How do I know this? Because other people want the regular tips for saving money. But you know all those. You've done them. You're looking for the slightly insane ones.
Well, I got such a huge response when I wrote my first 30 Slightly Insane Things I Do To Save Money that I'm back again with 30 more.
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- Think one year ahead if you can. Shop for next year's school supplies in mid-September, next year's Christmas decorations in January, and next year's clothes for your kids at the end of the season when they're on clearance.
- Repurpose clearanced holiday merchandise. Sure, it looks holiday-themed in the aisle surrounded by all the other stuff, but a lot of the time it's basically the regular product with holiday packaging. I like to buy all my wrapping paper after Christmas; even the not-Christmasey looking stuff goes on sale and I can use it all year long.
- A lot of utility companies give early payment discounts for paying your bill early. Does yours? (Even if they don't, pay your bills right away. Procrastination sometimes ends up in a late fee, and that sucks.)
- I used to plan a week's worth of meals and go shopping every Saturday; now I still shop once a week but I only plan 5 days of meals and on the weekends we're forced to use up stuff from the fridge and cupboards. Even if we're out of something like milk that we use all the time, I try to wait one more day before grocery shopping because something else always ends up coming home with the milk.
- Our oldest child is 12, and we've paid for a babysitter exactly twice. Part of it is that we don't go out nearly often enough, but part of it is that we trade babysitting with another family whenever we can.
- Our health insurance will pay $200 a year toward gym memberships or sports fees. Others give incentives for preventive medicine like yearly physicals. Does yours?
- Speaking of health insurance, you should read the fine print of yours. On some plans, it might cost less out of pocket for you to visit urgent care instead of the emergency room for stitches, go to Minute Clinic at CVS instead of your pediatrician for your kid's ear infection, or request the generic prescription instead of the name brand.
- If you have some money in savings but you can't invest it or put it in a CD because you might need it, consider a high-yield savings account.
- If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can watch a lot of movies and TV for free with Amazon Instant Video. The ones that aren't free are only a few dollars, which is still better than having to put on pants and drive to a Redbox.
- List broken appliances on Craigslist or Freecycle with full disclosure; some people fix up bikes or lawnmowers to resell or use and will actually take yours off of your hands.
- If you can't sell your old electronics on eBay or Craiglist, use the Best Buy electronics recycling program to get rid of them for free. No disposal fees!
- There are a ton of workout videos on Amazon Instant or YouTube, as opposed to a gym membership. And it's more fun to work out at home with a toddler crawling on your head, anyway.
- Learn to coupon. I will never again pay a cent for toothpaste, shampoo, or conditioner because of coupons. Even if you don't want to be an extreme couponer who gets 112 bottles of mouthwash for 50 cents, understanding the principles of couponing will help you save money regularly.
- Use conditioner instead of shaving cream. I get my conditioner for free by couponing, but even if you pay full price, a cheap bottle of VO5 is cheaper than a bottle of shaving cream and lasts longer.
- Sign up for online coupon sites like Checkout 51 and Ibotta. You just take pictures of your receipt and submit them, money goes into your account, and you can cash out once you reach a certain amount.
- I grind my teeth, and a new mouthguard last spring was going to cost me $667. My dental insurance covered nothing. So instead I went to CVS and got a 2-pack of at-home moldable mouth guards for $30. They are a little clunkier than the ones the dentist will make for you, but even if each of them only last a year it will literally take me 40 years to meet that $667 price point.
- I buy dry beans, cook large batches of them in the crockpot, the freeze bags to use in place of canned beans. Dry beans are easier to take home, are healthier for you, and most importantly, cost 1/6 as much as canned beans. You can get them super-cheap at restaurant supply stores, but there isn't one close enough to make it worth my while so I just get 1-pound bags at the grocery store.
- If your state requires vehicle inspection stickers, wait until the first day of the next month to renew yours. They expire on the last day of the month, so if yours expires August 31 go get your inspection on September 1. Your new sticker will be good through the end of next September and you've just gotten a free month.
- Change your default printer settings to "black only" or "grayscale." Most of the time, printing in color is a total waste. Even if you're only printing black text, your printer still uses some colored ink unless you specifically tell it not to.
- Get a free cell phone plan. Yes, free. I currently have service with Freedom Pop which is great for my data and texting needs, but I'm not happy with the call quality. A friend who hates spending money almost as much as I do recommended a free plan with Ring Plus, so I will have to check them out.
- A lot of drugstores have prescription loyalty rewards programs. You might get $5 in store credit for every 10 prescriptions you fill there, for example.
- Special makeup remover pads come in an 80-count container for $4.99; I can find baby wipes for 1 cent per wipe (couponing!) and cut them into fourths to use instead of makeup remover. You don't even need to do the math. It's just way, way cheaper.
- I carry around discounted gift cards for the stores I shop at most often. I find them on Gift Card Granny and buy at a 10-20% discount (i.e: a $100 gift card for $80 or $90.) You could actually gift these to people, or use them yourself. Either way, you win.
- A word about credit cards: I already mentioned in my other post that we use cashback credit cards. Normally, we get 1% cash back on purchases, but every quarter you can sign up for certain categories (restaurants, groceries, gas, etc) that get 5%. But here's the important part: credit cards are only smart if you pay them off in full every month. If you are carrying a balance and paying interest on your credit card, you are wasting your money in the worst way. Treat your debt as a huge flaming emergency and get rid of it. [end rant]
- We rarely eat out, but when we do we try to combine it with a deal. Check sites like Groupon, Restaurant.com, or even Gift Card Granny for someplace you'd like to eat. Or you can ask for gift cards to restaurants at holidays and save them for date night.
- When something breaks, learn to fix it on YouTube. From changing oil to cleaning your dishwasher to unclogging your sink, there's a tutorial for it online for free. Phillip could get a degree in auto mechanics from YouTube for all he's learned there. He once knew nothing about cars; now he does our brakes in the garage.
- You can throw money at your kids' wardrobes endlessly, and they'll still outgrow everything in a season. In general, we don't buy more than our kids can wear in a week, which is how often we do laundry. They each have a pair of church shoes and a pair of everyday shoes for each season, and that's it. Any more just adds clutter to our tiny mudroom.
- Buy with price per ounce in mind. Usually stores make it really easy for you by putting it right on the tag on the shelf. Bigger boxes are often, but not always, the best deal. A bunch of regular-sized packages of store brand cereal from your grocery store is often cheaper than a huge bulk container of name brand stuff from Costco.
- Keep a box of stocking stuffers (or Easter basket stuffers). And hide it, obviously. Whenever I run across $1 toys, cheap candy, or after-the-holiday clearanced Easter/Christmas stuff I think my kids might like, I throw them in the box.
- Re-use large 5x7 or 8x10 envelopes you get in the mail. We buy practically everything besides groceries on Amazon, so these are in no short supply in our house. You just need to tape the flap shut when re-using, and I write the address on a separate piece of paper and tape it to the front to cover up any previous labels.
What about you? What slightly insane shortcuts do you take to save some money? Leave your input below and don't forget to check out the original 30 Slightly Insane Things I Do To Save Money for more ideas.