Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five Ways to Not Save Money

While I've covered several ways to save money, one thing I haven't discussed is a few simple things that are often overlooked. What follows is a sort of money saving guide in reverse.

1. Using a coupon because you have it
This is a trap that a lot of new couponers, including myself, have fallen into. Sure, that soup is on sale. And yes, you have a great coupon that means the store is practically giving the cans away. But even if the cost of the soup is only $.25 per can, if you aren't going to use it, that's $.25 wasted.

On the flip side of this is: not using a coupon because it's small. You may have a coupon for $.35 off a product. Pennies, right? But if you're going to buy that product anyway, why not save the $.35? If this is a product you buy regularly, say every two weeks, that coupon will save you $9.10 over a year. Once you begin to use more and more of those $.35 coupons, in addition to higher value ones, your savings will grow.

2. Being brand loyal
There are three products that I am completely brand loyal to: Diet Pepsi, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Tampax Pearl Tampons. I'm sure there are a few other things that I buy only one certain brand of, but those are the three that come to mind first. If you have a long list of brands that you're fiercely loyal to, you're probably missing out on savings. If you're hesitant about trying a new brand, do some research. Ask trusted friends and family (or my readers!) if they've ever tried it. Once you have a few recommendations, wait for a good deal and buy the product. Letting go of brand loyalties means you have a wider range of products to choose from when using coupons.

3. Not knowing your bottom line
It's vital that you be aware of how much things cost. Take Safeway, for example. If I didn't know what a really good deal on a product was, I would often be sucked in by those big yellow price tags indicating a sale. I just ran to the store tonight to buy a few things. Sara Lee bagels had a yellow tag on the shelf, advertising them as $2.49/bag. I was not fooled. I know that my bottom line for bagels is $2, meaning, unless it is an emergency, I don't buy bagels unless they cost less than $2. Don't be fooled by the sale flyer, either. It amazes me how, just by seeing a product in the sale flyer, people assume it must be a good deal. There might be a big picture of avocados on the front, advertising them as four for $5. But if you only buy avocados when they're at their cheapest, you know that you can get them for $.50 each. Knowing your bottom line allows you to feel confident, knowing you aren't overpaying.

4. Not using Facebook
It took me a while to come around to the idea of "liking" companies on Facebook. I didn't want their status updates to clutter my news feed and, to be honest, I didn't want everyone on my friends list to see that I was liking 436 different companies and profiles each day. Now I'm over it. Yes, I have to scroll through some extra posts everyday, but the extra .7 seconds it takes is worth it to me. And if "liking" Tide on Facebook let me enter a giveaway that gave me enough free stain remover to last for 22 loads of laundry, I don't really care what other people think.

5. Need Based Shopping
This is a topic best elaborated on in another post, so I'll be brief. Most of us shop based on need. You buy peanut butter when you're almost out, regardless of whether it's $1/jar or $3.50/jar. To truly save money, we have to change the way we think about buying groceries. If your bottom line for peanut butter is $1, then you buy peanut butter when it's $1, even though you might have two jars in the cabinet at home, because you don't know when peanut butter will go on sale again. You don't want to run out and be forced to purchase it at it's regular price. Like I said before, this involves doing a complete 180 in how we approach shopping for groceries, and I'll go into it more in-depth in a later post.

For Ashley: My dog, which is big and black and happy, loves to go for walks. This is the best I can do.

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