33 Ways to Save Money in The Year of The Ick.

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.


  1. MelanHelen says:

    Karen —

    Inspired by your Christmas pledge and your “saving for Christmas” post, I am saving my loyalty points to use at Christmas — a “rainy day” that comes every year!

  2. AngieC says:

    Invest in a vacuum sealer so that when you buy meat in bulk you can portion it out. Yes, freezer bags work but they aren’t as hardy. Also, never buy boneless/skinless chicken breasts. If you buy the bone-in kind you can save money twice by paying a cheaper price up front but you can also freeze the bones/skins and use them to make chicken broth. I save all the bones from every chicken we eat and then make soup from the broth. This way I don’t feel bad if I don’t get all the meat off the bone since it goes into the soup. Also, save the scraps from onions, carrots and celery to throw in. I make my own tomato sauce for pasta with the slightly expired veggies that the grocery store marks down – as long as they aren’t rotten and a health hazard no one is going to know the peppers in the sauce were a little soft. It might take all day to simmer a huge batch of sauce but it’s not labour intensive and you can freeze it in appropriate size containers for your family.

    Buy ground beef with a lower fat content – it’s healthier and you really do get more meat, even if it is a little bit more expensive on the shelf. Generic frozen/canned veggies are usually just as good as the brand names. Look for cheaper cuts of meat and chuck it in the slow cooker. Works like a charm.

    I agree with the buy on sale and stock up, but only if you have room. Also, you can usually get away with using about half the recommended amount of a cleaning product. I buy laundry detergent in the 110 load size bottle and can usually get 200 loads. Another thing that helps is to keep a running list of how many staples you have. When my husband and I moved in 2011, I spent one day organizing the bathroom and going through my personal hygiene items like shampoo and discovered that I had six liters of dandruff shampoo for my husband (store brand of course). Part of that was because he worked away from home and had to have his own shampoo/toothpaste/etcetera but part was because in the old house I didn’t have a dedicated spot for it and always thought we were just about out. I still have one liter left and he showers/washes his hair regularly.

    I also buy things like deodorant/rubbing alcohol/kitchen scrubbies at the dollar store. My thought is that if the cheaper product isn’t going to impact the quality of life, why pay more. Also, the same goes for the generics of pain relievers, tummy remedies, antibiotic creams and whatnot. A few years ago a discount store in my home town went out of business and they were selling my favourite deodorant for a dollar a container. I bought 20 or 25 and still have six left. No one tells me that I stink so they must still work!

    If you can, buy your prescription drugs three months at a time, you’ll only pay one dispensing fee.

    My husband won a Keurig coffee maker at an office thing and we bought one of the reusable containers for it so when he only wants one cup of coffee, we’re not shelling out a lot for it by buying the K-cups.

    • Susan Mercurio says:

      I just saw a tip on Pinterest which went like this: poke a hole in the bottom of a paper cup large enough to fit your hair dryer in. Put a straw in a ziploc bag zipped up so that the hole with the straw is the only part that is open, and put the other end of the straw into the paper cup. Insert the hair dryer BACKWARDS into the top of the cup. (It sucks air in from the back and blows it out the front: vacuum creator!) It will suck all of the air out of the ziploc bag, so you don’t need to buy a vacuum sealer. DIY one at home!
      (I know this explanation was long. A picture is worth a thousand words!)

      • Sarah says:

        I don’t like hair dryers. I have a vacuum sealer and use it to vacuum the air out of Mason jars of rice, beans, and other dry stuff. Your idea is good!

  3. Oriah says:

    Oh….i forgot to mention the greatest forgotten invention of all time…..the whole house attic fan. I had one installed about 8 years ago for $1000 and it paid for itself in under three years. We’re talking about those big honking fans where you have to put a louvered shutter thing in your ceiling. I bought one that can exchange the entire volume of air in my house in about 30 minutes. Open your windows in the evening and let the sucker run all night pulling in cool air. Close the windows first thing in the morning, drop the thermostat AC by about 2 degrees F to break any humidity and let the temperature in the house “coast” until evening. Even during a hot VA summer, my house usually doesn’t get above 78 F. My summer power bills are usually around $60/mo.

    Also, add blown cellulose insulation to your attic. I took my house up to R-50 for about $350 (that was paying someone else to do it) and the energy savings took just over a year to pay me back….and i’ve been saving on gas and AC for cooling (it’s part of the reason my house can “coast” all day) ever since.

  4. Bols says:

    Also, if you have pets and they have go on meds, check if you can get them elsewhere cheaper.
    My dog has pannus and that requires eye drops ever night. For a tiny bottle of the drops (5 ml ? – sure) – the vet charged me $29. Now I get them from my Walmart pharmacy where I fill my own prescription. Yes, the drops are prescription stuff, but the vet’s office called in the prescription (for multiple refills) and now I get 3 bottles at a time for $39. That’s a huge difference – 1 bottle for $29 versus 3 bottles for $39.

    Sometimes, the vet charges $10 for the prescription (if I want to get the meds elsewhere) but I am still better off even with the additional charge for the prescription.

    Of course, the vet does not like it much when I get my meds elsewhere because their markup on the meds is exorbitant but I have been going there for 18 years (and I used to have 3 dogs for 15 years) so I have already put his kids through college anyway. I don’t care if he likes or not.

    • Sarah says:

      I do everything with one vet because they are excellent and keep better records than I do. Also, when we had a lab and a German Shepherd they would make house calls for a small fee. Hauling a German Shepherd that doesn’t want to go to the vet is no small deal. My husband would put them in a cattle trailer to go to the vet 12 miles one way. I agree with you, but my husband is a stickler for his dogs.

  5. Kelli says:

    GREAT list Karen! I do a lot of these already but a couple more to add:

    Take your lunch to work/brown bag it. When eating out, the average lunch costs around $10 (esp. if you also have to tip) which can really add up.
    Buy lots of ‘stretcher’ items when they go on sale, or buy in bulk: rice, pasta, couscous, lentils, soup mix, etc.
    Make your own laundry soap (lots of recipes on line; Pinterest of course)
    Instead of using expensive lotions, creams or moisturizers, go natural: coconut, olive, sweet almond, jojoba and sesame oils are better for your skin, don’t have added chemicals, are *much* cheaper, and can also help stretch your current regimen.
    If you have a juicer, juice your fruits and veggies separately, and save/freeze the pulp to use later in soups, sides or in yogurt or desserts.
    Take up sewing to take in your clothes or alter them to fit you perfectly rather than buying new.
    Also, thrift stores are AWESOME. You’d be surprised at what you might find there.
    Additionally, look for places like Clothes Mentor who actually PAY you for your used clothing items.
    Make your own fabric refresher: in a spray bottle, add a couple Tblsp. of dollar store laundry softener, 1/2 cup very cheap vodka, fill rest with water. Spray happy!
    VINEGAR &BAKING SODA RULE! Hair rinse, household cleaner, wash softener, drain unclogger–their uses are practically endless, and for only pennies!
    Use one of those gas finder apps to find the cheapest gas in your area; also buy your groceries at stores that give you 10-15 cents off per gallon for being a member.

    There are so many others, but these are ones that I try to do as often as possible! YMMV!

  6. Amie says:

    I also can/blanch then freeze a lot of my vegetables in the fall. The extra freezer gets unplugged come spring because it is empty. I buy a bushel of green beans, peas, carrots etc in the fall and blanch and freeze or a basic canning recipe to have veggies all through the winter. Same with peaches and plums.

    A full fridge uses less energy to keep things cool.
    I clothesline everything in the summer to most of fall.
    I take the bus to work instead of having a second car, and bus passes are tax deductible in Canada.
    Budget only one meal out or fun night a week, including fast food, to start cutting back there
    Have friends over for potluck dinners and board games instead of heading to high-end restaurants
    Pack a lunch for work

    I reuse old clothing and random things to make craft projects and gifts for family

  7. jeannie B says:

    Well, all I can say is, that I will NEVER EVER use ARTIFICIAL VANILLA again!!!!!! All really great tips for saving money. Thanks everyone and especially, Karen.

  8. Rondina Muncy says:

    Karen, this is the best “how to save money list” I’ve ever seen. It’s so good, I’m printing it out and posting it in the kitchen.


    Check your utilities for cash-back programs. My electric company automatically sends a cash-back check at the beginning of each year, but when I changed my wireless phone, I found that the cash-back checks or prepaid debit cards had to be requested. All total, I got $200 back in a month.

    Plan your errands so that you are covering several at once and are driving in a pattern that makes sense and saves gas. I also put off going on an errand so that I can cover another at the same time. One of my home improvement stores, the three garden nurseries, and my paint store are all close to one another. I wait until I have at least two of those places to hit before I make the trip.

    Downsize if you don’t need the space. The kids are grown. It’s been three years since I cut my lot size and square footage by two-thirds by moving to a smaller home. I may have gone a bit too far down with the number of square feet because there wasn’t a lot on the market at the time. However, watching the electric bill go from over $600 to about $125 was wonderful. Plus all the maintenance that I can’t do myself. I can mow my own lawn again.

    Look for places and appliances in your home that are not energy efficient and address those problems.

    Thank you for the list. Excellent.

  9. Deana says:

    Use the Dollar Store. Now that my husband is retired and I work part-time at a non dirty job, we don’t get heavily dirty clothing. Therefore the cheaper laundry soap at the Dollar Store works just as good as the name brand that charge 3X’s as much. I am reusing a squirt type bottle that I refil with laundry soap. Two or three quick squirts in my front loader cleans just as well as filling the cap on the original bottle. I think those caps are set up so that we use more product than we need.
    The Dollar Store always has some sort of name brand shampoo and condition at less that half the price of our local drug store (where I happen to work) and bandaids, cotton balls, you name it all work just as well as spending so much more at your local drug or grocery store.

  10. toekneetoni says:

    I see … you dress the squirrels up in charming fascinators and they are distracted from destroying your delicious garden. Makes sense. Karen, you make your own vanilla extract … seriously how many hrs of sleep do you get each night??? Honest question. Great tips though, from you and the commenters.

  11. Oriah says:

    I have to agree with most of the other replies ENDORSING the use of credit cards. I charge everything they will let me charge and pay the bill in full every month to rack up frequent flyer miles. I earn enough miles to get at least one (and sometimes TWO!) free airline tickets each year. The card i use is affiliated with an airline so i also get a free check bag plus a checked bag for a person booked to travel with me. In the US checked bags are usually $50 for r/t travel per person. I usually check the card’s website to see if they’re offering incentive points for simply linking from their page and many retailers (amazon excluded) do. I tried to figure out a way to pay my mortgage with my card because that would radically increase my free tickets but i couldn’t find away to avoid paying a big transaction fee so i aborted that mission.

    Most of my home’s furnishings and almost all of my clothes are from the thrift store. I get light-headed thinking about spending $20-30 for a shirt or $1000 for a couch. I even picked up a king sized tempurpedic (the real deal!) mattress at the thrift store for $95 instead of $2000.

    I have never had cable or dish satellite tv. I only go to the second run movie theater for dates with the hubs. Some movies are up to $16/pp here and i can’t wrap my head around that.

    I vaccinate the cat myself (wear long sleeves and get a friend to help you). You can pick up all the shots except the rabies at the Southern States (it’s a farm supply type store).

    I can bend so i do my own pedicures. I’ve had several people ask who i “go to for pedicures” and they usually seem baffled that i do it myself. I’m actually afraid of toenail fungus so i’m not missing any “luxury” in my life….i’m avoiding ocd anxiety.

    Use a laundry line to dry clothes. For about $50 in supplies, you can dry your clothes for at least 10 years. I even dry them on the line in the winter. I have a high efficiency washer and they come out of the wash dry enough to dry on the line in the winter….but first they must spend a little while frozen. If they aren’t totally dry, i pop them in the dryer for about 10 minutes which is a whole let less money than a full cycle.

    Use vinegar as your “fabric softener.” It will keep your clothes soft. It cuts the stench of stinky gym clothes better than anything else i’ve used. It also keeps a front loader from getting that funky musty smell since vinegar naturally combats mildew. I’ve never had to use those strange chemical blobs to combat front loader funk and i’ve had a front loader for 12 years.

    Exercise regularly. Do cardio and strength training. Exercise stimulates the immune system so you get sick less often. You have more energy, sleep better, look healthy, and are less prone to injury…..all things that save you money.

    I only heat my house to 55 F (13 C) at night during the winter. I keep a down comforter on my bed ($10 from the thrift store) and stay nice and cozy. I have the thermostat programmed to get up to a tropical 60 F right before i wake up. Wear fleece in the house rather than bump the thermostat.

    All the money i save from being “cheap” at home is spent traveling…..and i have a ton of tricks for how to travel on the cheap…..but that’s a different post.

  12. Susan says:

    Your ideas are great and I find that I do pretty much all of them. An addition is:
    About 2 years ago we realized we were paying Bell about $40 a month for a land line we rarely used. We only get short calls from our son in NWT or our other son in Grimsby asking if we want to Skype them. So we signed up with voip.ms and we pay $25 US through PayPal every 4-5 months instead. We’re notified by email when the balance gets below $10 and this works great for us and saves us so much. I don’t know why we didn’t sign up sooner.
    I don’t use paper towels, I use micro-fibre cloths instead for everything. They also fit on my cheaper Swiffer look-alike handle to clean floors, dust and wipe up spills.
    Keep up the good work, Karen. Can’t wait to see the kitchen!

  13. Leslie says:

    Absolutely call the TV company … I found out mine had a “loyalty” department set up to handle people who call in to ask if they can get a lower rate. When I called, I was offered $25/month off of whatever service level (package) I want, no contracts.

  14. Bols says:

    @ Becky,
    It’s nonsense that paying with a CC costs you 18% (or whatever) more. I pay for everything – and I mean absolutely everything – by my Mastercard, even in the unlikely event that I buy a bagel at Tim’s (that happens about 4x a year when I am super super lazy to make my own breakfast). Yes, it’s $2.50 (actually $.2.57 these days) but all these small amounts add up – and I collect reward points. I don’t spend a ton of money and I quit shopping at Zehrs/Loblaws because they increase prices practically daily so I don’t get as many points as I used to but let them sit and accumulate. Today, I have points worth almost $500. That’s $500 of free groceries, Joe Fresh clothes or their home stuff.
    Of course I don’t pay any interest. I pay my CC every month and I don’t carry any balance.
    The only place where I pay cash is at my salon (a small place) because they offer a discount if I pay cash. This way, I save $5 on every haircut.

    @ The Advicist –
    I don’t understand why you think returns are a hassle. I return of lot of things (although last year, I adopted Karen’s advice of carrying the item with me while I am at the store and then I put it back on the shelf before I leave (THANK YOU, KAREN!!! It works great!). I keep every single receipt so returns are absolutely no issue. Nobody has ever given me a hard time.
    You actually have no idea what a hassle means – unless you grew up in a socialist country where they would fight you tooth and nail if you tried to return something. Returns in North America are a dream compared to that.

  15. Michelle says:

    Use those bonus points! I’m the WORST at that. You’d think they were going to protect me during a zombie apocalypse or something. I use mypoints (mypoints.com) for my online shopping (or ebates) and I have enough points to buy a house stored up. I used to think of them as my rainy day fund, but I had a rainy day and still didn’t use them. After reading this, I’ve decided I’m going to convert every one of them to Target gift cards (which never expire). God knows I’ll use them there!

  16. Jane says:

    Love all your ideas and use most of them! Something I learned as a mom of 4 was to give my kids cash when it was time for “back to school” shopping and teach them how to find a bargain….or the fun/advantage of saving the money for a bigger item down the road instead. Having the cash in hand (not much either) really helped them to learn the value of walking to the back of the store for the sales or buying 2nd hand. Happy to say they all paid their own way through college/university and are financially independent!

  17. Susan says:

    Costco is a great place to buy real vanilla at low cost; same with yeast and bread flour. My best suggestion is to know prices, or use a price-checking app on your smart phone. If you know what the best price is for something, don’t pay more for it unless it costs you as much to go get it from the place where it costs less. I shop at quite a few stores over a two-month period, in a kind of rotation. I stock up on sales, and don’t buy if it’s not on sale. Each store has their own specials they regularly run, and I do my best to time my shopping to when they are having their sales. I don’t think I’ve paid full price for very many things in years. I also buy clothing at thrift stores, many items still having the tags on them and never having been worn. But I even shop the thrift stores on their sale days, so get the thrift store items at half off. If I don’t need something absolutely immediately for some reason, I’ll try to find it at a garage sale where it’s usually priced at 10 cents on the dollar. It’s amazing what people buy, don’t use, and sell at garage sales. And they’re always fun, too!

  18. Hope says:

    Serious health issues have caused major changes in income in our family. We downsized our house but chose one our disabled daughter can now share with us (renovated it so she has a separate unit- we share the kitchen). This has allowed her to work part time with less stress about money. Because we parents also have similar health issues the reno was slowly done with collected points and the resulting gift cards for building supply stores. Husband is willing to learn how do things with online videos.

    We took car loads of stuff to the thrift store (not well enough to sell stuff online for most things) but every time we needed something “new” for this smaller more compact house we also shopped there. It was amazing how often the perfect thing was waiting for us…often needing only a can of spray paint to become the right thing for our space. Also I have gotten rid of lots of fancy tableware due to limited space and have collected all white dishes and serving pieces at the thrift store. A lot of it is Pottery Barn. My slogan is that I don’t buy it if I wouldn’t have paid full price for it back in the day. In other words I have to love it.

    My husband built three raised garden beds last spring with provided us with produce for the summer as well as a couple of pots for herbs. Just ran out of frozen parsley, dill and pesto which add a big bang to simple meals. Am eyeing a garden plot of my neighbours two doors down which was only partially used last summer and am wondering if they’ll let me plant the space using plants of squashes, potatoes etc.

    Our friends and family are amazed at how beautifully we live despite our much smaller income. We live without debt and just buy or build as the means are there. Thanks for the additional tips and those of your readers.

  19. Valerie says:

    I agree with the poster who reminded us about utilizing your library as a resource. I live in a rural remote community and our library will send for any book I can dream up or have reviewed on Goodreads. While this may not be possible or money saving in large cities where I understand they weigh your car going in and out (unbelievable to me) going to the local refuse centre or “dump” is a good place to claim lumber and broken things of all types. Particularly interesting if you are DIY inclined. Disposable rubber gloves are important to have on hand. If you have a wood stove – we have two (but probably very few of your posters) you can drop essential oils directly on top of the stove into one of those lamp circular gadgets for instant air diffusing. Taking back cans and bottles, again rubber glove work, is also lucrative – it is also a good fitness regime with all that bending. Second hand stores (not the upscale types though) are a great place to locate sheets or towels for reusable rags, for belts and jeans. And don’t pass by the oversized sweater area in those stores as I made a fabulous throw pillow for the den from the backs of two gorgeous sweaters I found in that area. The cost of the pillow was 3 dollars as I had the stuffing already.
    This has been one of your best posts Karen. Women really do know how to save money. It is spectacular that you have provided a forum such as this to share our information.

  20. Mary Werner says:

    Something else I wish you knew the answer to and could enlighten us. I always spent the extra for pure vanilla extract and didn’t like the results/taste of imitation vanilla. Then I read that imitation vanilla comes from beaver butt glands. No wonder. Now I have the pleasure of knowing I eat a lot of Beaver Butt because I know that manufacturers will choose the cheaper version for cookies, ice cream, etc. Question? WHO EVER WAS the first one to try beaver butt and say – boy this would make a great substitute for vanilla? How are substitutes created? Because of the money saving aspect, are there other subs that I should (or shouldn’t) know about?

    • Karen says:

      LOL! I’ve never heard that! So I did little research and it is indeed true. The actual ingredient will be listed as “Castoreum” on the product. Things like artificial vanilla extract and vanilla ice cream. I can’t even imagine how that revelation was made. I make my own vanilla extract so I’m not likely to encounter it. I hope, lol. ~ karen

  21. Tori says:

    I thought I was the only one who did #12. They always say if you touch something you’re more likely to buy it, but I actually find it easier to let something go if I walk around with it for a while. Afterward, I realize I don’t really need it.

    • Sera says:

      That’s actually a sales trick. If you are trying to sell something, you try to put it in the customer’s hand. I can’t verify if they would have bought the item anyway, but I sell a lot this way.

  22. Mary Werner says:

    # 12 works VERY well! I do it all the time just to trick myself into “owning” something I don’t need. By the time I get to checkout the “wanting” is gone and I set it down.

    #31 Diet Coke? Pop quiz test time. I’ve heard that anything done for two weeks creates a habit. Want to give it a try? Use Diet Pepsi for 2 weeks and then try Diet Coke and see if your taste buds adapted. Fun test.

    Thanks for a lot of GREAT advice!

  23. Terri in Colorado says:

    I sew many of my own clothes. $7 worth of fabric and an hour of time makes a luxurious t-shirt that fits beautifully. My sewing machine wasn’t free, but was a lot less expensive than the “fishing boat” that my ex bought and never, ever caught a fish.

  24. Erica says:

    I completely agree with #29. When I realized that so many companies manufactured everything in China, I started reading every label on everything. If it is high-end made in China, I won’t buy it. If it is made in China, I think if I really need it (usually if it is over $20 and made in China, I won’t buy it). I’ve bought handmade leather purses on etsy (paid less than a coach bag and it has better construction), boots from Italy, etc. Everything may cost me more up front, but they will last many years rather than one season. It has helped me cut down on impulses purchases. That isn’t to say that when I am in Target buying my cat litter and see a table with $5 cardigans, I don’t snatch up one in every color, but It does make me think more about what I am investing in.

    On the other side – I am the worst about spending those rewards! Need to work on that. Also, I had to stop getting groupon/living social emails. I kept buying them, and never used them! It was just going to make me spend less for something I would not have bought anyway.

  25. calliek says:

    NO paper towels in this house either- we use rags. No plastic wrap or or containers either, we reuse bags or store food in jars. Bulk buying is a little tricky with no car but I do stock up on sales of staples whenever possible- (butter was half price this week so I bought 8 lbs and froze them.) I grow what I can, buy in season and preserve them myself. I bought a pressure canner on sale a few years ago which is great for canning veggies, meat and stock.

    I also agree with buying second hand- I’ve never bought a new piece of furniture in my life. Most of my clothing is from thrift and vintage stores. My one weakness is books, I probably have over a thousand but most of those were also bought second hand. I also bring clothes and books I no longer want to consignment shops and used book stores- you get more if take store credit rather than cash. I borrow e books from the library to read on my tablet too – they return automatically so no more late fines. The Toronto Library systems just added Hoopla (https://www.hoopladigital.com) which allows you to borrow online movies, television and music with your library card – basically a free version of netflix!

    I have reward cards for everything I can and convert points I don’t use into points I do. I do online surveys to add to those. I usually collect enough for one short haul flight per year.

    Another good thing is volunteering- I volunteer for events and organizations that I want to be involved in but can’t afford. Whether it’s a workshop or a gala dinner, the organizers are often happy to have an extra hand – you have to be prepared to actually help in some form and the work is not always glamorous but it’s usually fun. Last week I flew to PEI (on points), volunteered for my conference pass (which included meals) and got to attend ECMW (East Coast Music Week) for 5 days in Charlottetown- what a fabulous time! Last year it was in Halifax, and next year it’s in St John’s NFLD (I’ve never been there!) and the organizer has already asked me to come. got start saving up my points again!

    • Christina R says:

      Volunteering has been so much fun, my BF and I have volunteered as servers for two recent craft cocktail and beer events benefitting a local charity. Tickets were $50 each but for a donation of $5 each we could perticipate in the tastings and pouring was a blast, all while helping folks in need – in our case, kids with cancer. We will definitely be signing up for more volunteer opportunities, going out can be incredibly expensive!

    • Jenny says:

      Be careful with secondhand furniture now that bed bugs have made a resurgence. That nightmare is not worth any money “saved”.

      • Dd51 says:

        The items can also house fleas…and other strange smells. I have gotten used furniture nothing upholstery, wood only.

  26. Meg says:

    This is a great list. I also find planning out our meals reduces trips to the grocery store and the plan helps us keep grocery costs done. (and they are climbing high at the stores!)

    • Karen says:

      Yup, I do that too, lol. There are so many things I do I’m being reminded of all the things I forgot! ~ karen

  27. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    What a great list, thank you Karen. Great reader comments too. I DIY as much as I can…cleaning products to Christmas cards!

  28. Jill says:

    about #12…I take the opposite approach. If I see something I think I want/need on impulse, I walk away and continue my shopping. If I’m still thinking about that item when I’m ready to go, then I go back and get it because it was meant to be mine! And sometimes that happens, but more often than not, I’ve completely forgotten about it, and, therefore, didn’t really want/need it in the first place. This technique works especially well at antique/re-sale stores and garden centers, the two places I tend to impulse buy the most. :)

    • Sera says:

      If you’re susceptible to impulse buys, try taking a photo of it. I’ve started doing this and it works very well. I work in a store where they get all sorts of cute housewares that I always want to snap up. So, when I wanted that Marie Antoinette let them drink coffee mug, I took a photo of it. I never bought it. If I want to look at it because it was so darned cute, then I can. I saved $15.
      Sometimes I think about things like clothing too long and by the time I’m ready to buy, it’s gone. Did I mss out? Who knows. There will always be a next thing.
      I also curb my internet shopping by just closing out of the browser. Or adding it to my Pinterest or amazon wish list. I just never buy it.
      I really need to buy more toilet paper though. Sheesh.

  29. Get Ting for cell phone service – requires a Sprint compatible phone, but you only pay for what you use – ever. If you use more one month, you get charged more – less the next, you’re charged next. I know this seems like a sales pitch, but I’m just an EXTREMELY satisfied customer. I have two smartphones and my last bill was under $27.00 and I’ve never paid more than $36.00. https://z1pjag13tj3.ting.com/

    A friend of mine moved from Sprint to Ting – his bill for 4 phones went from $270 a month to $70. If you don’t have a Sprint phone, buy a used one from Ebay for less than $100 and recoup the cost within the first three months.

  30. Feral Turtle says:

    Wow everyone has left great tips. Thanks for a great post on being smart. We are renovating right now and I can’t tell you how many times we have gone to the garbage pile. Pulling a few nails saves a trip to town and the cost of whatever we needed. Plus the lumber reused is of higher quality than the crap they sell at the lumber yards.

  31. Beckie says:

    buying in bulk actually isn’t always the best bargain (15 years of grocery work in my past) You need to watch the “unit price” on the shelf tag. That will show you which item is the best deal.

    • Debbie says:

      I agree Beckie about buying in bulk sizes. I have couponed for many years and I have tried to convince many people that sometimes the smaller packages, with coupons, are just a better deal. When I go to Sams club and see the price of 3 boxes of cereal it makes me cringe. I am in the habit of paying $1.25-$1.50 or less for one box of cereal, usually the larger box. Sams club is way more expensive. Also, I get a lot of my health and beauty items near free at our drug stores. (Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS). I usually tell people to just pick one store so they aren’t keeping tracking of so many rewards. It’s a bit of an initial investment, but if you keep track of rewards and use them wisely, you can keep using them over and over to produce more rewards.

    • Karen says:

      That’s true. See? I automatically look at the unit price so didn’t even think to put that on my list. I do it all the time. ~ karen

      • Amie says:

        Unit price here, too! I always check whether the sale is really better than what I would be buying anyways, and in the amount I would normally be getting, too.

        • ktr says:

          I’ve seen more and more lately that the store listed unit price is wrong so I’ve gotten into the habit of either bringing a calculator or using the one on my phone to double check them. Takes a little bit of time and the people in the aisle with me sometimes think I’m crazy but I don’t care.

  32. Jack Ledger says:

    Natural gas increased as of April 1st. Turn off your heat and wear warmer clothes when inside. You should be good until next October. Also, insulate your house to the max.

  33. Ann says:

    FYI-a credit card is not the enemy. Spending habits are. We use our CC for everything. And pay it in full every single month. And take one great trip a year on our FREE frequent flyer miles. Enough said.

    I stopped buying almost any “new” clothes and totally stick to the thrift store. New undies and shoes only. And I buy awesome stuff. Really really good brands, sometimes never even worn.

    Another huge way to save money is not to drive to town every day. If you work you are forced to drive 5 times a week. But I know people who work those 5 days and then go do the shopping on Saturday, eeeckkk. Or drive the kids to school everyday when you could walk them. Set up car pools for as much as you possibly can. I no longer work and live 35 miles from where I do my shopping. But I honestly only get in my car once a week and do everything I need to do. Own the smallest possible car, except nothing like those silly smart cars, please. So many people own much bigger vehicles than they need. Don’t even own a car if you don’t honestly need it all the time. If I lived where I could hop a bus or train, I would give up my car in a heart beat.

  34. Robin says:

    Love you so much Karen!

    When you are making just enough money to get by and raising a child, a lot of this comes easily. If you can’t save enough money to live for 2 years without a paying job, DON’T beat yourself up. Remember you are doing the best you can and not everyone can do everything.
    DIY takes elbow grease, initiative and time. If you are working full time and raising a child, well, that time is in short supply, right along with the money.

    So! Do what you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it all.

    • Robin says:

      ps sew your own clothes.

      • Jennifer says:

        sew your own clothes? maybe 40 years ago. my mother made a lot of my sisters and my clothes but today’s fabric prices are waaaay too high to make anything cheaper than what you could buy! And are you going to whip up a pair of fabulous fitting eans? Fabric alone for that would be over 100 bucks. And that perfect fitting t shirt? Not to mention the hours spent at the sewing machine! You must be really good! Okay, maybe sew your own bridesmaid dress. That might save a couple of bucks. I hem all my families jeans and patch stuff up but I could never afford to sew clothes for my family. You can’t even find fabric at thrift stores. Okay, maybe some nice thick finger nail catchy polyester and fleeces but that’s it.

        • Robin says:

          My favorite source of inexpensive fabric is FabricMart Sign up for emails to get the daily specials. And the quality is excellent.
          Yes, i sew my own jeans. (Fabric Mart sells denim ;))
          And yes, actually, I guess I am pretty good. Check out my blog a little sewing blog
          I am sorry for being a little bit cranky. I am just dealing with some hard stuff at the moment. Karen, your blog is a bright spot in my day!!

        • Robin says:

          hmm, not sure if that link to my blog is working, but you can just click on my name. Everything I sew lasts way longer than anything I can buy, because I use better quality materials (and no they are not too exepnsive if you know where to shop) and my construction methods are better than what those poor folks in 3rd world countries are putting out. Just because you can buy clothes cheap doesn’t mean it is a good value. Sewing is increasing in popularity these days, so a little bit of google searching will provide more information than a normal brain can readily absorb. Happy Friday All!!

        • Penley says:

          I agree – what you sew yourself is always always better quality – not least because you’ve probably bought much better quality fabric and it will fit you perfectly – thus wear and tear greatly reduced. Thrift stores are great for fabric – I don’t really make clothes from them, but they’re fabulous for picking up interesting and unusual materials for cushions, toys, anything around the home. Buying terrible quality clothes for $5 a pop just doesn’t do it for me. I can’t get past the horrible conditions we know the people who sew these clothes have to exist in, and I’d rather spend more money less frequently on top quality items. But that obviously can’t apply to everyone, we’re all in different places.

        • Amie says:

          I buy a lot of my fabric at thrift stores. Old sheets make great fabric for far cheaper than the equivalent in metres at Fabricland or elsewhere.

      • Lynne says:

        I used to sew most of my own clothes – I don’t anymore. I do, however, do a lot of sewing for around the home. Curtains, slipcover for my couch, pillow covers, whatever.

  35. Anita says:

    Paper towels are a no no at my house. Go to IKEA, buy the white with red stripe dish clothes. I use them when I clean windows, windex anything. they dont leave streaks or fuzzy things. Throw them in the wash with my 1 load of whites and they are good for the next time.

    • Patti says:

      Ooh! This is a great tip – thanks!

      When I was growing up, we used old cloth diapers – they were perfect! But I haven’t been able to find anything even close to those suckers, so this is super promising!

    • Amie says:

      Same here. The only thing paper towels are used for is sopping up bacon grease when the bacon comes out of the oven.

  36. Susan says:

    I’m sticking my nose in twice this morning because it just boggles my mind how much money people spend on coffee! Does the world know that Canadians are addicted to Tim’s? I live 15 minutes from the nearest Tim Horton’s and neighbours drive in every single day and sometimes twice just to get a coffee. It is terribly upsetting to people that Timmys is closed on Christmas Day! I’m too darned cheap and when you figure the cost of the coffee alone, not to mention the gas, it would pay for a really nice holiday.

  37. Danica says:

    Can I add….drive your car on vegetable oil even though everybody thinks you are nuts…we’ve been doing it for 5 or 6 years now. We save up to $10,000- $12,000 a year on gas. We’ve also driven to Florida (oil in tow) saved up to $500 each trip. It might sound crazy but it has helped us significantly in our savings.

    We also try to do almost everything ourselves. I’ve really loved this and your last posts it related so much to my husbands theories about saving/doing work yourself and allowing you to indulge in the extras when want too.

  38. Claire says:

    Buy your Christmas Cards and wrap on Boxing Day for next year for pennies, (literally pennies in the UK, so I’m guessing the USA and Canada are similar). And keep them for next year. I buy the high end luxury ones for about 90% less this way. The same with Christmas and Birthday presents, but them when you see them, again January sales are great, but all other sales too

  39. Amie Mason says:

    34. Don’t buy air freshener or those stupid scented plug ins. If your house smells – then clean it or open a window Doofus!

    • Susan says:

      Amen! Those things are a chemical stew that trigger asthma attacks in so many people, including me. If you’re like me and have a doggy household, buy a little bottle of pure peppermint oil or spearmint oil and put a drop on your vent filters or on a lightbulb. A tiny bottle will last forever. I make my own diffusers with bamboo sticks and spearmint oil. My house is clean but sometimes you need to override damp dog.

      • Patti says:

        Yes! I make my own natural air fresheners/neutralizers because the fumes from Airwick etc. drive me bonkers and are super toxic for parrots (our parrot, Pickle, is precious to us). There are tons of recipes online – some are as easy as tossing some vanilla extract and water in the oven, and others involve simmering a bunch of awesomeness on the stove. So lovely and fragrant and completely natural!

      • toekneetoni says:

        great advice. thanks Susan.

  40. Cat says:

    I’m a little surprised to not see “buy used” on this list. I have an entertainment center that was once a discarded library cart (wonky wheel, 0 cost), an incredibly solid dining table (10$) and a glass/metal coffee table w/side tables set (10$), among other things. Check your local flea markets and charity shops as well as ebay, freecycle and facebook marketplace.

    Biggest savings? Buying a used car.

    • KJ says:

      Even bigger biggest savings: keep your old car!!!

      • Tracey says:

        Biggest biggest savings: don’t own a car! Join a carshare or rent for occasional needs.

      • Dd51 says:

        Yes, I have a 2004 Toyota and a “new” 2011 Toyota pickup. My other trick is if you think you need a “anew” car in the next couple of years, price it out figure out the cost of the loan over 3 years and then put that money away every month. Then you can go to a dealer and say “I I’ll pay for this with a check”.

  41. Emily says:

    Something I add to # 13. Check online for discount coupons before you go to any event/museum etcetera.

    When I’m buying something online, I always Google “store name + coupon code” and there’s usually a discount I can apply. It might just save a few dollars but it only takes a minute and it’s free money! This does not work with Amazon, but most other online stores offer coupons.

  42. Alisha says:

    I also meant to include this. Like your #11, I just learned about this the other day. Phantom power! I didn’t realize every day things suck so much power when they’re turned off! Could save a lot of money every year. (It’s a link to a newspaper article) http://www.theprovince.com/technology/real+cost+phantom+power/9702127/story.html

  43. Peg says:

    do most of the 33, its much more rewarding to get a deal,sale,bargain. Love the hunt and usually doesn’t require any extra time of effort.as always great info! ~~~~ thanks

  44. Pam'a says:

    Whenever possible, make gifts. They mean more and cost less.

  45. Alisha says:

    #11 fascinates me! I rent and don’t get a hydro bill but I checked the BC Hydro website and while it’s pretty confusing, they charge $4.76 per kw over 115 kw. I have no idea how many kw I use , but I can imagine that can be an astronomical bill!

    Making my own laundry soap and my own yogurt (thanks to you!) saves me a LOT of money. Laundry soap ends up costing me $.04 a load but store bought can be upwards of $.50 a load! And I could easily spend $30 a week on yogurt but your recipe (made in a crockpot) lasts me 10 days and costs $6. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Also, I tend to buy my gas at the Superstore gas station just so I can get Superbucks and use it towards my groceries right away. No collecting of points to use. It doesn’t save a ton of money but I’m not spending more to get the points.

    My SO is notorious for buying something and not returning it if it’s defective. It makes me so crazy! He doesn’t want the hassle and he doesn’t want to stand his ground if the company puts up a fight. I once returned ‘bacon flavored dental floss’ that I bought as Christmas stocking stuffers because they tasted like … dental floss. They had a picture of bacon on the side and that was the extent of it. $6 for a foot of dental floss. It was worth it in principal alone to take it back.

  46. Maureen says:

    Canadian Tire –
    I clip the multiplier coupons from the weekly flyer and use them for my weekly tank of gas. The Canadian Tire money adds up quickly and I use it to purchase toilet paper, paper towels and laundry soap whenever these items go on sale.

    • Lynne says:

      I’ve been doing that for several years now. I fill up once a week and never bother to look around for who’s got the best price for gas because it doesn’t matter. The coupons amount to 3 or 4 cents a litre off the price of gas – and you find out what a difference that actually is when you total up your coupons to buy something. I’ve got a big gas tank and long daily commute – so I never get less than $1.50 in coupons for any given week – and when you get the big multipliers it can get up to $2.50 or more.

      I also have had a President’s Choice bank account since they first opened the kiosks in the grocery stores. I got so sick of paying the debit fees at my previous bank and even with a package that gave me a number of free transactions a month (which I had to pay for) I ALWAYS went over it. I’ve saved a bundle just in debit fees alone – couple that with the PC points you get for using your debit and credit card and well – I’ve got over $200 worth right now and I need a new barbecue this year.

      It’s a toss up as to whether I get it at Loblaws or Crappy Tire. LOL. Depends on who’s got the best deal on a small one.

  47. Lindsey R says:

    I sound like an ad, but I do use them all the time.

  48. Lindsey R says:

    Check out shopathome.com and ebates.com. Get cash back on internet buys you were making anyway. I just got a check for $82 for clicking through these sites to buy a computer I had to buy for work.

    • Kitten Caboodle says:

      Ebates is awesome. Many reward credit cards have similar programs (e.g., Citi, Bank of America) for online retailers. You’ll have to choose one or the other since you need to access the store’s site through their own site in order to get the cash back. But always check because there can be a large difference between the % of cash back on offer. Ebates tends to have the edge by also showing you any sale promo codes you can use in addition to getting cash back.

      • Candice Stansell says:

        Yes I love Ebates!!! I especially love that I can use it on Groupons, LivingSocial, and Turbo tax!!!

  49. Muff says:

    Great ideas Karen – many of them ones I already use. One caveat though – be careful on the generic versus brand name drug thing – the drug ingredient may be the same in both, but the bioavailability of the drug can be adversely affected by the compound of non-medicinal elements, or by the form of the drug (how the pills were made etc.). We have personal experience with generic anti-depressants that don’t work the same way as the name brand (as well as a few other things.) The initial cost savings are often huge, but start small – get a two or three week supply of whatever it is and make sure that you get the same effect from the generic before you buy three months worth of something that doesn’t do the trick and have to shell out for the real thing as well as the ‘cheaper’ version. The lost wages alone could well make the difference on that one.

  50. becky says:

    Are we allowed to add to your list? Don’t ever buy things with a credit card. Not only are you paying interest but you spend 18%more when using plastic.

    • Karen says:

      I actually think credit cards can be a great tool provided you a) you’re gaining points for something from it and b) you pay it off in FULL each month. Why is it you say you pay 18% more by using a credit card (other than the interest)? I’m curious. ~ karen!

        • Karen says:

          Oh, I see. It’s just the general principal that if you aren’t paying cash for something (whether by debit or credit card) you’re likely to buy more because you don’t have a limited amount of resources in your pocket. It makes you more conscious of what you’re spending. ~ karen

        • Kim says:

          I like to use my credit card to avoid the stupid crazy bank fees for withdrawals and Interac usage. I have my credit card set up to be paid in full automatically each month. I avoid late payment penalties and interest this way and I only have one bank account withdrawal fee. However, I do concede that it is easier to spend money when it doesn’t have to be physically in one’s hot little hand before handing it over. The automatic pay-in-full setting helps with that. Rejecting the sneaky, automatic limit increases helps too.

        • ally says:

          That’s another thing to get fixed though – if you’re being charged by your bank for every transaction, ask them about a different account type that suits your purposes. There might be a better fit.
          Oh and Karen, that programmable thermostat should be programmed to drop for the daytime too, for those that work outside the home.

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