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Money-saving no-brainers that you simply must do

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post appeared on Cheapskate back in January, but after receiving this email from Raina last week, I thought it was worth another look. 

Dear Susie,

I love your blog, and I'd love to save as much money as you do, but I know myself.  I have a very busy career and the chances of my cutting out coupons, remembering which ones I have, doing all those "matchups" that I see in all the  other blogs, etc. are basically zero.  Are there other, more "passive" ways to save money that don't require a lot of energy and effort?

-Raina (a Cheapskate Wannabe)

Raina, excellent question, and I have to believe there are lots of folks out there with crazy-busy lives who would love to save some money without too much effort, or as you put it, "passively."  So I reworked this post just for you.

If you're here, reading this blog, chances are you got here because you want to try to save money. Even if you are not interested in coupon-clipping or bargain hunting, there are some simple, no-brainer things you can do that require very little effort after the initial setup, that save you money on an ongoing basis. Take the next fifteen minutes and do them.

1. Join cashback programs. Cashback programs work like this: if you want to buy something at an online store, instead of going directly to their website, you click through their link on the cashback program site instead, and are rewarded with a percentage of your purchase coming back to you in a check.  I have literally received over a thousand dollars in cash back over the last few years, for doing nothing that I wouldn't already be doing.  The three cashback programs I belong to are Shop at Home, Ebates and Mr. Rebates.  I use Shop at Home much more than either of the latter two, because they are a fabulous company with excellent customer service, and their vendor list is far more extensive than Ebates or Mr. Rebates.  Nevertheless, it also pays to have other companies in your back pocket in case you find a vendor who is listed on one and not the other.  Shop at Home also has a 110% matching guarantee on their percentage of cash back, so if Ebates is giving 4% back at Zappos and Shop at Home is giving only 2%, SaH will match and exceed Ebates' offer.

2. Join Swagbucks: This is probably the biggest no-brainer on the list.  Basically, you get points for searching through the Swagbucks search engine (which is Google-based) and after 450 points, you get a $5 Amazon e-gift card. The points accumulate very quickly; I currently have hundred of dollars sitting in my Amazon account because of Swagbucks.   If you are more ambitious with extra time (I'm not) you can do other things to earn points, like take polls, surveys, refer friends, etc., but the fantastic thing about Swagbucks is that, you can earn points by doing something you would already be doing.

3. Join Freecycle in your cityFreecycle is an online group, local to every major city, where people offer up stuff they no longer need to anyone who would like to pick it up. Here's how they describe themselves:
"a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them's good people). Membership is free." We joined Freecycle two years ago and have gotten ceramic tiles, ceiling fans, tons of dog stuff, wheel covers, painting supplies, tvs and all sorts of things that other people didn't need and we did.  In turn, we have freecycled tons of magazines, pots and pans, glasses, dishes, furniture, curtains, clothing, linen, and garden equipment.  Even if you have an aversion to getting things that are used, it's a great idea to join so that you have a way of unloading things that you don't need.  Getting rid of clutter is as important as getting free things that you need.  And while you will find that people freecycle EVERYTHING, you don't need to take in things that you regard as too personal to acquire secondhand.  We don't take in used clothing or linens or kitchenware, but I'm more than happy to pick up a 30 lb. bag of gourmet dog food that someone else's dog didn't like, or a tv that works perfectly but that someone else got rid of because they upgraded to a plasma.  And to all the Moms and Dads out there, I'd say roughly a third of the stuff that goes on Freecycle is children/babies-related stuff!  Much of the stuff on Freecycle is also brand new; people clean out their attics and basements and find things they've never even opened and don't want.  I got several sealed boxes of gorgeous designer ceramic tiles (with which my husband will someday tile the bathroom floor) that cost hundreds of dollars at the time store.  Freecycle saved us a fortune when we were working on our house.  It's definitely worth joining up.

4. Get the Target Redcard. Even if you never clip another coupon ever again, if you shop at Target at all, even occasionally, you will automatically save 5% off every purchase, just by paying for your purchases with the Redcard. And if you are allergic to credit cards, you can get the Target Redcard Debit card, which will automatically deduct your payment off of your checking account.  (And, you can get the Redcard debit card even if you don't have sterling credit.)  As a wonderful bonus, Target will donate 1% of all your Redcard purchases to the school of your choice (we chose Denver Academy of Torah).  If you get everyone in your community to use Redcard, this could add up to thousands of dollars for your school.  (BTW, the Redcard is not available to residents of NY or NJ.)

5.  Join the public library.  I don't understand my adult friends who take their kids to the library regularly, but don't even own a library card.  Today's libraries are wellsprings of free stuff and services.  Most libraries systems are online and have joint linked systems with other libraries.  This means that a) you can reserve virtually any book you like and the library system will make it available at your branch and b) you can manage your library account at home; you can renew books, find out which books are available, see when they are due, etc.  And most libraries have such enormous dvd collections, they eliminate the need for a Blockbuster or Netflix account.  So besides free books and dvds, what else can you do at the library?  Many libraries have excellent, low-cost or free classes in crafts, art, and numerous other topics.  I have a friend who has taken over a dozen art classes at her local library, and those same classes are offered at a local metro college for four times the prices she paid.  Many libraries have movie nights, readings, classes for kids, and book clubs for both adults and kids.  My former library in NY used to offer its members free passes at Manhattan museums and concerts.  Libraries are freebie treasure chests.  If you're not an active member of your library, sign up now.

6. Join Facebook.  I know, "it's such a time-waster," and "why would you want to make private aspects of your life public," etc. etc.  I've heard all the silly excuses for not joining Facebook and I can only conclude that if you believe them, you don't really understand social networking.  Yes, Facebook can be a major time-waster if you allow it be.  And yes, you can foolishly disclose personal information that you shouldn't.  Bottom line is, like everything else, you control what you do online; you don't need to post nonsense or private data and it's easy to take advantage of  Facebook's extensive privacy measures.  What can you do on Facebook that will save you money?  
  • Share resources.  If you need to borrow a porta-crib because your friend with a baby will be visiting, don't rent it or buy it, post your need and borrow it.  
  • Find out about events.  Is there a crazy clearance sale on bedding going on at your local store?  Is your local theater giving away free tickets to a preview? 
  • Coupons and freebies.  I know, I said at the start of this post that these would be money-saving ideas for people who weren't interested in couponing and the like, but if you do choose to go this route, Facebook has got hundreds of special opportunities to snag high-value coupons and samples.  
  • Everything else.  I come across tons of hard-to-categorize opportunities each day to save money on Facebook, whether it's a post from a blog that I follow, or community news, or a plethora of other sources. 

7. Subscribe to Cheapskate. Yes, I know, more shameless self promotion; what can I say.  I subscribe to all my favorite money-saving websites, so that their daily deals are pushed out to me instead of me having to check the sites, and this way I get to stay on top of current money-saving offers. Easy to be a Cheapskate.

So, busy readers, how do you save money without actively pursuing discounts and couponing?  

1 comment:

  1. Great list, Susie! I agree completely with your "musts".


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