One of the most important things to use when planning your frugal lifestyle is your head. Big brands and advertisers will try all sorts of tricks and gimmicks to make you think you’re getting a deal when in fact, you’re not. And some DIY tactics aren’t all that cheap in the long – or short – run. Even frugal gurus sometimes forget to mention that what may be a deal or money saver for one person is a bad idea for another. So here’s our list of some frugal things people do that, when you think about it, might not be so frugal after all.
Buying in Bulk
How many times have you bought a case of something when you only needed one or two because the price per item was so low? Your size and styles change, cleaning supplies lose their effectiveness and even staples spoil eventually. Buying in bulk is only an effective money saving strategy if you’re buying items you regularly use. Plus the extra money you spent could be put to better use now or during the time that all these things are sitting in storage waiting to be used.
Skimping on Car Maintenance
Not paying to align tires, replace air filters or avoiding oil changes and tune-ups can cost you at the gas pump. These usually low cost maintenance tasks will improve your gas mileage by over 4%. And with gas prices all over the place, the savings at the pump will more than cover the cost of keeping your car in top shape.
Who can resist the idea of money off your first purchase and the promise of free stuff and discounts? Companies know it’s hard not to. But more often than not, loyalty programs backfire for companies – and you. At some point, you realize you’re spending more than you should to gain those elusive points. And when the reward doesn’t meet expectations you feel like you’ve been had. Unless it’s a place where you’ve always regularly shopped, don’t bother.
Buying a New Car
I remember my father joking that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it loses thousands of dollars in value. That’s called depreciation. It automatically decreases the car value when you go to sell – and the biggest dip is in the first year. That’s why my father always looked for late model used cars. Look for a newer used model with low mileage and extended warranties instead. You’ll get the almost new car experience at a big discount.
Canning is a great way to preserve and store your garden harvest and to control exactly what’s in the canned goods you’re feeding your family. But with the initial and ongoing costs for canning and gardening materials – not to mention all the time involved – you’re often spending too much per can. Instead, take a look at lower sodium and/or organic canned goods. You’ll get the healthy benefits you’re looking for and can save money and time to use elsewhere.
Driving for Deals
Use your car miles wisely. It doesn’t make sense to drive 20 miles out of your way for a free roll of paper towels. Or to not efficiently plan a multi-stop shopping trip. Plan not just your purchases but your driving route. And consider skipping the drive entirely and shop online. You’ll be surprised to find that prices compare favorably to in store pricing. With free or low cost shipping for minimum orders, you can let them spend the money on gas.
Making Your Own Fruit or Veggie Trays
We’ve all bought bunches of fruits, veggies and cheeses thinking we’re going to save money by making our own hors d’oeuvres trays. But guess what? When you add it all up – like I did – you’ll find you spent more doing it yourself than having it made. Why is that? Because you’re buying whole pineapples or a head of cauliflower when you only need less than half. Unless you want even moreleftovers, pay for the tray.
Buying Coupons or Deals
You’ve always wanted a spa day so that half price coupon seems like the frugal way to do it. Only thing is that more often than not, you end up not using it. And it’s not just you. Consumers regularly abandon gift cards and certificates at a seemingly crazy rate. Always give purchased discount deals a second thought – especially if it’s something you’ve only thought about doing but probably won’t.
Leasing a Car
Everyone is always telling you leasing a car is the way to go. Low down payment, monthly payments similar to those of a loan plus maintenance perks and no worrying about how to unload the car when the term is up. And most of the time, it actually is cheaper to lease a car if you stay within your mileage limit and get a new car under a new lease every three years. But not by much. One study showed an average savings of under $200 over the 3 years. And if you renewed the lease on the same car, any savings started to disappear. But every case is different. For example, leasing may be a better option if you use your car for business purposes. So do the math before you commit.
Using Manufacturer’s Coupons the Wrong Way
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the store with my major brand coupon only to find that even with the cents off, it’s not a great bargain especially compared to the store brand or even other national brands. About the only time it makes sense to use a major brand coupon is when the store has the item on sale or you can double the coupon value. That’s when the combined savings often beats the competition. So save them up for those times to get the most bang for your buck.
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