These popular frugal living tips can actually hurt your budget if you aren’t careful. Find out how these common ways to save money might not be helping you save that much at all, and what to do instead!
Finding new ways to save money has been a top priority of mine for a while now. I’m always looking for the next unique and creative tip that will help stretch our budget even further. Often times I come across the same frugal living tips over and over.
I can tell you that I have tried just about all of the frugal living tips under the sun! I even went through a phase where I was making my own bread! Yeah, I was willing to try anything and everything to help our budget stay on track.
The problem was that every article I read gave the same similar tips over and over again, and no matter how hard I tried, these frugal living tips never quite worked for me.
I finally made my peace with the fact that I needed to find different, more creative ways to save money. And once I accepted that reality our budget was on track and better than ever!
Years later, I’ve completely ditched these popular frugal living tips for ones that actually worked for my large family. If you have been trying these common ways to save money, and they aren’t working for you either, I’ve got you covered!
I’m sharing with you five common frugal living tips that might be hurting your budget and what to do instead!
5 Popular Tips to Save Money that Don’t Work for My Family: And What We Do Instead
Frugal Living Tip #1 That Didn’t Work for Me: Cutting Coupons
Everywhere I looked people were obsessed with cutting coupons. They would rave about how they saved on $47 on 17 boxes of cereal because they found this one amazing coupon.
I was in! Cutting coupons seemed easy enough, and my favorite grocery store even offers digital coupons- no clipping required!
But it didn’t take me long to figure out that this was the first of a handful of popular frugal living tips that wasn’t working for me. I could write paragraphs about why but I’ll spare you the reading and just give a brief summary of why cutting coupons didn’t work for me:
- the best coupons are often for common products (think bread, chips, and cookies) that I stopped purchasing as we made our transition to real food
- the time and energy it took for me to track down coupons, clip them, and keep track of the items that I had a coupon for (plus how much money it would save me) was completely exhausting and not the best use of my time
- I wasn’t saving that much money…..all that effort to save $0.25, really? It wasn’t worth it for me, there are so many better ways to save more money
What I do instead of cutting coupons:
I’m not against coupons. Saving $0.25 is $0.25, you know?! And that adds up over time. Now what I do is give the coupon section a quick glance, if I find a coupon for something I was going to buy anyway, I’ll use it.
And I only cut the coupon if I’m going to buy the item that week- no more hanging onto tiny pieces of paper hoping for one day.
I also “cut” most of my coupons on the app for my grocery store which means no more keeping track of all that paper.
Frugal Living Tip #2 That Didn’t Work for Me: Buying in Bulk
You guys, people with large families are obsessed with buying in bulk. Obsessed.
Like, it’s all they talk about.
“Costco saved me so much money on this….”
“I only buy diapers from Costco….”
“Sam’s Club is the best thing that’s every happened to me…”
“I save so much money because I bought 53 pounds of chicken breast last week!”
Did you, though, Linda? Did you?
I wanted to love buying in bulk so much. I really did. And I tried so hard.
Maybe I missed the point. But I found I would come home from Costco with three-foot tall bags of popcorn, enough ketchup to feed an army, and 10 pounds of apples that went bad the next day.
Then I would forget that I had bought 4 whole chickens, 5 bricks of cheese, and a bag of flour that could sustain a small bakery….and I would buy it all again. But this time in smaller, more manageable portions about the regular grocery store.
I found I was spending sooooo much money up front. I would spend more than half of our monthly grocery budget in one Costco trip. And I would still need all those random items I couldn’t get in bulk.
Not to mention not everything needs to be purchased in bulk. Nobody needs 500 Q-tips in their house at any given time. You just don’t.
What I do instead of buying in bulk:
I simply buy what we need every week. That’s it. If something lasts longer than a week (like toilet paper, condiments, cleaning supplies, snack items) great!
If it doesn’t stretch over the entire week I’ll buy a little more the next week.
That’s it. Now I don’t forget about all of the meat I have sitting in the garage freezer. I don’t waste my time googling recipes for broccoli because I have 7 humungous bags of it.
If you have any fantastic tips for mastering the whole buying in bulk situation I’d love to hear them. Because I want to love Costco so much. But I just don’t need 5 pounds of Paleo-granola.
Frugal Living Tip #3 That Didn’t Work for Me: Shopping Clearance Items
Don’t hate on this one, yet! I’m not saying that shopping clearance racks isn’t a great way to save money. It totally is.
But sometimes we trick ourselves into believing that we are getting a great deal on an item, when really it we’re spending money only because it’s on clearance. And spending money that you wouldn’t have spent otherwise, just because something is on clearance, isn’t saving money at all.
It’s literally the exact opposite.
Also, let’s take a minute to address the fact that sometimes an item is on clearance for good reason (looking at you offensively-neon sweatshirt). That item might be on clearance rack because it’s kind of a dud. And now you’re spending money on an item that isn’t great quality, just because it’s cheaper than it was before.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home with five items I found on clearance, none of which are great, and then I avoid wearing or using them because I don’t actually like them that much. But they were on clearance!
Instead it would have been more economical to just buy great item that I love, even if it wasn’t on clearance.
What I do instead of shopping clearance items:
This is two-fold, because I absolutely still shop clearance racks. In fact, sometimes it’s the first place I look. But I only look there if I need something in particular, not because I pass it and think “maybe there’s something there for me.”
It’s the difference between going to a store for a new coat and checking the clearance rack first to see if you can snag deal. And going to a store for a new coat, finding one, then perusing the clearance rack for anything you can find that looks kind of decent and is less than $10.
The second piece to this is I seek out quality first.
A couple of months ago I desperately needed a new pair of jeans. Rather than purchase whatever I could find on clearance I tried on every pair of jeans that looked good, regardless of price.
Then once I found the pair that I loved I went hunting for deals! Turns out I was able to find that exact pair of jeans on clearance in an outlet store. Talk about a deal!
The same pair of jeans that would have been $60 in the department store cost me $7 at the outlet- and I absolutely love these jeans!
But I prioritized the quality of jeans first, then found a deal. Instead of prioritizing price over quality.
If you are purchasing an item simply because it is on clearance than you aren’t saving any money at all, and this common frugal living tip might actually be harming your budget!
Frugal Living Tip #4 That Didn’t Work for Me: Subscription Services
It seems like there is a subscription service for everything these days.
I used to sign-up for every subscription service under the sun. The upfront membership fees were a small price to pay for all the money I was going to save. Or so I thought.
The problem was over the course of my membership I often wouldn’t even save the amount I had spent to join the subscription service. (Come to think of it, this was also part of my problem with buying in bulk. I didn’t ever save enough money from the store to justify the yearly membership fee.)
Take that and add in additional fees (like shipping) and over time I was spending the same, or more, that I would have spent buying those items in a regular store.
Not to mention that, just like with cutting coupons, trying to keep track of what items I was getting from which subscription service was exhausting. And confusing.
What I do instead of using subscription services:
For the most part I just buy exactly what we need every week. Just like when I stopped buying in bulk, I found it was much easier to track my purchases (and actually save money) when I was purchasing my items on an as-needed basis.
I do use one or two subscription services (I’m basically obsessed with Amazon Prime) and I make sure that the money I save with the service is more than the fee I pay to be a member.
I’ve found this service to be an economical way to stock up on items like snacks, baking items, condiments, some cleaning supplies, and other household items that I don’t need on a weekly basis.
Compared to some services the yearly fee is pretty nominal, and I typically save that same amount of money in my first order. Which means every order I place for the rest of the year is basically pure savings.
Plus they track how much you’ve saved over the course of your membership, which is kind of cool to see. As of the writing of this article I’ve saved over $400 with my membership!
If you click on my link and try Thrive Market you can save 25% on your first order! Aside from Amazon Prime, it’s the only subscription service that is worth it.
Frugal Living Tip #5 That Didn’t Work for Me: Visiting Different Stores
I used this common frugal living tip for a long time. I would buy dog food at this store, meat from this store, dry goods here, veggies there.
And yes, it was saving me money. But at what cost? I was spending a great deal of time running errands. Going to all the different stores to buy all the things.
Just like all the other frugal living tips- I found this one to be especially exhausting. No matter how much money I was saving, my time and energy were not being well-spent.
Plus, juggling that many different stores I was often overspending and spending much more on gas driving all around town.
What I do instead of visiting different stores:
Not only did I stop visiting a bunch of different stores, I started having groceries delivered. This saves me so much time every single week.
And even though I pay a fee for delivery, I save money on gas and I save money because I’m not making impulse purchases.
Amazon Fresh is my all-time favorite grocery delivery service. It’s super easy to use and since Amazon owns Whole Foods now, Amazon Fresh has an incredible selection of items from both Amazon and Whole Foods.
And any items I don’t get weekly in my Amazon Fresh order I order through Amazon Prime. These would be items that last longer than one week like paper towels, toilet paper, overnight diapers, cleaning supplies, dog food, etc.
Once I realized that my time and energy are my greatest resources, and they were being wasted running all over town looking for ways to save a buck, I was able to find a more efficient way to get what my family needs and still save money.
As a mom and an entrepreneur, I value my time greatly, I don’t want to use my precious time running errands when I could be playing with my kids or creating incredible blog posts (like this one!).