Hellooooooo Coronavirus, you’re really starting to bug me. Even if you didn’t lose your job, your company or your savings account you WERE affected by the huge jump in the price of the basics this past year. Here’s how to make some of that up.
(this list was originally published in 2014 but was rewritten in 2021)
When I started this blog I made no money. At all. For two years. In fact I had to beg for money from you by putting up a donation button to keep this website going at one point.
Last year I had my biggest year to date. EVERYBODY in the world – like, literally pretty much everyone, was stuck at home with nothing to do but eat homeade sourdough bread and look stuff up on the Internet. Sometimes they were browsing for how to garden or DIY something in their house.
That landed a lot of them right here at The Art of Doing Stuff. More readers means more money for me. I had double the amount of readers last year compared to the year before. I lucked out.
BUT the price of lumber has TRIPLED and a lot of food almost instantly became WAY more expensive. Especially basics like meat, eggs and fresh vegetables.
What does this mean? Even if you made more money in the past year, you still lost money. If you did lose your job or some of your hours you lost a LOT of money because of the Ick.
I currently refer to the Coronavirus as The Ick. I’m very seriously considering changing that to The Dick Ick. Although now that I see it written out it seems maybe like something a man would buy cream for.
If there ever was a time to be good with money this is it.
Being good with money doesn’t mean being cheap. Being good with money means being smart about how you spend it. Conscious of how you spend it.
For some of you that might mean saving enough money to cover rent for half a year. It could be you need it for house repairs, a VACATION somewhere other than your backyard, to pay for your kids camp, a wheelchair, a collectible bottle of wine, a retirement fund or whatever else is important to you.
And that’s key. What’s important to me (quality appliances for instance) may seem frivolous or useless to you. Which is fine. Clearly you’re stupid and know nothing about what’s important to me. High end appliances and teeny tiny, hand made, Royal inspired fascinators for the neighbourhood squirrels. THAT’S the way to spend your extra money if you ask me.
But you do you.
The following is a list of 33 ways I save thousands of dollars every year. And they are 33 things you can do to save that much money too.
33 Weird and Wonderful Ways to Save Money
1. Sign up for customer rewards cards. They’re easy, free and points accumulate faster than you’d imagine. (EVERY year I buy all my Christmas Eve dinner food with my grocery store points.)
2. Only buy toilet paper and paper towels when they’re on SALE. NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER pay full price for toilet paper. EVER. Except of course in the first 2 months of a pandemic in which case it’s acceptable to pay upwards of 14 million dollars per wipe.
3. Plan menus around what’s on sale at the grocery store or what’s already in the fridge/freezer. Get the weekly flyer, look at the sales, base your meals on that. Simple.
4. Do NOT use shopping carts in stores if you’re just running in to buy one or two specific things. No cart means you won’t fill it up. This, no joke, will save you thousands of dollars a year at Costco alone.
5. Mend your clothing or shoes. I darn my socks and have my shoes resoled. My mother thinks I’m nuts.
6. Grow your own vegetables. Specifically grow things that either store well or can be preserved.
7. Shop around for the best price on everything. Ask store clerks when an item is going to go on sale. Honestly. Don’t be shy. Just ask.
8. Use coupons, and use them in combination with items already on sale.
9. Call around for different insurance quotes for your car and home. Find a company that can add you to part of a group rate. It took me 2 weeks but I finally found someone who had a group rate for me based on the University I went to. If I had paid the first company I called I would have ended up paying $2,600 for my car and house insurance combined. I called around, spent some horrible, horrible hours on the phone, but ended up with a final quote from another company for $1,800 for car and house combined. That’s a savings of $800 a year. Call your insurance company today and see if there’s a group they can add you to that will lower your rate. (school attended, union, member of a club or organization, Auto club member etc. etc.) If there isn’t, find out when your policy expires and start looking for a better deal.
10. I double up on dinners I can freeze so if I’m ever in a rush I don’t have to get fast food or order in. I have meals in the freezer waiting to be warmed.
11. Do your laundry/dishes etc. off peak hours. In my province, hydro costs almost TWICE as much during peak hours. Check your rates and hours.
12. If you’re about to impulse buy something, carry it around the store with you for a while. Doing that kindda makes you feel like you’ve owned it for a bit and most of the time you’re ready to let it go before you check out.
13. Check online for discount coupons before you go to any event/museum etcetera.
14. Get a programmable thermostat and actually use it. Set it to a minimum of 5 degrees colder at night.
15. Ask what the best price someone can give you is. And thank them when they lower the price.
16. Barter. I’ve bartered eggs for honey, advertising space for free advice and vegetable seedlings for letting me use space in someone else’s garden. My most recent barter was for the graphic design of my logo for The Art of FUN Stuff. I got my graphic done for free and Russell the graphic designer will get a shout out from me when his new line of honey is launched. (He’s a 3rd generation beekeeper)
17. Make your own coffee, don’t buy it from a shop. It’s coffee not Peking Duck. You can do it yourself. (but you are allowed to buy macarons from a shop because ones made by a pastry chef are REALLY REALLY GOOD.)
18. Maintain and clean your appliances. I clean both dryer vents out regularly (yes your dryer has two places to clean lint from), vacuum the refrigerator coils and wipe out the rubber seal on my refrigerator and front load washer so it doesn’t get musty smelling inside. In fact, check to see if you need to replace your fridge seal.
19. Go shopping for whatever you *need* close to store’s closing. That way you don’t spend hours shopping and inevitably buying other stuff.
20. Ask professionals you meet along the way for any tips they can give you. This means tips, not all the information they have about everything. That’s why they’re professionals and charge for their advice. But most will be willing to give you a few tips for free.
21. Always shop with a list.
22. Don’t be brand loyal on items it really doesn’t matter on. Like toothpaste, shaving cream, dry pasta … just buy what’s on sale that week.
23. DO IT YOURSELF if you can. (except for things that have the potential to kill you like installing a new electrical panel or removing angry racoons from your attic). Paint your own walls, make your own food, fix your own leaky tap, mow your own lawn, … if you can physically do it yourself, do it.
24. If anything breaks, Google how to fix it yourself. 8 times out of 10 the answer is there. If you can’t find the answer call a repair or parts place and ask for their advice. If all else fails, call someone in to take a look at fixing it. Decide then whether it makes more sense to fix it, or replace it.
25. Don’t shop as a hobby.
26. Call your cell company to have them review your bill with them. They can let you know if you have the plan that best suits your useage or if you’re paying for minutes/services you don’t use.
27. Buy in bulk for stuff you use often/a lot of like laundry detergent, pop, toilet paper etcetera. Bulk is always cheaper and is often uses less packaging which is good for the environment. If an item you use a lot is on sale (real sale, like 1/2 price) buy a ton of it.
28. Obey the rules of the road. A ticket doesn’t just cost the price of the ticket, it means higher car insurance rates for the next 10 years.
29. Don’t automatically buy what’s cheapest. Buying cheap doesn’t always lead to saving money if it breaks down 10X as fast as something that’s twice as much money. Blenders are a great example of this. I was going through a blender a year. Finally I bought a Vitamix which has a lifetime warranty and I don’t need to worry about buying a blender ever again.
30. Return things. Bought it, brought it home and don’t like it? RETURN it. Put it in your car right now and the next time you drive past the store, give it back to them and say I WANT MY MONEY.
31. Complain. If a product doesn’t do/taste/perform the way you think it should, complain about it. Whether it’s to a store manager or the actual company. I complained when they changed the formula for Diet Coke about 25 years ago and they apologized, explained the situation and sent me coupons for a several months worth of Diet Coke.
32. If you take any prescriptions and pay for them out of pocket, ask the pharmacist to give you the generic version. Try it. The active, actual “drug” ingredient is the same as the name brand drug. Or the bioequivalent. Only the “filler” ingredients can be different. Things like binders and colour. 99.9% of the time it performs exactly the same as the more expensive drug. I totally made that percentage up, but you get the point.
33. Cash in your rewards card points. Those points don’t save you any money at all until you actually buy something with them.
* Bonus tip!
34. When you purchase online, check for promo codes. You can often Google for a promo code and find one.
And there you have it. What’s the difference between this list and any other list you might read about on saving money? They aren’t just quotes or stats I’ve pulled from the Internet, they’re things that I personally do. Every single one of them.
We all know that the Internet is a big fat liar a lot of the time, but this isn’t one of those times. I’m not one of those liars. And I’m also not cheap.
I’m good with money.
And you can be too.