“A penny saved is a penny earned” has been my motto for as long as I can remember. I started saving early in life. I never really saved for anything in particular, I just liked the idea of having a lot of money in my bank account.
As a broke college student I made sure I kept track of every penny. Those habits spilled over into adulthood, where I make sure I plan my month, week, and even day sometimes. Now that I’m on maternity leave, my saving habits have become even stronger. I know in a few weeks I won’t have an income and it’s driving the control freak in me insane.
The only thing I can do now is watch where my money is going. My biggest pet peeve and what I absolutely hate is paying more when I could be paying less.
So how do I stay frugal and save money on real life items?
I’ve made a list of several different categories where I like to save money as well as some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.
Saving on groceries can be quite easy if you know what to do. One thing I do to save on groceries is buy in bulk. Sam’s Club or Costco offer memberships that will allow you to buy things you use most in bulk. I make sure I stock up on eggs, turkey meat, fruit such as apples and blueberries, bread, and frozen meals. As well I will also pick up soap and shampoo there. Why keep spending large amounts of money on individual items when you can buy the things you use most in bulk?
For the items that I forgot to buy in bulk, I will head over to Big Lots. For $20 at Big Lots, you can get about 15 of the condiments you will need for the next month as well as some pasta sides under $2.
If I do make it over to Walmart or the local grocery store, I will use grocery apps such as Ibotta to get money back on items. I like this app because on most items it allows you to use any brand and it gives you back money on common items such as milk and eggs. There are some other grocery apps out there as well that would be worth trying.
I am most proud of the method I used to buy a car because it saved me a lot of money on interest. It was a really simple process and most people don’t realize that if they have good credit they don’t need to pay a large amount of interest. First I found a car I liked and asked for the out-the-door price. Then I called my credit union, got approved for an auto loan through them with 2.5% interest rate.
They cut a check the same day and I handed it to the dealership. I could only imagine the interest rate if I had went through the dealership. Not to mention how many times they would have to run my credit.
As well as saving on my car, I also make sure I save on the maintenance. Whenever I need an oil change, I ask my car maintenance shop if they can do better than the price they offer me. I ask if they have any specials running and usually they will come back with a lower offer. When I get a good price, I will use the same place again and ask if they can do that price again and usually they can.
#3: Emergency items
One of the more expensive things I had to get done recently was get a replacement key for my car. The plastic remote had broke on it and I could barely get my car started. If you have never had a car key programmed and replaced then you are lucky. I was shocked when they told me it would be $300!
It was a necessity so I told them to schedule me an appointment. After getting off the phone with them, I called my insurance and asked if they covered a replacement key. They did! They didn’t cover it all, but they were able to reimburse me $100.
I use AAA which is only $30 a year. This really helps for any kind of towing, tire changing, or break downs. I didn’t realize but roadside assistance is covered by my insurance too, so I actually have double coverage. But having AAA can also help you save on tickets, rentals, and other places that provide AAA discounts.
Taxes is something that you have to do every year. That means you will probably have to get taxes done over 50 times in your lifetime. Why not learn it and do them yourself every year? I usually don’t spend anything going through TaxAct or TurboTax.
Plus, when I was working independently and filing a 1090, I was able to itemize and write off items myself. It was good seeing it because if the numbers didn’t add up, I would recalculate and find some business-related receipts that I could write off.
I am very picky about my clothing and I do not like second-hand clothes. If I know my size, I will get on Amazon or Wish or some other online site and order my clothing. It is usually half the price of any department store at least, and you can find some pretty original newer items.
As well, I make sure I take advantage of sales and store cards. Kohl’s is my favorite place to shop for clothes. If I use my Kohl’s card they take off 15-30%. Not only that but I can pay it immediately at the register so I don’t have to remember a credit card payment later. Also, on certain weekends they will give cash back vouchers for spending over a certain amount. I will make sure I go the next week and pick up another shirt with that free money.
#6: Baby supplies
The most expensive baby item I had to buy was formula. So I did my research. I found Enfamil Newborn Formula on Amazon in a pack of 6 for a little over $100. That was the cheapest bulk formula I could find. If you do the math, it does save money, about $3-4 on each can.
When I go to the pediatrician, I will ask them if they have any formula. They usually do. This is great if you want to try a different type of formula such as Gentlease or premade formula. They usually throw me a few cans or a pack of premade formulas for free.
Also, I just found out that if you call Enfamil and ask for some formula they will send you a free can and coupons for additional cans.
Diapers is another good thing to check around for. Some companies give out free diapers or free samples. Amazon or Sam’s Club is a good place to shop to get diapers in bulk and discounted.
As far as clothing, luckily I got a lot of baby clothes at my baby shower. If I did need more clothing there are cheap baby clothes at Family Dollar. The onesies are a few dollars. As well, Target always has a clearance section in the baby and toddler section so I can always find some cute outfits there.
Companies are just looking for online business. I am convinced that if you purchase anything online on a website, you will be able to google and find a coupon for at least 10% off.
Recently I took a trip down to see my parents. The weekend was a mini vacation for me. When I booked my hotel, I googled “(name of the site) coupons” and it came up with several active coupons. I was able to take 10% off my hotel reservation.
Occasionally I will purchase domain names on the internet for blogs or other website needs. When purchasing my domain name I will google “(name of site) coupons” and typically save 10% on my domain name.
I utilize GroupOn pretty frequently. The most recent thing I got was a photoshoot. The GroupOn price brought the cost of professional pictures down $20 cheaper than their regular price. There are a lot of great things on there for a fraction of the cost.
*Update: Just recently I had to get a pair of wireless headphones for my workout and I first checked Amazon, then I called around to places that specialized in selling headphones. AT&T just happened to have them marked down and a sale for Mother’s Day till the end of the month so I got them for $15 less than Amazon price. I’ve found it is always good to ask what kinds of sales places have going on. You never know, you may just have caught a good one.
Now that I’m starting a family, living on a budget is a lot more important. With only one income I’ve found myself being a lot more frugal. Over the years, I have found these ways to save money though. I hope you are able to take advantage of my saving tips. These were just a few things that I like to save on in real life.
I would love to hear how you save money in real life. Feel free to comment below.