I love to save money, so I invited my friend Megan to share some tips & tricks for saving money. I was able to learn some tricks, and I hope you can too!

I have always loved a good deal. I may be guilty of buying things I definitely don’t need just because they were a bargain I couldn’t pass up. I’m pretty sure that there is a genetic trait for this, passed down to me through my mom’s side of the family. My love of saving money used to just involve shopping the end caps at Target for clearance items, picking up Christmas decorations at 75% off during a New Year’s Day shopping spree, and scouring the clearance racks at department stores at the end of the season for my kids’ wardrobes for the next year.

Change Jar (1) v2

At some point, I also discovered I could save a ton of money on things like groceries and toiletries, and it changed my life!  I used to think that the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper were mainly for old people who wanted to order collector coins, elastic waist pants and sensible shoes (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course!). I went into psycho coupon-lady mode for a few years and filled my house with a huge stockpile of bargains. The pace was a little hard to keep up with after having my last baby and since then I have slowed down, but I’ve also become better at figuring out how to save money on more things in the process. I’d love to share just a few of the principles that guide me to either save or splurge.

Sunday Circular (1) v2

Save on the things you HAVE to buy so you can spend on the things you WANT to buy.

Spending money is pretty much inevitable in the world we live in.  There are basics that we just have to have … and most of them aren’t renewable so we have to keep buying them over and over again.  We now have four people in my household who use deodorant … that can add up quickly! Why would I want to bust my budget on something as boring (albeit necessary) as that? It’s worth it to me to bargain shop for the basics so that I still have something left over to spend on things that make me happy!

Time really is money.

We live in a busy world and our time is valuable.  You have to weigh the time it takes you to do something versus the benefit of doing it. At times, I have spent many, many hours a week planning shopping trips, clipping coupons, and shopping at multiple stores. I also saved hundreds of dollars doing this and reduced my family’s grocery bill to next to nothing. If I divided my savings by the hours I spent, it was well worth my time—and I did actually have the time available. Just last week I needed to purchase a membership to AAA, so I spent about 20 minutes on the phone and internet searching for a discount. I was able to get a coupon code that waved the enrollment fee and added a second member for free … that 20 minutes was worth $45 in savings.

It works the other way too, though.  It’s not always worth it to drive to a store that’s far away just to save a few bucks.  Consider factors such as gas, distance and your own personal schedule to decide whether it is worth your time.  For example, I decided long ago to cough up a few extra cents per pound for boneless skinless chicken because taking the time to cook and de-bone a chicken was something I did not feel was worth the savings.  I’m okay with spending a little extra to save myself time and energy that could better be spent elsewhere.

Stock up on good deals when they are available.

Many of us were raised to only buy what we need when we need it.  In general this is a good concept when it comes to our finances, but bargain/coupon shopping doesn’t always lend itself to this philosophy.  While I have been deal-shopping long enough to realize that there will always be another deal, it may not be at the time I need it.  If I can buy granola bars for $.50/box when they are normally $3.29, I will buy as many as I reasonably can.  As long as you’ll be able to use something during its shelf life, it’s a good idea to stock up.  Make a list of the items you buy and what you usually spend, and then watch the ads for “stock up” prices.

When you can open your cabinets and make dinner for a friend at the last minute or donate something to your local school without having to run to the store, you will start to see the beauty of this philosophy!

If it’s free, take it.

Sometimes, you can combine a store sale and a coupon to get free items. I have more free toothpaste in my stockpile than even I’d like to admit.  But if I can get something free with a coupon, even if I am not 100% sure that I need it, I will always take it. It gives me an opportunity to try something new at no risk, build my emergency supplies, share with friends or donate to a worthy organization. You just can’t beat getting something for free!

Toothpaste Stash (1) v2

It’s okay to splurge sometimes.

I walk a fine line sometimes between trying to save money and just being a cheapskate! I realized that I might whine about how much everything costs just a little too much when I found out one of my kids hadn’t asked to participate in an activity “because it costs money”.  It’s okay to enjoy life and spend a tiny bit of your hard earned money on something fun.  What we splurge on is different for all of us.  For some, it might be that expensive bottle of nail polish or a massage, for others it might be a night at the movies. While I believe we have to constantly reevaluate our spending habits and be willing to change them, I also believe a little retail therapy goes a long way.  And it can be guilt-free if we save where we can … (see #1) …

Coupons Red Scissors

And, don’t forget that if you shop online for any of the items you use on a regular basis – you can use the Ebates website to visit your favorite stores and earn cash back!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

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