my 12 deepest, darkest secrets to saving money

>> Monday, July 20, 2009

Here is a list of all I can think of that I do to save money. You may not agree with all I do. But this is how I make ends meet in this economy.

I'll show you mine, if you show me yours. How do you save money?

1. Online Coupon Code Obsession

Ever since I discovered coupon codes, I will not buy ANYTHING online without a quick search. I am OBSESSED with these codes because they really save me big dollars. Generally I never pay shipping and usually get a % off or $ off code as well. Try these sites for codes for your favorite stores:
Coupon Chief
Good Bazaar
Retail Me Not
Average Savings: Free Shipping, 10-30% off

This is a chain of small grocery stores in 29 of the United States and 18 countries, where you can save 40-50% on your groceries. They mainly carry their House Brand, but occasionally have Special Purchases. This is where I spend the majority of my food budget.
Average Savings: $500/year.

3. Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF), Especially with Meat
Though I usually do all my food shopping at Aldi, I always browse the ads from the other, more expensive grocers. About once a month one or the other has a Buy One Get One Free Sale. However, I do believe they raise their prices for these events, so I am pretty picky. I usually opt for the whole pieces of meat: roasts, turkey/chicken breast, chops, etc., where I get the biggest bang for my buck.
Average Savings: about 40-50% off.

4. Cashing In On Kid's Presents, Gift Cards
Since my kids were born they have received many, many duplicate gifts or gifts that were the wrong style or size. There have also been things we simply didn't need or want, to be honest. Thankfully most people include a gift receipt these days. So, I do not hesitate to return many of these gifts for gift cards or store credit. My kids also get cash and gift cards as gifts, too.

I put the cash in an envelope and over time, buy the gift cards to be used for household purposes. I keep track of each transaction on the envelope and eventually my kids have a lot of cash. This is also a great learning experience for my kids as we talk about their "savings envelopes" often. I use this cash for BIG ticket items my kids want, but we can't afford. Recently, this money paid for 1/2 of a beautiful swing set! Now we are saving up for a Wii system.
Average Savings: $200/year.

5. DIY

Anything service people can do, I can do better! Well, not better, but definitely cheaper! I ALWAYS check my bookshelf and search engine (try swagbucks) for ideas on "How to..." do anything.
  • When the fridge leaked water all over
  • When the washing machine quit
  • When the garage door wouldn't open
  • When the (gasp) computer wouldn't let me get online
These issues all occurred in the last 4 months. (Yes, I have had some bad luck). Out of these four potential disasters we managed to fix it all ourselves. My favorite websites for DIY repairs are:
The Samurai Appliance Guru, Repair 2000, and The Natural Handyman. (Thanks, Maggie May).
Average Savings: $200+ in service calls.

6. Make it Myself

I always try to make it myself, if I can. I make all my own cleaners, and baby wipes. I make my own concoction of:
  • Hand soap : Clorox Natural Dish Soap, diluted 60/40 with water
  • Shampoo: Baby Shampoo, diluted 60/40 with water and 10 drops tea tree oil
  • Honey face mask: warm for 5 seconds in microwave and smear on face. Leave on 15 minutes. Results: less oily and softer skin
  • Instead of Nose Strips: I packet Gelatin, with 1 1/2 TBSP milk, warm in microwave for 10-15 seconds and apply to T-Zone. Leave on 15-30 minutes until dry. Will peel off and take hair with it, so be cautious where you use it. Results: minimizes pores.
  • I make dinners in bulk and then freeze them for future use. I especially like to make freeze chimichangas. They are easy to cook from frozen and so good!
  • Acne: Ugh. Try using tea tree oil dabbed right on the blemishes.
Average Savings: $300-$600+/per year.

7. Frozen Milk
See my post on how freezing milk saves me BIG.

8. Swagbucks
Swagbucks is seriously my new favorite website. It's a lot of money saving, plus a little treasure hunting. You sign up and use them for searches, which are powered by Ask and Google. Every third search or so, you earn 1-5 swagbucks. You can also subscribe to their Twitter feed and they will tell how to get a "code" to enter in their homepage,which will also get you a Swagbuck. I just earned 45 bucks in 5 weeks of casual use and turned that into a $5 Amazon gift card. How fun! Sign up here.
Average Savings: $5 and counting!

Search & Win

9. Websites and Forums
My favorite money saving websites and forums:
Average Savings: $100 so far this summer!

10. Never Carry Cash
When I quit smoking, I realized how the cash I carried lasted me so much longer. However, when I had kids, the opposite occurred. Any cash I now have on my person, is like gone, in a flash and I couldn't tell you where it went.

I now have a credit/debit card from my bank and I use it for EVERYTHING, even amounts less than $5 (though there are few of those these days). My bank offers me points that add up to $20 in free gift cards every three months.
Average savings: $80-$100/year.

11. Garage sales/Goodwill/Clearance/Generics

I really only spend money on something if it's from a discount store, on sale or clearance, at a garage sale, or maybe goodwill.
  • Garage Sales-I keep a running wish list of used things I'd like for a bargain. Examples include: an extra dresser, lanterns, night stand and clothes for my oldest.
  • Good Will- I love buying clothes, jeans especially at good will. They sometimes also have clothes for my kids and occasional furniture I can refinish or paint. And all for a great cause.
  • Sale or clearance- I *heart* sales, especially end-of-season clearance. Find out when the Kmart near you does their $1.99 on apparel sale, I believe it's twice a year and well worth a trip, even if things are already picked over. I found pajamas, work slacks, underwear for my kid and a bra for me. All $1.99 each. Really.
  • Discount store- shop early and often to get the best deals. When discount stores have clearance, you can bet you're getting the best deal out there.
  • Generics or House Brands- I will buy just about anything in the generic form (prescriptions, napkins, paper towels, food, coffee, wrinkle cream (not that I have wrinkles or anything), lotion, etc.
Average Savings: $100-$300/year.

12. Lowering Utilities

This is easier than you think. Electric and Gas companies sometimes offer you a guide to variable rates. If you sign up, you can choose when to run your biggest energy appliances, like dishwasher, washer/dryer and the air conditioner. In addition, invest in a power strip to use on your TV/DVD/cable box center. Turn off EVERYTHING when you go to bed. You can also turn off your hot water heater (covered in an insulation blanket) when you go away on vacation. Replace all those regular bulbs with CFL bulbs. Install a digital thermometer so you can control the temperature. If you really want to get fancy, install ceiling fans, and reuse your grey water from the washer to water plants.
Average Savings: $600+/year.

Now that you've seen my list, tell me: What do you secretly (or not so secretly) do to save money?


Maggie May July 20, 2009 at 9:42 PM  

i'm too tired to contribute but thank you for sharing these tips!
seriously, you're very thrifty

where do you go to learn how
to fix things online?

interesting about frozen milk.

Maggie Madison July 21, 2009 at 7:59 AM  

Yeah, people think the frozen milk is weird, but anything to keep me out of grocery stores!
Here's where I go online for repairs: the Samarai Appliance Repair Guru, Repair 2000, and the Natural Handyman. I'll email you the links and add them to the post.
I hope you feel better; you are in my thoughts.