Thursday, October 6, 2016

6. My Top 5 Unconventional Money Saving Tips

Justin and I got married after our sophomore year of college (see day 1), when we were 19 and 20 years old. If you looked up the definition of "penniless" in the dictionary, you'd see our wedding picture. Haha. So we learned to be frugal. For a while, my grocery budget each week was $40. We didn't buy Christmas presents. We drove clunker cars. We took our laundry to Justin's grandparents' house rather than shell out quarters at the laundromat. Eventually, we were both done with school and working full time, but then I became a stay at home mom and it started all over again. Haha. We employ all the normal money saving tips: don't go out to eat, clip coupons, shop at thrift stores. But I've also discovered a few less conventional ways to stretch our paychecks. 

1. Get a credit card.


Let me be more specific: Get a Kohl's credit card, and take advantage of its perks. Once a month, they send out percent off stickers. If you use your credit card, you can get 15, 20 or 30% off your entire Kohl's order. Each sticker has a code on it to use online. And thanks to the glorious Internet, deals websites like retailmenot.com share the 30% code. The codes are only good for a week at a time, but if you wait to buy anything until that week, you can always get 30% off your order. AND there are always free shipping codes during the same week eligible only for Kohl's cardholders. The trick is to combine the 30% off discount with clearance prices and end up with killer steals.

Catches: The obvious catch is that you have to pay the credit card off in full every month for it to actually save you any money. Store credit cards have notoriously high interest rates. Also, Kohl's can be tricky with their pricing. Sometimes something will be priced $24.99, marked down to $13.99 so you feel like you're getting a great deal, but at Wal-Mart or Amazon, it's only $9.99 to begin with. Do a little research and make sure it's really the best price. Most of the time, though, I love Kohl's and I wait to buy things like Christmas presents, clothes, and home necessities until a 30% code pops up.

2. Spring for Amazon Prime. Between Kohl's and Amazon, I do 75% of my non-grocery shopping online. You usually can't beat Amazon's prices or free 2 day shipping! The best part about Prime is that multiple people can use one account. You can ship to different addresses and bill different people. So you could easily split the cost of a Prime membership with a friend or two and really make it worthwhile. 

3. Sign up for Ebates. Not only can you get deals online, you can get rewarded for getting deals online. Ebates gives you cash back for shopping at online retailers. So, for instance, if you want to buy something at Kohl's, go to Ebates.com first. Search for Kohl's and click "shop now." You'll be redirected to Kohl's site and can do your shopping completely as normal. Once you check out, you'll get an email from Ebates telling you how much you've earned. Each store has a different rate. Kohl's is usually 3% cash back, but Ebates runs specials all the time. I've seen Kohl's as high as 10%. So you can actually save more money by shopping online than driving down to the brick and mortar store. Ebates sends you a check when you hit a certain amount. (It's not a lot, but I can't remember the minimum. $10, maybe?) Totally worth it.

4. Utilize credit card offers. Again, credit cards can be your own worst enemy, but if you have the self-control to use them responsibly, they can come with some great perks. There are many that have cash back deals or rewards programs. We've used the Citi Thank You card for years. We use it for everything (except Kohl's) and pay it off every month to rack up rewards points without racking up interest. I usually earn about 20,000 points a year - which works out to $200 worth of Target gift cards! (We've also used the points for hotel stays, restaurant gift cards, and other store gift cards.)

You can also get some great bonuses for signing up for new cards. We're thinking about visiting my brother in Florida this winter and don't relish the idea of driving 1,000 miles with 3 little kids, but can't possibly afford to fly. But then we found out about the Southwest credit card. If you sign up for the Rapid Rewards card, you get 50,000 points after spending $2,000. When I looked up flights, they cost about 12,000 points round trip per person. So our family of 4 (+one lap rider under 2) can fly to Florida round trip for 48,000 points - meaning, we can fly for free! 

5. And, finally, follow deals websites. There are tons of options all over the internet, but my favorite is Hip2Save. I subscribed to it through my blog reader, so every time a new deal is posted, I see it:

I've gotten so many great deals by checking this throughout the day. Justin just told me he needs jeans for work. So last week, when a post came up about $16 American Eagle jeans, I scooped it up. At the beginning of the school year, there was a post about how to get a backpack and lunchbox from Toys R Us for $12.99. Hip2Save also alerts me of when the Kohl's 30% off week is coming up, gives me the codes I need, and scopes out deals on things to use the codes on. I love it!

Maybe I'm just cheap, or maybe it's my Dutch ancestry coming out, but for me scouting out deals is kind of a thrill. I love stacking coupon codes and searching through clearance bins and researching to get the most bang for my buck. Utilize some of my tips and join the madness with me!



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