Great idea from reader CumaeanSybil: “One thing I’ve been doing lately: every time I buy something on sale, I take the difference from regular price and put it in savings. It keeps me motivated to seek out sale prices and coupons, because I like seeing that account grow.”


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  1. WorldHarmony says:

    That is a good idea, along with continuing to pay a debt after you’ve paid it off – by diverting the monthly payment into your savings for a short period.

    • TheGuinnessTooth says:

      @WorldHarmony: I did that with my car payments. I paid $212.40 a month for a few years, paid off my car, and then started saving $212.40 a month.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @WorldHarmony: Yup, I’m doing the same thing. My car payment ends this month, then that money is going to be applied to my credit card on which I recently purchased about $900 worth of stuff, and then into savings.

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @WorldHarmony: Yep, that’s a good one too. Regular bills work too — for instance, my car insurance premium goes down a little bit every 6 months I don’t have an accident, so that goes into savings.

  2. Jan Scholl says:

    I have been doing this for over 30 years. I keep a jar in the kitchen where I also put my spare change each night and take to the bank twice a year. If something costs 56 cents, I give them a dollar and take the change home to the jar. I also include coupons money, rebates, bottle returns (so many are just tossed here 10 cents each) and my local store tallies on the receipts how much you saved. Guess what?? I have always paid cash for my cars. It adds up and fast! At least 5-6 thousand a year if you always buy on sale. And use coupons which are often doubled. This past year, I also had to purchase a new laptop. The laptop was over $1000 and I had points on my credit card where you earn GC thru Amazon which I saved for months-my final price was $274. I also always paid the CC bill in full each month. Make them pay you to use their cards.

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @Jan Scholl: I’ve seen so many people make fun of the change jar, but I think they’d sing a different tune if they knew how well it works. Are you in MI too? The bottle returns are fantastic. I know it’s money that I already spent when I bought the stuff, but it still feels good to get it back.

  3. themicah says:

    Interesting concept, but it actually gives you a subtle incentive to buy things you might not actually need just because they’re on sale (or to buy something expensive that’s on sale when there might be a cheaper alternative).

    A more effective way to save money is to simply not buy things you don’t need. Put THAT money in savings and your account will grow much faster.

    • CaptainSemantics says:

      @themicah: I was wondering the same thing.

      And when I buy something on sale, as ElizabethD mentioned down there, I buy it because I can’t afford to buy it full price, therefore I’m not going to have the money to put in another account.

      It’s a great idea, though, if you have self-control (like most of us on here) and can afford it.

      • kmw2 says:

        @CaptainSemantics: Well, sometimes yes,sometimes no – I save about 25% of my grocery bill every week just because things I buy otherwise (or divert myself just a little bit to buy, like Raisin Bran instead of Cheerios) are on sale. I’d pay full price for that stuff in any case, so diverting those funds can really add up without changing my spending patterns. (And the receipt merrily tells me how much to put in the ING account)

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @themicah: I haven’t found that to be a problem, myself. I keep a mental list of all the things I use on a regular basis, and when I look through the fliers, I’m thinking about “what do I need to buy that I can buy this week, and from which store,” not “what’s a really good bargain.”

      One thing: never, ever clip coupons for stuff you don’t already eat or use all the time. It’s hardly ever worth it. I mean, if you normally buy store-brand cereal, and a coupon comes up for name-brand cereal, clip that and combine it with a sale — but a coupon for some food item you’ve never eaten in your life? Leave it. I made the mistake of collecting all the frozen-food coupons one winter whether I was familiar with the products or not, and I did save a ton of money by combining them with store sales, but I also sent my cholesterol through the roof.

      • Outrun1986 says:

        @CumaeanSibyl: Then your not trying any new products. It gets really mundane if you don’t try new things, especially when they are cheap. Your also supposed to vary your diet, and not eat the same things all the time. But no, I don’t clip coupons for items that I wouldn’t touch. If its for an item that I am interested in trying though, and that item is cheap enough with coupon to warrant the purchase, then I will do it.

  4. NotStimulated_GitEmSteveDave says:

    I’d do this, but I tend to buy things that my friend “Clarance” put on special. At 75% off, I’d have to put more money into an account than I make.

  5. ElizabethD says:

    Very good. OTOH, when I buy something at a discount, it may be because I don’t actually *have* the difference between the sale price and the regular price. Still: anything that prompts us to save is a move in the right direction. (Or wait: are we supposed to spend now?)

  6. summerbee says:

    I do this too when I buy things at thrift stores. If I get a shirt for four bucks that would probably cost at least ten if it were new, I’ll throw six bucks into my savings account.

  7. oneliketadow says:

    So what happens at Target when they do their usual sale==higher prices shenanigans? Do you have to pull money out of the account?

  8. chrisjames says:

    Our way to “save” money is to budget every last cent of our paychecks. We split everything up into bills, food, other expenses (gas, pills, etc), an allowance for each of us, a small (very small) amount for savings, a misc pile, and a fixed amount towards debt (I don’t lump debt with bills, since I often pay over the maximum). Each bill is rounded upwards, each paycheck rounded downwards, and each expense we control also rounded downwards. We make sure never to spend more than we’ve budgeted for each.

    Similar to CumaeanSybil’s technique, that easily leaves an extra chunk at the end of each month. By sticking to the confines of our individual allowances, we don’t immediately gobble up that extra chunk any more. I take it a step further: I figure out where I’ll get the most bang for the buck and “invest” the extra there.

    For instance, one month we got ahead on some bills (because of wonky due dates, we now benefit from paying a month in advance). Also, we want to pad our savings account, but we have a credit card to pay off. Now that the credit card APR is higher than the savings interest, it’s in our best interest to put more money towards the card and less in savings. Though it’s not ideal, we’ll still have emergency money since we’re freeing up credit, and we’re favoring reducing our debt over letting money sit in the bank.

    What’s better is, our utility bills fluctuate wildly, and my wife’s always pressing me to update the budget because my first estimates (in the dead of winter) were conservative even for high consumption rates. It seems counterproductive now that we’ve found a comfortable level of personal expense to try and find ways to start spending more (especially with a $400/mo student loan and new house on the horizon, possibly a vacation to Europe now that we have so much extra).

    To meet our strict budget limits, it’s in our best interests to buy as cheap as possible, and seek out new ways to live our old lifestyle on less cash. If you haven’t yet experienced it, you’d be surprised by just how much of the excesses of modern American life you can do without. It’s a far better trick, to me, than just saving bits here and there. As our paychecks continue to grow, it’s like throwing wads of money towards our future.

    (Slightly related: the best advice for serious couples I, or anyone, can give is to elope! Marriage debt is toxic, and you’d never think it but you really won’t miss the fancy-dancy wedding.)

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      @chrisjames: Top tip: A fancy wedding doesn’t have to be an expensive one. We married out of season, so to speak, and the party cost less than most of the dresses you see in bridal magazines. I’ll always be glad we decided to ‘waste money’ on a non-elopement wedding since it was the last family event my elderly great-aunt attended before she died.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @chrisjames: I know WAYYY too many people who have gotten themselves into wedding debt. Like everything, you can have a nice wedding with family, just don’t buy into all of the garbage they try to sell you. Do you really HAVE to have matching gowns for all the bridesmaids? Can these bridesmaids even afford to buy themselves a dress that will have little to no resale value later on? Perhaps you are putting the bridesmaid into debt by making them purchase a dress so they can look pretty at your wedding. I am not talking about a $100 dress here, I am talking about people who insist that person x is the bridesmaid and now person x has to pay 1k or more for a dress because the bride wants designer dresses for everyone that match exactly. This doesn’t include the cost of accessories or the cost of wedding garb for the bridesmaid’s kids that will never wear the stuff again.

      Not only can the wedding put the bride and groom in debt, but it can also put other people in the wedding party in debt, which is not a very nice thing to do.

      You can rent a hall and have good food catered for a reasonable price, however do you really need designer dresses that match exactly, gold-plated invitations, table markers, favors that people don’t want and are going to throw out etc…

      • howie_in_az says:

        @Outrun1986: We’re in the process of planning our wedding… at our home. We’ll put some money into the backyard, but then we can take that off of our taxes (I think), plus then we have a nicer backyard that we can make use of, plus it potentially increases the resale value of the home.

        We watched a few episodes of Bridezilla and are always amazed at how bitchy people can be. We’re also amazed that people spend tons of money to entertain everyone else on a day that has little to do with them. We make decent money, likely far more than most of the people in these TeeVee shows, yet they’re spending $20,000-$50,000 for their weddings.

        I’m still totally getting a BMW M3 though, prices be damned.

    • J.Heck says:

      @chrisjames: I know a girl who put all of her wedding costs on four different credit cards. Before she was engaged, she had one credit card that she used only for emergencies. She’s now paying back the credit card companies roughly 8k-ish, not including the interest.

      We spent $500 tops on my wedding. And we even had a church wedding (it pays to be marrying the pastor’s son). A big fancy-schmancy wedding in this economy? We decided quickly that simple is sane.

  9. JulesNoctambule says:

    I’ve always wondered if anyone else did this!

  10. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Validation! YES!