I've never been "cool" or "popular." In certain situations with certain people, I can fake it for short periods of time, but the truth always comes out soon enough. Thankfully, I managed to get over this complex at the relatively young age of 16 and I've been benefiting from it ever since. In addition to all of the psychological benefits that come with not pretending to be someone you aren't or trying to meet others' expectations all the time, I've also found that being uncool can save you a whole lot of money.
As an uncool person, here are a few of the many things you won't have to spend your money on:
1. A fancy car, or anything nicer than a functional junk bucket (if that).Other people may laugh at my car behind my back, but I'm laughing all the way to the bank. Not only did I save on the purchase price, I also save on insurance year after year.
2. Name brand clothes, shoes, and accessories. There are times when a name brand gets you a higher quality product, and in these cases I will certainly buy brand name products. However, I don't buy them just to impress other people. Why spend $300 to carry around free, unlimited advertising for Louis Vuitton?
3. Fashionably up-to-date clothes, shoes, and accessories. I have no idea if my pants are in style this season or not. All I know is that they fit well, and I got them for 75% off on eBay. If you don't have to wear the latest styles or the hottest brands, your clothes will cost less initially and you'll be able to wear them for longer.
4. Name brand groceries. Unless you're really attached to the slight difference in the flavor of Oreos over store-brand chocolate sandwich cookies, you can save a bundle while still getting perfectly good food if you avoid brand hype. Many times, even if you use a coupon to purchase a national brand, the regular price of the store brand will still be a better deal.
5. Bottled water. Bottled water is just purified tap water. If you don't trust your local government to provide you with clean water, get a water filter and be done with it. You'll save a ton of money, and it's much better for the environment than manufacturing and throwing away (or even recycling) all those bottles. There's no point in bragging about your hybrid car if you're still drinking bottled water. That being said, I do like to have a couple of water bottles on hand that I re-use over and over again. Taking my own water to sporting events and carrying an empty bottle with me through airport security saves me lots of money on the other side of the gates.
6. The latest cell phone. If your old phone has quit working, get a new (to you) one on eBay for pennies on the dollar instead of getting stuck in another two year service contract or blowing $200 or more on the latest and greatest toy that's full of fun but unnecessary gadgets you've successfully lived without for years. (How many people use their camera phones regularly?)
7. Expensive cosmetics. The same companies often make both an expensive and an inexpensive line of cosmetics, with virtually no difference in quality between the two, so go ahead and buy your makeup at the drugstore. For cosmetics that are best tested before you buy (like lipstick), go for the less expensive lines at Sephora or hit the Clinique counter. Also, some companies will give or sell you samples (like Mary Kay or Paula's Choice).
8. Anything at full price, because you don't think you are too good for the sale rack, eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, or thrift stores. Just because an item is on sale or has been used before doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it. Thrift stores, even places like Goodwill and Salvation Army, are generally fairly picky about the quality of merchandise they'll actually put on the sales floor (try donating a broken desk to them and you'll see what I mean). Most of their merchandise comes from nice upper and middle class homes and has been well cared for, but the original owner has simply gotten tired of their item, upgraded to something nicer, or had to get rid of non-essentials when they moved.
9. Frequent haircuts and/or stylish hairstyles. I'm not advocating getting one of those $15 haircuts to save money - that's a good way to get a hack job done on your hair and have to spend more money to get it fixed then you would have had to spend to get it done right the first time. For women, hairdressers and magazines will tell you that you need to get your hair cut every six to eight weeks. Maybe that's true if you want to have perfect looking hair all the time, but I find that I can stretch out the time between haircuts a lot by simply wearing my hair up or curling the ends under when my hair is getting scraggly. Avoiding highlights, salon dye jobs, and complicated haircuts that require lots of styling products will also save you lots of money.
10. An overpriced luxury apartment or an expensive home in a prestigious zip code. Whether you're renting or buying, you can often get more bang for your buck if you're willing to live in an average or slightly below average neighborhood. As far as luxury apartments go, with every overpriced rent check you hand over, you're putting yourself further and further away from owning a nice home instead of owning just a mediocre one, owning more than you can comfortably afford, or having to keep renting.
11. Vacation homes. Vacation homes come with great bragging rights, but they're not a good use of your money if they're sitting empty when you're not there. If that's your MO, you're better off renting your vacation lodging. Owning a vacation home isn't necessarily a bad use of your money, however, if you make lots of rental income off of it while you aren't using it.
12. Dry cleaning. Sure, it's nice to not have to do your own laundry or ironing, but at several dollars per garment, it's an incredible waste of money. Shop carefully to avoid buying dry clean only clothing, and don't let yourself be too busy or important to do your own laundry. Even hiring someone to do your laundry for you in your home or apartment once every two weeks is probably cheaper and faster than dropping off, picking up, and spending money on dry cleaning.
13. Constant home upgrades. I spend a lot of time in an upscale residential neighborhood, and I'm stunned by how much construction goes on there. Don't live in a neighborhood where competing with your neighbors is the norm, and you'll also get to avoid all that construction noise.
14. Going out. If you don't feel the need to say you've been to the latest trendy restaurant, bar, or club, you'll save a ton of money. Eating at your favorite local Thai hole-in-the-wall will allow you to enjoy the pleasures of eating out while spending far less money.
15. Alcoholic drinks. If you're willing to fulfill your craving for a drink at home, or sneak a flask or some hotel-bar sized bottles of liquor in with you when your friends want to go clubbing, you won't have to blow $10 a pop on bar drinks -- instead, $10 or less will allow you to drink for the whole night. A well-stocked home bar can be purchased for the cost of several bar drinks, but it will last a lot longer.
The truth is that most financially successful people are very modest in their spending habits and don't flaunt their wealth, according to Thomas J. Stanley's excellent book (and audiobook), The Millionaire Mind. Their money is largely socked away, providing them with security and peace of mind, instead of being spent on showy things that will make them look cool to other people. If you make your purchasing decisions based on what really fulfills your needs and wants instead of based on what you're told to purchase because it will make you cooler, you'll not only save money, but get more personal satisfaction per dollar spent.