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.
Shopping via coupons is such a cool tip to save money. Minimum order size is not a valid option coupons. coupons like 15% off $25 of etc are good choice. Thanks toco retailmenot, LavishCoupon for providing such coupons.
If you do a little pre-planning and use a minimum purchase coupon code in conjunction with a the purchase of a gift card from a site that sells them for less than face value, it could work to your advantage. It could be even better if you can get a discount coupon, discounted gift card, free shipping and find your items on sale at the same time.
I remember JC Penny back in the day would do sales where it was buy one, get one for 99 cents. I honestly think people are more likely to buy something if it’s buy one, get one for 99 cents than for free, hence why they did that.
I will say about Costco that it has to be stuff you eat a lot. Ranch dressing, pasta sauce, pickels, and half and half are things we go through like crazy so it’s worth it to buy it in bulk (also, to avoid mold we keep things like that in the back of the fridge and not in the door). And while this may not be the safest thing, I’ll eat things past expiration, so long as they don’t have mold or smell bad. I’m still standing as we speak, so I guess nothing was deadly yet!
Good advice, however it depends on the size of our family when buying in bulk.
Ha brick in the toilet? I haven’t heard of that one. Does he still do it/swear by it?
I agree that Clark Howard’s advice are rubbish. Being frugal doesn’t mean settling for cheap but as you highlighted buy the best at a cheaper deal using coupons or online shopping. Nice tips Kyle, great post !