Get good at saving money and it can seem like magic to your budget
I’ve heard all kinds of money saving tricks, some worth pennies and others that can save thousands a month. Like learning how to be a good magician, it can take a little time to learn some of these money saving ideas but can seem like pure magic once you’ve mastered them.
Today’s essay is by Leah Noel VanProoven, a student at the University of Arizona in Biochemistry. She shares how one money lesson when she was young turned into some money saving magic as she got older.
Check out Leah’s story and please share on social media. The most-shared essay on how parents can teach their kids about money will win our $500 personal finance scholarship, announced August 31st!
Want more magic for your budget? Check out these Five budget tricks you won’t believe actually work!
How I Turned a Lesson into a Magic Money Saving Lifestyle
When I was in 8th grade and leaving on a class trip to Washington, D.C., my grandma (my legal guardian) insisted that we get me a debit card and a cell phone. I was thrilled over the cell phone but didn't quite understand the concept of the debit card. She explained that it would allow me to take the trip without worrying about always having cash on me.
Since the cell phone wasn't a smart phone I didn't have access to the internet, but Grandma would text me how much money I had left in my little account and she even deposited more when I needed it. It seemed like magic!
I'm now a senior in college, and I think I'm well on my way toward financial independence. Grandma taught me how to balance my checkbook and keep track of expenses, shop for the best deals, use coupons as well as special promotions and discounts, and even how to negotiate a lease agreement to my advantage. When I'm ready to buy a house, I'm sure I'll seek her advice for finding the right house and the right mortgage.
A Few Money Saving Magic Tricks of My Own
In the meantime, because of the financial education I received at home, I've learned a few wise money tricks of my own, and I've even been able to teach Grandma a thing or two!
First of all, I found the grocery store with the cheapest prices. That turned out to be Walmart. In addition, Walmart does “price matching.” This means that if you find the same item sold at a cheaper price at a different store, then Walmart is willing to sell it to you for that cheaper price. As a fulltime student, I don't have the time to travel to three or four different grocery stores to get the very best prices, so price matching for me is even better than shopping at different stores and wasting the time and gasoline.
In order to take advantage of price match, I first make out my grocery list from items that I need and from the items listed on sale at Walmart. Then I go online to various grocery store sites and compare their prices from their weekly ad. I print out any “evidence” I need that a store has a cheaper price than Walmart. When people in line behind me see what I am doing, they usually choose a different line because price matching with a cashier does take more time.
Saving money starts at home, check out these 20 money saving tips that could save you up to $7,500 a year!
Using Money Saving Apps for Big Savings
In addition, I use the Walmart savings catcher app. After each shopping trip, I scan my receipt into the savings catcher app. Several days later, I receive a message telling me that they compared my purchases with other store prices and they give me a refund of the difference!
Whenever I do need to go to a different grocery store such as Safeway, I use the Safeway app on my phone to bring up my personal account. This tells me not only which items are on sale, it also brings up “Just For You” items that I have purchased in the past or they believe I might be interested in where they will give me my own special price if I check the item saying I plan to buy it.
In addition, sometimes at the end of that list, they will give me a special coupon of maybe $5.00 if I spend $20 that day. Safeway has a section of discounted meats that are usually one-third or one-half their regular price. I never pay full price for meats and I rarely let meat be the main course by itself. Instead, I make the meat go farther by creating soups, casseroles, etc. that use just a little meat surrounded by vegetables or pasta. Cuts that aren't considered tender taste wonderful when left in the crockpot to simmer all day.
Whenever I buy breads, rolls, or pastries, I buy them from the bakery outlet. The outlet sells day-old breads at less than half the regular price, and again has a reward card. You really can't tell that it's day-old bread and tastes just as fresh to me. I usually take out what I'll eat for the next few days and freeze the rest.
Whenever I go to a store to buy something other than groceries, I use the “Retail Me Not” app to check for coupons for that store. Usually the coupon is substantial such as 40% off the most expensive item I purchase there that day or 15% off my entire order. If I don't find a coupon on “Retail Me Not” then I go to that store's website and look for a coupon. Sometimes there will be a coupon not found on “Retail Me Not.”
One of my favorite personal finance apps I use is Personal Capital. The software allows you to link up all your financial accounts, bills and investments together to get the whole picture on your finances. It works on desktop or as an app and includes a retirement planner and free investment checkup.
Magic Store Cards for Disappearing Prices
I always carry various store cards that automatically give me the advertised cheaper price for loyal customers. My friends laugh that I have so many store cards, but it makes sense to always have these in your purse to make sure you get the lowest prices. Some stores have cards that automatically keep track of your purchases and then reward you with free merchandise or hugely discounted merchandise when your purchases over several months add up to the magic number.
Other stores have punch cards where your card is punched each time you purchase $10 in merchandise and when the card is fully punched, you again get a substantial discount or free merchandise on your next purchase. Target offers a special deal where you receive a Target card which is their own debit card (instead of being issued by your bank). When you use the Target card, you get 5% off ALL purchases even if they are on sale.
Saving My Budget and the Planet
In addition to saving money when I shop, I believe that reduce, re-use and recycle can save money and the environment. I believe everyone must rethink their own way of living. I think twice about just throwing something into the trash or even the recycle bin.
For example, I've learned that I can wash out the jars from jelly and re-use them in my kitchen to store things that I want to be airtight like sugar. I don't throw away old jeans or t-shirts. Instead, I cut them up to become rags for cleaning. I even used a pair of red jeans to become trim for a Cosplay costume that I created!
Coffee cans with lids make wonderful cannisters to store flour and brown sugar. Little soft butter or margarine tubs with lids can store leftovers in the refrigerator. These small efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle can make an impact on our environment and reduce the amount of items that go into our landfills.
As you can see, it takes a little effort to save a whole lot of money, but it's certainly worth it! I haven’t tracked how much I’ve saved through different money saving apps or other ideas but I know it has saved my budget many times.
I want to thank Leah for her essay on her magic money saving tricks and saving apps she uses. Be sure to support Leah by sharing the article through social media and check in August for the winner of the personal finance scholarship.
About the Author
Joseph Hogue is a financial expert and investment analyst. After serving in the Marine Corps, he started his career investing in real estate before becoming an investment analyst for some of the largest private investors. He's appeared on Bloomberg and on CNBC as an investment expert and has published ten books in personal finance. Now he helps investors reach their financial goals and invest in the stock market with some of the same advice he used when working for the rich.