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5 Genius Ways to Save Money

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Alyssa is a wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast who loves sharing her favorite lifestyle tips with the world.


Bang for the Buck

Everyone loves saving money and getting a good deal. But when it comes to analyzing our spending habits, it can be challenging to objectively look at how to scale back and cut costs. The following five tips are my tried and true ways to save money and get the most bang for your buck.

1. Location is Everything

Considering the price difference among similar items at different stores is mind-boggling! Take, for example, the price of wheat bread. At my local Kroger, a loaf of their brand is $1.25; The Great Value brand at Wal-Mart is $1.48; and at Aldi, I can pick a loaf up for $0.79. This variance in cost among the three stores spans most grocery items.

A few years ago, my husband and I started doing the bulk of our grocery shopping at Aldi. I was amazed at how much money we saved and how much more we were able to buy for the money we spent. This is why my number one money-saving tip is to think about where you are doing your grocery shopping. If you have an Aldi nearby, I highly recommend visiting. The store offers a wide range of quality food and fun items that are a fraction of the cost of the bigger chains.

There are some items, however, that I prefer to buy at other stores, either because Aldi doesn't offer them or because it's an overall better deal. If we want soda, we go to Wal-Mart or Kroger. Aldi cereal is perfectly fine, but I like to also pick up the bigger bags of cereal available at Wal-Mart. For those extra items, I encourage you to browse the weekly ads. See which stores are offering specials on what you're looking for. Nowadays, you can go right to the store's website and see how much each item you want costs. Doing a little legwork before heading out to the store can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run!

One more related tip is to keep a list of what you need right on your phone. I like to keep a Post-it note widget on my home screen where I keep a running list of everything we need. When it's time to go to the store, I have the list handy. No more forgetting it on the counter! Having a list will help you stick to the things you need and make sure you don't forget anything. It might also help you resist the temptation to grab the things you don't.

2. Tried and True Cashback Apps and Coupon Sites

Who doesn't love getting cash back on their purchases? While I make out my grocery list, I always pull up Ibotta. This is my go-to app for cash back at stores like Aldi, Wal-Mart, and Kroger. It's free to download. Just create an account, search for the stores where you shop, select your offers and scan your receipts. Cash is added to your balance within minutes in most cases. Ibotta also offers special bonuses throughout the year where you can earn even more cash back. You can redeem your balance, starting at $20, for gift cards, have it transferred to your PayPal, or have it deposited into your bank account. I've been using Ibotta since August 2016, and I have earned back a total of $152.97.

Fetch Rewards is another free app I regularly use. For this one, you scan your receipts and earn points for the purchases you made. Throughout the year, they offer extra points for specific brands. You can also earn points by scanning your restaurant receipts, whether you dine-in, drive-thru, or have your food delivered. It takes a little while to build up enough points for a decent reward, as 1,000 points are equivalent to $1. You can start redeeming your points for gift cards starting at 3,000 points. You can also use your points to donate to charity or enter sweepstakes.

I also use Checkout 51. Like Ibotta, you can scroll through to add offers before you head to the store and find featured bonuses each week. You can also earn cash back from buying gas. The app offers a convenient feature to find gas prices in your area. They also offer cash back when you shop online at Sam's Club and Walgreens. This app doesn't offer a wide selection of deals, so depending on what you buy, it might take longer to build up your cashback balance. Once your balance reaches $20, you can select 'cash out' in your account, and they will mail you a check.

For cash back on online purchases, I always use Rakuten (formerly EBates.) You can download the app for free on your phone or sign into your account on their website on your computer. It's easy to use; just search for the store you want to shop at, click "shop now," and you'll be redirected to the merchant's website. Shop as normal. Within a few days of your purchase, you'll have qualifying cash back added to your account. Rakuten also offers in-store cash back at a variety of locations. In order to redeem your balance, you'll need to have at least $5. You can choose whether you want your balance sent to your PayPal or if you want to receive what they call your 'Big Fat Check.' They automatically pay out the balance every three months according to their payment schedule, which can be found in the Help Center.

To save extra money when shopping online, I use Honey. If you watch YouTube, you probably have already heard a lot about it. Honey is just a browser extension that automatically finds coupon codes and applies them to your order. It's free to sign up and easy to use. In the two months I've been using it, I've saved quite a bit of money on my online orders.

3. Every Day Dupes

A great way to save money is to stop paying for brand names. Many grocery stores carry their own version of brand-name items that are just as good for dollars less.

  • On a recent trip to Wal-Mart, we picked up a 16 oz. jar of Parmesan cheese. The Kraft brand was $6.48, while the Great Value brand was only $4.68. Ten cents cheaper per ounce to get the Wal-Mart brand was a no-brainer!
  • A bag of Lay's Party Size Wavy Original potato chips, 13 oz, was $3.78. A bag of Great Value Party Size Wavy potato chips, 15.25 oz, was only $2.12. Not only was Great Value 15.2 cents cheaper per ounce, but we ended up getting more ounces for less money.

The same is true for many other food and beauty items. Take a look around the store and compare the prices of brand-name products and off-brand products. Choose the off-brand when you can to save money.

This idea applies beyond the grocery store as well.

  • Consider making your own coffee at home versus buying one cup at a time from your favorite coffee shop every day.
  • Pack your lunch for work instead of grabbing something from a fast food restaurant.
  • Carry a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.

These simple changes can end up saving you a good chunk of money throughout the year.

4. Shop Smarter (and Less Often)

Browse through YouTube, and you're likely to find a handful of haul videos. The same is true when it comes to Instagram. Everyone loves showing off their shiny new purchases. These are certainly fun to watch, and who doesn't love modeling their new clothes in a cute Instagram photo? But if you're trying to scale back and save money, it's worth taking a look at how often and how much you're spending on clothes, shoes, bags, and other items. Before you get your card out or head to the store, ask yourself, and be honest, do you really need this right now? How often will you wear it or use it? Is it something that's going to last, or is it something you will have to replace in a month or two?

When it comes to clothes and purses, it's a good idea to invest in classic pieces that will last for years. Instead of spending less on a trendy item that you'll only wear or use for a season, consider spending a little more on a versatile piece that will last you for years to come. It's also a good idea to go into your closet and try to piece together what you already have in new, fresh ways. Browse through Pinterest for inspiration or look up videos to get ideas. You could also transform old pieces into something new if you're feeling creative. This is a great idea to try in other areas, too. You could transform old bottles and jars into cute storage containers, repurpose your coffee cans into planters, or make your own home decor. The possibilities are endless.

No matter what you are buying, keep an eye out for sales and specials, utilize apps and coupon sites to get cash back and great deals, and shop around at different stores to compare prices. Consumer Reports keeps an updated list of the best time of year to buy anything. When you sign up for a free account on their website, you can search by item or month to find out when you should buy to get the best deal.

5. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions

When you first get a new cell phone, you go through all the apps that are pre-downloaded and delete or force stop the bloat to free up space. If you're serious about wanting to scale back and save money, it's time to do that process in real life. Gather up your bills as well as your bank and credit card statements. Make a list of all the extra services you subscribe to and how much you pay for them per month. Include streaming, radio, clothing and beauty boxes, magazines, coffee clubs, and anything that isn't an essential need. Once you have your list made, add up how much you're spending on these services each month. You might be surprised at the total.

Think about how much of each service is being used and weigh out the cost. Is it worth the money you're spending each month? Sit down with your spouse or partner and have an honest discussion. For example, when my husband and I were looking at ways to cut back and save more money, we realized that we were spending almost $50 on TV services and $15 on Sirius XM each month. No one in our house was watching enough Netflix to justify the cost, we were unhappy about a $6 increase for Spectrum TV, and I could easily make free Spotify playlists on my phone to play in the car if we didn't want to listen to regular radio. It was easy for us to cut these extra expenses from our budget.

Think about how many streaming services you pay for. Which ones do you and your family enjoy the most? Consider getting rid of the ones that you don't watch regularly. Also, consider that many shows are available to watch for free online or through a smart TV app. Do you subscribe to a monthly clothing or beauty box? Do you need new things every month? Consider canceling your subscription to save money. If the subscription allows you to postpone shipments without charging your credit card every month, you could choose to stretch out your shipments. For example, my husband and I have been Dollar Shave Club members for five years. We don't get new razor blades every month, instead opting for a longer time between shipments. If we need blades or products before our designated time, I can easily log in to our account and have those items shipped.

The idea is to be conscious of how much money is going out on extra services and only paying for those that you and your family truly use. This can add up to substantial savings each year.

© 2020 Alyssa


Alyssa (author) from Ohio on July 14, 2020:

I'm glad you found something useful from the article, Liza! Thank you for stopping by :) I hope you and your family are enjoying your summer!

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on July 14, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words, Abby!

Lora Hollings on July 13, 2020:

What great tips for saving money, Alyssa! I learned a lot from reading your article about apps that can save you money and where to go for coupons when shopping online. And I really love your advice about eliminating subscriptions that we don't use enough to justify the expense. I agree with you on clothes too. It's better to spend a little more and get something that is always in style rather than something that is just a fad. Thanks for sharing!

Abby Slutsky from America on July 13, 2020:

Wow! It literally paid to read this. Thanks for some great information.

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on July 13, 2020:

Hahahaha! My husband says the same thing, Bill! :)

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on July 13, 2020:

That's a great motto, Kyler! I like that idea and I think I'll start using it myself. Thank you for sharing! Have a wonderful week!

Alyssa (author) from Ohio on July 13, 2020:

Music to my ears, Liza! I'm glad to hear you like Checkout 51 and it works well for you. :) Buying in bulk at Costco is a great idea to save money.. and it can help eliminate extra trips to the store. Thank you for stopping by! Have a lovely week!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 13, 2020:

Groceries cost less when my wife stays home. I wonder why that is????

LOL Don't you dare tell her I said that.

Kyler J Falk from California on July 12, 2020:

Very practical advice here, and the only thing I'd add is that the best way to save money is to make even more money with your money! In order to do this I always ask myself, "Will this purchase enrich my life in some way?" and if the answer is no then it is time to question the relevance of the purchase deeply.

Living by that saying, "If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense," and it continues to pay off.

Great article!

Liza from USA on July 12, 2020:

Hi Alyssa, I saw you were using Checkout 51 for savings while shopping at the grocery store. I did the same thing. I like that app! I believe there are many apps that are doing the same. By the way, my husband and I also signed up with Costco to buy stuff in bulk and to save money. Thanks for sharing these great tips.