying something just because its a good deal does not mean that you'll suddenly find a use for the item if you didn't need it. While you might have been saving off the the original price, you're still spending more than if you didn't buy it at all.

This can be quite a challenge, so I've written an entire post about the important questions to ask yourself when considering a purchase that really help to put it into perspective.


  • really consider the item before buying it

  • ask yourself a few questions to intentionally consider a purchase

7. Not Checking Out the Dollar Store

While I am all for paying for quality items, many items can be found at the dollar store without sacrificing the quality. Some common items include cards, storage bins, etc. I have even found great frames before that look pretty and do the job of framing a photo without costing more than $1.

I've done a closet makeover using dollar store items, made a dollar store centerpiece, and so much more. Don't pass up the dollar store, you never know what you may find!


  • check out items at the dollar store before looking elsewhere

  • consider buying some items at the dollar store instead of their more expensive versions elsewhere

Cutting back on spending can be a challenge, but the most challenging part may just be finding expensive habits and their less costly alternatives. These 7 are a great place to start your search and find ways to lessen these expensive purchases.

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