The secret to finding uncommon ways to save money is substituting what you buy now with something that works the same or better for less money. It's the philosophy that I've used through my entire financial transformation and it still holds true today.
It's been utterly shocking to me just how many things you can pay less for while getting the same or better product or service. One consistent thing I've noticed with companies that make or provide less expensive products or services, is that they spend very little on advertising and grow primarily through word of mouth. It works well for them, but you may not know about them until a friend tells you about them. Even then we tend to trust companies more when we watch their commercials or read their glossy ads in our favorite magazines.
As an example, Verizon spent 2.5 billion for advertising last year but Ting spent just 2 million. In fact, you can watch a great video from Michael Goldstein explaining the difference in their marketing techniques here. The savings of that 2.48 billion on advertising is passed on to customers in a big way. But it comes at a price… sometimes you have to find them versus them finding you.
Which is why you're here… I'll help you find them.
Here's my top 3 list of Uncommon Ways to Save Money.
Almost everyone I meet pays too much for these three things!
1. Cell Phone Plan
Switch to Ting (Straight Talk has a similar service, but I only have personal knowledge of Ting). We saved $111/month (which is $1,332 every year!) by switching from Sprint to Ting. You can read my full review here but we get the same service for about half the price! Ting has no contract, charges on a usage rate (you'll likely still save even with a very high usage rate!) and you can transfer most Sprint phones directly to Ting. If, you would need to buy another phone, they have a trade in program so you can get a phone that works on Ting for the same or similar price.
Hint: If you use this code to sign up, you'll get $25 to apply towards a bill or to a new device. (This initial credit made my first bill $9!!!)
Also: Remember, if you don't like the service, you can cancel at any time, there's no contract. Which is why they bend over backwards to make you a happy customer. They once sent me a $5 starbucks gift card for filling out a quick survey!
It's actually easy to get better clothing then you're used to for less money! This is a 3 part system:
- Thrift Store Secrets: For very durable basics that hold up well, start at the Thrift Store. Things that are easy to find at a thrift store in amazing quality are jeans, maternity clothes and kids clothes. Jeans really hold up well, styles don't change so frequently that last years jeans would be outdated and there's only a few brands that dominate in jeans. If you usually by Gap or American Eagle jeans then you HAVE TO GO to the thrift store.
Gap and American Eagle jeans make up the majority of the thrift store racks. Old Navy is really popular too (especially in the plus sizes), other commonly found brands are Banana Republic, and designer jeans. Most are in fantastic shape. So much so, that I once made $1,500 in 9 weeks buying up Gap and American Eagle jeans in bulk for $2-$5 a piece (see if your thrift store has a 50% off day like ours does!), then selling them on Ebay for two or three times what I paid for them plus shipping.
Kids clothes and maternity clothes are so easy to find because they can only be worn for such a limited time (6 months to a year). Especially newborn and 0-3 mos baby clothing.
- Thred Up: Quality tops and dresses are really hard to find in thrift stores though. A zillion clothing brands, the thin fabrics don't hold up really well and styles change frequently. You need someone to sort through that and offer you up the best. Thread Up offers that service. Current styles, popular brands, thrift store pricing.
You pay a little more than yard sale pricing for the clothing, but you're shown the best of the best and you can sort by styles and sizes. Thread Up is an online thrift shop. They have photos of everything that they sell, and you can also request a bag to be sent to you to stuff it full of your things to sell to them.
Keep in mind, if you sell to them, you can likely get a little more for the items if you take the time to list them in Ebay in lots (like boys jeans size 2t –lot of 6 pairs), but the time savings and ease of Thred Up is pretty stellar. It also motivates you to actually get things out of your closet since with Ebay, you'll need to photograph, list, pay the fees, and package and ship out boxes. .
HINT: Sign up using my link to get $20 to spend! (you still have to pay for shipping which is usually around $5.99 for the whole order but I can grab two shirts and a dress for $20! Well worth paying the $5.99 shipping!)
- If You Must Buy New: Never get anything on sale that you wouldn't pay full price for. Stop buying things that you don't love because it's “such a great deal”. Be very selective of the clothing that you purchase. Make sure it fits correctly, you love the way you feel in it, you love the way it looks on you, and it's easy to care for.
Aim for a smaller, easy to care for closet. Having 40 pieces in total (all of things that you love) is a great goal to aim for. After you have your 40 pieces in place, take excellent care of them. Treat stains promptly, wash according to label instructions and store during off season correctly. When something needs to be taken out of rotation, replace just that piece.
Buying a used car can be just as nice, or nicer, than the new car you want to buy. In fact, prior to our frugal journey, I drove an $18,000 Nissan Altima that I thought was ok, but mostly just a way to get me from place to place. Now, we drive a 2006 Chevy Van with a video system in it for the kids and tons of storage space and we only paid $5,000 for it. Plus, because it was so cheap, it's completely stress free. We cover the back with brewery stickers and I know if I scratch it on a telephone pole, my husband won't even bat an eyelash.
There are three pitfalls when it comes to buying cars to watch out for:
- Thinking that you need two cars: If one of you stays home and you still have two cars, run the math on how much it would save you if you drove your spouse into work on the days that you needed a car, or calculate public transportation if that's a possibility where you live. We're a one car family now and have been for about 2 years. It doesn't work for everyone, but so many people think that you have to have one car for every adult in the house, that's just not true. If you can save $7,000 in a year by juggling cars in your home, it may be worth the inconvenience.
- Thinking that you need a brand new car:
- I'm not saying that you should never buy a new car. Just that typically you can get a better deal paying for a high quality used car. What you should avoid at all costs is having a $35,000 car loan and struggling to make ends meet, then not being able to sell the car because it isn't worth what you paid for it. It's a smart idea to buy much less than you can afford when it comes to cars.
- If you can pay cash for a used car, do that. That's the best possible scenario. A new car depreciates 11% as soon as you drive it off the lot and loses an additional 25% every year thereafter (Edmonds). Even if you drive that $35k car until it's 15 years old, then you've spent $2,333 per year, (assuming you paid cash)! If you got it on credit with a 5% interest rate it would come to $2705/year.
- If you bought a used reliable car with cash for $5k, and drove it until it is 15 years old, about 6 years in the case of our 2006 chevy, it would cost us $833/year for the 6 years we drive it. Over 15 years, our frugal car habits would save us $22,500.
- Not researching a purchase:
- When you go in to look at cars to purchase, you want to have reviews of the cars available. Kelly Blue Book, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds are my favorites. Look for quality cars that will last for many years. Don't walk into a dealership, find a super cheap car and grab it up quickly.
- Take the time to do your homework, know which make and models will last the longest and know what the cars are selling for with other dealers before haggling for a good price. If you pay $5,000 for a 5 year old car with common complaints that the transmission goes out in the 5th or 6th year, then you may have just thrown $5,000 out the window.
Those three things are often overlooked by even frugal folks, but are ways that you can reduce your spending right now if you pay attention to them. No sacrifice involved.
What's your favorite uncommon way to save money?
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