6 “Money Saving” Tips That Really Stink
(A quick thanks to Kim for letting me be a regular contributor on her terrific blog. I hope to bring a little levity, some frugal living tips, and maybe even a coupon or two that you can use to save some money.)
Having been blogging since 2007, I think I have heard every single piece of financial and money saving advice. Some are absolutely brilliant and some really stink. Today I want to take six of the stinkiest and hopefully debunk them once and for all. (A lot of this is personal opinion so please feel free to disagree in the comments!)
1. Brick in the Toilet
This tip is courtesy of my Dad, who is without a doubt the most frugal guy I know. A few years ago he told me about the “water saving” technique of putting a brick in the tank of the three toilets at his house (insert joke here!) and how much water it’s going to save him over the course of a year. I, being the type of guy who‘s always looking to save a buck or two, tried it with my toilets. The end result was a brick that was disintegrating and starting to clog the holes in the bottom of the bowl. Fortunately, I noticed this before any permanent damage was done, not sure if I used the wrong kind of brick but it was a really bad idea. Sorry Dad!
Bottom-line: If you want to conserve water you should look into a low-flow toilet that uses very little water per flush. Many areas actually offer rebates if you install one these toilets which almost covers the initial cost. Definitely worth looking into if you have an older commode. Speaking from experience, definitely forget the brick in the toilet idea.
2. Buy One, Get One Deals (BOGO)
Having run a coupon website for the past 12 years I have seen every promotion retailers dish out to consumers. The one “deal” that makes my skin crawl is the infamous “BOGO” offer which usually reads like this, “Buy one sweater, and get the 2nd 50% off”. Be very careful of these offers because retailers often jack up the price of the sweater to offset the 50% off the 2nd sweater. Often times you’re WAY better off waiting until all sweaters are 50% off which happens at the end of every winter season. Also, be sure to honestly ask yourself if you actually need the 2nd sweater. More often than not, the answer is no.
3. Always Choose the Lowest Price
I am a big fan of Clark Howard who has a nationally syndicated radio show where he talks about money saving tips and how to avoid scams. He always preaches the mantra of “accepting lower quality for a lower price”. He actually has a disposable razor he bought from the dollar store that he’s used for 4 months straight. I personally think his advice stinks. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought the cheapest alternative, whether it be tools, small appliances, or electronics, and have paid the price in terms of frustration and lack of performance. For me, being frugal is all about determining the value of items and not always settling for the cheapest item, especially if I am going to incur short-term replacement costs. For example, I’d rather spend a little more on a Skil saw that I know is going to last me for years, be easy to use, and help me save all my fingers.
4. Use Store Credit Card Discount
When I was in college I worked at a popular men’s clothing store where I was forced to dress like a preppy for $6.50 an hour. We were trained to really push the store credit card to everyone that checked out, didn’t matter if they were buying a $700 suit or a $7 pair of underwear. The store knew that if they opened a credit card there was a great chance they would be back to make more purchases and hopefully not pay off the balance so they could charge a ridiculous interest rate close to 20%. Tread very lightly the next time you’re asked about saving 15% off your order by opening a store credit card. Unless you have full intentions of paying the entire balance right away, stay far away as they are a losing proposition.
5. Always Buy in Bulk
I often hear the tip floating around the interwebs that by buying in bulk you can save so much money. From personal experience, the only stuff I would recommend buying in bulk from Costco are things like toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, soap, and laundry detergent. In the past week alone, I have thrown out bulk quantities of Ragu pasta sauce, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and salad dressing. All things that my wife and I bought from Costco thinking we were saving so much money. The trouble is that unless you are feeding the local high school football team, the dang containers are so BIG they won’t get eaten before they have green fuzz growing around the lid. I should also add that I have 3 garbage disposals to feed (disguised as kids) and we still can’t finish off these items.
6. Use Coupons with Minimum Purchase Required
Right behind the BOGO deal in my list of retailer strategies I hate is the online coupon with a minimum order size requirement. Coupon codes like 15% off your $100+ order, or free shipping on your $150+ order. I add them all the time to my website but I must admit that I feel kind of slimy when I do.
I mean if you are going to be making a large purchase anyways, then the coupons are great, but my problem with them is they attempt to trick consumers into spending more than they would have on stuff they probably don’t really need. I like to offer the tip of only using a coupon like this if you are really close to the order threshold. Let’s say for example your order total is at $90 and you need to spend $100 to get 20% off. If you can add reasonably priced item to your order which you could give as a birthday or Christmas present to someone whom you would be buying for anyways, then it makes a lot of sense. Essentially the gift would be free since you’ll get 20% off your order total. Just make sure to do the math and determine if the extra money spent is actually worth it to you.
What money saving tips have you heard about or tried that have been total busts? Or maybe you disagree with one my tips and have had a different experience. I look forward to reading your comments.
About the Author: Kyle James is the frugal father of 3, and the founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com, and with the help of his wife, has been helping families save money with coupons and money saving tips since 2001.
Kim’s Comments: I’ve certainly been fooled by the percentage of of a certain amount coupon. If you have to add something extra to your cart to get the discount, it usually isn’t worth it. Thanks Kyle for the tips and coupons, and I look forward to your future contributions to Eyes on the Dollar.
I really enjoyed this article and I’m glad to have been introduced to your site!
The BOGO offers and the store credit cards really resonated with me; I can’t believe how many people get fooled by those BOGO offers when they are ultimately paying extra for something they don’t need or even want.
There are so many great credit card offers out there that to open a card just to save something like 10% on your tiny little order seems crazy to me!
Thanks Brad! I can remember being in college and shopping at a mall clothing store named Structure (they no longer exist) and opening a store credit card on a $12 clearance shirt just so I could save 15% – now how dumb is that?
Loved reading this – definitely a great list of terrible tips 🙂 The only one I kinda-sorta disagree with is the store credit card one, and only because my own personal experience has been fairly good. I only have one store card and it’s from Target. BUT I regularly shopped at Target before I got the card (in our area prices run about the same as those at Wal-Mart, and Target is also 5 miles closer to our home than Wal-Mart) and I pay it off as soon as I use it and the charge posts. It saves me 5% which is a nice bonus on top of the coupons I use. So I think Target may be the lone exception to the no-store-credit-card rule.. I would definitely agree with you that department store cards are a bad idea.
Great point about the Target card, I wasn’t aware it saves you 5%, that is a nice bonus for sure.
I have honestly never heard about the brick in the toilet. Sounds like something my grandma would try!
I hate BOGO sales, they are sleazy. The price of the first item is so jacked up that you end up spending more money than if both items were at regular price. I prefer to be patient and wait for clearance sales.
Smart Alexa, very smart! What ever happened to the buy 1, get 1 FREE, seems like they use to have those when I was a kid but I don’t see them anymore.
Instead of the brick you can put a plastic bottle full of water, it will do the job.
There is the real Pauline, LOL. I thought you were the Financial Independence commenter above, sorry. That is a great tip and one I had never thought of – going to pass it along to my old man.
Great post, Kyle! Totally agree with #3 too – I’m slowly teaching Rick this very important tip. He’s still got a bit of a ways to go though: he recently bought a six pack of steak knives for $4.50, and they’re not even as sharp as our butter knives! I’ve seen spoons with better steak cutting abilities!
Hahaha, sounds like your hubby has been listening to Clark Howard in the car! I love 98% of what Clark preaches, but I have always felt that there is a time to be cheap and a time to spend a little extra. Knives would definitely qualify.
Nice post Kyle. It just goes to show you that advertisers can be tricky at times…this coming from one. 😉 I think a lot of this goes back to being a discerning consumer and doing the numbers before making a purchase.
For sure John. I’m sure you have some great stories to tell about this! Just from what I have seen with dealing with retailers has really opened my eyes to some of the tactics they try and throw at consumers.
Rather than letting your purchases be influenced by BOGO or coupons, I prefer to seek out a coupon or discount once I have already made up my decision on the purchase. Often I am able to save substantial money on purchases by seeking online coupon codes one I have decided to buy, but I never let the discount influence the decision to make the actual purchase.
Pauline, you’re a woman after my own heart – A true smart couponer!
I’m not a very big fan of of the Buy One Get One 50% off or w/e the percentage is, because of the very reason you stated. I do like my BOGO (free) on coffee because I know the price is the same as yesterday and the same as it will be tomorrow.
Hey DC – Great point on the coffee, that is a case where BOGO makes sense!
Hahaha, now this is a post that challenges some “truths” I have held almost “sacred”! Especially buying cheap and in bulk…and this line just had me in fits of laughter, ” The trouble is that unless you are feeding the local high school football team, the dang containers are so BIG they won’t get eaten before they have green fuzz growing around the lid” Quite true as I had to throw away quite some stuff. At the end of the day, it makes more sense to consider all purchases carefully without popular belief lenses. Awesome post!
Haha, thanks Simon! I once had the pasta boiled and almost scraped the green fuzz off the Ragu container and used it. I know my Dad would have still used it in a second as I have seen him do it with a block of cheese, just cut off the mold and go to town!
Great post Kyle,
I too am not a fan of BOGO nor do I agree with opening those store credit cards for the extra percent off your first order. People fall for it all the time though. In terms of buying cheaper stuff, well it’s hit or miss for us. I wrote a post about that 2 weeks ago. Sometimes even the costlier items are pieces of junk too. My example would be our 100.00 kettle that broke after a few months compared to our under 20 kettle that has been going for years on end. Coupons that have restrictions like that are silly unless you were going to buy it anyways, I agree. Not sure about the brick in the toilet hahah, but kudos to him for trying. lol. Have a good one mate.
Good point on the Kettle, I once bought a Sony Discman for like $250 which proceeded to break within the first 2 weeks. Replaced it with a $75 Panasonic and I still have it to this day. But with that said, their are definitely items, especially power tools, where I’ll buy quality and the cost is usually not a big factor in my decision.