Updated on 04.19.12

Every Time You Buy an Item, Get Rid of One (109/365)

Trent Hamm

I have about two dozen shirts, all told, in my wardrobe. They have various levels of wear on them, from a few that look practically new to a few that look like they’re approaching “rag bag” level.

Whenever I buy a new shirt, I don’t just toss it in my drawer and go on with business. I make sure to transfer a shirt to the rag bag (or to the “sell later” pile) at that point.

If I didn’t make that transfer, it wouldn’t be long before my shirt drawer and closet were overflowing with shirts, making it difficult to find the shirt I wanted. I’d also be putting money into clothing that I didn’t really need.

This same philosophy works well with almost everything that you have a “collection” of that takes up physical space, whether it be DVDs or home decorations or vintage soda bottles. When one comes in, one goes out.

Every Time You Buy an Item, Get Rid of One (109/365)

There are a couple reasons why this tactic really works.

For starters, if you stick to that rule, the overall volume of your stuff won’t expand very much. Often, it is the expansion of one’s “stuff” that makes a home upgrade desirable, so that you have room for all of your stuff (and, eventually, much more). A home upgrade is an enormous expense, one that can often be postponed or avoided by simply having a firm grip on your acquisition of items.

At the same time, a one-in, one-out rule like this one makes you carefully consider purchases. Is that new shirt really better than any of the shirts you already own? Is this DVD more essential to own than any of the ones already in your collection? If you can’t answer yes to those reasonable questions, you don’t buy an item. This keeps money in your pocket instead of in the coffers of retailers from which you purchased something you really didn’t need.

We use this tactic with quite a few of our collections.

For example, I’ve long instituted this rule with my video game collection. This led me to not directly buying games, but instead trading games I had played through at a local used video game store, replacing them with new ones to play.

We’re even starting to introduce this to our children as a tool for reducing the growth of toys. Sure, they receive several toys as gifts from grandparents and parents on their birthdays, but that means it’s time to re-evaluate the toys that they already have.

This tactic reduces clutter, reduces the growth of one’s stuff (saving on potential housing costs), and saves money on purchases. That’s a victory in three directions.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. julie says:


  2. julie says:

    sigh. moderation 3x now.

  3. kc says:

    The CIA should be using this series at Gitmo. Nice photo!

  4. Karen says:

    My mother had an actual ragbag, which she used for cleaning rags.

    But that was for soft stuff. Shirts probably can’t be used for that unless the material is absorbent (like polo shirts).

    I do use old underpants (cut up) and socks as cleaning rags. I donate old T-shirts and towels to the animal shelter for them to use.

  5. Kevin says:

    I predict that Trent will not finish this series. Respect for the readers will have to kick in at some point.

  6. Johanna says:

    Respect for the readers?

  7. Tracy says:

    You’d think at least respect for himself but … apparently not so much.

  8. Emma says:

    Keeping posts in moderation increases number of hits.I check the site 5 x day to look for my arrested posts. I wasn’t able to post anything for 4 weeks.

  9. Andrew says:

    This s a train wreck. I hope Sarah’s job is secure.

  10. Tammy says:

    Good article. I really need to do this.

  11. Elysian says:

    I actually like that jacket a lot.

  12. Steve says:

    I can’t help noticing that he doesn’t mention whether his wife has signed up for the same philosophy.

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