Hanging on to Dollar Bills: a Mini Guide to Big Saving and Less Spending
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I’m a natural saver. I blame it on my dad. From the age of thirteen (and my first official job), my dad taught me to save. His method for my paycheck savings involved putting 50% in a bank account to be “saved” and the rest I could spend however I wanted. I later figured out the purpose to my “saving” was so he could “borrow” (and not necessarily return) the money for family expenses that he and my mom couldn’t afford (or didn’t budget for). Sometimes that meant 50% of my paycheck went toward groceries, school supplies, or gas for the car. While this is not an example I would encourage parents to follow, it did get me into a habit of saving.
With Dollar Bills Come Great Responsibility
Over the years, I’ve read books and blogs, watched videos, and taught courses on how to save and spend wisely. That by no means makes me an expert, but I have learned a thing or two about making the money that comes in last as long as possible. (I attribute this newfound interest in learning to my husband, who is an excellent teacher of good methods of handling money and all things finance-related.)
Every dollar is important (of great worth), and we have a God-inherent responsibility to be a great steward of each dollar we get.
(Insert song: She works hard for the money!) We work hard for our money, don’t we, friends? Since we work hard to earn it, we need to learn to work hard to save it and spend it.
Today’s post is about spending! It’s a little bit about saving too–frugal ways that allow us to hold onto those dollars so they last a little longer.
Couponing Done Easier
Ok, I’ve tried the whole Extreme Couponing thing. It doesn’t work for me! To those of you who do it well, I commend you! I’m not going to teach you anything extreme. Instead, I’ll show you slow, diligent moderation. If you want extreme, check out some of the Queen C’s (C for Coupons!) online like: Krazy Koupon Lady.
Frugal Couponing: Guidelines I use when couponing
1. Only coupon what you normally buy anyway.
I used to get caught up in all the coupons: “Buy 2, get 1 free.” “Buy 2, save 50 cents.” “Save $ on over-priced items that wouldn’t normally end up in the shopping cart and are a more expensive alternative even with the coupon.”
Don’t fall for these marketing techniques unless it’s:
a) something you need,
b) something you’re buying anyway,
c) something you need that quantity of, or
d) the best alternative, price-quality wise–if there’s a cheaper alternative you and your family can live with “this time,” then save and go for the cheaper alternative.
Side Note about “This Time”: Part of being frugal (and a good steward of resources) is to keep a “this time” attitude. It puts into perspective the short life of each purchase. When comparing brands and prices, think about the life of the product. How long will it last? One week? A month? Will my family survive with (cheaper toilet paper or generic ketchup) for just this month? What about every other month? Can they handle a cheaper, generic brand just this one time? You might argue that the difference in price is only a dollar, or even only few cents.
Remember our goal: to hang onto each dollar a little bit longer. That includes those few cents of savings on each item in the cart. It’s the small things. In order to be more frugal, we have to learn to make small changes now. Small changes now will turn into big changes later. Every penny counts. Don’t spend it “just because you have a coupon.”
2. Use coupon apps.
There are so many money-saving apps out there. Depending on your city, some work better than others. It might take some trial and error to find the apps that work best for you and your region, but if you want to save money, it’s worth the time to figure out.
Personally, I only use apps that give me real cash savings or cash back, not the ones that work on a points system. There are some good points systems, but right now, I focus on real, immediate cash.
My favorite apps are:
- Walmart Savings Catcher – download your receipt after each purchase and watch the real cash grow. Transfer to PayPal or a Walmart gift card. They also have an online version: https://savingscatcher.walmart.com/.
- Kroger and Whole Foods coupon apps–because I don’t have to print anything.
- I check the Krazy Coupon Lady app just for things I’m going to be buying anyway, so I don’t get caught up in the hype of spending gas, printer ink, and time running all over town to get free things or ‘money-maker’ things that I don’t need. Time is worth spending frugally too!
- Ibotta has become another favorite app. I look for items I plan to buy, and then scan the item and receipt for cash back via PayPal or gift cards.
- This app doesn’t usually have many items that I normally buy, but for the little time it takes to scroll through and upload receipts, I still consider Checkout 51 worthwhile.
Even if you average 25-50 cents per shopping trip (like me), that small change quickly adds up. I’m currently at $5, but hey, that’s a free coffee! Who doesn’t like free coffee? With Checkout 51, I can cash out when it reaches $20, in which case, who doesn’t like a free movie? Or one hour of free babysitting? Compliments of a grocery app–yay!
3. Stay on Budget and Just Say No.
Have you noticed we live in an extremely high-consumption society? The rest of the world calls us consumerists and gluttons. Why do we let ourselves get caught up in the hype?
Part of frugal living is just saying no. No to things we don’t need. Delaying ‘wants’ until we’ve saved up to pay cash for them, which means saying ‘no’ for right now. There is a time to spend. Our culture is REALLY good at it. Admit it, so are you! I definitely am!
First, though, we need to learn to save. Save for future needs, for emergencies, for wants. Save just to save. If you’re wondering why we learn to be frugal, it’s for those reasons just listed.
A Side Note on Saving:
Saving is the foundation to Big Giving. Do you ever wish you had enough money to support a missionary for an entire year or build a hospital in a small village? Do you ever think about what it would be like to fund an entire non-profit event? Or sponsor your kids’ sports team or band trip?
People who give big first had to learn to save big. I recently read that somewhere. They learned to say no to things they didn’t need so that later, they could enjoy (and appreciate) the things they wanted. To learn to save big, start small. Start with small, frugal decisions. Talk it through with your spouse, kids, and friends. Get them on board and excited. They’ll hold you accountable and learn along the way! Who knows? Maybe they’ll do this with you! It’s so much more fun together!
Being frugal doesn’t have to mean turning into a skimpy cheapskate, but if we learn how to be thoughtful and conscientious about our spending–and saving–we will be on a good path to better things in the future.
Have any other easy couponing tips or apps to share?