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saving money

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Sometimes, saving money can feel like a myth – the concept of it seems like something somebody made up. You hear of people doing it, and you even set up a budget that should allow you to do it, but by the time you review your bank statement at the end of the month, perhaps you’ve put aside barely anything. What the hell happened? Well, there are usually a lot of things our budgets don’t account for. Take, for example, the simple fact that prices are up on nearly everything right now, from food to gas to clothes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You don’t notice it while you’re shopping. Apples are now $1.49 a pound instead of $1.19 a pound. T-shirts from your favorite bargain spot are going for $8.99 now instead of $6.49. It’s those little things, but they really add up.


Then there are surprise expenses, like having to get a friend a housewarming gift or having to pay for a cavity filling. Those can eat up your projected savings. Life is pricey, and if you still want to save, but making more money isn’t currently in the cards, you have to get scrappy. According to the Federal Reserve, 61 percent of Americans are unprepared to pay an unexpected $400 expense. If you don’t want to fall into that category, try some of these slightly embarrassing ways I save money.



saving money

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Getting a coupon and getting back in line

You’ll notice that pharmacies and similar places with membership rewards give you a great coupon…after you’ve already made your purchase. You buy some mascara, coffee, hand soap, toilet paper, and greetings cards and with your receipt, are handed a coupon for $5 off a purchase of $25 for next time. Make next time this time. Beat their system. Gather up all the things you need. Buy just one or two. Get that coupon. Get back in line and use that coupon right then and there, on the remaining items. If you have a big shopping list that day with nearly a $100 or more worth of items, it can pay off to break this up into chunks and do this a couple of times. Get $30 worth of the stuff. Get the coupon. Get back in line, buy another $30 worth. Get another coupon, get back in line and get the rest of the stuff.

saving money

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Keeping a friend’s leftovers

If you have friends who can afford to not take home their leftovers from the restaurant, swoop in and take them. A good friend won’t judge you. If your friend is in a financial position to just leave half of a pizza on the table, you should take it home. That’s tomorrow’s lunch. When you go to a smoothie place, your friend gets a fancy $12 smoothie, and the smoothie maker says, “There was more in the blender than I could fit in the cup. Want the remainder?” and your friend says, “No thanks,” you swoop in and say, “I do!” Hey, you just got, like, $6 worth of fancy smoothie for free. Your richer friends leave a lot of stuff that gets thrown out. Don’t let it go to waste.

saving money

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Parking for free and getting a ride

Sometimes, your whole group of friends goes to a concert or a birthday dinner in a part of town where there is no free parking. Not really. It’s all either $12 valet, or you can park on a suburban street a 20-minute walk away. Hey, if you know you have several friends attending this event, just park for free eight blocks away, call one of your friends who you know will pay for the valet, and have them pick you up at your free spot. There’s probably someone willing to drop you back off there at the end of the night, too.

saving money

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Load up on hygiene/beauty samples

You can find samples for some of the things you use every day like hand moisturizer, conditioner, body lotion, sunscreen, and face wash at just about every beauty supplies store and department store. The sales associates working the counters are encouraged to give out these samples. They often offer them to shoppers who ignore them and pass them by, leaving their bosses asking, “Why haven’t you handed out more samples?” Help them out. Load up on several. Ask, “Can I take a few extra for my friend? She’d love this stuff.” Secretly, you are the friend. And you just got enough high-end face sunscreen to last you two weeks that would have typically cost $14.

saving money

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Work the credit cards rewards system

When it comes time to make a “big” purchase (that’s like $50 or more for me), I first check each of my credit card rewards programs to see if there are any discounted gift cards that could help me out. For example, if I need camping gear, I might find that one of my credit cards is offering a $100 Bass Pro Shop gift card for $75 when bought on that credit card. So I buy that, and get my camping gear with that. That’s an instant savings of $25. This also comes in handy when getting gift cards for friends. Many credit cards rewards programs regularly have sales on major gift cards, like ones for Starbucks or Target. So you can get your friend a $25 gift card that you paid $20 for.

saving money

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BYO extras to the hotel pool lunch

If you’re trying to save money and you’re traveling, the poolside menu at your hotel is the enemy. A tuna sandwich is somehow $17. A pina colada is $18 (how is it more than a meal!?) I do something that is probably against the pool’s rules and BYO the extras. I stash my own little bag of potato chips in my purse and dump those onto my sandwich plate. The servers walking by don’t know that I didn’t pay for the $4.75 chips sold at the pool. I also bring my own canned soda, get a cup from the bar, and pour my own drink. Sneaking in those extras can easily save you $10 at a poolside lunch.

saving money

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Get clearance gift wine

When you want to bring a nice bottle of wine to the home of a friend who knows a thing or two about wine, don’t overlook the clearance section of your grocery store. Don’t get distracted by the card member prices on the new wine, in the wine aisle. The real deals are back in the clearance section, next to the old St. Patrick’s day cupcakes and off-brand vitamins. That’s where you’ll find the bottles that were once $30 for $15. The trick is very carefully peeling off that “clearance” sticker so the recipient thinks you shelled out the full $30 for this gift.

saving money

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Select delayed Amazon delivery

This isn’t embarrassing but it’s scrappy and something not a lot of people know about. When you check out on Amazon and select your delivery options, there’s often one option that allows you to delay delivery, and in exchange, get a credit towards video and music rentals. It’s usually a credit of between $1 and $2. Considering that renting a video on Amazon Prime can cost around $2.99, if you rent on there often, and choose this delivery option often, you can eventually have most of your rentals paid for. If you don’t need the thing you’re buying ASAP, just choose the delayed delivery and get a dollar or two back.

saving money

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Buy clearance protein and freeze it

Since the price of groceries seems to be going up and up, you may need to give more attention to the clearance items. Yesterday I got two filet mignon steaks that were once $25 for $13. Why? Because they were on clearance and their best-by date is today. No problem – I just freeze them! Now the best-by date is whatever day I decide to defrost them and eat them. If you’re a stickler for buying “fresh” meat and seafood, just remember that a lot of the fresh stuff was actually frozen and defrosted in the shipping process, before it made it to your home.

saving money

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Help friends move

If you have a free Saturday and see that a friend needs help moving, help them. When people are moving, they just want to get rid of stuff they don’t need. The less they need to pack up and move, the better. So when you’re hanging around, you may just become the new owner of a blender, coffee table, set of wine glasses, bicycle – who knows. Go into this favor with a vague list of things you will need to buy in the future and keep an eye out for those. Your friend may just prefer to give you that barely-used desk chair than drive it over to the thrift store.

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