One Simple, Fool-Proof Way to Save MORE!

posted by Andrea | 08/16/2018

I’m always a sucker for money-saving tips, tricks, and tactics… and if you’re anything like me, the title of this post should pique your curiosity enough to want to read more! 🙂

There are hundreds of ways to save money on virtually every in-store and online shopping trip — scouting out the best sales, clipping coupons, searching for discount codes, mailing in rebates, using various money-saving apps, trying Amazon Subscribe and Save, shopping online with Swagbucks or Ebates, price matching, using a list, etc. etc.

And then there are ALLLL the ways to save on second-hand items — Craigslist, Facebook Market Place, Ebay, ThredUp, second-hand stores, thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, Swap.com, consignment shops, etc. etc.

I use most (if not all) of these in my own life, and I do save thousands of dollars every year as a result!!

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HOWEVER, I have one even simpler, completely fool-proof way to save more than any of the above tips could ever save you!

Want to know my secret?

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My Simple Money Saving Secret = DON’T SHOP!

I know, I’ve mentioned this before on the blog (but that was almost 8 years ago), and something THIS simple needs to be mentioned again after 8 years!

Yes, I said it was SIMPLE…. but let me warn you, it’s definitely NOT EASY (even for those of us who are quite frugal)! 

Let me give you a few examples from my own life (just over the past couple of months!)

THRIFT STORES: 

There have been so many times this summer (when Dave can stay home during Clara’s nap) that I think “I’ll just take the 3 older kids to the thrift store or the dollar store to see what we can find”.

Of course, “seeing what we can find” almost always means buying several items — and even though most of the items are $1 or less, it’s still money I wouldn’t have spent if we had simply stayed home.

FARMER’S MARKET: 

Other times we’ll walk to the local farmer’s market as “something to do” — which always results in buying at least a couple bags of produce (and usually some of the homemade kettle corn too!)

It’s not a bad use of our money, the kids love it, we’re supporting local farmers, and it’s a fun outing on summer mornings… however, it’s all money I wouldn’t have spent if I stayed home.

ONLINE DEAL SITES: 

I get notifications from ThredUp, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Swap.com, when items I’m looking for come up for sale.

I have gotten AMAZING deals on items we would have eventually needed to buy anyway… but, I still would have saved even more by simply doing without (especially since I often end up buying a few more items once I click over to see the item I got the notification from).

GROCERIES:

Last month, a new Meijer store opened up just down the road from our house. That particular store has had all sorts of weekly door-buster sales, with $5 off coupons that print out on almost every receipt and sent out via their online coupon program.

Since the store is SO close by, I’ve ventured there several times over the past month to capitalize on the super special time-sensitive deals (and to use my $5 off coupons). Of course, when I’m there, I might as well pick up the other few items we “need” too!

Their marketing plan worked — they got me into the store over and over again for the freebie items, but I purchased more at the same time!

DONUTS, ICE CREAM, and FAST FOOD: 

Earlier this year, our whole family took a 2-month break from any type of fast food, donuts, restaurants, pizza, etc. Even though I’m certain we eat out far less than the average household, I still felt like we just needed a complete break… so we stopped even considering it as an option and always ate at home.

Since then, we have significantly cut back on any “outside foods” and we’ve eaten the vast majority of our meals at home.

However, over the summer, the kids get ALL sort of coupons from the library and other local events for free donuts, ice cream, french fries, pizza, shakes, subs, and even full free meals at various local places. It’s so fun for them to go to the actual restaurant to order their food and present their coupon — but this also means Dave and I usually order our own food too (and we don’t have a freebie coupon.)

It ends up being a fun family outing more than just a meal or a snack, but I always realize that we could have simply saved more money, time, stress, and sanity by staying home and tossing the freebie coupons.

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I certainly do NOT think it’s bad or wrong to go shopping, to buy items online, to enjoy hanging out at the farmers market, to let my kids pick out something from the local thrift store, or to enjoy a meal out with friends or family.

However, at the same time, I know that most of what I’m buying isn’t 100% necessary, and I would certainly save more by simply not shopping in the first place!

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Of course, it’s not healthy for me or my family to simply “stay home” ALL the time, and we certainly can’t avoid the grocery store forever… I just like thinking about this no-shopping principle to remind myself that saving money really doesn’t have to be all that complicated.

For the time-being, I thoroughly enjoy taking my kids to the local thrift store and seeing how much fun Nora has looking through the racks of clothes and deciding what to try on, or seeing how excited the boys get when I allow them to pick out one of the free toys from the bin at the checkout.

I love surprising my kids by waking them up “early” and loading up in the van to get donuts in their PJ’s.

I love the convenience of the new Meijer store right down the road, and of using online shopping as a way to avoid most in-store shopping.

BUT, if I start feeling like we’re over-spending or veering from our mostly-frugal ways, I know the answer is to simply stay away from stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc. 

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I don’t expect you to swear off shopping for good (I’m not that crazy!) but I do hope this post will remind you to think through your shopping trips, or at least realize why you are buying the things you buy.

If you’re in a position where you have almost zero wiggle room in your budget, I’d encourage you to see if you can do without something every single week.

  • Maybe it’s something super basic like eating all your meals at home, packing all your lunches, and never stepping foot in a coffee shop.
  • Maybe it’s something a little more outside-the-box, like using baking soda and vinegar to wash and rinse your hair instead of immediately replacing your shampoo and conditioner.
  • Maybe it’s finding free parking and walking twice as far.
  • Maybe it’s eating vegetarian food for a full week to save on the cost of meat.
  • Maybe it’s completely avoiding the grocery store for a full week and simply getting creative and making due with what you have in the house.
  • Maybe it’s foregoing a freebie coupon that requires you spend something in order to get the free items.
  • Maybe it’s searching through your house for back-to-school supplies instead of buying them new this year.

When you really stop and think about it, the practice of NOT SHOPPING is such a fantastic discipline and such a great way to save more.

How have YOU saved more by not shopping?

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16 comments

  1. Lynda

    08/17/2018

    Now I want donuts! 🙂 Great article….. truth! Always appreciate how you keep it real and simple 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — the donuts were amazing! 🙂

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  2. Erin

    08/17/2018

    My issue is Target and Costco. I did get my Costco membership with a groupon so it ended up being almost free with gift card and free items with purchase that we used. However, it is very hard for me to get out of Costco for under $100 so that membership ends this month and I’m letting it run out. We do save with their cheaper gas but not worth how much extra I tend to spend in the store. Target is the same for me. I try my hardest to avoid walking in there by ordering the couple items I need off of amazon or getting them at the grocery store. If we really need to go there I ask my husband to go instead b/c he is not tempted by Target dollar bins or decor. My husbands favorite saying is, “ I’m gojng broke with you saving money.” Lol. I’m a work in progress. Thanks for the reminder today!

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    Andrea Reply:

    I told Dave that Costco seems to be a money suck for us too. We have 8-10 things we buy there every month, but I’m honestly not convinced it saves us much after we factor in the price of the membership and that various other things we buy when we’re there!

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  3. MC

    08/16/2018

    One thing I did was get a shampoo/conditioner/body-wash/baby-shampoo dispenser for the shower. https://www.amazon.com/Better-Living-71450-4-Chamber-Dispenser/dp/B00004TUBO/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1534459744&sr=8-5&keywords=shower+dispenser

    I mean, you can use the chambers for anything, but I listed what I put in them. I use the first 3 and my daughter uses the last + we share the body wash.

    I’ve been using less shampoo and soap as a result. And if I need more than I pumped out the first time, each additional pump is nice and controlled, so I don’t accidentally pour a whole bunch out of the bottle. Plus, I don’t waste very much at all b/c I can completely empty whatever bottle into the dispenser. And when the dispenser is low, I just add more of whatever product to keep it flowing.

    I have a big stock pile of body wash from a good sale I hit up, so I won’t have to buy much for a LONG time, too! Extra long since I’m using less these days!

    I found my dispenser brand new (from AGES ago like it had been in someone’s garage for many years) at the thrift store and I only got it b/c a friend posted about using one for her ~10 yo daughter who was wasting so much shampoo/soap/conditioner in the bath. I figured that would be good for when mine finally starts showering on her own (she’s not quite 3). But it’s really been good for me, too!

    I love the no-shopping tip from this post. It’s so true. I’ve seen some rather extreme challenges floating around blog-land to not shop for anything at all unless you NEED it. Like this from Young House Love: https://www.younghouselove.com/podcast-97/ (sorry, it’s a podcast, but the show notes should have enough about it or click over to their other show notes that have a bit more to read if you don’t want to listen to everything). I don’t love the extreme challenges, but I notice that my bill is lower when I don’t just shop around aimlessly. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the links! I’m actually planning to get something like that for our kids’ bathroom once they are all taking showers! I was more thinking of it as a way to reduce the clutter in the shower, but it would be a really great way to use less too!

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  4. JJ

    08/16/2018

    Great tips!!! One way I save money is I try to use everything in a tube/bottle. I also am {{trying}} to use less of things. I’m honestly careless as to amounts, but I am trying to use less first. Then if I need more–fine!

    Shopping with Walmart Grocery Pickup saves *if* they had everything in my order and you don’t have to go out again. It keeps a subtotal as you order. I have never been a huge fan of Walmart but LOVE this service. I pull up with 3 small children in tow and zip away with all of my groceries for the week. The biggest problem has been spoiled produce. But, every time I call customer service, they fully refund any item. If you ever did this, you could share your link on this blog and earn a $10 promo code for every person who signs up under your link!

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    Andrea Reply:

    These are great tips!
    We don’t have that Walmart service at the store closest to us — and our Walmarts are very inferior to the Meijer and Aldi stores. I don’t remember the last time I went into Walmart… in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever purchased groceries from our Walmart!

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    JJ Reply:

    Michigan is my home state. I miss Meijer so much! We have a Super Target and Super Walmart. I shop at Aldi a little. Meijer needs to get down to NC! Haha!

    One other way I forgot to mention we are saving for our kids is to put 30% of monetary gifts they receive into their savings accounts. That way they can still get fun things but also save up a little for the future.

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  5. Stephanie

    08/16/2018

    This post is so true! Although on a budget and frugal-minded, I have spent more than I would have liked this summer on the little outings that you mentioned above. I’ve been aware of it and plan to make up for it. Great suggestions on how to do that! One thing I don’t do is take my kids to garage sales or thrift stores, as I know that since everything is so inexpensive it would be super tempting to buy things they don’t need. How do you balance decluttering and bringing fun toys home? That’s always been a problem for me. I know the “one in, one out” rule. Do you stick to that with your kids when they pick up a little toy at the thrift store? I don’t want to be too rigid but the little things pile up fast!

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    Andrea Reply:

    to be fair, I think the little outings are sort of about memory-making too! My kids are having SO much fun doing all sorts of little things each week, and I’m positive we’re spending significantly less than if we went on one large family vacation.
    As for buying all those little toys at the thrift store, we purge on a regular basis (and my kids know this). so when we go to the thrift store, we almost always bring a bag or two of clothes, toys, books, and games — and then the kids each get to pick ONE thing to bring back. It’s not a perfect system but it works for now!

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  6. Jen

    08/16/2018

    One trick for me has been to unsubscribe to many of those “deals” emails. If I don’t know what “amazing” deal they’re having today, I won’t be tempted to buy something I don’t need and spend money frivolously buying something just “because it’s on sale.”

    This is mostly why I stopped clipping coupons years ago. I felt such pressure to cut, organize, and use all the coupons until one day I realized that 1. my time was more important than saving $2 and 2. more often than not, I was spending even more money to save a little. It doesn’t make sense to buy two jars of ketchup I don’t need (and will have to store!) and spend $4 to save $.50 when I could buy just one jar and only spend $2!

    I have also gone on “fasts” from certain stores–mainly Target, which is my nemesis! I just don’t even go in. I’ve succeeded in doing this for several months in a row several different times in the past few years. That way, I’m not tempted at all! My husband says he can hear the sucking sound in his wallet every time I walk in there! 😉

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    Stephanie Reply:

    I agree, Jen, and have done the same things to save money. I wished stores didn’t group things together for a “deal.” Like “buy three pairs of shorts for $5 each” and save. When you try to reduce the number of items in your home and you don’t need three pairs, it feels like you aren’t being thrifty if you don’t buy the bundle.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, good tips Jen! I unsubscribe to a bunch of emails after the holiday season.
    Also, we are different in the fact that I don’t even remember the last time I stepped foot into a Target. I never shop there (in stores or online). I think the last thing I got from Target were my high-waist swim suit bottoms (3 summers ago)!

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  7. Chris

    08/16/2018

    Spot on! I absolutely love Chick-Fil-A but I do know I go more because of the free items I get and then purchase others. But I don’t mind spending the money there because I love it! LOL

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    Andrea Reply:

    I hear ya! We get SO many Buy-One-Get-One coupons to Culvers (and you know how much we love Culvers!) but many of the coupons go unused since we only go to Culver’s once a month (at the most). If we used all our coupons, we’d be going every other day and spending a fortune!

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