Save Money by Spending Money

With the economy in the dumper, saving money is back in style. Simply comparing the number of “how to save money on (fill in the blank)” articles this year versus a couple years ago, our informal research shows the relationship at 234,000 to 1. Ok, so we made that up. But it does seem like savings tips are all the rage these days. Unfortunately, the key is finding new money saving ideas…

We’ve all heard the tips on bringing your lunch to work, drinking water when eating out, and so on, but what about some new ways to save money? Well, MSN Money isn’t coming to our rescue, but they do bring up one interesting concept that’s relatively new (at least to the point that so many are now talking about it) — the idea of saving money by spending some first. MSN gives the following example:

Harrison’s Costco membership got her a cheaper auto insurance policy (with free roadside assistance). That cut her annual car expenses by about $300.

The issue of saving money by paying for a Costco (or any warehouse club for that matter) membership has been discussed quite often lately as others have detailed savings in gasoline and food, noting that the money saved in these two categories alone may be worth the cost of membership.

The “save money by spending money” movement has other supporters as well. Ramit from I Will Teach You to be Rich is a proponent of spending so you can save as is Yahoo, who lists zoos, aquariums, AARP, Warehouse Clubs, AAA, and amusement parks as places to save by buying memberships. In particular, Yahoo says the following about warehouse clubs:

There are a few items [that are] always cheaper at warehouse clubs — namely, milk, eggs, butter and cheese,” says Mary Hunt, publisher of money management site Debt-Proof Living. These staples are regularly priced at least 20% lower than at your local supermarket, she says. “But understand that shopping at the warehouse club is like a minefield,” warns Hunt. To truly make your membership worth the cost, you’ll need to separate the great deals from the bad ones. Bring your supermarket circular with you when you shop to compare prices and ensure you’re really saving.

So here’s our question for you: are there any ways you spend money to (eventually) save money?

How 4 are saving $17,860 a year [MSN Money]



Edit Your Comment

  1. VA_White says:

    I bought a bigger freezer to store the 1/2 cow I bought. The cost of the meat and electricity to run the freezer is far cheaper than buying meat at the grocery store. Also the cow I bought is grass-finished which is healthier for my family to eat.

    When you shop at warehouse clubs, make sure you bring a calculator to find the per ounce or per pound price. Often the shelves are marked with per lb price for things that are marked per ounce at the grocery so it’s nice to have a calculator to re-calculate the unit cost in terms you’re more familiar with. You can use the one on your cell phone or bring one with you. The calculator on my phone is a PITA to use so I bring a little cheap one in my bag with me.

    • kissinggames says:

      @VA_White: I’ve wanted a meat freezer for this very reason for so long, but can’t convince my roommates to go along with it

    • FatLynn says:

      @VA_White: This is a great teaching moment for your kids, too.

    • howie_in_az says:

      @VA_White: We bought a larger freezer too, and are now killing neighbors for food. We’re saving thousands!

    • b.k. says:

      @VA_White: My parents did this for a few years when our cousins were raising cows for 4-H. A half a cow can feed a family of four for an entire year. Plus, we were giving the money right to my cousin, who eventually paid his way through agricultural college.

    • Xerloq says:

      @VA_White: To the calculator point – write everything down in a shopping diary. Put the item, date, and unit price. You’ll start to identify trends, and can move on to strike-price shopping.

      It’s helped us run our family of four on about $100/week for food, diapers, toiletries, gas for cars, etc.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @VA_White: Did you count in the cost of the freezer itself over its expected lifespan?

      • VA_White says:

        @speedwell, avatar of snark: The freezer will pay for itself in 3.5 years, according to my math. We aren’t just storing beef in it but other things we buy in bulk or grow ourselves. The last freezer we had lasted the first twelve years of our marriage so we’re definitely going to come out ahead on this purchase.

        • ElizabethD says:


          When our 3 children were younger and we had a freezer, in addition to boneless chicken breasts etc. I also would stock up on Arnold Branola bread for their lunch sandwiches, English muffins, etc. at the nearest Arnold thrift store… it was like $1.29 a loaf, sometimes less on sale. The bread/muffin items kept great in the freezer and I’d just defrost one a couple of times a week. I bought at least a dozen at once, sometimes more. Saved mucho dinero.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      I would LOVE to buy a freezer (a small one, since I live alone) but I can’t afford one!

  2. calquist says:

    I actually keep a little spending diary and write down absolutely everywhere that money goes. Even if the bf took $2.00 for a Gatorade, it went in there. I like doing it because (1) it gives me something to do at work besides work and (2) I can’t believe how many times I said “Wow, I spent way too much on that dress” and returned something or saw money leaks that I could easily plug (ex: how dumb it was for me to pay for McDonalds every time I went away for the weekend and starting packing a roadtrip lunch instead).

    • calquist says:

      @calquist: I missed the point here. I spend money on this by buying the journal, but more in time by taking the time to actually do this.

    • jeblis says:


      When you get bored with that I’d suggest tracking just
      withdrawals and spending on debit/cc that falls into variable/discretionary categories. I get out a fixed amount of cash each week and track/cap what I spend on groceries/clothes/partying etc.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @calquist: Sorry, shameless little plug here, but I wrote a script to enter everything we buy. We just save the receipts and enter it quickly every couple days. It’s category based so we can see how much we spent on groceries over the past 3 years or whatever. Anyway it’s free and web-based and very easy to use:


      Login under “test” with password “test” to try it out if you want.

  3. FatLynn says:

    Similar to the Costco insurance example above, I opened a life insurance policy that costs $8/month to get a $30/month multi-line discount on my auto insurance.

    • Powerlurker says:


      I have a similar thing going one, the multiple policy discount I get for having my renter’s insurance at the same insurer as my auto insurance is worth more than the renter’s policy costs.

    • pb5000 says:

      @FatLynn: When I was renting, my renters policy cost around $180 a year, but the multi-policy discount from the insurance company lowered my car insurance $230 a year!

      Now as a homeowner, my home and auto are still with the same company which increased my savings about $60 a year on the auto policy. Seeing as how you still need both types of insurance I’m happy with the increase.

    • edwardso says:

      @FatLynn: I just did a costco rate quote and found that I could get twice the coverage for $140 less per year. Sold!

  4. Necoras says:

    Radiant barrier in my attic. I can pay about $300 for foil and install it myself to cut down my heating and cooling bills all year round.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Necoras: yes, we’ve been making various home improvements that save energy costs over the long run. And also make our home more pleasant. New water heater and low-flow toilet for one of the bathrooms have both done a lot to cut bills, and provide longer showers and a much nicer-looking bathroom. :)

      • pb5000 says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Eyebrows, I’m in the market for a new water heater, any suggestions?

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @pb5000: Honestly we asked our well-trusted plumber and let him pick for us. We rarely pick out our own plumbing fixtures anymore — we tell our plumber what we want, show him pictures or print-outs if we’re specific, and then ask his opinion. He’s always sets us up great.

          We had thought about going with a tankless heater and he went through the pros and cons really completely with us, very knowledgeably, and then — entertainingly — Consumer Reports had a feature on them a couple months later that said EXACTLY WHAT OUR PLUMBER SAID. Anyway, our plumber suggested a tank would be more money-efficient and energy-efficient for us, looked at our water needs, knows we’re very green, gave us a few price points to pick from, and then went and bought an energy-star compliant water heater with good reliability for us and hauled away the old one.

          This is why we love Troy the Cat-Loving Plumber. (So called because one of our cats thinks he’s a contractor and always wants to HELP the service guys by, like, climbing into the furnace and chasing loose screws and attacking their feet. Our plumber finds this charming as he loves cats.)

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @pb5000: I saw below you’re looking at tankless heaters — there are calculators online that can help you guesstimate, for your climate, home size, and hot water use, whether a tank or tankless will be more money- and energy-efficient for you.

        • ludwigk says:

          @pb5000: If you have some money, and are looking at a “long haul” approach, you might consider a tankless water heater. They heat water much more efficiently, and on-demand. No more hot/cold fluctuations during showers, and saves on your gas bill. They are REALLY great if you have a med-large size family, or more than just 2-3 people living together in the same place, since you no longer have to plan laundry/showers/dishwasher around the tank being full/empty. Also a blessing if you enjoy long showers.

          It’s expensive up-front, and shop around for installation quotes, they can vary widely.

          • HogwartsAlum says:


            I want one of those SOOOOO BAAAAD…

            Whoever built my house in 1952 decided that the water heater belonged in the corner of the very small bathroom. Nuts! A tankless would save gas and take up way less room. There’s a very reliable plumbing company that often has a coupon for $200 off purchase and installation, but I just don’t have the money.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: i’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the backyard garden as a great way to save money by spending a little. weren’t you working on a “garden 2.0” project?

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @mac-phisto: LOL, it’s THEORETICALLY a great way to save money by spending a little, but my husband is fighting his garden toy addiction! His Christmas present this year was a $600 indoor growing set-up so he can start his crazy heirloom hot peppers indoors in February from seed.

          Our “Backyard 2.0” *does* save us money, especially on produce (veggie garden produces far more in veggies than it costs in inputs) and on things like gas and oil for the mower, fertilizers, water use, etc. But my husband and his need for boy-toys currently negates a lot of those savings!

          ( [] not updated recently, I started fussing with the back end and then got distracted by getting knocked up.)

          • mac-phisto says:

            @Eyebrows McGee: i swear i’m doing one this year. i started last year & the spring got away from me…next thing i knew the leaves were falling.

            but this year i’m going to try upside-down tomatoes & maybe some scallions & herbs. is it easy to grow garlic? b/c i spend a lot of money on garlic…

            • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

              @mac-phisto: We haven’t tried garlic, but garlic and onions you typically grow from “sets” (mini bulbs) because they take like three years to grow from seed, so they’re a little more expensive than most things you grow from seed. But onions are very easy, as are most things in the allium family, so I can’t imagine garlic’s too tough. Garlic, onions, and other alliums also help keep rabbits and things out of the garden because they stink, so they’re probably worth it just for that!

              A VERY easy thing to grow is chives, and there are garlic chives that have a very nice garlicy taste (and pretty flowers, incidentally). Not as good for sauteeing, but works in lots of other places you’d use garlic (like in a sauce, and you don’t pre-saute them).

              You can e-mail me if you’d like — lpetelle AT gmail — happy to offer advice!

    • ludwigk says:

      @Necoras: My $*^$&% apartment might as well be made of screen doors. It’s so energy inefficient that it makes me mad. Just because we’re in NorCal does NOT mean that it never gets cold! If it dips down to ~43 degrees in the middle of the night, our place *rapidly* cools down to that temperature. Since its shaded, it STAYS that way through most of the morning, and when I step outside, the morning air is warmer than my place o.O

    • AD8BC says:

      @Necoras: I was thinking of getting a radiant barrier. Whats the average cost for one of these (think 2500SF house)?

      @Eyebrows McGee: Hey Brows, Not that I’m green or anything but I was wondering about those tankless water heaters. What exactly did your plumber say about them? My wife and I don’t run out of water alot (I can take a 20+ min shower with the dishwasher and/or washing machine running) but my WH is old and I was thinking about planning for a replacement when it dies…

      Also, anybody here ever get one of those water recirculating pumps, the ones that you put at the bathroom sink furthest from the water heater and it recircs the hot back to the WH through the cold? I understand that it would do a great job with the wait for hot water, but wouldn’t it add to the wait for cold water after pumping the cold water line full of hot?

  5. balthisar says:

    Ground source heat exchange (vulgarly called “geothermal”) for my HVAC.
    Red Wing shoes one time instead of Pay-Less shoes 20 times.

    • bohemian says:

      @balthisar: Oh yes. I have been trying to convince people that sinking money into a decent pair of shoes is more cost effective than multiple pairs at Payless. Good shoes can be repaired, resoled, reheeled. Good quality shoes look way better too. Most of what Payless sells I can tell a mile a way, they look cheap. Some of Target’s better knock offs are harder to tell from expensive shoes though. But they still cut up my feet.

    • ElizabethD says:


      Ditto on shoes. My Josef Seibel European-made shoes (same style in black and in brown) are going strong after five or more years. I hated paying $110 for the first pair in Nordstroms, but they paid for themselves many wearings ago. And once I knew my size in that brand, I bought the 2nd pair on eBay for 1/3 of the price. With shoes, you really do get what you pay for.

  6. warf0x0r says:

    I’m going to spray foam insulate my garage ceiling this summer. My bedroom is directly above it and the cold that comes through is costing in heating bills. Eventually it will pay for itself.

  7. BlackMage is doing the Time Warp agaaaaaaain!!! says:


    • IT-Chick says:

      @BlackMage is doing the Time Warp agaaaaaaain!!!:

      Aldi rocks my socks! We have saved so much in groceries since I started shopping there about 6 months ago. And the food actually tastes better than at the larger chain stores and the bread is fresher and softer. My husband hates going with me because I am always talking about how much money we are saving on each thing and how much whatever I am picking up would cost at Jewel Osco.

      • CubeRat says:


        I saw on a Food Network show (Unwrapped maybe) that a lot of the foods sold at Aldi comes from the same plants as the name brand stuff.
        Sad to say that I do not have an Aldi close to me at all.

        • HogwartsAlum says:


          Oh yeah. I love them. I’m lucky enough to live four blocks from one. Could walk there if I had one of those little old lady carts (thus saving on gas). I think I’ll get one.

  8. cabjf says:

    I don’t know about other grocery stores, but Wegmans (for those in the New York and surrounding states they do business in) has most of their prices online. You can search items and, once you pick your store, will list prices too. So if you happen to have one of those fancy smartphones with the internet while you’re out shopping, you can price compare as you go. Then you aren’t limited to just what’s in the circular. Now if only I had one of those fancy phones. :-)

    • b.k. says:

      @cabjf: If you’re in the area where there’s a Giant Eagle, they have all their coupons online. If you have one of the store membership cards (free) you can browse online for what you need at the grocery store, add those coupons to your account, and they’re automatically deducted when you use your card. No need to print anything out. They’ll also email you their store circular.(As well as there being a lot of other in-store discounts with use of the card.) Plus your grocery purchases count towards gas discounts.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      @cabjf: Most grocery stores don’t list prices online unless something has changed since the last time I tried to look that up.

  9. Juliekins says:

    I buy the Sunday paper ($1.25) to get the coupons, and I print coupons for stuff we actually use from the web. We’re also getting ready to buy a small (~7 cubic feet) chest freezer so we can better take advantage of sales.

    We’re on my parents’ Sam’s membership, but I think they’re going to let it lapse. When they do, we’re thinking about getting a Costco membership.

    • olivia2.0 says:

      @Juliekins: I’m not sure if it’s been reported on here, but I’ve read that Costco has a much better corporate structure than Sam’s Club (which is Walmart.) Might be another reason to make the switch.

  10. DeleteThisAccount says:

    This may sound a little nuts but my gf got a 1 day a week part time job at a ‘sandwich / soup / coffee’ chain and gets to take home lots of leftover bread products and pre-made sandwiches. It’s cut our week day lunch cost to basically zero.

    • WorldHarmony says:

      @AngrySicilian: That’s not nuts at all. People get jobs at stores all the time to get discounted goods. I lost my job last Fall and am considering working at grocery stores for the discount.

      • RandomHookup says:

        @WorldHarmony: Heck, I work at a software company that takes care of maybe half my meals in a week with leftovers from meetings (though it’s been slow lately — but I did appreciate the quiche that lasted 4 days of breakfast). I worked at another that provided lunches and snacks and sodas. It was hard for people to leave after all those freebies.

    • amandakerik says:

      @AngrySicilian: Any extra bread above what she can take home should be donated to the local food bank.
      Just a thought.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I invested in the prime membership and buy things I use daily (toothpaste, toothbrush, shower gel, etc.) in bulk. in the shower gel example, i get three large bottles of Olay body wash for $18. Which is essentially getting a bottle for free since going to the drug store, they retail for $10 a bottle.

  12. speeddaimon says:

    We had a 20 year old water heater that was probably half full of silt. Since we replaced it with the same size, more energy efficient model, my monthly gas bills have dropped by 20%.

    • pb5000 says:

      @speeddaimon: I asked the same to eyebrows above. I’m in the exact same boat, I’m sure this ancient gas water heater is costing me monthly, any suggestions on a replacement (ie tankless at $800 or a standard one around $400)?

      • Pixel says:

        @pb5000: A tankless will save you fuel costs by not paying to keep a tank of water heated all night & other times you don’t need it. Also they make it nearly impossible to run out of hot water, regardless of length of showers.

      • speeddaimon says:

        @pb5000: We went with a regular water heater for two reasons:
        1. We’re not going to be in the house all that long, so we wouldn’t save enough money to recoup the cost.
        2. The house/neighborhood we live in is pretty blue collar/starter neighborhood, so we don’t want to put a whole bunch of money into the house, then have to sell it for market price.

  13. chiieddy says:

    I consider the return on my membership in savings when joining a wholesale club. For example –

    BJs membership = $45/year
    Savings on 1 gallon of milk = $1/week = $52/year

    Total savings on JUST milk = $7

    They just opened a BJs within 5 miles of my house, making the travel to the club worth the savings. And they’re consistently $.05 – $.10/gallon cheaper on gas too.

    Oh, I saved $10 this year by joining BJs with their grand opening. :)

    • selianth says:

      @chiieddy: BJs gas was always 15-20 cents cheaper per gallon, when prices were at their high last summer. The lines were also 15-20 cars longer. Now, you don’t have to wait in line at all, but I can get gas for the same price at the Hess that’s 3 miles closer to my house, so it’s not always the best deal.

  14. krispykrink says:

    Buy ammo, go hunt.

    • _catlike_ says:

      @krispykrink: Or know someone who does. I’ve got a bountiful supply of venison in my freezer thanks to the state’s generous bag limits.

    • DWalk says:

      @krispykrink: My father-in-law is a hunter and gets a couple of deer a couple of elk and an odd moose every year (and usually a few chickens in trade for hunter ed and gun qualification courses). We rarely buy meat, but the whole family eats like kings all year. Plus, wild meat is lower in fat, far tastier and far healthier than feedlot-fattened beef and force-fed poultry.

      I couldn’t do it myself, but I really appreciate the meat, and the savings…

  15. Claytons says:

    I find it’s often smart to buy more expensive products for their longevity. Cookware is a good example. i.e. I can buy one quality stainless steel sauce pot that will last me, literally, the rest of my life or I can replace a cheap nonstick (ugh) pot every few years for the rest of my life. I find the same goes with furniture (I learned this after replacing broken, less than year old IKEA furniture). Sure, quality, long-lasting material goods aren’t always more expensive, but they usually are.

    • docrice says:

      @Claytons: +1 for that. My wife thought I was nuts since I usually bought nicer, more expensive items (read: only certain things, not designer clothes, etc.). Then I got her a KitchenAid mixer and she hasn’t given me a hard time since…

    • Boulderite says:


      We were having the same problems with cookware and then I fell in Love with Le Creuset. (We watched a cooking demo at a local grocery store that doesn’t sell Le Creuset)
      A few years ago my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday and I said a Le Creuset stock pot and he gave me a 9 piece set in blue! We have purchased a few other pieces since then and are very happy with them. We’ll have them forever!

    • jeffs3rd says:

      @Claytons: My wife and I have been married for 5 years. We got one of those non-stick sets for a wedding gift, one that we asked for. Her parents also gave us one stainless steel pot that they had extra. The non-stick set is starting to flake off the non-stick coating, which makes it kind of a hazard to us and our 18 month old. We don’t like cooking on them.

      The stainless steel pot still looks like brand new, and we use it about every other day.

      Long story short, last night we bought a stainless steel set. Spent more than we wanted, but it should last just about forever.

  16. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Small stuff:

    Replaced showerhead with aerating low-flow shower head (aerating means you get the same water pressure with way less water) for $15; cut about 1/4 off our water bill just like that.

    Replaced incandescents with compact fluorescents as they burned out (has anyone NOT done this yet?) … slow but steady decline in power bill, and as my house was built and wired in 1950, lets us put brighter bulbs in our extremely limited number of light fixtures. (The master bedroom had ONE. OUTLET. when we moved in. ONE.)

    Bought Smart Strips for computer and TV arrays. [] They’re expensive, but our first two saved us $6/month or so in electricity, and have more than paid for themselves. And they’re good power strips! Actually the convenience of having things self-switch and having those nice, spaced-out plugs holes for wall-wart plugs is so great that I think I might honestly pay for these even without the energy savings.

    • Xerloq says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Note on the fluorescent bulbs – check with your power company to see if they offer rebates on them. Ours was offering $15 rebates on 6 packs of bulbs, effectively making the bulbs $1 each.

      The long warm up time (comparative to incandescent) can be a bit annoying until you realize that turning on lights in the middle of the night doesn’t result in instant blindness.

      I’m just waiting for LED bulbs to come down in price.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Xerloq: Those “long warm-up times” have gotten significantly shorter with the newer generations of bulbs, too. A lot of them now say “80% brightness within 5 seconds” or whatever.

        The only one I actually notice coming on less-bright is the one in the bathroom, where after 30 seconds the bathroom gets noticeably brighter. We must have installed that one right when we were first switching things over, it must be old! :)

      • Boulderite says:


        Check Target, today I picked up some 2 packs of different wattage on clearance for $2.50 each pack

    • RandomHookup says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: 1950s house, eh? What luxury. Mine was built in 1895. It drives my tenants nuts with their 10-15 devices plugged in for each bedroom. I had the electrician in recently because they kept overloading everything.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @RandomHookup: I know it, I have friends in old Victorians. Our electrical hadn’t been updated, except in the kitchen, since 1950 when we moved in. Cost us $1500 in electrical work just to get insurable! I can’t even imagine coping with a Victorian!

        • HogwartsAlum says:

          @Eyebrows McGee:

          I can’t either, but I want one really bad…

          • RandomHookup says:

            @HogwartsAlum: Move to the right place. Every house on my street (and most of the adjoining streets) was built at the same time and with the same floor layout. It’s a little tough on the drunks though…someone broke in my place on New Year’s thinking it was his girlfriend’s place.

    • AD8BC says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: I like the idea of the CFLs.. unfortunately, every light (sans closets) in my home is on a dimmer — including the bathroom. Keeps me from burning off my retina in the middle of the night, just enough light to pee.

      If they had a CFL with more than a 60-100% dim rate (i.e. I could dim it down to 10%) without firing it up at 100% first, I’d be all in, except for a few decorative fixtures. I hope that when LEDs become popular, bright enough, and cheap, that they design the LED driver chips for full range dim.

      For now, for me, it’s Halogena Energy Savers.

      The air-powered showerhead I tried in a former home. We kept it pretty cold in the house (around 62) in the winter, and when I took a shower, I used more hot water trying to keep the water hot, because it seemed to be sucking in cold air and lowering the temp of my shower.

  17. floraposte says:

    Freezer and a Cook’s Illustrated online subscription. Best money I spent last year for both savings and enjoyment. I’m getting an estimate today for new energy efficient A/C, and I’m looking into doing the windows next year.

    • zentex says:

      @floraposte: we replaced our windows a few years ago and it was a a literal slap in the face as to how much we were loosing each month with the old single-pane windows.

      They more than paid for themselves already.

  18. Savage Henry says:

    I save enough on cat litter (almost 50% less than my local Kroger on a per-pound basis) to pay for my Costco membership every year.

    Also, my Evernote Pro membership ($45/year) is very useful for storing receipts and tracking expenses. It probably doesn’t justify itself just for that (especially since the free version might be enough to get by), but in addition to all of the other useful applications it helps.

  19. Hoss says:

    My key is to buy things when I don’t need them. That is, instead of buying paper towels and soap when Irun out, i buy them in large quantities when they are on sale. I also find that eBay is a great place to get things like expensive hair gel, or batteries for the phone. Again, buy several at the cheaper price

    • drgstrcowgirl says:


      From your friendly neighborhood microbiologist: if you’re looking to buy salon-brand products on eBay, make sure you are dealing with a reputable source!

      Expensive shampoos, product lines, etc. are one of the most frequently counterfeited consumer goods and have the potential to be loaded with chemicals or bacteria that could give you nasty skin or eye infections. If a price seems to good to be true, it probably is.

      • bohemian says:

        @drgstrcowgirl: I quit buying expensive salon brands. Sally beauty has some comparable brand that are far cheaper. I picked up 2 big jugs of shampoo for less than the price of one small bottle of the shampoo I had been buying.

  20. howie_in_az says:

    Don’t be afraid to haggle. Lots of companies/people will lower their prices if they think you’re going to walk away. And if they don’t, walk away! You’ll be able to find someone to do whatever it is you want done for a lower price.

    Additionally, call up your cable company and say that you saw a competing offer that’s better and would like to know if they’ll match it. Likewise with your cell phone provider. If you’re with TMobile and need a ‘landline’, sign up for their $10/mo VoIP service — you can keep your existing landline number. We did, and instead of paying $35/mo for a basic landline with no caller ID, no call waiting, etc, we now have a TMobile @Home number that offers caller ID, voicemail, three-way calling, and a host of other features for $10/mo, saving us $25/mo.

    Get on managed payment plans with utility companies. They’ll take your last year’s bills, average them out, and charge you the same flat rate every month. Invaluable if you live in the desert (like we do) and experience 110F+ summers but rarely turn the A/C on in the winters when the weather’s more like 75F, plus it goes very well towards having a monthly budget.

    Speaking of which, make a budget. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; we have ours in a Google Spreadsheet. We know that our mortgage payment is $x, car payment is $y, etc etc. We allocate some money for fun, money for gasoline, and money for groceries. All the bills are paid, we put money into our savings accounts (earning a measly 2.5%, meh), and we still go out for sushi and horrible renditions of Les Miserables.

    • MrEvil says:

      @howie_in_az: The tip you provided for cable doesn’t work with Suddenlink. I called them last week about my TV service and all they offered me was $10/mo off and free HBO. So I canceled the TV but kept the internet, since I need it for work. Boy they didn’t delay and disconnecting me, there was a guy in my alley Monday morning putting the isolators back on. I was paying $75/mo for Standard Def basic digital with ONE box. If I’d wanted Hi-Def it would have been an extra $25/mo and I’d have to have their DVR crammed down my throat.

      Suddenlink’s service isn’t bad, but their rates are HORRIBLE for TV.

  21. Xerloq says:

    Milk is not always cheaper at Costco. Ours carries 2 gallons for $4.90. The local Albertsons, Associated Foods and Kroger have been running milk at 3 for $5 for the past two months.

    Gas is cheaper, on the order of $0.15/gal, plus a 5% rebate on Costco AMEX TrueEarnings.

    I did join Sams Club last year to buy a CO/smoke/gas dector for $45 that was $100 everywhere else. Saved $5 immediately.

  22. Oakie Pokie says:

    i do a lot more online shopping now and of course keep a watchful eye on sales tax and shipping/delivery costs.

    by using a grocery delivery service with applicable product coupons and sales, i spend only marginally more than i would shopping myself… maybe 2 or 3% more. with non-edible goods, i can save even more.

    but here’s the kicker… since i’m no longer driving around all over the place price shopping between 3 grocers and countless retailers for all of my goods, i’m spending a LOT less on gas. my fuel consumption has been cut to a third of what i used to consume.

    plus… car insurance. my rates are half of what they were as i’ve been able to qualify for a low-mileage discount.

    i save about $40 a week in gas and over $900 a year on insurance.

  23. ajlei says:

    My roommate and I just subscribed to the Oregonian. We actually just get the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday editions, but it’s $13/month. Not bad, and we get all the coupons (and crosswords!) we need.

  24. Anonymous says:

    We bought a wood burning insert for our fireplace that will heat the entire house. Wood is always cheaper than heating oil here in New England plus when the power goes out like it did this December we still have heat. Its good disaster insurance too. When the you*know*what really hits the fan in this country, as it might, we are sitting next to the largest forest in the state and I know my family will never be cold.

  25. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    My husband joined an engineering society for about $100/year. It gives FABULOUS discounts on auto, home and life insurance. Every time I compare rates I find we’re saving at least a few hundred $$ per year and it’s very good coverage.

  26. kmw2 says:

    Buy quality shoes and clothes instead of the cheap stuff if you can. (Note that quality does not mean trendy!) An LL Bean tshirt is twice the cost of one from Walmart or Old Navy, but it’ll last you years instead of months.

  27. WorldHarmony says:

    I don’t own a TV but I have a laptop. I bought an EyeTV Hybrid for about $80 at Apple so that I can use my laptop as a TV. I then cancelled my $13/month TiVo account because I use EyeTV as a DVR as well.

  28. rhinojosa says:

    I bought a $300 golf membership and I can play whenever I want for a whole year. Not only that, but since I signed up in February, I got an extra month free, four free guess passes, a $25 gift certificate to the pro shop, and a practice golf cup.

    I usually play 3 to 4 times a month, which would add up close to $60/month. Those are some big savings.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Our first step was to simply start tracking our expenses. It’s amazing how much money slips away that you don’t notice. Once you know where the money is going, it’s much more apparent where you can make adjustments or cut back on spending, and it’s a lot easier to do as well. Plus, you see the results the next time you do your budget.

  30. ludwigk says:

    Cheese, especially good cheese, is SOO much cheaper at wholesale clubs.

    If you like Tillamook Cheddar, or Black Diamond, these can cost quite a bit at the grocery store. I think a 2 lb block of Tillamook extra sharp is about $11 on sale at Safeway, but $7 at Costco.

    Black Diamond is like $20/lb at the grocery store, which I consider prohibitively expensive, but Sam’s carried it at an astonishingly low price when we lived on the east coast years ago.

    The real killer was a parmigiana reggiano that was maybe 1/3 the price for the same brand elsewhere from Costco. And, a good, dry parmesan lasts FOREVER! (except around my old housemates)

    • Ragman says:

      @ludwigk: The savings on our shredded cheese we go through in a year pays for our Sam’s membership alone.

      I have noticed some things that do end up cheaper when they go on sale at walmart than what they go for at Sam’s. Like Kraft mac & cheese, it was $0.50/box at walmart last week, and it runs about $0.60/box at Sam’s.

      We also bought a pack of washcloths to use in place of paper towels. I was getting tired of paying $15 a pack at Sam’s for them. We save paper towels for cleaning up the really nasty stuff.

  31. Rachacha says:

    I recently needed to purchase several Adobe Photoshop suites (with a total price of nearly $3000 if I purchased from Adobe or another retailer). I subscribed to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) for a $99 annual subscription to their magazine and received a discount on Adobe products, saving me over $200 on my Adobe suite purchase. They offer discounts on other products and services as well, in addition to a nice magazine subscription as well.

    • Ragman says:

      @Rachacha: Several years back, I really wanted a copy of Adobe Photoshop elements, so I bought it. Maybe a year later, I bought a scanner for less than what I paid for Photoshop. The scanner included the same copy of Photoshop I had bought previously. It was really annoying to miss out on that savings, since it was $100 for the software.

      Back when I wanted to get Netscape Navigator, the boxed retail was $40 at BB. They also carried the 3″ thick reference book for Netscape that had the same copy of Navigator on the cd. I got the reference book for less than $25.

      It does help to really look around for bundles/memberships that may help you come out ahead. We get a great deal on life insurance through a professional organization.

  32. hipersons says:

    I get my value out of Costco in humus alone. No joke. then you add in the SWEET deal on kitty litter, and I’ve made out like a bandit.
    as far as spending money to save money, I buy coupons from instead of buying the paper. i get the coupons I want and will actually use, and I don’t get the paper which is a waste of trees and I’ll never read it anyway. Since I started in November, I’ve spent the same amount of money on my coupons as I would have if I got the paper (about $35), but I’ve saved over $200 in groceries and personal products.

  33. Czum says:

    When I first moved in to my ~50 year old house, it had a furnace built in 1973 – about 45% efficient and already well out of the expected 20 to 25 year lifespan of a typical furnace. We decided to replace it immediately with a high efficiency (92%) model, rather than wait until in died and needed an emergency replacement (at a premium).

    We paid $4400 CDN (taxes in) installed, but in our area we have a program for a home energy audit – you get one done before and after your energy improvements, then get a rebate based on the degree of the improvement. Our house went from 52/100 to about 76/100 (roughly comparable to many newly-built homes), largely due to the the furnace upgrade, netting us $800 back.

    So our net cost was $3600, but we are now saving ~$500 per year on gas costs, so it pays for itself in 7 years.

    One thing my family/friends can’t/don’t understand: “Why would you replace your furnace if it’s working fine?” They don’t take into account that the new furnace could cut their gas costs in half (electricity also tends to go down, due to the way the new furnaces are built). Every time their old unit fires up, they’re burning twice as much fuel as they need to.

    So spend $$ up front to make it back in the long term.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @Czum: Yup, this is a good idea, if you know your furnace is going to die, might as well replace it. Its not one of those things you can really wait with and you will pay a premium for emergency installation services, and the fact that the company you are buying from might not even have the furnace you need in stock, so you may have to choose a model that you don’t want just to get something to heat your home quickly. You can’t exactly go without heat in NY state where the winters are frigid!

      It was found that the furnace in our house was dying (a very, very old furnace) so we replaced it before it actually died, and so did another friend of ours and both of us were satisfied. Plus we were able to take advantage of the rebate offered for installing a new energy-efficient furnace, which got us back $300 on the purchase.

  34. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Work from home if your boss is agreeable. OK, everyone’s boss isn’t agreeable. But if what you calculate you’ll save in gas, wear-and-tear on your car, lunches out with co-workers, and office clothing comes to a lot, you might still come out way ahead after putting money on the table… the next raise or bonus, maybe, especially given that in this economy you probably weren’t getting one anyway,

  35. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Think counter-intuitively. Things that sound expensive aren’t always expensive… and are often cheaper than the cheap equivalents.

    There’s a couple cheap, decent restaurants near my apartment that are usually cheaper than cooking the same meal, especially cooking for just myself. If you are cooking, look HARD at the specials. This week I picked up T-bone steak for less per pound than bottom rump roast, and chicken breast quarters for the same price per pound as leg quarters. I joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture, a veggie-farm co-op) for a trial period of two months, and I joined for an additional year when I figured out that my broken-out cost per week was less than what I was paying for the same veggies in the store (YMMV).

    Another thing to think about in terms of cost per year is computers. My partner bought an expensive, souped-up computer six years ago that he’s still using, instead of buying a new model every year or two because the cheaper machine can’t run the new stuff. He’s probably saved a couple thousand by now.

    My mother thought that clumping cat litter was money-saving because you only had to change the clumps. Nope. Cheap clay litter, changed regularly, comes out far cheaper… and more sanitary, too.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @speedwell, avatar of snark: I always load up on a super powerful computer about once every 5-6 years for this reason. I can’t imagine having to buy one every 2 years, its a horrid pain to get a new system and get it all customized to your needs. The price of computers is ALWAYS coming down and I am coming up on my 5-6 year mark to buy a new PC but this time it looks like I will spend about 300$ less than I normally would. That money can then go towards a new PC monitor because I am typing on a CRT now and really need an upgrade. It would also be kind of pointless to purchase a super powerful new PC then use an old CRT monitor for it lol, as it would be for me to add a beautiful LCD to this old computer. The luxury monitor will be a planned purchase that I have saved carefully for.

  36. Outrun1986 says:

    If your going to a theme park, it might be cheaper to buy the season’s pass than to pay for even 2 days worth of admission tickets. If your a big theme park fan, this is definitely something to look at, especially if you even plan on visiting 2-3 times in the season. Some passes are also good at more than one park, so if you visit a couple parks, the savings can really add up. Most passes also come with a booklet of discount coupons for use in the park.

    Also if you know you are going to be visiting a park more than once each year, you can often buy a super cheap discounted season pass in the winter off season, at least around here in NY state. These cost usually just over what the cost of regular admission for one day would be, so overall they are a great value!

    The only thing I would caution on is that if you go more than once there would be a tendency to spend more money in the park each time, but that can be eliminated by doing things like bringing your own food and setting a spending limit.

    Entertainment books:

    Another tip if you eat out a lot and especially if you have kids would be to buy an entertainment book. You WILL save money on this if you have kids, because they have a lot of coupons for things that kids like to do like fun centers, amusement parks and museums. I have seen entertainment books on websites like inboxdollars which I belong to that cost 25$, but if you buy the book you also get 12$ or another amount of money back into your inboxdollars account. This effectively makes the book cost about 12$. I just received several coupons from a friend’s entertainment book, and basically one restaurant meal will pay for the book itself, not to mention the myriad of other discounts available in them. Inboxdollars is a cash-back rewards type of program so if you use a similar program you may also be able to find a similar discount on entertainment books. Don’t buy the book at a store where its the most expensive, use an internet cash back program to get one for ultra cheap!

    I save money on printer ink by buying remanufacturered cartridges that work just like the original ones but cost about 90% less. Inboxdollars often sends me offers with 8$ in cash back on every ink purchase I make and honestly they send more of these offers than I can use, which for me makes quality remanufacturered ink cartridges cost about 3$ each!

  37. kwsventures says:

    I decided not to participate in the current gloom and doom.

  38. ElizabethD says:

    If you have kids, consider taking a job at a college or university… Most of them have tuition benefits for employee children no matter where they attend college. My kids each get $10K per year for four years of college if they attend fulltime. (This benefit is for employees who have worked there at least four years before the tuition gift kicks in.) The tradeoff is that salaries in nonprofits like schools pay less than similar jobs in the profit sector. But the tuition benefit is a non-taxable item and is incredibly helpful, given today’s college tuitions.

  39. HogwartsAlum says:

    I’m terrible at all this stuff. No wonder I never have any money.

    Thanks, everybody, for all the suggestions though. I think I need them!

  40. Brian Maditz says:

    use mint and realize you spend $100 too much on eating at Mcdonalds instead of trying to write everything down and figure it out!

  41. brian01 says:

    What a great idea!

  42. amandakerik says:

    Best way to get money saving tips? Talk to your grandparents and older family members. They’re a treasure trove of info and often overlooked in our youth obsessed culture.

  43. bumpducks says:

    Delta Sonic has their basic oil change for $25.99, but it’s only $19.99 if you buy a car wash. They are currently charging $5 for a basic car wash, so I save more by having them wash my car.

  44. sponica says:

    As an animal lover, who thoroughly enjoys going to the zoo, and went to Fordham University (right down the street from the Bronx Zoo), I bought a membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society which runs all the city zoos and the aquarium. My 90 dollars a year gets me and a guest of my choice into ALL of the zoos and the aquarium, a discount at the gift shops and some food locations. Additionally, the level of membership I have gets me into the parts of the Bronx Zoo that the general admission does not cover (Congo Gorilla Exhibit, Children’s Zoo, etc).

  45. xskeptictankx says:

    When I got my first laptop in 2003 (or 04) I bought the extended protection plan thru Best Buy and then renewed it for an extra $300 when it expired two years later. I’m glad I did because it needed major repairs (new motherboard, 2 new power cords, new LCD) during both warranty periods that would have resulted in the replacement of the laptop entirely had I paid for them out of pocket. I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again.

    I also arranged with my father to buy me a AAA Roadside Assistance membership for Christmas, so every year instead of asking me for a wish list or handing me a gift card he just renews my membership for another year. I can’t even fathom how many times I would have needed to pay for towing or lock-outs or changing tires that I couldn’t loosen the lugnuts on. I use it pretty often so that stuff would really add up.