If you know me, you know I love a good deal. When Stephen and I got married last year, money was really tight. We both worked part-time jobs, so I learned how to stretch a dollar. Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with full-time jobs, and our income can be stretched more. But why spend more money when you’ve learned how to save it?
Here are eight tips and tricks for saving money:
1. Set up an email address. Okay, you may already have a work email or a family email. I have three email addresses—I have one for work, one for personal matters, and then one strictly for store coupons and offers. It’s very important that you create a separate email for your coupons and store offers—if not, your personal or work email addresses will be flooded with deals!
2. Sign up for store and restaurant emails. You know those annoying sales associates who always ask for your email address when you’re checking out? Yeah, I used to be one of them. Don’t hate us—we’re actually pretty nice. But really, these emails actually come in handy! And if you’ve set up your “coupon-only” email address, you don’t have to worry about much. Many stores send “welcome offers” once you provide your email. If you frequent quite a few shops, sign up for their email! You can even sign up on a lot of their websites. You’ll get tons of coupons and most stores send you a special gift for your birthday! Here’s some stores I subscribe to: Old Navy, Ann Taylor, Loft, Kohls, Vera Bradley, Coach, Chaco, Lane Bryant, and Coldwater Creek.
Restaurants: While waiters and waitresses won’t come out and ask you to sign up for email programs, many restaurants have them! Go to your favorite restaurant’s website and look for links that say something like “email club.” Many restaurants send coupons out weekly, send gifts on your birthday, and some even send discount offers for your anniversary if you provide it. One year for my birthday, I ate a free meal every day of the week leading up to my birthday. Not exactly healthy, but hey, it’s only your birthday once a year.
3. Plan your meals for the week before going to the grocery store. I usually try to shop with two weeks of dinners in mind. Remember, you can keep meat frozen, and thaw it in the fridge the day you plan on cooking it. That being said, I usually have to go in the middle of the week to restock on a few items. By planning meals in advance, I get only what I need at the grocery store. I can also scan the sales papers for Kroger and Publix, clip the coupons that are handy to me, and figure out where the best deals are going to be. It also gets me in and out of the store 10 times quicker. Here’s a freebie tip: Never, under any circumstance, go to the grocery store when hungry. I guarantee you’ll leave with more than you needed and regret it later.
4. Clip those coupons! If you don’t get the Sunday paper in your town, go out early that morning and buy one (or three). I’m lucky—my in laws get the Sunday paper and because the lady who delivers their mail likes them so much, she slips a few extra of the coupon mailers in their mailbox each Sunday. Those extras get passed on to me! Clip those coupons! However, that leads me to number 5:
5. Buy store brands. Okay, people, let’s do some simple math. If Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is $2.89 and Kroger Macaroni and Cheese is $1.39, is my “$0.75 off of 1 Kraft Mac & Cheese” doing me any good? No! That still makes the name brand more expensive than the store brand. I get it, some of us have our preferences when it comes to name brand foods. I don’t like store brand soft drinks. Stephen hates when I buy the Kroger brand of chips. Those are the two staples (and also most expensive items) that I buy name brand. But if you can buy store brand, do it! Coupons come in handy in some cases, but your store brands are almost always going to be the cheapest (and still tasty).
6. Sign up for rewards programs. If you do not have a CVS Rewards card, a Kroger Plus Card, a Walgreens Balance Rewards card, or any others, you’re missing out. I rarely shop at Walgreens, but when I do, the total I spend helps me earn points which = money! For medicine and cosmetics, I primarily shop at CVS. Just a confession: I have only spent more than $10 at CVS 2-3 times. I always have “extra bucks” and find great deals. For example, today I bought a bottle of Caress soap, 2 bottles of Herbal Essences shampoo, and 2 bottles of Herbal Essences conditioner for $6. With your Kroger plus card, you build up points with each dollar you spend. 100 points = $0.10 off a gallon of gas at Kroger pumps.
7. Start brown-bagging it (or get a cute lunchbox)! I know it sounds so appealing to walk away from your desk during your lunch hour and grab a burger and fries, but it gets so expensive! Think about it this way: Say you eat at McDonald’s once a day Monday-Friday and spend $5. That is $25 a week, $100 a month, and $1200 a YEAR! $1200! That’s how much it cost for Stephen and I to go on our cruise last year. That’s a lot of money (just be grateful I didn’t calculate the calories), and it’s being spent on hamburgers and french fries! It’s time to put on your big girl panties and pack your lunch. Splurge occasionally and buy your lunch, or go out with a co-worker for lunch—but it’s time to start brown-bagging it.
8. Do your research! Since I’m no expert, check out websites by people who really know what they’re talking about. You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to appreciate a good deal. Here’s some websites that are really useful for saving money:
I hope these help some! I would by no means consider myself an expert on saving money, but doing these things really helped during some tough financial times. I hope they help someone else, too!