A while ago I wrote about some of the crazy stuff I do to save money. Things that help me save from as low as $0.5 a year to $100 a year.
After I wrote the article, I started noticing things that my wife does to save money as well, and I can say that on many aspects, she does even crazier stuff than I do. How many of the following things do you do?
1. Turning bottles upside-down when they’re empty
This is what I saw in the kitchen the other day. The canola oil bottle, upside down. Can’t see any liquid in there? Yup, it’s all contained in the cap at the bottom. We need to save that last drop!
Savings: I’m gonna guess she saves maybe $0.5 a year with this strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I love it.
2. Double checking our grocery bill, complaining when it’s not right
This one’s not so unusual and results in big savings for us. We’ve found that Safeway often have mistakes in their pricing, and that tends to not play in the customer’s favor. Advertised discounts not being applies correctly are probably the biggest issue here, and I’m definitely not blaming the people working at the cash register: I’m genuinely amazed at how nice people working in US grocery stores are, compared to my – probably outdated – experience in France. But yeah, lots of mistakes happen and my wife always double checks.
Once, for no good reason, she was charged an extra $49.99 for some sort of insurance. Needless to say this wasn’t something that she had actually purchased, but a problem with the barcode on some tuna can or something…
Savings: this saves us somewhere between 2% and 4% of our grocery bill. I’m going to be conservative and say this saves us $100 a year.
3. Using a fragment of a kitchen paper sheet
I told you this would get crazy, didn’t I? A very common occurrence in our household. I used to laugh when my wife was doing that. Now I do it too. Why would I take, then throw away, a full piece of that, when I only really need half? And yes, I know, there exists some brands that pre-cut those for you in a smaller size…
Interestingly, we would probably save more by using actual cloth towels for most of our needs. We found that we’re heavy consumers of paper towels and tissues. I’d say we’re easily spending $100 a year on those. We’ve realized however that with two young kids, it’s one of those areas where we’re ok with being less “eco friendly” and less frugal. We don’t want to have to think twice, when wiping a nose or cleaning up the baby’s hands, about where the towel has been before, if it’s in a reasonable clean state, etc… So we have boxes of tissues all over the apartment.
Savings: roughly $15 a year
4. Grocery shopping in multiple stores to do price comparison
We’ve adopted a shopping routine involving the 3 grocery stores close to our place: Safeway, QFC, and Trader Joes, (with a bit of Amazon on the side for bulky stuff or when they have a better price). My wife usually checks the “weekly discounts” from all three stores, then tells me what to buy at QFC, which is on my way to work. She handles the shopping at the two other ones.
She doesn’t always go for the cheapest product. When it comes to food, she’s extremely cautious and will favor natural ingredients over price. She’s found that for equivalent quality, Trader Joe’s is often cheaper than Safeway.
Savings: $300 a year
5. Reusing Ziploc bags
When I saw my wife washing ziploc bags the first time I was kind of surprised. “I thought those were single use kind of things” I said. She replied she threw away the ones that were stained, but otherwise she’d reuse them quite a lot. Today, I find it weird when I see someone throwing away a perfectly fine ziploc bag in which they had put a sandwich, protected by an additional layer of parchment paper or something.
There seems to be one exception to the rule though: For baby food, she either uses new ones, or ones that have only contained the same food before.
Our stash of “previously used” ziploc bags
Savings: $30 a year
6. Squeezing the hell out of the grocery member cards
QFC and Safeway both have “member cards”, and it’d be foolish to not use them. We’re aggressively shopping on the items that are discounted with the shopping card…
That one’s a bit tricky to measure. Arguably, we’re not saving anything here, rather, it’s the people not using the card who are paying way too much for their groceries. I’ve seen more than once that grocery gets to what I would consider a “normal” price after the card discount is applied. Don’t you sometimes feel that QFC and Safeway areovercharging people who are not using the card?
Savings: As mentioned above, I’m inclined to say we save nothing with this trick. If I trust what the grocery bills say, we’re saving more than $1000 a year.
Yeah, not all of those are crazy, although you have to admit that the upside-down bottle and the “half a paper towel” ones are pretty extreme, right?
As I look back at the list, I see it’s pretty much 100% focused on grocery shopping. It seems to be the main area of focus for our frugality. There are other big tickets where we could probably make improvements, but they are not so obvious to me: Rent is one of our biggest expenses, but we’ve chosen to pay a premium for the location. Moving elsewhere would mean getting a car, so whatever we’d make back by moving to a cheaper place would probably be lost on a car purchase, insurance, and opportunity cost of the commute time. Speaking of commute, we can’t be more frugal than we are right now. We have no car, I walk to the office, and we use a free bus pass provided by my company. Our transportation expenses are around $15 a month!
Other big tickets for us are taxes (I’m going to try to not make stupid moves by selling stock this year. Other than that I’m not sure what I can improve), kid’s preschool and activities (probably non negotiable at this point, we’re doing the barebone minimal stuff for the kids and I only see that one increasing short term) and travel (We plan to go to Canada this year, hopefully this will be less expensive than France last year; but it’s not guaranteed given that for France we only had to pay for the plane tickets, food and shelter were graciously provided by my parents)
As such, groceries are pretty much the only expense where both my wife and I have ways to make some expense improvements. I feel we’ve been doing pretty good lately, and hopefully our grocery bill will be much lower in 2016 than it was in 2015. I did complain about groceries in the US being more expensive than in Japan.
What crazy things do you or your significant other do to save money?