Ok I’m going to dig deep into the topic of cost savings and expose some rather quirky frugal behaviors/habits I have and maybe you already do these or want to adopt them too. Or then again, maybe you think I’m a little nutty for doing these. These are not exactly the big ticket/recurring savings items like I’ve talked about in the other cost saving series posts, but the savings could add up depending on how often you do them.
I’m not sure what’s behind some of these, perhaps I just can’t pass up something free or perhaps I just despise paying full price for certain items…or maybe a combination of both. Frankly, some of these habits make we wonder if I somehow grew up in the Depression, because they really don’t save a lot of money. If you follow these examples, are you assured to reach financial independence? Doubtful. They certainly help, but they are not likely to be the cornerstone of your savings strategy. Done consistently over many years though, the savings (and compound interest) can start to stack up.
I think I probably learned about doing this from my Dad, who of course is also quite frugal too. Who doesn’t like to see free shampoo/conditioner and soap to use when you arrive at a hotel room? Magically, when you use the shampoo on the first day, another one will typically appear when the housekeeping staff clean and refresh your room. I’ve seen them use super fancy brand soaps/shampoos and I’ve seen hotels use super cheap ones. Either way, I’m going to be keeping it. I consider the shampoo and soap to be built into the cost of the room, so I will typically use them and take any remaining home. There was a span of time where I traveled quite a bit for work and I went almost 5 years without buying shampoo or a bar soap. I don’t use conditioner, lotion or shower caps, so believe it or not, I actually leave them behind.
My Dad used to take all the free shampoos he would get and pour them into one large bottle. And wouldn’t you know, I just did the same thing this past weekend. Like father, like son I guess. The color of all the freebie shampoos mixed together does look kind of weird, so I guess if you don’t mind that, you should be good to go.
If you’re like me, many documents you print at home, or that you receive in the mail, are only printed on one side. More and more printers are now letting you choose to print 2-sided, but it’s still not totally the norm in my experience and my laser black & white printer can only do one-sided. With all this one-sided printing going on, that leaves a lot of opportunities to print on the other side of the paper instead of throwing it away or recycling it. Most documents I print at home are not for sending out, so this tactic seems to fit my family just fine. All you have to do is remember to put blank paper in if you need to print to send a document off.
10% Off Coupons—Lowe’s
This is one I learned from my good friend and former neighbor who was very thrifty. Every time we had him and his wife over for dinner we managed to learn a new way to save money. BTW, they both retired in their 40’s, so they did something right!!
When you move/change addresses you can often get a Home Depot and/or Lowe’s coupon in the mail for 10% off your next purchase. Somehow though, there is a way some people have found to legally get more of the Lowe’s coupons and they sell them on eBay. They are all quick to say they are not selling the coupon itself, but rather their time to collect it. I guess they all got in trouble once and their new statement about their time to collect somehow makes it acceptable with Lowe’s and eBay. Works for me.
I can regularly get one for $1-2 each and of course if you buy them in multiples, they are a bit cheaper. They will have an expiration date that is typically a month or so away, so you can’t really stockpile these. If you have a home improvement project coming up or a lot of outside garden work you’re doing, these could easily save you $10-20 each. I’d say $20 savings of a coupon that cost me $2 is a pretty good deal.
Asking for a Discount
This one is probably the easiest idea to implement in this post and the most valuable per occurrence. All you really have to do is ask for it, which of course costs you nothing. The most common place that we do this is at an automotive repair/maintenance shop. It can work at a dealer’s shop and it can work at independent shops too. We can pretty regularly get $50 knocked off the total price of a repair. Sometimes these may be specials they have sent out to customers, but if you aren’t an existing customer yet you wouldn’t know about it, but they are often willing to extend the same discount to you…as long as you ask.
Another place I’ve done this is with satellite television. I fired the local cable company 15 years ago and went to DirecTV, so I kind of cut the “cord”, but not really. We’re contemplating getting rid of them altogether, but haven’t made the move just yet. They are getting kind of pricey in my opinion, so I’ll often call them and ask for the latest discount that they are giving new subscribers. If they are savvy (which DirecTV usually is), they know the cost to acquire a new customer and it is in their best interest to keep you on. I’ve been with them about 15 years and they acknowledge it when I call with any questions. They will usually try and offer you 3 months of premium channels because you’ve been a long-time subscriber, but frankly I’m not too interested in the premium movie channels (plus they hope you forget after 3 months, so they can continue to bill you for the channels), so push on and ask for a specific discount that you might have found online or in a mailed circular. I’ve had them take off $10-15 per month for a year to get me closer to one of the promo deals, and all I had to do was call and ask for it. In fact, I recently just called and saved over $600 off my next year’s bills, just for a 45 minute phone call with the right person. I’d say that was worth my time.
Chocolate is easy to love. I know there are some people that don’t and if that’s you, then perhaps you like some other candy treats. Maybe you have the will power to avoid sweets altogether, but most of us don’t. All I really want is a small bite or two, which is usually found in the small “fun size” candy. If you prefer fancier chocolates, this tip probably won’t apply to you, but if you are fond of the mainstream chocolates from Hershey, Reese’s, Nestle and such, you can often find great deals on their candy. The trick is in the timing. For example, I can buy a bag a Reese’s a week before Halloween and pay $3.00 or I can buy it the day after Halloween and pay $1.50 (or less). Practically every grocery store and drug store will drastically discount their seasonal candy the day after the holiday (e.g. Halloween, Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas) to the tune of 50% off or more. I’ll stop buy the day after and pick up a couple bags which will typically last us until the next candy-related holiday.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, most of these habits/tips won’t net you massive savings each month/year, but if you begin to adopt a thrifty or frugal lifestyle, these types of habits will become more common. You’ll likely even find or discover even more frugal habits. When you add them all up and do them over several years, the savings can get to be large and our friend compound interest can start to work.