What your trash can teach you about saving money

All of us are constantly throwing money away. It may not feel like it, because you aren’t actually tossing dollar bills into a trash can, but the effect is ultimately the same.

The problem is that once you’ve bought something, you tend to forget about the Time Before – back when it wasn’t yours and you had to use real money to purchase it.

So when you’re throwing away that scratchy wool sweater you never wore, you forget that the sweater represents real money. So when we’re thinking of ways to save money, one of the first steps we should take is to ask ourselves, “What are we throwing away?”

Too much

To clarify, I don’t necessarily mean you ought to start digging through your open trash bags. Better, simply train yourself to be cognizant of what you’re throwing away. When something leaves your possession ask, “How did it come to this?”

When you’re scraping your plate into the garbage after dinner, ask yourself, “Did I make too much food?” One of our biggest sources of waste is food. We buy too much. We buy food and then forget about it. We buy food and then decide to go out to eat instead.

By taking the time to consider what you’re throwing away and why it’s going in the garbage, you may start picking up on bad habits that could potentially be corrected with time and effort.

Only what you need

So what are you wasting? If you are throwing away money, try out a few of these tricks to help you buy what you need, and use what you buy.

  • Unsure what to make for dinner? Rather than going out, you can use MyFridgeFood.com to help you make something with what you’ve already got. You just click off all the various foods you have in your house, and the website will send you back a list of recipes you can make with what’s on hand.
  • Try keeping an inventory. It might seem a little weird at first, but if you’ve ever run out to buy a lightbulb, only to find out you already had a lightbulb, you can see the value in keeping track of what you have.
  • Make a plan for everything. That’s right – everything. When you buy something make a plan for how and when it’s actually going to be used. (Note: you don’t have to actually plan out every single purchase, but you should train yourself to always be thinking, “When am I going to use this?”)
  • Ask yourself if you already own something that will get the job done before buying something new. This is a good way to get you thinking about what you already have and considering new and potentially creative ways to use those items.

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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