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Ask the Readers: Favorite Frugal Tip?

A tongue twister to start off my Saturday post, try saying favorite frugal tip 10 times fast.  So, my question this Saturday is what is your favorite frugal tip?  How do you save money day in and day out?

I've written about a bunch of my favorite tips such as:

I'm interested in hearing the little things that you do to save money. 

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Gates VP August 4, 2007, 6:53 am

    Living the “car-free” or “car-light” lifestyle has been a big money saver. Making decisions based on “hey that’s no good if I don’t have a car”, has influenced living locations, which has incidentally saved me a lot of time by keeping primary shopping places (Safeway, Zellers, Convenience store, etc.) all very close.

    As to smaller tips:
    1. Order takeout (smaller tips, cheaper drinks)
    2. Host events rather than going out.
    3. Don’t forget to factor in warranties.

    That last one is “frugal” in that it gets you thinking in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO). Everything from cars to computers to kitchen appliances all come with warranties that don’t tend to be very long. Understanding warranties and implied quality can make the most expensive dishwasher in to the best deal or can transform the middle-of-the-line dishwasher into a no-sale b/c it simply won’t last long enough.

    By the same measure some items simply become disposable. “Hard drive only comes with a two-year, that’s ok I’m planning to updrade before then.”

  • FrugalTrader August 4, 2007, 9:10 am

    Great comment Gates, keep them coming!

  • FourPillars August 4, 2007, 10:35 am

    You’ve already mentioned it in your insurance post but raising the deductible of my auto insurance from $300 to $1000 saved me about $150 per year. Raising my house insurance deductible from $500 to $1000 lowered my premiums a rather amazing $240 per year.

    Since I wouldn’t have made a claim under these new amounts anyways, this is just money saved.

    Mike

  • The Financial Blogger August 4, 2007, 11:23 am

    I also have only one car and decided to keep it instead of changing it next year. No more car payment for me for a while then!

    Having a deep freezer is also an easy way to save money. You can cook bigger meal and freeze a part of it. You save over the volume.

    I wrote about my frugal vs non-frugal dilemma yesterday:
    http://www.thefinancialblogger.com/frugal-vs-non-frugal/

    As you can see, I also have tricks to be non-frugal :-D

    Cheers,
    FB.

  • Urbano August 4, 2007, 12:02 pm

    1) Living car free saves us thousands a year.

    2) We started having our morning coffee & muffin at home and put our savings into a vacation fund. One year later, we have $3000 to spend on our upcoming trip to Turkey.

  • A.J. - IAmFacingMillions.com August 4, 2007, 1:27 pm

    I have been eliminating warranties and insurances. For example, I was paying a $4.99 premium for cell phone insurance which also includes a $50 deductible for a replacement. I placed $250 in a special account and eliminated the coverage.

    Now I’m saving the $5/mo into that account. I added $50 to the account and moved my comprehensive auto insurance deductible up from $50 to $100 and am now diverting the savings there as well. I am going to continue saving and increasing deductibles, etc.

    The catch for me is that I already have the money in place in case I would have otherwise used one of those claims or services. And of course it’s unlikely that each and every item would come due at once, but I’m keeping 100% of the difference in the savings account in case they did. And the idea is that if I suddenly got hit and had to raid that special fund, then I could easily reinstate the lower deductibles, etc.

    Remember, insurance isn’t about saving money, it’s about spreading risk over time. Insurance and warranties are profitable. That’s the bottom line. Even live insurance is a negative game for most people. You will pay in more than is paid out at death unless you meet an untimely end.

    So the idea for me is to divert the profits the insurance and warranty companies would otherwise keep into my own pocket.

    I eliminated the daily coffee house visit for a cool $5 – 10 per day savings (plus gas) though in some ways I miss the social aspect of it.

    I refuse to buy books in the book store anymore. I write down the ISBN and come home and order them online.

    I use rebate coupons and onlines rewards programs when possible. I have one card I put gas and prescriptions on. I have another card i put auto maintenance on. Finally I have yet another card for all other general purchases because each one pays a higher rebate/cash back amount in those unique purchase types.

    I buy groceries in bulk when it saves to do so and at the local warehouse stores. I also watch for sales on items I already buy. It is not uncommon for me to buy 50 cans of tuna when it goes on a significant sale. The catch is not to chase sales on stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily buy but instead to watch for sales on stuff you DO ordinarily buy.

    Finally, when I go grocery shopping, I bring all of the Sunday ads with me. My local Wal-Mart Super Center will match advertsed prices. So I’m the guy that stands in line and hands the cashier 6 ads to price match (usually upsets the person behind me, but hey it’s worth $5 – 20 in savings each grocery trip).

  • FrugalTrader August 4, 2007, 3:12 pm

    Great tip guys, the latte factor can really make a difference.

  • Daniel M, August 4, 2007, 11:52 pm

    I built a large pantry in my basement for dry and paper goods. I find that if I pay attention to what I have in stock and what the larger chains offer on special I can save a good 20% to 50% on stuff I am going to use that will not spoil. So I can still have good quality items and still save a few $$$.

  • David August 5, 2007, 12:24 pm

    To second A.J.’s comment, many chain stores will match the competition of the Sunday flyers, so if you routinely shop at one vendor, there is no need to chase around to the others to to get the sales.

    And echoing all those who have reduced or eliminated the need for a car: Walk to work, or shopping; purchase a more efficient vehicle; or ride a bicycle. There are many ways to reduce your transportation needs, but in many instances, choice of housing location becomes important!

    DAvid

  • Bootsie August 6, 2007, 2:02 pm

    By far the three biggest factors that help my husband and I improve our savings are:
    1) buying a small house in an ok area that was significantly less than what the bank would give us (1/2 of what we could get on my salary alone). Not only is the mortgage small but the Jones’ in my neighbourhood are very easy to keep up with if I start to get envious. :)
    2) not having any car payments and being able to get collision only insurance on our older vehicles.
    3) though this is not necessarily by choice – I HATE shopping – of any kind. I see many of my friends (and sister) that just can’t keep up with their bill & credit card payments because they can’t keep themselves out of the malls. Even those that buy “cheap” items have a tendency to buy far too much just because they’re cheap.

  • Gates VP August 6, 2007, 2:20 pm

    Bootsie: 2) not having any car payments and being able to get collision only insurance on our older vehicles.

    Don’t you mean liability insurance?

    Insurance is supposed to cover financial hardships. If you’re driving an old car and you have savings, then you can afford to bite the bullet if the car is trashed. But auto liability can range in the 10s (and 100s) of thousands of dollars. One bad “at-fault” accident could basically wreck decades of financial planning.

    Maybe your insurer has different definitions, but not having liability insurance sounds dangerous not frugal.

  • Bootsie August 6, 2007, 2:48 pm

    You’re right Gates, that’s what I meant. Thanks for correcting me!

  • canabiz August 7, 2007, 12:25 am

    Here are a few tips of mine:

    1. Buy a clothes hanger and hang your clothes after you wash. The benefits are two-fold: you save on the hydro/gas with the dryer and your clothes will last longer. This may not work well for families with kids but if you don’t have a lot of clothing for laundry to begin with, it’s an excellent way to save good money

    2. Downgrade the Internet/cable services: Ask yourself if spending money for top-level Internet services (~5MB dl) is worth it. Are you playing games a lot/watching a lot of movies etc ? If not, consider going with the slower option and save at least $10/month, you won’t notice the difference. Same with CableTV…do you need all those channels ? Do you have time to watch all of them ? Shouldn’t you be out and about thinking about how to make more money/going to the gym for a better lifestyle instead of being a couch potato ?

    3. Use Skype/VoIP/calling card for long distance. The time where you spent $50/month for long distance with Bell is definitely a thing of the past. No excuse anymore

  • Rod Payne August 7, 2007, 8:21 pm

    1) I roofed my deductibles on home and car. Home is now $2,000 and car is high, as well.

    2) Library for books instead of purchasing them.

    3) Self-taught how to do my own home renos. No more tradesmen at $100/hr. Between myself and my wife, we can do carpentry, plumbing, electrical, roofing, window installation, tiling, painting, plastering, etc., etc.

    4) Accumulate and use Airmiles – I’ve gotten a surround sound DVD system, espresso maker, blender, gift cards, etc., etc.

    5) 10 years of PC Financial banking equals no bank fees for 10 years and lots of free groceries from PC Points.

    6) I’ve seriously taken the time to walk through neighbourhoods scoping out “free” parking lots rather than pay for parking meters/garages. 7 years in St. John’s and I bet I spent less than $5 combined in meters. Example: right below my office window is metered parking. Directly across the street is the Safeway parking lot – freeparking. But people pay rather than walk across the street? I don’t get it…

    There are many many more examples…….

    Rod

  • none August 8, 2007, 3:35 am

    10% Tuesday at most major Grocery Stores, for buying canned/non perishable goods.

  • Rod Payne August 8, 2007, 12:32 pm

    Addendum to post 15, point 5.

    The blender and the espresso machine, combined with some online websites that give recipes mimicking Starbucks’s recipes, I’ve practically eliminated the “latte factor”. Want a fancy coffee/slushie? Make it at home.

    I guess that reinforces my point #3 – avoid paying for labour when you can.

    Between the increased value in the house from the work I’ve done and the rising cost of housing, my home is up about 40% in 12 months.

  • FrugalTrader August 8, 2007, 12:40 pm

    Rod, did you say that you were in St. John’s? Where’s the Safeway?

  • Rod Payne August 8, 2007, 12:45 pm

    I was in St John’s up to last June, then I moved to Cranbrook, BC. That’s where the Safeway is. Sorry that it didn’t come across clear.

    By the way, it’s mainly thanks to Safeway and my Air Miles Mosaik card that I’ve accumulated those rewards. Safeway often has coupons that give you 100 AirMiles for spending $100, 200 AM for $200, etc. Also, lots of product specials where you buy, say, 5 of an item and get bonus AirMiles (I still compare to Wal-Mart prices first, though).

  • Gates VP August 8, 2007, 2:01 pm

    Hey Rod, those 100 AM bonuses are huge. The fiancé and I don’t actually eat enough to cash in on them very often, but my Safeway in Winnipeg actually had a customer appreciation day (first Tuesday of every month) that was either 10% off or 10x Air Miles, so I usually arranged a big shop then.

    As to Wal-mart prices, I’ve found that anything marked “Extreme Special” on the flyer is Wal-Mart priced and anything marked “Special Savings” (or such) is about Zellers-priced. Of course, the logic doesn’t apply to eggs & dairy.

    Which actually brings up an interesting conundrum, I’m actually a Zeller’s shopper. I’ve been out of my way to shop at Wal-Mart a few times (they’re not close to where I live) and I kept coming back with crap: the folding chairs were a buck cheaper, but after a year the back just fell out on one, the standing lamp was inexpensive, but the threading on the “twisting parts” was quite bad so I ended up duct taping part of it.

    Wal-Mart basically always has lines for the service desk and the checkouts and finding someone to help you is a huge pain. So all frugality aside, I just decided to stop shopping at Wal-Mart. The fact that the service desk is busy every time I walk in does not instill me with confidence and waiting 15 minutes just to pay for my stuff doesn’t appeal to me either. At some point I figure that saving 10 minutes walking around the store and 10 minutes in line is probably worth the extra 2-4% that Zeller’s seems to be charging me. Especially when I’m not going to have to wait in line for 30 minutes when something breaks and needs to be returned :)

    (I guess that’s my “anti-frugal” tip)

  • Rod Payne August 8, 2007, 2:22 pm

    Copy that. I rarely buy any non-food item at Wal-Mart. Mostly it’s canned/bottled goods (my preferred salsa brand at Safeway is double Wal-Mart’s price (yep, double!).

    We typically stock up on our meats when the AirMiles special is on (or the Saveon Foods points specials). Whoever has the cheapest meats when the points promotions come out can expect to see me with a shopping cart full of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

    I’m surprised I forgot to mention this one in my earlier post: I created a spreadsheet on my Treo that records the “normal” lowest price we typically pay for our core foods. When the flyers come out, I check the prices against the spreadsheet to ensure that the promotions are actually savings. Since I started doing that, out grocery bill is down by about 15%. Here’s an example: my wife loves Crystal Light. We had been picking them up for about $2.50 each. However, I quickly discovered that there were regular sales at $1.97-$2.00. Now when I see them on sale, I buy a box at a time. 12 packages in a box means $0.50 x 12 = $6.00 savings.

  • canabiz August 8, 2007, 9:30 pm

    Interesting discussions so far gents and ladies. I would like to offer a somewhat contrarian opinion with respect to shopping for food.

    We don’t have Safeway out here in Ontario (or at least in Ottawa where I live) so I can’t really draw any conclusions but I almost always never buy food from non-grocery stores for the exceptions of Costco. This includes Wal-Mart, Zellers, Giant Tiger etc. I simply do not trust the quality of the food in those places and in light of the recent scancals involving Chinese imports, all the more reasons to be careful and selective when it comes to shopping for food.

    It’s something that we digest after all, it’s our health and we should not cut corners, IMHO. I would like to post this article by the Globe and Mail at this point.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070706.wlchina06/BNStory/lifeMain/home

    It certainly doesn’t mean that expensive food = safety and peace of mind but it pays to be informed and as the old cliche goes…when something is too good to be true, it probably is.

    Cheers!

    P.S. Perhaps FrugalTrader can start another topic where we can discuss what aspects of our life that we should not cut corners or be too frugal about. An example would be if your kids ask you if you could bring them to Disney World in Florida, what would your response be knowing it will probably cost a good chunk ? but remember the memories, they stay with the kids for the rest of their lives!

  • FrugalTrader August 9, 2007, 8:46 am

    Great idea Canabiz, I will certainly make a post about that topic.

  • Ann Banan August 17, 2007, 1:45 pm

    I shop at Zellers as opposed to Walmart. The service is better, the restaurant is great, and I have a HBC rewards card and credit card and have it set up so the HBC points are automatically converted to Airmiles every month. I then leave enough in my Airmiles for a flight back to Nfld every year or so but use the excess for Sobey’s gift certificates and free groceries. I will rarely shop anywhere or use any card that does not offer some type of points or rewards.

  • Martin Retired August 26, 2007, 2:11 pm

    When you are at the library check out the movies. They are free too. They have a good selection of movies, travel videos for researching trips and childrens videos. Saving $4 or more per movie it can add up to substantial savings.

  • Kiron September 1, 2007, 11:53 pm

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned yet is shopping at thrift shops and accepting hand-me-downs. We did our back-to-school shopping at a local thrift shop and saved a great deal at $2.95 per item (jeans, tops, track suits) all in good condition. I read recently that the average family spends over $600 in back to school shopping. We buy shoes new, and our total including school supplies was around $120 for two children (tweens).

    We are also changing what we eat – less meat and more whole grains and legumes. It is less expensive and we feel better.

  • Gates VP September 2, 2007, 2:57 am

    Kiron: Good call on the thrift stores. Some kids hate them, but the price is hard to argue. My parents always had a rough time justifying big money on clothes that wasn’t going to last the year. Except for the shoes, over the course of like 3 years I ate through shoes faster than I could grow through them. It wasn’t until we bought quality, name-brand shoes that I had a pair last me 12+ months.

    Oh yeah, and let me be the first with the caveats on the dietary changes. Legumes are definitely cheaper but they don’t contain the same quantities or qualities of proteins. The proteins are pretty key when you’re going to grow 5% in a year. It’s excellent that your kids are feeling better, you’ve probably made the right call.

    Lots of people here have commented that health is the thing they don’t skimp on. So it’s a good caveat that changing a healthy diet in an attempt to save money should be taken with the utmost of care.

  • FrugalTrader September 2, 2007, 9:39 am

    That’s a great idea about the thrift stores. I guess I should soon start thinking about how to save money on kids!

  • Rod Payne September 2, 2007, 11:05 pm

    Let’s not forget yard sales, either. I’m picky, but I have found some nice items there. Earlier this summer, I found 4 large Xmas themed mugs like you’d see in fancy coffee stores. I think they’re 14 ounce size. 5 cents each, unused. We also picked up some French Onion soup dishes – I think 4 for $2.00. The list goes on……

    However, the greatest of all is freecycle. If you don’t know what it is, look it up and join. In summary, it is an online community devoted to reducing the amount of “stuff” that goes to the landfill. Alternatively, it’s a free online flea market. I replaced an old window in my house earlier this year. The old window was highly unlikely to make it to someone else’s house, even though it was unhurt. I refused to pay our local advertising rates for a classified ad to sell it, so I listed it on freecycle. A guy who was building a shed called, came and took it. Everyone wins.

  • Kiron September 2, 2007, 11:18 pm

    Realize that many people shop for fun. They don’t wear the clothes that they buy as much as you might think. We go to a large goodwill store that has long racks of clothes for men, women and children, organized according to colour. I have seen leather jackets, good quality suits and shirts, wedding gowns, special dresses that had been worn to weddings and clothing for children and babies that had hardly been worn. A few items still have price tags on them. Puzzles and games are only 99c, you just have to check to see that all the pieces are there. Now that retro is in, teenagers have been going to thrift shops to put together a look.

    When my girls were young I shopped at garage sales for clothing, books, toys and equipment. We were both students and were relieved to get clothes for $1 or less per outfit. You have to be careful,particularly with things like cribs because safety standards change. Those were the things we bought new.

    As for eating less meat, I am well-read on the topic of nutrition and make sure we have plenty of quality protein. Zinc and B-12 are more of an issue when you cut out meat entirely, which we haven’t done. For many people, eating less meat would be a positive change. We know many healthy vegetarians; however,there are things to know before making a switch in that direction.

    We are also taking advantage of inexpensive produce right now, both from the store and also from the garden. We have a community garden plot at a local church and it is amazing how much you can grow in just a small plot. I save by growing most of my vegetables from seed.

  • Dividendgrowth February 13, 2008, 11:08 am

    I would brown bag my lunch too. I am very thankful that my current job is very very close to my current residence so I could eat at home for lunch. I would also eat out as little as possible.
    Never go grocery shopping hungry. Always shop with a list in order to minimize the amount of impulse purchases.
    Never buy the latest tech gadgets. If you want to be “cool” then you are asking for it :-)

  • CMG August 8, 2008, 11:48 pm

    Great reading and tips.
    My wife and I have worked hard to reduce costs over the past three years. Like many tips already mentioned here’s what we’ve done:
    1) Sold one car and drive a small fuel efficient car – Yaris.
    2) Shop at costco and safeway on 1st Tuesday of the month.
    3) Cook volumes and brown bag and freeze.
    4) Morning coffee at home.
    5) Eat many small meals throughout the day so when we do eat out, we often share one order.
    6) Eliminated cable TV – a waste of cash and time IMO
    7) Use the library or amazon all the time
    8) Use Thrift stores and hand me downs
    9) Spartan household: we didn’t have much stuff to begin with but over time we kept asking ourselves what things we really needed and wanted and found ourselves getting rid of tons of stuff. We don’t shop for stuff unless we feel we need it.
    10) Patio veggie garden in the summer.
    11) Cloth diapers for the little one.
    12) Keep track of ALL expenses.
    13) Small ‘home’ with small mortgage and utilities.
    14) Lights out, down with brown – mellow with yellow.
    15) Water and vinegar for cleaning products.
    16) Cold wash cycle and hang dry.
    17) Bought a home gym and eliminated drive to gym and membership costs (plus waiting for weights and machines!)
    18) Air miles.
    19) Short or shared shower, not bath.
    20) We don’t celebrate Christmas in the mass consumer way most people do.
    21) Never buy bottled water – use filters and our own kanteens.

    Cheers!

  • paulette August 9, 2008, 1:08 pm

    I like best the brown bag your lunch. By this you know what you eat and save while watching your health.

  • Kathryn December 15, 2008, 4:30 pm

    I agree with the previous poster who said PC Financial.

    10 years of NO FEES and lots of free groceries.

    Then when we converted our home and auto insurance to PC, we saved over $315 a year!

    I sound like a commercial but over 10 years that’s $1550 saves on bank fees. (We were paying $12.95 a month for unlimited checking at CIBC.) and $1890 saving so far on our insurance (switched 6 years ago) for a total of $3440 in savings with NO lifestyle change. That and we’ve cashed in over $900 in free groceries so far! We love PC banking.

  • newbie January 12, 2009, 11:13 am

    We love PC Financial too, switched to them 3 years ago; used to bank with CIBC (hated having to keep $2,000 in the chequing account to eliminate fees), so in a way we’re still with them, albeit without branch services! I hardly go into a branch anyway.

    Pay for my home and auto insurance premiums with the PC Mastercard (so even more points, but ALWAYS pay balance in full each month); no extra admin fee by the insurance co. Use their PC bags for groceries, so extra 50 points each bag. The points really add up quickly when you use those bags, leading to more free groceries!

    And yes, brown bagging lunch.

    Our daughter wears mostly hand-me-downs, we’re lucky to have a friend with a few daughters! Some of the clothes we get are even brand new ones with tags on (too many gifts i guess!). For our son, I try to buy at the end of the season or buy used clothing.

    For bigger ticket items, we think long-term, and tend to buy stuff of better quality, no point buying cheaper stuff that break down 6 months later.

  • So Fresh So Clean April 10, 2009, 8:11 pm

    Go to the dollar store and memorize everything they offer. Do this every 6 months.

    Case in Point: I usually spend $2.95 on padded mail envelopes at the post office. The dollar store sells three of these for… one dollar. Since I use four of these every year, that saves me about $10.

  • heatlhnut May 14, 2010, 2:36 pm

    All these tips are really good but I think there’s a fine line between being frugal and wasting a lot of time and energy (time IS money, right?) making spreadsheets and scanning coupon pages. I wouldn’t stress out about Walmart food prices and coupons (usually for unhealthy food, I notice). Consider the nutrtional value of Walmart stock and compare your savings to your medical expenses later in life when you’ve ruined your health to save a few bucks. Skimp on cable, lattes, or designer clothing not food.

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