There are lots of different ways that you can save money, and you can pick and choose what works best for you. The nice thing about learning to save money is that every dollar saved, no matter how you did it, is a dollar saved. So if it is too hard to think about giving up that $3 coffee every morning you can still save $10 on a pair of shoes you are ordering or cut $100 off your car insurance. Little changes can add up to big savings.
As I mentioned before, once you start saving money it makes it very hard to overpay for anything, so I try to save money in a variety of ways. Diversify, if you will. Some I’m better at than others, and I absolutely have things that I know I overspend on (at last count I had something like 15 Vera Bradley pieces…all gotten on sale, of course, but a weakness of mine nonetheless!), but it’s very easy to do a few things every day that help you save, and I’ll do my best to share some of those with you.
Most of my money-saving tips will probably fall into the following categories:
1) Smart Shopping
Smart shopping is both a blessing and a curse. Everyone loves a good deal, but buying too many good deals is going to wind up costing you more than you save. I tend to shop around before I buy anything, and I keep an eye on certain websites for great deals I don’t want to miss out on. The internet has made comparison shopping so easy, and if you have a smart phone you can do a quick check before you buy something at the store as well. Smart shopping can include sale offers online, using internet-printed coupons or online codes, learning the grocery store cycles, buying offers from discount sites like Groupon, as well as many other ways. It takes some discipline to not go overboard on all the great offers out there, but never overpay if you don’t have to!
2) Money-earning websites
There are so many scams out there ready to prey on those who are looking to get rich quickly or work from home that your natural inclination may be to automatically distrust any website that offers money. Surprisingly, that simply isn’t true and there are a ton of websites out there that offer legitimate ways to earn gift cards, prizes, and even cash. You will not get rich from them, you cannot quit your job and support your family, and they are not necessarily quick or easy, as the amount of time you put into them will directly impact the amount you can earn. But it is quite possible to earn an easy $25 a month for just a few minutes a day, up to several hundred each month if you are willing to put in some time. My personal best if $190 in one month (mostly in the form of Amazon gift cards, with some money going in to my PayPal account, which is the same as cash), and I have a full-time job so I’m not spending that much time on these sites. I will talk about these sites soon and give my reviews of their pros and cons, but I strongly suggest checking these out. Just using a different search engine a few times a day could earn you $120 in Amazon gift cards a year.
3) Negotiating (aka Haggling)
This probably sounds like the most intimidating way to save money, but it really is quite easy and can save you a lot. Let me start by saying that I would never try to rip someone off or pay less than an item is worth, but the truth is many things have been marked up to start with and simply asking for a discount will often get you one. So ask. Worst thing that will happen is they say no. I was able to get my mortgage company to waive the $195 application fee, and talk Home Depot into coming down more than $600 when I was looking for a new door. I even remember that when I was 25 and buying my first “new” used car, I had the dealer drop $25 off the cost so that I’d feel better about buying the car from him. He’d told me there was no wiggle room in the price, but that $25 was a small victory for someone making her first big purchase! If done right, both you and the seller can feel good about the deal you make.
Ok, I am definitely NOT an extreme couponer. I don’t even buy the Sunday newspaper (let alone 8 of them). But I do glance through the Red Plum insert I get in the mail every week, my monthly Clipper magazine (a local, free ad magazine), and quickly skim the ValuPak inserts before I toss them in the recycling bin. Occasionally I’ll find coupons for things I’ll actually use or restaurants I eat at (Rita’s Water Ice almost always has some Buy 1-Get 1 Free coupons available in March/April/May each year), so I tear them out in case I decide to use them. There are several sites that will let you print the coupons you need, and many companies will offer high-value coupons if you “like” their Facebook page. You don’t need a binder full of coupons in order to save some money!
Freebies are tons of fun, but much like Smart Shopping I advise using some restraint! There are tons of bloggers out there that will let you know about every available freebie out there, but I try to only participate in the ones that I will actually use. If you ever need some entertainment, visit the Facebook page of whatever poor company just finished their giveaway of the day and see the angry people lash out at the company because they missed out on their freebie. Please don’t be one of these people. Look at it like a contest with higher-than-average odds. I’ve missed out on some nice offers but have gotten some great ones too. In the past few months I’ve gotten a free Swiffer, a Gilette razor ($13 value), a Neti-Pot (worth about $8), a full tube of my favorite toothpaste ($4), a Target travel makeup bag with free samples, a Pyrex potholder, Clinique mascara, as well as a host of coupons for free items (Eggbeaters, Cottonelle moist wipes, hair coloring for my mom – she saved $22 with those!). It definitely makes going to the mailbox fun.
6) My Favorite Websites
While not all of my favorite websites have to do with ways to save money, many of them do. There are some great bloggers that I follow as well as sites that keep track of all the latest sales, and others that let you earn cash back for every purchase you make. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel here, so I’d rather tell everyone about these great sites instead of copying them. But I highly recommend http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com for a laugh.
7) Life Audits
Life audits are what I consider all those other little things that you have to deal with on a daily basis – health and car insurance, bank accounts, cell phone plans, etc. I am definitely no expert on life, but sometimes by just taking the time to reevaluate what you need and what you are currently using you can find a way to save some money. I’ll be happy to pass on some on my experiences, and maybe others will have some good advice for me as well!
These categories give a guideline to what I’ll be talking about, but as the blog title suggests, there will be a little bit of everything thrown in here. Hope you enjoy and can find something useful in it!