Money Saving Tips

We love a good money saving tip. When you’re living on a budget, saving a few dollars here and there can make a big difference. Some money saving tips are pretty sound (like research a product before buying and finding it for the lowest price). Other money saving tips can backfire and end up costing you more in the long run.

This week, April Dykman of Get Rich Slowly wrote about this topic: “7 Money-saving strategies that can cost you more.” While the strategies she discusses can certainly help to save you money, you have to be very careful how you utilize them.

“1. Buying a coupon to save money later.

A great example of this scenario is Groupon or LivingSocial. The deals hit your inbox, and one piques your interest. […] So you buy it, and then you forget about it. The expiration date comes and goes. This has happened to me a couple of times, so my new rule is to only buy Groupons for services that I’d use anyway or places that I already love. For instance, when I’ve bought Groupons to my favorite restaurant, I’ve always redeemed them.”

Groupon and LivingSocial are great. They have some amazing deals and can really save you money, but it will only save you money if you would have spent the money anyway. If you were going to go to a restaurant and spend money there regardless of the coupon, then yes, finding a deal to save you some money is great. But if you are spending money just to get a deal on something you never would have done if you had to pay full price, it’s better to skip.

“2. Buying more to get a discount.

A lot of online retailers will coax you into buying just a little bit more with their discount offers. For instance, if I just purchase $20 more, I can get 15 percent off or free shipping. […] But the problem is that you can spend more money than you would’ve spent without the coupon. For instance, if I need $20 more in my cart to get free shipping, and shipping costs $8, then I’m paying $20 to save $8, which is $12 more than I would’ve paid without the coupon. In fact, I didn’t save; I spent more.”

I (Dawn) am guilty of this one (in fact I just made a purchase last week where I bought two items more than I was planning to get free shipping). When shopping online, shipping can be a huge expense, so it makes sense to want to try to avoid it. But if you are just throwing stuff into your cart to reach that elusive “free shipping” threshold, you may want to stop and think of the cost (Would you really be saving money on the total order? Is the final cost for the items you actually need plus shipping going to be more or less than the “free shipping” amount?

“3. Paying more to invest in quality.

More expensive doesn’t always mean higher quality. […] Expensive isn’t always better. Unless you do a bit of research, you might think you’re paying more to invest in quality, when really, you’re just paying more.”

Do you research. You can more than likely find reviews of different products online that can help you decide what is actually the higher quality product, regardless of price.

“4. Paying less to save money now.

Sometimes it does make sense to pay more. If you’re trying to save money by going with the cheapest item, that can cost more in the long run.”

Again, do your research. While getting a quality item for cheapest price you can is often a good idea, getting the cheapest item available often is a bad idea.

“5. Buying extra to save over time.

Buying in bulk is a good way to save money, but only if you actually use it.”

This is especially important if you are buying perishable food in bulk. Be careful not to buy more than your family can eat before the food goes bad.

“6. Buying something that’s too good of a deal to pass up.

Sales and clearance racks can be deceptive. […] Even though I got a great discount, I wasn’t saving money. Those items would hang in my closet, unworn and unloved. Eventually, I ruthlessly cleaned out my closet and got rid of those sad reminders of how much I’d spent on those great ‘deals.’”

People often buy items off the sale or clearance rack that they didn’t set out for. You went to the store for a winter jacket and came home with a summer shirt because it was on the clearance rack. While not inherently a bad idea (I’ve bought clothes for a few dollars off the clearance rack that I wear all the time), make sure you are buying it because you really like it, not just because it’s cheap. I know from experience that if you don’t really love the item or it’s not very comfortable, it will go to waste, and even if it only cost you $5, that’s still $5 down the drain.

The above money saving tips can save you money if utilized correctly. Make sure to think things through before making a purchase!


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

We just wanted to share a quick post for the upcoming Holiday season that may come in handy. If you receive unwanted gift cards, or are looking to save some money for your Holiday shopping, check out this post by Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar: “The Gift Card Shuffle.”

We actually wrote a post on this topic a couple years ago: “Gift Cards at a Discount.” We had honestly forgotten about until we read Hamm’s post.

Having never used a service like Hamm describes, we can’t provide any first hand reviews of the process. However, it’s definitely something we’re going to look into using ourselves!


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

In our opinion, libraries are amazing resources. Many modern libraries go well above and beyond the older library models (where you could find reading material, but nothing more). If you live in a decent sized city or town, you likely have a modern library nearby you could be utilizing (but if you live in a very small town or rural area, you may not have such great luck).

Libraries are great for your finances as well. Not only can you find great books or magazines to further your financial knowledge (if reading a good retirement planning book is something you’re interested in), libraries can also save you money by offering free resources: computer/internet use, music, movies, games, classes, etc. Additionally, with the popularity of technology like tablets and smart phones, many libraries now offer virtual libraries, meaning you don’t even have to leave your house to check out a book. Just login and download it directly to your device.

Again, if you are lucky enough to have a modern library nearby, don’t be deterred if you aren’t an avid reader. Libraries offer so much more than books, so take some time to check it out. You might be surprised at what you find.

This post was inspired by Kristen Wong’s post “Libraries: Good for frugality, great for community” over at Get Rich Slowly.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

As 2013 gets underway, you may be questioning how you’re going to cut back on expenses. Reviewing your budget and looking for ways to save money is a great way to start off the new year. Not only does it force you to take a good look at how you have been spending money, but it can help you to make some decisions on what’s important for the coming year.

What if you have your budget in place and still feel like your expenses are too high, but can’t see where the problem is? This is very common, especially for younger people who often times have lower income and less wiggle room in their budget.

Last week, Jeff Rose over at Good Financial Cents had a great post, “70 Super Easy and Practical Ways to Save Money.” Nothing on this list is too dramatic, but if implemented correctly, everything with help you to save money. Not a lot of money in many cases, maybe only a few dollars here and there, but some of these ideas can actually help you cut a pretty big chunk out of your expenses

Obviously this list is not universal (not everyone can bike to work), but even if you only implement a handful of the ideas, you could potentially save yourself some money. But don’t give up! Many of these ideas need long term commitments, especially those that only save you a small amount every month. If you make the decision to implement, commit to it for 2013, and this time next year when you are reviewing your budget, hopefully you’ll see the difference.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.


This will be our last post of 2012! We hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We’ll see you again the 2013.

This week, I (Dawn) read a post by Lisa Aberle over at Get Rich Slowly that made me laugh. “Avoiding freezer burnout” is all about the downfalls of using a freezer for food storage.

I personally have never been a fan of using a freezer to store food long term. I’ve read plenty on the subject—it can save you money by buying in bulk, it can save you time by prepping meal ahead, etc. I’m sure all these reasons are sound, and if you are an avid freezer user, I’m sure you have your reasons, but this post by Aberle made me think of the reasons I don’t stand by it.

It doesn’t save money if you never use what’s in there

Seems pretty logical, but when you’re stocking your freezer, unless you have a specific plan for what’s going in, it may not come out again. I’m all for putting some meat in there that you know you’re going to be using for a dinner in a week or two, but just managed to catch it on sale at the store. However, sometimes things get lost in there, even if it seems to be a small space.

When my husband and I bought our house, we were given a refrigerator/freezer. It was great, one less expense to have to worry about when dealing with our fixer-upper. The only problem was the previous family member who owned it decided that the shelf in the freezer (top freezer) wasn’t needed. So, we have an open space freezer where everything has to be shoved in on top of each other. Unless I go in there and pull everything out, I would never know what’s in the back underneath all the visible stuff. Which I’ll be honest and say I don’t often do.

So what goes in may never come out. Especially things wrapped in foil. After a certain amount of time, I’m not sure I really want to know what’s in that foil.

What happens when you lose power?

Aberle doesn’t specifically talk about this, but this is the issue that really bugs me. Even if you are a diligent freezer user and never waste any money losing food in there, what happens if you lose power? Even if you don’t see that as a potential threat, it can happen, and it can mean the loss of your freezer stock, which depending on your usage, may mean a lot of money wasted.

I have had this happen to me before, and I live in an area where power outages are rare, and when they do occur, are short lived. However, a year or two ago, we had a power outage that lasted more than a day, and resulted in the loss of almost everything in our freezer and the fridge. For us, it wasn’t too damaging, but I can imagine what it would have been like if we used the freezer more often.

Use at your own risk

Aberle gives her rules of thumb while using the freezer after realizing how much money she was wasting in food:

  • “Don’t make so-so dishes! With more experience, I am a better cook and a better judge of which recipes will be good ones
  • Don’t make so much food
  • Barter the food we don’t like
  • Honest appraisal of what we really eat.”

If you want to use the freezer, go ahead and do so. But don’t be surprised if you find a foil wrapped something in the back that you can’t recall putting in there in the first place.


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

Back in 2010, I (Dawn) wrote the below post about the website I have been a member of PaperBackSwap for more than 2 years now, and I still feel that it’s an amazing site. This week, I was reminded of how much I love this site, and I wanted to share it with you again.

Once you set up your “bookshelf” where people can choose one of your books from, you can often go months without having someone request a book for you. Obviously, if you have more popular books to swap, your books will go faster. Since many of my books are older and not always very popular, I don’t have as many requests.

This week though, I received a request for one of my books. Then, a couple hours later, I received another request! How excited that made me is a testament to how nerdy I am. So, for the price of mailing 2 books (probably less that $5 – I’m going to the post office later today), I will receive 2 credits, which I intend on using to expand my hardcover collection.

That is usually how I use my credits. I have collections of books, usually from series (The Song of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin and The Mary Russell Series by Laurie R. King for example), that I like to keep. I’ve expanded my personal library this way, collecting hardcovers for the cost of mailing a book instead of the $20-$30 you can usually find them for.

That’s not to say you can’t find good deals elsewhere. I once found a book from The Mary Russell Series at Borders before they closed, a $25 hardcover in the $1 bargain bin. So, I’m still always on the lookout!

One of my favorite feature on the site is the “Reminder List.” If I see or hear about a book that I’m interested in, I’ll usually add it to this list. Even if I don’t intend to use PaperBackSwap to get the book, at least I won’t forget about it, and I’ll have it on the site when I go to the library to browse. Then, once I’ve read the book, or decide I’m no longer interested, I can delete it.

I would highly recommend the site for any reader, but especially for those that spend money on books (or would like to build up their own library for cheap). As of today, there are over 5,000,000 books available. It’s been a great tool for me over the years, and there are many other members who would agree! (From 11/15/2010)


Today’s post is going to be different than any post we’ve done so far, but hopefully useful to someone nonetheless! This tip comes exclusively from Dawn, since Keith doesn’t use the site.

Back in April, I read a post over at The Simple Dollar about money saving websites (while there check out all the other sites he recommends, you might find something useful). That’s where I discovered PaperBackSwap. After looking into the site, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about it yet. For a book lover like me, PaperBackSwap is an incredible resource, and if you ever spend money on buying books, this site will save you a lot of money.

It’s basically just a book trading site. You sign up for free and post books that you no longer want to keep (as long as they’re in good condition with no writing or highlighting – which I find to be the hardest part since I’ve highlighted in many of my books). They can be any type of book about any subject. After you first sign up, you will receive 2 credits for posting your first 10 books. Then, others can request a book from you, which you will mail to them, and then you will receive another book credit. You use those credits to request books from other members.

Like I said, if you buy books, this will save you money in the long run. From my experience, it typically costs about $1-3 to mail a book. Obviously, the more expensive books tend to be hardcover, but if you consider that you can also receive a $25-30 hardcover book for the postage price of mailing a small paperback (maybe $1), think about how much you would save over time (which the site will track for you). And many (though not all) of the books are in like new condition.

There are some downfalls though. One is that there are a limited number of copies available. So, if it isn’t a mainstream/popular book it may not be available. Also, if it’s a very popular book, it may not be immediately available. However, if you are willing to wait, you can put it on your Wish List and wait in line for it to become available, but it may or may not be a quick wait depending on the book. Also, it’s an issue if no other members request your books. If you aren’t getting anyone requesting your books, you can’t get credits this way. You can buy credits on the site, which are more expensive than paying for postage, but still much less expensive then buying a book outright.

Recently, the site has also added the feature of buying new books, where you can pay in all cash, or use some of your credits plus cash. I haven’t used this feature, and I’m not sure if the prices are better than buying new elsewhere, but it might be worth looking into if you do plan on buying a book new.

If you like the idea of this site, but are more interested in movies and music, there are two sister sites, SwapaDVD and SwapaCD. They are less popular, with less members and less selection available, but they function very similarly. A feature that might be helpful is credit transferring. If you get a credit for mailing a DVD, but want to use it to get a book, you can transfer that credit to the other site.

Hopefully someone finds this site useful!


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

On Monday, over at The Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm wrote a post that really resonated with me (Dawn), “Plant Shade Trees.” The post is part of his “365 Ways to Live Cheap” series.

Many people may not be as interested in this post as I am, but it really hit home for me because I know exactly what it’s about. My husband and I bought our fixer-upper house three years ago in an older, well established neighborhood where the houses range from being built in the 1920s-1950s (ours was built in 1953). It just so happened that, for whatever reason, our house is one of, if not the only, house in the neighborhood that doesn’t have at least one large shade tree in the yard.

Depending on where you live and what your yard/home is like, not having a shade tree may not be an issue for you. But for us, it has become a major issue, so much so that for the past few weeks we’ve been trying plan how we can pull off planting one in our yard.

This post was great for me, because it gave me some ideas on where to start. So far, our plans have consisted of deciding we need a tree and, in general, deciding where it would likely go. But I wanted to share some of the reasons why we decided a shade tree would be right for us. Not all of them are financial (though the financial benefits will be worth it as well).

  • Lawn Maintenance – During the dry summer months, many people have issues keeping their lawns green. We have trouble keeping our lawn alive. The first year we moved in, the city had repaved the road we live on. During the process, they had put new sod down on the easement between the sidewalk and the street. Through observation, we were one of the only houses on the street that took the time to water the new sod. And by the end of the summer, we were the only house on the street with completely dead sod.
  • Cooling Cost – Our house is a bungalow, and because of that, our ½ story upstairs is often much warmer than downstairs (often by 10° or more). This problem is exacerbated by the sun beating down on the roof with no relief during the summer months.
  • Outdoor Activities – Due to the positioning of the house, we usually get only a few hours of shade a day (some in the front yard, some in the back). It makes afternoon outdoor activities unbearable, when the sun is directly overhead and providing no shade from the house. While some people don’t mind sitting out in the sun, I am not one of them!
  • Tree Envy – Sounds petty, but when you are the only house in the neighbor without a shade tree, tree envy sets in. Most of our walks through the neighborhood include discussions about how we wish we had a tree like that in our yard.

So, we’ll work on our shade tree plan and hopefully be planting one in the near future!


  • Disclaimer: The information on this blog is not meant for specific financial advice. The ideas/opinions stated are not suited for everyone, and readers should use their own judgment in applying them in their financial lives.

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