Monday, November 16, 2009

Frugal Living: 10 ways we saved hundreds

So, the foundational post was said. And now onto how WE (again, there are TONS of other ways) saved hundreds of dollars every month.

I know there are TONS of blogs out there that talk about this. I read some of them and mostly I won't have the time to and I feel most of them are MUCH MUCH more in depth and comprehensive than what I can offer.

Here is just a post on what WE did as a family and also in the context of the expensive NYC living.

1. Budgetting
I think this is the most important way how we save. We make sure we have a budget and we track them. Ok, we have a budget. We need more work on tracking. Still, we are able to do a financial report when we need to.

Right now, we use about $60 (our budget is a little higher) on the average per week for grocery and maybe less than $50 for household?

2. Planning ahead/Stocking up
We use the stocking up mentality. Buy when the value is good so that we don't need to pay for them at usual price when needed. We have ample stock of toothbrushes, toothpastes, shampoo, soap, razors, personal items, cereal, diapers and wipes. Most of these (except diapers, wipes and sometimes cereal) we get them for free/earn.

We also plan ahead for gifts. We buy them when good deals come. So it's good to have a gift list on hand to think about gifts. For eg, I bought my Christmas gifts for friends in the beginning of this year!

3. Limit/delay purchases
One BIG way we learnt to save was to limit or delay purchases. We often wait to see if there are deals. or coupons. or sales. Or to see if we REALLY do need what we wanted to buy. This is a great way to make sure the things that come into our home have their uses.

4. Coupons/coupon codes

Manufacturers' coupons
You can clip them from newspapers (Sun), the circulars that come on Wed/Thu (in some NYC areas) and also get them from samples you ordered online. Sometimes you see them along the aisles in supermarkets.

Some supermarkets (like Stop and Shop here) double coupons. Which means as long as I use a coupon under a dollar in SnS (e.g. $0.75) they take off $1.50. They often have dollar double days which is real yummy.

Sign up at the websites of products you use (like Huggies, Pampers, etc) and you get sent coupons too.

Internet Manufacturers' coupons
My favorite site:
or smartsource
or you just get the links from the kind souls who link them in their frugal blogs.

Usually you can print 2 per computer. DO NOT photocopy cos they have unique codes.

Not every store takes IP. So, ask first.

Store coupons
Many stores have their own coupons. E.g. target, or CVS (printed on the receipts) and Walgreens (on their ads or booklets) Usually you can stack them with manufacturers' coupons. The usual practice: Use MQ (Manufacturers' coupons) first, then store.

Coupon codes
You can often search for coupon codes if you're buying things online. These help a lot!

It is wise to always check on coupon policies before using them.

5. Menu planning/grocery lists
To start off, we have to plan menu (plan every meal if possible). For me, I plan dinners (lunch are usually leftovers). This will turn into grocery lists.

This prevents impulse buying.

What I do every week is, on Wed the circulars come, I browse them (esp Stop and Shop and the drugstores) and the coupons that come with them. Then I plan my meals according to the sale items, the things left in my fridge and other things (like what my hubby is craving for). The I write the grocery list to-buy. On Friday when the sale week begins darling hubby takes my list and coupons and makes a grocery run.

6. Drugstore Runs
The drugstore runs were what started us off on this journey. Never knew they can be so "lucrative". Here are some intro to how things work in these drugstores and how we do it in NYC.

We are at a point I don't usually buy things (even if they are free) unless they earn. (Or unless we need them of course). Yes we actually get TONS of things FREE.

The frugal community online has given me SO much in this. They often write about the deals so that it's easy for me to look and follow.

My favorite site is moneysavingmom. I love her values and I trust her deals.

I also go to hotcouponworld to preview deals/coupons. This is a great forum!


This is possibly my favorite store. They are great with coupons and I like the way ECBs are used.

Basic idea: Buy things from CVS that give ECBs (almost like CVS cash). Use the ECBs earned for next purchases. Whenever possible, use a $/$$ coupon (eg $5 off $20). Stack with MQs and get more returns.

Read Moneysavingmom's CVS 101
here. She gives a clear teaching on it.

Rite Aid
I like Rite Aid, cos they use a rebate system. You pay first and they pay you back in a form of check. But our Rite Aid are often poorly stocked.

Basic idea: Buy things from RA that gives SCR (Single Check Rebate) and use MQ whenever possible. RA has been giving out $/$$ coupons which are GREAT.

RA are not exactly supposed to take IP (internet coupons), but I think it depends on cashier/store. Mine does.

This has become my least favorite store because I don't like the Register Reward (RR) system.

Basic idea: Buy things from Walgreens that gives RRs (like Walgreens coupons). Use ONE RR in next transaction, but it counts as ONE MQ.

Read Moneysavingmom's Walgreens 101

7. Swagbucks
On top of saving (reducing expenses), we are earning through very easy means. (easy not meaning we earn a lot, but meaning it does not take too much of our time)

Our favorite at the moment is Swagbucks. You search the web through SB every day and most of the time you can get at least 1 buck. Accumulate 45 and you can snag an Amazon $5 giftcard. This is VERY significant if you think of the things you can buy from Amazon. From gifts to books... And often Amazon has free shipping after $25.

I really don't spend over 5 mins everyday on this and I think it's a GREAT way to earn a little money but makes a huge difference when you buy things you usually need to.

Sign up

8. Ebates
When you buy things online, always look out for a middle man by which you go through so that you earn some cash backs (maybe like 3% or 5%?). There are lots of them. I stick with eBates cos it's easier to accumulate through one site instead of multiple. You get sign up bonuses. After you accumulate $5 they send you the money (I opt for paypal so it's easier)

9. Free samples, instant wins, giveaways
I sign up for free samples we would need at our household. They often come with coupons so they are great. But always remember, sign up for a "spamable" email account first and use that for all these.

I also do some instant wins (like
Huggies) but I don't do it A LOT cos it wastes time.

Last thing we do here are giveaways. In the frugal blogs every week there will be giveaway lists (from baby items to coupons). You can browse through them and sign up for the ones you think your family need. I used to do this quite a lot, but now I only signed up maybe once a month or when I have more time on hand. But I won quite a bit of giveaways!!

10. Eat out deals
There are often eat out deals (restaurant deals, birthday deals) so we still are able to have some eat out! We got a couple of certs (they are often $2 for a $25 cert), which means you spent about $15 for a really good meal for 2 (or more) with the certs.

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