Money Management

How to Save Money by Changing Your Consumer Mindset

By  Karen Banes

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If you’re an adult in the first half of the twentieth century, you probably grew up with a consumer mindset. Shopping comes naturally to you. Consuming is most likely something you see as an inevitable part of life. It is, of course, but not to the extent that most of us assume.

Just 50 years ago, half the gadgets we have in our homes were not invented. Social norms dictated that big-ticket items, such as TVs, were a one-per-household purchase. A lot of the things we see as fashion items, such as winter coats and purses, were simply seen as a practical item, bought when the old one wore out and certainly not in multiples.

If you love to shop, can afford it, and get pleasure out of it, go right ahead (but please try and be a little greener and more sustainable about it). For many of us, shopping no longer gives us much pleasure, and many of us can’t really afford it either. So we’re constantly on the hunt for bargains. If that’s you, rather than constantly trying to get a bargain, consider how often you can refrain from purchasing something at all. After all, everything you don’t buy is 100% off.

Deciding to rent, borrow, or do without is a tough one for most Americans. The joy of ownership is something we’ve been conditioned into, and our desire for convenience is high. You do have to be a little more organized when you own less, but it really is about a shift in mindset more than anything else. Here are some things you can probably stop buying.

Major Purchases You’ll Only Use Once a Year

I’m talking about things like tools, electronics, camping gear, sports gear, and other large items that take up a lot of room. Do you really need a surfboard, skis, or a ton of camping gear, if you do these activities once a year? Or if you just want to give something a try and don’t even know if you’ll like it? Equipment can generally be rented easily and fairly cheaply.

Apps like Fat Llama and Idle allow you to rent almost anything, often within your local community. Commonly used categories include electronics, tools, sports equipment, cameras, DJ equipment, and musical instruments, as well as tents and marquees, and even RVs. You can, of course, make money with these apps too, renting out your own rarely used equipment. More informally, consider asking friends and family to borrow things you rarely use or check local Facebook groups to see if anyone in your community can help out.

A Vehicle That You Don’t Need 99% of the Time

I remember once being told by someone who owned a large, off-road, 4-wheel-drive truck, “You don’t need a vehicle like this 99% of the time, but the other 1% you need it 100%”. True, but then you could feasibly rent it on the few days each year you do need it. The cost of ownership when it comes to vehicles is so much more than the initial cost or the monthly payment. You’re still paying 100% of the insurance, maintenance, and other costs of owning that vehicle that you use 1% of the time. When you rent a vehicle as needed, you cut those costs too.

Fancy Clothes

This one is mainly for our female readers. Men can mostly wear the same suit or tux to every wedding or fancy event they are invited to. Women have a tendency to buy a new (expensive) outfit for every event, especially when there’s some overlap in guest lists. Designer dresses can be rented from both brick-and-mortar stores and online providers. If you go the online route, just make sure you’re using a reputable company before handing over payment information.

Regular Clothes

I’m not suggesting you walk around naked, but very few of us run a perfect, minimalist, capsule wardrobe and only ever buy new clothes when something needs replacing. Most new clothes are impulse buys that we don’t need and may not wear more than once or twice. It’s particularly tempting to buy clothes in outlet stores and sales because they’re ‘50% off’ so just keep reminding yourself, everything you don’t buy is 100% off.


Almost anything we think of as disposable has an eco-friendly, sustainable, reusable version these days, from face masks to razors to cotton pads. It usually doesn’t take long to start saving money if you replace something disposable that you buy on a regular basis with something reusable. The obvious bonus is that you’re generally saving the planet’s resources too.


Some subscriptions actually save you money and work out eco-friendly. Better a streaming service than hundreds of DVDs or CDs. Better a Kindle Unlimited subscription than thousands of books. However, other subscriptions not only cost you money, but are unsustainable too. I’ve replaced all my previous magazine subscriptions with one $5 a month subscription to Medium, for example. I get unlimited high-quality articles on a variety of topics and don’t have tons of glossy paper to recycle each month.

Items on Sale

Unless you can swear, hand on heart, that you genuinely need them, and would have bought them full-price, don’t buy items on sale. Our consumer mindset and constant marketing has trained us to buy things we don’t need and won’t use because they’re 20% off or even 50% off. So I remind you again, everything you don’t buy is 100% off.

If you don’t love the idea of renting or borrowing, rather than buying, that’s fair enough. Just be aware that what feels like a natural aversion really does come from a consumer mindset that you’ve been conditioned into. Cutting back on how much you consume can help you save money, live more sustainably, and even support your local community if you use one of the ‘rent from a local’ apps. Give it some consideration if you’re trying to save money and live a greener, more community-focused life.

Karen Banes

About the Author

Karen Banes

I’m a freelance writer specializing in online business, personal finance, travel and lifestyle. I also work as a content creator for hire, helping brands and businesses tell their stories, grow their audiences, and reach their ideal customers. I’ve lived, worked and studied in six countries, across three continents. Stop by my blog to learn how to run your own (very) small business on your own terms. You can also connect with me at my website or follow me on

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.

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