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I freaking love saving money. When you stop and pay attention, you can find easy ways to save money at every turn.
One of my favorite areas to save money is on food. Every Sunday my wife and I head to Aldi, our favorite discount grocery store and search for great deals and buy what’s on sale.
But there are so many easy ways to save money on other things you’re already buying. It’s always fun to get a sweet deal on a novelty item, but when you can save money on things you buy every week or every month, it will have a much bigger impact on your budget and financial goals.
If you haven’t been following our story, we started a mission to become debt free in 2013. In May of 2017, we finally reached our goal and paid off $73,000 in less than 4 years.
In that time we learned how to be frugal and save money at every turn. The biggest secret to saving money is to just not spend it in the first place, especially if it’s not in the budget.
But seeing as you can’t really live without spending money, we’ve learned a few tricks to avoid paying full price for certain things we were already spending money on.
The best part about not paying full price is that now you can put extra money toward paying off debt, or your other financial goals.
Pay Car Insurance in a Lump Sum Instead of Making Monthly Payments
When I first took over the car insurance payments from my Dad, I paid whatever he had previously paid. I think it was along the lines of $115 a month. I set up an automatic withdrawal so I didn’t need to worry about remembering to make payments, it just happened.
However, when I got married, that all changed. My lovely wife hated paying for insurance monthly. Instead, she did the frugal thing and paid it all in one lump sum.
I think we saved $80-100 every six month period, so close to $200 a year. That might not seem like a ton, but if your budget is tight, every little bit helps.
We divide our total car insurance payment into six chunks, and save that much each month. We actually have a separate bank account just for setting our car insurance money aside. That way when our big payment is due, the money is already accounted for and we just make the payment.
If you want to start saving money on car insurance, you could switch to Geico, or start paying it in one lump sum. Disclaimer, this isn’t a plug for Geico, I just love their commercials. 🙂
Save Money on Discount Movie Nights and Matinees
Movies are stupidly expensive, and I get annoyed everytime I see the prices. Luckily most movie theatres offer a cheap movie night. My local theatre offers a $5 movie Tuesday, with a free popcorn.
There’s also a student and faculty night on Thursday. I love using my teacher badge to get this discount. It’s much less crowded and gives us an extra date night option. And we can still get free popcorn!
We never go to a movie unless it’s on the cheap night. It saves us $10 everytime, and even more if we decide to get popcorn, I mean it’s hard to beat free popcorn.
If your theatre doesn’t have a discount night, go to a matinee on a Saturday or Sunday. It’ll be less crowded and cheaper. Win/win.
Pro tip for parents: Some theatres have early morning showings. When our daughter was first starting daycare we did a trial day. After we dropped her off, we went to a matinee movie at 9am. Yep, you read that right, 9 FREAKING AM! It was awesome and still one of my favorite movie experiences of all time.
3. Christmas Decorations
I know Christmas is a long way off, but these days it seems like decorations start popping up in stores around September. We love wandering through the Christmas section at Target. But the decorations are SO EXPENSIVE!!!
Our first year as a married couple, we had zero decorations, not even stockings. Sad, I know. We knew we wanted to start our holiday collection, so we made a plan to wait until AFTER Christmas. Sure, we wouldn’t be able to actually decorate our house for the holidays, but buying the day after Christmas is worth it!
Everything was marked as 75% off! There wasn’t nearly as much awesome stuff, but since we were just getting started, we didn’t need a lot.
Our goal was to get basic lights, some garland, stockings, ornaments, and a few cute decorations. Mission accomplished and we only spent $150, all of which we budgeted for ahead of time.
I’m not a big shoe person, but my wife really is. She loves to have cute shoes, but hates paying full price. She also has really expensive taste in shoes, which is starting to rub off on me, haha
We’re both teachers and work in a restaurant, which means we’re always on our feet! Therefore, we deem it important to invest in shoes that are orthopedic and actually good for our feet. If you haven’t heard of Danskos, they are amazing!
My wife has four pairs of Danskos that we’ve bought over the years. Not once has she paid full price. Instead of $170, she has waited patiently for deals to pop up. I think the most she’s paid is around $120, which is a pretty sweet discount.
We also found a local store we love. We buy discounted shoes and earn rewards points. Then we can apply those rewards to get even bigger discounts. Yes, we’ve spent the money on expensive shoes, but we know they will last. We saved money buying things we value a lot!
We apply the same principle for clothes. I hate paying full price for dress shirts and pants for my job, or just casual clothes that look great.
My favorite store for dress clothes is Express and they always run deals and send me coupons.
At the start of each school year I buy a couple shirts and ties, and you better believe I take advantage of their sweet coops! I still spend way more than I want, but I save a ton and get really high quality clothes.
Over the years I’ve learned that quality is worth paying for. Now I can trust my clothes will last longer before needing to be replaced.
It’s appalling how much new cars depreciate the second you drive them off the lot. As a result, I will probably never buy a brand new vehicle. If you buy a used model that’s a few years old, you’re going to save thousands of dollars. Plus, it’s not new so you don’t have to suffer the initial horrible depreciation.
(If you’re looking for a fun read, check out Bobby Hoyt from Millennial Money Man’s article “What if Everything Depreciated Like New Cars?”)
We drive two fully paid off vehicles, a 2003 Ford Escape and a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix. We’ve had these for several years and they’ve been great cars. Yes we’ve had to get some work done on them, but since they were cheaper, we paid them off and don’t have a monthly payment.
In the end, we save a lot of money now that we own them outright. Buying a used car puts you closer to outright ownership and no car payments.
7. Office Supplies
Back to school shopping isn’t just for kids anymore! Anyone can benefit from these discounts.
Now your office probably doesn’t want a bunch of 10 cent spiral notebooks from Target. But Office Max also runs specials on higher quality materials and products that your office will actually enjoy.
Most every businesses at least need pens and paper. Hold out for back to school and you’re guaranteed to save a few bucks.
8. Big Screen TVs
Hello Black Friday Shopping! Now I’m not a fan of stores opening their doors in the middle of my Thanksgiving Dinner, but the deals are pretty insane.
If you’re looking to upgrade your TV, there is no better time. And more and more stores are allowing you to buy online so you don’t even need to suffer through the lines and crazy shoppers. Unless you’re like my wife and me and just like to people watch while we buy a couple $10 throw blankets. 🙂
If you’ve ever walked through a HOM or Slumberland furniture store, you know how tempting it is to buy a set of matching furniture for your living room or bedroom. At least until you look at the price tag.
We didn’t pay full price for any of the furniture we own. All of our chairs, couches, table, dressers, beds, bookshelves, etc were either free or highly discounted. Of course we didn’t buy most of it brand new and nothing is a matching set.
Our love seat and chairs were free, our couch was $200, our bed set was $150 and hardly slept on. Yes our house is a slight hodge podge since nothing is part of a set, but we intentionally buy items that fit with our color scheme and design so it still looks good. And we saved a butt load of money!
Another idea is to flip furniture. Thrift stores and Goodwill often sell furniture. If you’re willing to put in some elbow grease, you can buy beat up dressers, cabinets, and bookshelves and turn them into beautiful pieces for any room.
10. Going Out to Eat at Restaurants
We rarely go out to eat, but every time we do, we have coupons and discounts up our sleeves. If you like to go out, take advantage of happy hour. Most restaurants offer cheap drinks and food options.
A lot of chain restaurants also mail out coupons. One of our favorite places to eat is Qdoba for amazing burrito bowls! Every few months they mail us a BOGO ½ price coupon. That’s the only thing that gets us in the door. Congratulations Qdoba, you hit your target market!
11. Online Shopping
A few years ago I stumbled upon Honey. Honey is an extension for Chrome that searches the web for discount codes when you’re at the checkout screen of a website.
It doesn’t usually have amazing 50% off coupons, but it typically saves me $5-10 pretty consistently. Plus it does all the work for you. Before Honey, I manually searched for coupons from whatever store I was buying from. That was really hit or miss. Honey is much better.
Plus, so many stores offer free shipping. Most of the time it’s only if you spend above a certain threshold, but if you’re spending that much anyway, it’s a nice perk.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Discount
One last tip, always ask if there’s a discount. If you’re shopping in store, it never hurts to ask because the worst they can say is no. They might have a coupon running that you didn’t know about.
Shout out to Teachers and folks in the Military. A lot of places offer teacher and military discounts of 10%. ALWAYS ASK! Then be ready to show your ID or credentials.
A couple years ago we bought some clothes on sale at American Eagle and asked if they had a teacher discount. The gal behind the counter gave us an extra 10% off. It was AWESOME! Sadly, that’s the only time it’s happened, but we wouldn’t have gotten the discount if we didn’t ask.
Saving Money Moves You Closer to Debt Free
The reason saving money is so important is because every dollar you save is a dollar that helps you get out of debt. Debt sucks, so if you’re struggling with debt look to save money at every corner. Stop paying full price and start living your best life, debt free.
Let Me Know in the Comments
Did I miss anything? What do you refuse to pay full price for? What are your tips for saving money?