Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Ways to Save

There are many things one can do during a financial slump that will help a family save a few bucks here and there. Over the last years, I've spent more than my own fair share of time unemployed.  I've also been an unemployed, full-time student, which is a combination most people only wish upon still-dependent children of the rich (which I, of course, am not). I have found a few things that have helped save on my family’s spending. I love freebies and discounts, and since I’m sure you will too when you discover (if you haven’t already) how easy it can be to save some cash on things we all use.

You may take this with a grain of salt, however.  When I am going to school and working full-time, I just don't have a ton of time to keep up with everything.  I am not Superwoman.  But if you've got the time to even squeeze in one method of saving, it's better than doing nothing at all.  It does take time.  You have to determine how much your time is worth; no one can dictate that for you.  Especially not your mother or mother-in-law or your siblings or your spouse.  I'm all for family cohesiveness, but you need to figure out on your own what works for you.
This is my search engine of choice. Not only do you get the results you need when searching for information on the web, they reward you with Swagbucks for doing it. The Swagbucks website has all sorts of fun ways to earn Swagbucks, beyond just your run-of the mill search. They offer surveys and special offers, manufacturers coupons, daily polls, and even Swagbucks TV – where you never know what interesting things you might see! My favorite by far are the Swaghunts. It’s like a virtual treasure hunt, where they provide clues in their blog or on their Facebook page to get you started, and you jump from clue to clue until you find a code that will reward you with more Swagbucks. You even get Swagbucks for referrals, and all of those Swagbucks are good at the Swagstore for items that anyone can use: gift cards to online and brick-and-mortar stores, t-shirts, electronic gadgets, and even toys for the kiddies. Since I’ve been with Swagbucks I’ve received over $65 in Amazon gift cards (that's just where I stopped counting), and that’s not all – I’ve received mp3 downloads from iTunes and PayPal cash credited to my account, too.
This is the best freebie website I have found to-date. I get a digest email from them regularly which details all of the best free samples available from popular name-brands. Over the past year I have received trial sizes and even full-sized product samples to try. Pantene conditioner was one full-sized sample I received, and all I needed to do was to complete a five-minute survey after using the product (and now that they have my info, they send great coupons in the mail and email, too). Trial or single-use samples I’ve received include vitamin drink mixes, cosmetics, shampoos and conditioners and granola bars, to name a few. When camping or traveling, these samples really come in handy as they are easy to pack.
If you thought you were a coupon queen (or king) before becoming a member at A Full Cup, you hadn’t realized your full savings-potential. Everyone knows that two heads are better than one; can you imagine what sort of savings you will find out about when thousands of coupon-clippers get together online to share the deals? Did you miss that ad, or did the significant-other recycle it? Join the forum and ask around, chances are someone is willing to share. Exchange coupons you don’t need for ones you will here, and virtually every online coupon in existence can be found through this website. Before visiting this website, my online coupon search took the better part of an entire morning. As I didn’t want to miss anything good, I wandered from site to site, and with very few exceptions I was seeing the same coupons on each website. I no longer have to do that on A Full Cup! Not to mention that I probably received more “Happy Birthday” wishes from the forum members there than I did my face-to-face friends. Coupon-clippers tend to be a real friendly crowd.
Another friendly group, can help you locate a recycling group near you. I have saved a ton of things from the garbage can by simply posting on my Freecycle groups. The concept is simple: you post what you want to get rid of, and someone with a need takes it. If there’s something you need, you place an ad. Someone who may have what you need sitting around collecting dust emails you back and there you have it. For instance, my brother in law was storing our old deep freeze until we had room for it; when we finally got it back it was filled with about 12 gallons of old vegetable oil. HUH? Why on earth would he save that old rancid oil? It was no longer good for the turkey fryer, but I thought that someone might want it to convert into biodiesel. Two days later, an appreciative Freecycler in a Prius pulled into our driveway to pick up the oil. This is truly a way that the Lord provides what we need, in my book. Oh yeah, I got a pair of blaze-orange coveralls for hunting, too. There was a tear in the seam that took me all of ten minutes to repair, but I wouldn’t complain a bit. Have you checked the price on those lately? As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons!

Regardless of where you find your coupons, make them count by combining manufacturer coupons with in-store discounts. Sometimes you get the product for pennies. Occasionally, your local mom & pop grocers will offer double coupons.  Generally you won't find this in the big-box stores, but if you don’t know, ask around in your area! Chances are all it takes is shopping on a different day than you usually would. You never know, that might streamline your shopping habits – if you plan your trip around the grocery store ad and coupons and make a list you will be less likely to buy things that are not on sale. If you go once per week instead of twice (since you had a list you didn’t forget anything), you might even save a bit on gas. Even a few miles here and there ads up.

Big-box stores and wholesale clubs do accept coupons! Walmart will accept coupons, and Costco mails out monthly special fliers, to name a few. But now we’re getting into stockpiling when we talk Costco and Sam’s Club and the like, so that may require an entirely different post! All I will say about those warehouse stores at this point is this: buyer beware. Not all buys in warehouse and club stores are a deal. Make a point of scanning the competitor’s ads before you shop, since buying in bulk might not provide a better price. If you won’t use an entire gallon of Miracle Whip before it expires, you just tossed your money in the trash.

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