My 12 New Things

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strategies to Save Oodles of Money

In the spirit of my June New Thing, that I posted the other day, I thought I'd share some of my thriftiest pointers. For years my strategies have included being what I call "shamelessly shopportunistic." I think Marshall's used this term a while back in an ad campaign, but I've been saying it for long before that. :) Being shamelessly shopportunistic just means keeping your eye out for the best steals and deals for things you need (and want) and helps save oodles of money in the long run.

My biggest secret for saving said oodles of money- try to avoid paying full price as often as you can without being a jerk. Be a smart shopper, don't be a rude cheapskate.

It was around the time that our daughter was born two years ago that we went full Rambo on our finances, Dave Ramsey style. (See here for my last post on that). We had to get serious. With a new little critter (our precious child) in the house, we had new little expenses that weren't so little.

That same summer, my friend Jenn, aka Super Jenn, started a blog on money saving techniques and the use of coupons, in particular. (Her site has evolved to include more now). Following how someone else scores deals was incredibly helpful. While I've always been a bargain shopper, Jenn taught me how to spend pennies on the dollar and sometimes even make money buying groceries and other household items. It's true... you can actually make money buying toothpaste and razors. I haven't actually paid money out of pocket (or "OOP" as the coupon junkies say) for toothpaste in over two years. Check out Jenn's website at here. She also writes for the Lawrence Journal World in a blog called Shop Talk with Jenn and Julie. She's a true frugalista and taught me amazing ways to save money.

A few months ago I taught a workshop I called Mind Your Money and shared a number of things I've learned over time. Here are my best money-saving tips:

First, buy things before you need them. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but in my experience, I pay much for an item when I need it in a hurry than if I see it on sale and use coupons to pay for far in advance. I stockpile groceries when I find good deals. I also shop for birthday and Christmas gifts throughout the year. I'm able to collect gifts when I see good prices as well as this technique helps me spread the cost throughout the year.

You don't have to go au naturale just because you're watching your spending. I'm not about to cut out hair and makeup "essentials." No one would want to see that. Instead, find the deals. Here are a few ways I save money in the beauty department:
    • I used to buy Clinique foundation at about $23/ tube. I now use L'Oreal True Match and like it just as well. The last time I purchased the base and powder, they were on sale at Walgreens and I had coupons that brought the cost to $3 each (regularly $10 to $11 each). I bought several, which will last me about a year.
    • Target clearances all their departments out at least once a year, including the cosmetics section. There's nothing wrong with these items and usually the products aren't being discontinued. Generally they clear a section via clearance so they can build a new planogram (shelving and peg arrangement) and it makes more sense for them to sell the product rather than take it down and store it only to restock with the new planogram. Thus, the items go on clearance. You can combine coupons with clearance and get really inexpensive cosmetics. I've often been able to find Almay, Revlon and L'Oreal eyeshadow, eyeliner, lipstick, lipgloss and nail polish for around $1 or $2 by doing this. I've sometimes been able to get them for free or pennies, depending on the amount of my coupon. (For instance, if a L'Oreal lipgloss is on clearance for $2.15 and I have a $2 off coupon, the lipgloss costs me 15 cents. Not a bad deal and this has actually happened on a number of occasions).
    • I prefer my hair color to be reddish brown over my natural mousey brown color. I use Natural Instincts because it is semi permanent and healthier for your hair than permanent color (according to Kandee Johnson, make-up/ beauty guru). This brand frequently goes on sale and offers coupons just as frequently. Just this week, I was able to get 2 boxes for $2 each (regularly $7 to $9 each). Since I learned how to keep my eye out for deals, I've never had to pay full price for hair color or makeup.
    • Speaking of which... I mentioned that haven't "paid" for toothpaste in 2 years. That's true. How you do that is simple drugstore shopping. Walgreens and CVS (as well as others, I'm sure- those 2 just happen to be in my area) frequently offer staples such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, and shave gel for "free" (or close to it) after store rewards programs. These same products often have coupons out at the same time which (when combined or "stacked" as the coupon junkies say) end up being free or even making money. For instance, say CVS has Colgate toothpaste on sale for $2.99 this week and you earn $2 in Extra Bucks (in-store credit). That takes the real price to 99 cents. If there's a $1 off coupon that you can use on the transaction, that makes the total cost of the toothpaste $0. If there happens to be a $1.50 off coupon (which sometimes happens), you make 49 cents on the deal. You dig? You'll pay out of pocket (or OOP as the coupon junkies say), but you'll receive it back in store reward Extra Bucks. It's what I call a steal in the world of steals and deals.
Pay attention and be aware of bargains in all that you do. Just because you're sticking to a budget doesn't mean you can't do anything fun.  Every year I buy an updated Entertainment Book for my area. They are specific for cities across the country and contain coupons for restaurants, attractions and stores. is a great place to go for discounted restaurant gift certificates.

Lose some of your brand loyalty. I buy more name brand items than I ever did , but only because and when I get a great deal with stacking sales and coupons. I don't generally buy brands unless they're a deal- I buy generic staples. For instance, I've found Walgreens brand diapers to be sufficient and have consistently bought them when they're on sale. In fact, in November of 2008 (my crowning couponing achievement to date), I was able to combine a sale with a coupon and got diapers for $2.50 a pack (regularly $9 each). I bought 40+ packages, stored them in a closet in the basement and didn't have to buy diapers again for over a year and half. That was awesome, if I do say so myself.

Look online for good deals on clothes. There are a few online sites that I frequent. is a new favorite. They often have great clearance and there's a tab called On the Counter which is clearance on steroids, but in limited quantities and sizes. Items are posted on Saturday. On Monday, that discount price is reduced another 25%. On Wednesday, 50%. And on Friday, 75%.

Buy things at garage sales and on Craigslist. When I was pregnant with our daughter we found some great things on Craigslist and got a  really nice, new-looking crib, baby bumper set, changing table, bouncer and high chair for $100 total. I also like to think of these items being of the Reuse category in the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse way of things. I like the idea of items being passed around from person to person as long as use can still be gotten out of them. (I would suggest looking around online to be aware of recalled items, especially when purchasing items for infants and children).

I know everyone has little ways that they save money. Comment on this post or email me with yours and I'll compile for another post at a later date! Happy money-saving, yah'll! :)

Here are  few things that I'm not super familiar with, but have been recently informed of and will be looking into:
  • Take a look at Gymboree clearance and store rewards called Gymbucks. If you feel the need to buy new clothes and/or want to give as gifts, utilize store incentive programs. Gymboree has Gymbucks in which during certain times of the year, you earn $25 in store credit for every $25 spent during that time period. You can combine this with coupons and clearance selections to get the most bang for your buck. My sister-in-law Abby makes a passionate pastime out of this one and my daughter has some really cute clothes to prove it.
  • Shop online and earn cash back on purchases through Ebates. My friends Melanie and Jenn utilize this. According to the website, you can get up to 25% back from 1200 stores.
  • Get 50 to 90% off what your city has to offer by becoming a member of Groupon. A few colleagues at work have told me about this and really like it.

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