Since most of us don’t have much control over our income, we focus on saving money on day to day or larger one-time purchases to boost our bottom line. My wife knocks me for being so enthusiastic about this stuff, but I guess it’s because it’s my butt on the line to earn and provide for the family these days! So, when there are opportunities to save money, I jump all over them.
- Saving on Large Spend Categories – I’ve written before about using discount gift cards to save money (see sidebar), but I’ve taken it to a whole new level. We’ve stopped doing the Costco thing for our shopping because we’ve found that most of the large bulk items like paper towels, toilet paper, etc., can be found at Target and Walmart for the same price. So, to save even more money, I follow the various discount gift card sites and wait for a 5% off at Target to pop up. I just recently grabbed a $500 tranche of discount cards and handed them off to my wife. She’ll blow through that in a single month over there with all the paper items, drinks, some gifts/toys for kids and other birthday parties, etc. So, that’s $25 a month easy and that’s just one merchant. If you spend a lot on coffee, buy a Starbucks card! If you eat out a lot, buy some restaurant cards; they’re often discounted at 10% or more!
- Using the Right Credit Card – Many people just use a single credit card or don’t take advantage of the various cash-back rewards out there for certain categories. I like to use an Amex for grocery savings and then a Chase for rotating categories like gas, department stores, etc. These are in the 5-6% range. But to further maximize those savings, I even buy things AT the grocery store that some people don’t just to get the discount. So, for instance, I always buy stamps at the grocery store. They don’t know if it’s food or something else when applying the 6% discount! (Again, more details on which cards are best for each savings type in the sidebar). You can’t get a discount on stamps buying them at the post office so why make the extra trip over there and pay full price? Same goes for gift cards there actually. If you can get 6% off your grocery bill and the store offers the right gift cards on the end-cap, why not buy them there rather than paying full price at a store or online? We’re constantly buying small ones for birthday parties, gifts for babysitters, etc. Why not save a few extra bucks?
- Using the Right Deal Sites – Finally, we wait around for the right deals to pop up on various deal sites. For instance, we just went skiing at Killington for a huge discount we found on livingsocial. Not only did we get a very much discounted stay at the local Inn, but they also threw in a $100 gift card to the ski resort, so that saved us a lift ticket and a half! Depending on where you live, there are different outfits offering great deals like MyDeals.com if you live in the UK. For instance there, you can find car insurance for under £200 at Aviva.
Then, there are the smaller niche site deals to look for. So, speaking of the ski trip, we also found a liftopia.com site where they do nothing but offer discounts to local ski resorts. The catch is that you have to book the ski outing for a particular day in advance so some people probably lose out by having to cancel, but if your plans are firm, I’ve found the pricing to be 10-30% off the regular price of paying at the window (which is what we used to do before we found that site!). The bottom line is that if you plan ahead and look around, you can cut considerable spending out of your annual budget.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Savings Tips?