How to Save Big on the Little Things (Part 2)

It’s fun to save money. One reason is because I take pride in finding a good deal and knowing patience equals dollars. Another reason it’s fun is because saving money sometimes means reinventing something.

1. Reinvent


In my last post, I talked about how I try to save money by keeping my options open and waiting for a sale. But another way I can save money is by reinventing an old item. Sometimes the investment of time isn’t really worth the financial savings, but if it’s fun, then the time investment becomes a way to relax.

My husband and I recently repainted our kitchen. I chose a blueish-aqua color, which contrasted really well with the cabinets I had just finished painting a dark brown. But blueish-aqua is hard to match! My kitchen cannisters looked out-of-place, but I didn’t want to let them go since they had been a wedding gift. I googled “how to paint glazed ceramic” and found I could paint them pretty easily and inexpensively. I took them apart, primed them with some old spray-paint, and found a nice matching acrylic and a clear sealer at Hobby Lobby. It was a fun project, and cost me about $10. I had enough paint and sealer left over to re-finish my utensil holder also.

2. Shop Off-Price Retailers
014I also wanted to replace my tired-looking hand-towels since my walls and cabinets looked really fresh, and I was excited to find a set of blueish-aqua towels at Burlington Coat Factory for $5. I love shopping at off-price retailers including Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, because I can find really nice, brand-name items, usually half-price or less. I don’t need brand-name hand towels, but I like finding good-quality items for equal to or less than middle-to-lower-quality items. I also replaced some counter-top items at off-price retailers and found good deals.

3. Use coupons and rebates
083Besides painting, my kitchen make-over also included a new back-splash. My husband carefully tore out the old back-splash with a grout saw and mallet, preserving the wall behind it. Then we found a nice natural stone tile at our local home-improvement store. The tiles cost $11 per sheet and we needed 10 sheets, so we waited to buy our tiles and supplies until the “11% rebate on everything” was offered again. This rebate offer comes around pretty frequently at our home-improvement store, so we waited to make sure we got the most for our money. We also saved money not paying for installation, since hubby decided to impress me and figure it out himself (and he did an amazing job!).

Sometimes the fun of saving money is also about the memories you make as you go. I really love my new kitchen because now when I look at the back-splash I think about my husband’s hard work to make it beautiful, and when I look at the fresh walls I remember staying up late together painting them. And all the little extras like my painted cannisters and bright hand-towels remind me of the fun I had getting a good deal on something special.


How to Save Big on the Little Things (Part 1)

020My husband and I recently bought a new chandelier to replace the old one that suspended over our table. We went to our local home improvement stores and browsed the light fixtures, landing on three we liked well enough to buy. None were on sale, so we waited and checked back, and waited some more. When we checked back recently, we found one of the three had been marked down to almost 60% off. The fixture retailed for $159 (the most expensive of the three we liked) but was marked down to $69. We bought it and saved $90 off retail.

If we hadn’t kept our options open and been willing to wait, we wouldn’t have saved the $90. But since we didn’t have to have a specific fixture, and since we didn’t have to have it right away, we saved some money.

1. Keep your options open

Instead of committing to buy my favorite item (which is probably more expensive), I can save money by picking my “top three” and then waiting for a deal. I may not get my first choice, but saving money is equally gratifying (if not more gratifying) than getting exactly what I want.

Depending on the item, sometimes I still want to stay within a particular brand or type to get something longer-lasting/better-performing, even if it’s more expensive (especially true with appliances and electronics). But if the quality of several items is equal, I can often get an item at about half the price of my “first choice” if I keep my options open (and sometimes I can get my “first choice” half price if I wait).

2. Wait for a sale

Walking away and waiting for a sale is not fun at the time, but it’s even worse to buy something at full price and then see it was marked down later (some stores will honor a later discount if you show your receipt soon enough). It takes patience to watch and wait for a sale, but if I’m already keeping my options open, I shouldn’t have to wait too long. And if the item is available online, I can definitely get a sale by using promo codes, grouping the item with a “percent-off total purchase” deal, or waiting for a seasonal/holiday sale.

Using these two principles can save a lot of money, and saving money is always fun!


How to Save Money on Clothes (Part 2)

In my last post, I shared four ways I save money on clothes – but I’m not done! Here are four more ways I save on clothes:


5. Shop Resale

This can be time-consuming, since I have to browse so many items. The upside is I can find like-new and brand-name things for only a few dollars. The down-side is, when I find something I like it may not fit and there probably won’t be another size. But when I take the time to shop resale, I’m usually glad for it and take home a new “favorite” item.  Once I was going to a wedding in the evening and wanted a new dress. I went to a resale store and found a little black dress for $10 with the original $50.00 price tag still attached.

6.  Shop mark-down stores

Mark-down stores are stores that carry brand-name merchandise priced below retail (they sell  left-over brand-name items). In some ways it can feel like shopping resale, since an item I like may not be available in another size or color, but if I’m willing to browse, I often find some great deals. I like buying discounted brand-names since they often fit better and last longer than unknown brands. But before I buy, I check for flaws (stains/tears/missing buttons), since mark-down stores sometimes sell returned or damaged items. Once I found a pair of black Express dress pants at a TJ Maxx store, and paid $20 (instead of $80).

7. Shop solids

When I shop for clothes, I buy a lot of solids over patterns. One reason is it saves money, since solids never go out of style while most patterns will. I can also mix and match solids better than patterns, which stretches my closet and my budget a little farther. Even within solids, certain colors are cycling in and out of style — but black and white are always in! A number of years ago I bought a black T-shirt off a clearance rack at Express. The fabric blend makes it versatile enough for dressy or casual occasions, and I still wear it often since it works with so many things.

8. Walk away

Waiting a day or two can put the item in perspective and help me realize it’s not as amazing at it seemed earlier. Other times I’ll find I still want it and decide it’s worth a return trip. Walking away means I risk not getting the item since it may be gone later, but most of the time when I wait, I’m glad I did. Usually I find I don’t care that much the next day, but sometimes I decide to go back and get it – and may even get a better price. Once while shopping at Old Navy, I found a really cute black and white skirt but it was out of my budget. I had a hard time walking away, but did. Months later, while browsing the clearance section of that store I found the skirt in my size marked down to $5. I had forgotten about it, but was happy to see it again at such a great price.

How to Save Money on Clothes (Part 1)

I almost never pay retail for clothes, and I haven’t for years. I don’t pay retail because I know I don’t have to. I know I can get really nice things at really nice prices if I shop smart. Here are four ways I save on clothes:


1. Use a budget

Ever since taking Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace” course, I have been using a monthly budget. I set aside money every month for lots of things, including clothes. If I don’t use the money that month, it accumulates into the next month. Without the budget, I would definitely spend more on clothes. It’s so much fun to shop and buy new things, and it can be easy to talk myself into a purchase if there’s no dollar figure to limit me. Using a budget helps me be less impulsive (since buying one thing I really like may mean I can’t buy the next thing I really really like) and has shown me I don’t have to spend much to get nice things.

2. Shop Off-Season

This is a great way to find good deals, and probably one of my favorites. If I’m willing to think six months down the road instead of “right now,” I can get brand-new items at big mark-downs while the store clears racks for a new season. I often buy cold-weather items as the weather is warming up, and warm-weather items as the weather is cooling off. Once while shopping at Old Navy in late winter, I found a full-length wool pea-coat with a cranberry lining marked down to $20 (normally $100).

3. Shop Clearance Racks

This is one of the easier ways to get deals, since most stores have a clearance rack that’s regularly changing. Wherever I’m shopping, I usually head to the clearance rack first and browse through, pulling anything that catches my eye so I can try it on. Once while shopping at a GAP outlet store, I found a pair of corduroy pants on clearance. They had a small hole I knew I could patch. They fit perfectly, so with the clearance price plus my 10% off coupon, I paid $5 (regularly $50).

4. Use Coupons

If I’m planning to shop at a department store, I can usually find a coupon online and print it out ahead of time. Sometimes it’s 10% or 15% off, other times it’s 20% off a total minimum purchase. Occasionally I get coupons in the mail which I keep in my purse for my next outing. I also fill out store surveys online (survey codes are at the bottom of receipts) if I’m promised a discount on my next purchase. It’s especially fun when I find a nice item on clearance and can use a coupon to save even more. A few months ago I went shopping and finally found a purse that met all my “purse criteria.” It was half-price, plus I had a $10 coupon, so I bought it for $10.

These are four ways I save a lot on clothes. I’ll share some more on this topic in my next post.