Penny Wi$e: money-saving tips for a tight economy

I don’t know about you, but I hate spending money.  I don’t have much of it, and what I have is mostly pre-assigned to bills, gas (sheesh!), food ice cream, etc.  However, there are times such as getting a new job, reaching life milestones (birthdays, weddings, etc), making lifestyle choices (losing/gaining weight, getting pregnant), when other necessary purchases need to be made.

How do we make those purchases without breaking the bank, depleting our savings, etc?


In 2011, I had the idea to set aside some back-up “fun” money.  Adam and I had talked about it, but when we did, it hadn’t seemed like such a feasible idea.  After all, it seemed like we were just making our bills!  However, I later decided that there were times when Adam and I splurged and got a Starbucks or even a soda or other drink at a restaurant, and by choosing to not have those splurges, I could take that money and start a little “nest-egg”.  Now this supply of cash hidden away was slow in building up, but each time I chose to avoid an impulse purchase, I felt a little better knowing that the little bit I was syphoning here and there would add up eventually.  Seven months later, I was able to purchase Adam the brand new iPad 2.  Am I still saving? *shrugs* maybe… 😉

Coin Jar

It’s amazing to me how often I clean out my purse and find a handful of random change.  Recently, I had to clean it out–it had been a while– and I found over $20 in loose change.  Not only does my shoulder not hurt as much (from removing all that weight), but my coin jar in my kitchen is slowly filling up.  It does add up!  When I worked as manager at Tim Horton’s, it was job to empty the coin jar for the Tim Horton’s kids’ camp donations.  It was not uncommon to get over $45 from Coinstar after only a week or so of lose change.  It does accumulate!  Although a personal coin jar is much slower in build-up, patience and consistency will pay off.

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” – Benjamin Franklin

Dollar Jar

I will never forget how excited one of my customers at the coffee shop was the day I told her I had to give her change from her $10 bill in ones.  She proceeded to share with me that she had a dollar jar, in which she would deposit all of her dollar bills.  By choosing to save every $1 bill this way, she had saved a large amount of money for future splurges.

Other Ways to Save:

Shopping at Thrift Stores/Yard Sales

Here in America, we like quick results for our problems and immediate solutions to our “needs”.  Most-recently, I have needed jeans.  I was down to one pair of modified jeans [INSERT LINK] and one pair of decent (although looking kind of grimy) jeans I bought about 2 years ago.  Then, I had a pair that was too small and two more that were a few sizes too big.  I mentioned this a few times to Adam that I needed to buy jeans. However, as I stopped by a few stores to figure out fit and styles that I like, I realized there was/is no way I can afford $30 for one pair of jeans.  I know that’s not even a bad price considering how much I could spend, but I need a few pair, and I can’t be spending anywhere close to $100 on clothes.

Enter ThriftStore.  Thrift stores are often hit or miss for decent clothing.  Yes, they are often full of well-used clothes that are very out-of-style, crazy colored, and/or not your size.  However, with time, effort, willingness to try new things, styles, etc., and a humility to shop amongst someone else’s rejects, you can actually find some good deals.

Yard Sales.  The key to yard-saling is picking which neighborhoods are best for shopping.  If you’re in a lesser income area, the prices on the goods (and often the quality) will be less than ideal. However, in a high-income/development area, the users are often more cautious with the quality of items they are selling, and the prices tend to be much more secondhand-buyer friendly.

Clearance Shopping

When was the last time you walked into the mall and left empty-handed?  For me, this happens all the time (or at least often when I venture to the mall… I try to avoid there).  A simple decision to avoid paying excessive amounts for clothing has changed my shopping habits.  I now shop more (Imagine that, ladies! I shop more!) and pay less!

The key to shopping more and paying less is window shopping.  Go shopping, look around, try on clothes.  Even check out the clearance racks.  However, do not buy a thing.  About a week or so later, return to the store and see what is on sales, further reduced on clearance, etc.  This art has allowed me to score some great deals and avoid paying too much for clothes.  Patience is the key, of course, and a willingness, perhaps, to miss something and not walk away with the specific shirt you’re eyeing.

Now some stores are better for this than others.  I find that Macy’s is great for this. Recently, I got multiple pieces of winter clothing for about 90% off. Although they’re more the winter style, I’ll be set-up for next year’s winter, and hey, it’s still winter, right??

Kohls, although a great advertiser of deals, is one store that I have to visit quite often to find the best sale.  (They offer constant sales, but their sale prices are nowhere close to what I’m willing to pay.)

Walmart is also another great location.  In each Walmart, there is a Clearance location.  Take a stroll through there and find great deals for something that is just past this season.  It’s a great place to get decorations for next year’s holidays, clothes for next year’s seasons, etc.  Don’t be afraid to plan ahead and buy for next year, next summer, etc.  You’ll be happy to find some new, relatively free items in your closet, pantry, or decoration bin when next year rolls around, and I guarantee no one will know or care that it was pre-purchased.

Comparing Prices/Generic Brands

Do not be afraid to compare prices of available brands.  It is amazing to me how many brands I buy simply because that it was I was raised on.  However, when I start comparing prices (especially in the area of food), I find that the big price differential is worth trying something new.  Some of the biggest ways to save a few bucks during your shopping trip is to pick the ingredients that are no-name brands.  Use the store brand, the cheaper option, etc, and for most food items, no one will be able to tell the difference.  Of course, there are a few products that are noticeable, but if you need cream cheese in a batter or crushed tomatoes or refried beans for a recipe, I promise no one will be able to tell the difference.

Buying Online

Adam is my online shopper.  When he is in need of something electronic or related to one of our gadgets, he finds the cheapest place online to buy it.  As a result, he saved over $50 on our phone cases.  He purchased them online through Amazon (after much research about the company that was listing these products) and instead of buying the cases at Walmart or Verizon, he purchased them online.  They’re often delivered just a few days later, so the delay is not bad either!

Buying in Bulk

I had someone laugh at me when they saw me in Sam’s Club once.  Here I was, a newlywed, feeding two people, and I was buying pounds of meat, cheese, pepperoni, etc.  They laughed and made comments about how many people I was feeding, but in actuality, they had no idea how much money I was saving.  By buying in bulk, I can shop for food fewer times and stock up my kitchen for long spans of time.  Buying meat in bulk is a great way to save money.  Merely split up the packages of meat into portions for one meal or two and freeze the individual bags.  By doing this, I have avoided weekly shopping trips for the more expensive items and therefore, saved time, gas, and money.


Unfortunately, this is an art that I have yet to really apply to my life. I have heard the benefits (pssh…watch Extreme Couponing, and you’ll be convinced too), but I am still a little behind on this trend.  I really think I need to just take the time to set up my coupon binder and make a go for it.  Are you a couponer?  Comment back and let me know how you utilize couponing to help you save money!


Am I missing anything?  What else can we do, what other lifestyle changes can we make, and what other practices can we develop to help save money?

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