8 Ways to Save Money That Won’t Always Work

I’m currently researching for an e-book that will tentatively be called “365 Ways to Decrease Expenses, Increase Income, and Enjoy Life to the Fullest Without Breaking the Bank,” and along the way I’ve come across some pretty goofy ways to save money that are questionable at best and illegal at worse, and a few that seem standard, but won’t work very well at all in many situations. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of them.

Questionable Tip #1: Never buy ketchup (or mustard or relish) again–snag a whole pile of packets when you’re in a fast food restaurant.

I’d originally labelled these “Bad Tips,” but #1 and #2 are really the only two that I’d flat out say are wrong in all situations.The others are simply questionable: they’ll work for some folks in some situations, but should be evaluated closely to see if they will work for you.

Okay, folks. If you’re trying to save money and have a better life, what are you doing in that fast food restaurant in the first place? If you’re just stealing condiments and not ordering, you’re, well, stealing. Not the way to any kind of a better life, in my experience. And if you’re eating there regularly enough to satisfy your ketchup needs, just stop it. Make your hamburgers at home, and spend the money you save on a bottle of the red stuff in the store.

Besides being extremely wasteful in the packaging department, some of the recipes I use require an entier CUP of ketchup! Do you have any idea how many of those little packets I’d need?

Questionable Tip #2: Directly from a Reader’s Digest article on ways to save in June: “With the beginning of the Caribbean hurricane season, you’ll see steep discounts on vacation packages and cruises.”

Well, HELLO! There’s a reason for those discounts–no sane person wants to take a “vacation” in a hurricane zone during hurricane season.

Questionable Tip #3: Again from Reader’s Digest on ways to save in May: “Whether New Year’s resolutions are history, our outside exercise is possible, gyms offer discounts to bring in more bodies.”

Gyms make much of their money on recurring fees charged to people who never visit the inside of their gyms. I know this–I was one of those folks who for years had a “discounted” membership fee taken out of my account, and rarely if ever used the gym. Too inconvenient, to embarrassing, too confusing.

Instead, I started walking every day (I even get paid for it, but that’s another story). Even in snow and ice and blizzards. It does the trick, and because it’s outside, I also get the benefit of sunshine (when available, may not be in stock in all locations at all times…). Cost: Free, or even better than free if you walk dogs or deliver papers or find some other way to earn income as you exercise.

Questionable Tip #4: Look for BOGO sales.

Ask yourself if you would normally buy that much of an item anyhow. And the more current trend is BOGO half price. That’s a 25% discount on both items–not to shabby if you need both, but you end up spending more than you would have originally. If you go out to buy a pair of pants, and you end up with two on a BOGO half price “sale,” you’ve spent 50% MORE than you’d originally planned to spend.

Questionable Tip #5: Disconnect your land line.

One of the sites where I read this boasted, “We have survived without any problems for over 4 years now without a lnad line.”

Ha! I have survived for almost fifty years longer without a cell phone. It’s not that I’m technophobic–I can even install new RAM into my computer, and update my graphics card, etc. I just have no need at all for anything beyond my basic land line. I no longer even have long distance calling from my phone. I use email, and one of these days I’ll install Skype.

As for “what about emergencies”? Well, I admit, there have been one or two times in the last 54 years I would have found a cell phone handy, but fortunately enough there were these things called pay phones, and the single time I needed help away from a pay phone, someone with a cell phone came along. Once in 54 years? I think I can manage without, thanks muchly.

This isn’t to say you should never get a cell phone. Some folks need them for business. Some folks, especially in countries with lots of mountains and no land lines, have found that cell phones are a boon. But your seven year old does not need one for school “emergencies,” and you don’t need to text a mouthful-by-mouthful account of what you’re having for dinner to your own mother.

Best tip for cell phones? How to save the batteries on your iPhone: Put phone on table. Go outside for half an hour. My own take: Critically evaluate your need to be constantly connected. You may be better off both financially and socially without the cell phone. And my own belief is that children shouldn’t have cell phones until they have a job that pays the bill.

Questionable Tip #6: From the book A Million Bucks by 30: How to Overcome a Crap Job, Stingy Parents, and a Useless Degree to Become a Millionaire Before (or After) Turning Thirty by Alan Corey: Never buy an umbrella again. Go into any restaurant or grocery store and tell them you lost your black umbrella, and could you look through their lost and found?

Um, yeah, this will probably work. But really, people lose umbrellas because for the most part, they’re pretty useless at keeping off the rain, at least the kind of rain we get here in Canada. A decent raincoat will look better, be harder to lose, and actually do the job.

Not questionable tip: Read the book, as well as his latest, The Subversive Job Search: How to Overcome a Lousy Job, Sluggish Economy, and Useless Degree to Create a Six-Figure Career. There are a lot of good tips in both books for those looking to improve their financial situations, and Corey writes with both insight and humour.

Questionable Tip #7: Join a Big Box Club store and buy in bulk.

Like the BOGO problem, you’re not saving money if you’re buying things you don’t need in quantities you won’t be able to use before the expiry dates. In addition, having large quantities of certain items on hand (in my case, diet cola) can increase consumption. (If I buy 355 mL cans of cola, I’ll tend to drink two or three cans a day. If I buy the 710 mL bottles, I’ll usually drink at least two of them, the equivalent of four cans.)

Questionable Tip #8: Use coupons.

If you’re in the States and you can get into extreme couponing, go for it! I’m well aware that for some people, couponing can create savings that equate to the income from a part-time job. But for much of the world, coupons are simply a way to get you to spend money on over-priced, over-processed, name-brand “food.” Compare prices closely–I very often find store brands are cheaper even after the coupons. Coupons in my area rarely are for free products, and we’re generally not allowed to “stack” them for bigger discounts. I find that I’m better off buying store brands when I buy prepared foods, and that I do even better financially when I cook from scratch. (That cup of ketchup recipe? It’s for BBQ sauce that’s a cinch to make and tastes as good as anything you can buy in the store.)

That’s what I’ve got for now–I’m sure there are many more ways to “save” money that don’t really work, and it would be great if you’d share your own take on ways to save that cost you more than you save!


About Ruth Cooke

Ruth Cooke B.A, M.Div., MPS is a writer, public speaker, and itinerant preacher whose areas of expertise and interest include poverty issues and solutions, parenting exceptional children, sexual orientation, and the place of religious institutions in society. If you would like Ruth to come preach, speak or lead a class or group, please contact her via email.
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