I try to not pay full price for things if I can help it. My mother is an extreme couponer and I directly benefit from that (I haven’t brought toothpaste or dishsoap in two years – she always gives me that stuff for free). I will not pretend that I know how to replicate her methods…but I will tell you that it does work. If you want to get started with that, try The Krazy Coupon Lady’s site. She’s a true guru.
Now, on to the stuff that I do know about…
Real Life Shopping
While I do not do extreme couponing, I do like rewards cards. I sign up for rewards cards whenever I can. However the only rewards cards that have yielded savings for me have been these:
Speedway – From what I’ve seen, gas stations offer some of the best rewards programs out there. I’ve used quite a few, but the best I’ve seen anywhere is Speedway’s. The last three times I purchased gas, I’ve paid about $1,50/gal. They offer a lot of opportunities to earn bonus points. Many items are on a program where if you buy a certain number, you get one free (i.e. fountain/coffee drinks, 20 oz. Pepsi products, Frito-Lay products, Lipton products, etc.). They have a kiosk where you can redeem points and print coupons easily. I would say that at least 2/3 of the time I visit Speedway, I have a coupon to get a free item.
The only issue I have with their rewards program is that if you lose your card, your points are gone with it. This is true even if you register your card, because your new card will have a different number. Also I do not believe they have the feature where they can look up your rewards account with your phone number or email address…like some other gas stations can.
I fare much better with saving when shopping online then I do in brick and mortar shops. Here’s some of favorite hacks:
Amazon – I have a post about why I think that Amazon’s Prime program is a good deal. But Amazon is also fantastic for comparison shopping. So many times you can look up an item on Amazon; the results will show not only the item in Amazon’s store, but also the item, new and used (if available) offered by other sellers.
Ebates – If you are going to shop at Amazon, or any other place online start at Ebates first, and see if they are in Ebates’ “mall”. If so, then a percentage of your purchase comes back to you as a rebate. Nothing changes with the price or the selection of the online store (although in many cases, certain items are excluded…so check).
ThredUp – I’m not a big fan of buying designer digs. However if I do want to snag a brand name, I head to ThredUp. ThredUp is basically an online thrift store that specializes in designer clothing and accessories. You can also sell your items on ThredUp and if you are looking to make some extra cash.
Storing Your Money
For several years, I was unbanked. I survived it, but it sucked. Banking has never been a stress-free endeavor for me at first because I was low income and living from one little paycheck to the next. One banking mishap (like a hold on a deposit check) would cost me a pretty penny.
I’ve found some great banks along the way. Unfortunately, most have them been acquired by other banks. Currently I use online banks. The best one of which is:
Capital One – I have both their 360 Checking account and their credit card. The checking account is interest bearing and is very forgiving with overdraft fees (i.e. no charge for rejected EFT fund payments). Their secured credit card is easy to get approved for and you can fund your deposit over time (unfortunately after Jan. 2016, you will no longer be able to add to your initial deposit to increase your credit limit).
Netflix – I am not aware of any special discounts or bonuses for Netflix; but it doesn’t matter. Netflix is amazing on it’s own. I haven’t had cable television for about 10 years, but I’ve had Netflix for about 3-4 years. For a fraction of the cost of cable, I’m still able to see many shows and movies. You can also use the Hola app to expand the number of available offerings.
Cell phone – In the United States, we pay more for cellular services than anyone else in the world. In my humble opinion it’s both a racket and an incredible ripoff just to be ‘connected’. But for many people, you just don’t have a choice. So here are some options:
- Safelink – commonly referred to as the ‘Obamaphone’ (although President Obama had nothing to do with the program’s creation). If you are a recipient of any public assistance programs (i.e. food stamps, W.I.C., SSI, etc.) you should qualify. You receive a very basic phone with about 300 minutes per month and unlimited texting. Meant to be a lifeline of sorts to people who struggle paying for basic life needs.
- Unlocked phones – cell phone companies want to make profits at each opportunity, including phone sales. Instead of purchasing your phone from them (and locking yourself into a contract doing so), you can purchase an unlocked phone and choose your service. Don’t be fooled by the sales pitch of being able to finance your phone over time and having no contract for doing so. You will be financing the full MSRP of the phone, and then be on the hook to still pay it if you cancel service before paying it off. Instead, by last year’s model phone on eBay for a big price reduction; get a pre-paid plan with no contract. Then if you need to stop your service, you do not owe anyone anything. I’ve had luck with this eBay seller for unlocked iPhones (they were used, but they were in fabulous condition).
- Pinger – for a while, this was my only “cellphone”. It’s actually an app that you install (I had it on my iPod Touch) that acts as a phone. You watch advertising in exchange for talk minutes. If you do not have the time, or you get sick of watching the ads, you can purchase minutes for reasonable rates (400 minutes cost $9.99, but they also have specials all the time). Incoming calls do not use your minutes. You have to be on Wi-Fi for it to work though and in my experience the call quality can be hit or miss (about 20%, the quality was so bad, I would need to terminate the call).