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.

166 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Just a heads up, I work in pharmacy and every store, at least in my region, will automatically give you the generic unless your Dr or insurance request the brand. That said, drug prices are very weird and sometimes random (ex: fluoxetine tablets are way more expensive than fluoxetine capsules). If you’re having trouble affording something, ask your pharmacist for advice! They’re more likely to know tricks than your primary care Dr, like if one medication doesn’t have a generic on the market yet, but a different med in the same class does. Also, even if you have insurance it isn’t necessarily cheapest! Some common meds are dirt cheap, so check goodrx or a similar site, especially if you’ve got a high deductible you don’t think you’ll meet.

  2. Benjamin Hepple says:

    Oh honey… there are other reasons why men buy cream for their joystick & nuggets. TMI

    Your frugal list is perfect !! I love that you do all of them, and show the rest of us how to do all of them, too.

    You’re amazing !! 💦

  3. Lindy Williams says:

    Thanks for the great saving ideas! I got cleaned out by a bad business partner several years ago, and it took me over a year before I could find new business get back on my feet. Broke and in debt, I became a big fan of thrift stores, and Value Village in particular. In addition to the other ideas people have mentioned:

    1. My bread maker broke, and I discovered VV often has them (along with many other small appliances). I got a new one for $12.99 and figured it would be buyer beware. Not so! VV allows you to try appliances out at home and will give you a full refund if they don’t work properly. That $12.99 bread maker lasted several years and made hundreds of loaves of bread.
    2. Find a VV or thrift shop in a neighborhood where many Indian and Pakistani families live, and you will likely find a mother lode of saris. A sari is nine yards of fabric, usually in brilliant colors, often made of silk or other lovely fabrics. Even if you don’t want to re-purpose saris to make clothes, you can throw a hem on them and make gorgeous curtains, or whip up gorgeous scarves and cushion covers for gifts with simple straight sewing techniques.
    3. I paint landscapes as a hobby, and to enter my work in shows or sell them at fairs, they have to be framed. Commercial framing is hugely expensive. I buy thrift store frames, get rid of the trashy art, and touch up any nicks with my own paint, mixed to match the original, or I just spray the whole frame.
    4. Value Village has a Seniors Day, which gives a 20% discount. As well, if you donate items to the store, you receive a coupon., usually for 20%. You can use coupons on Seniors Day, in combination, for a 40% discount.
    5. A friend whose family owned a dry cleaners told me you can hand wash almost anything in lieu of dry cleaning. The only thing I ever dry clean is heavy wool coats and my hubby’s jackets and dress pants, nothing else.

    I enjoy your site, Karen!
    Lindy

  4. Sandra Blackwell says:

    Not all Generic drugs are the same. The binders used can make a HUGE difference. I struggled with my generic antidepressant for a long time-every time I filled the prescription it was a different manufacturer, and I bounced all over the place.

  5. Tracy K says:

    Besides complaining, also fell free to COMPLIMENT a company about their product. I did this once asking them if they had their item in bulk because I loved it so much. They were apologetic that they did not, but sent me about $10 in coupons for cereal! It was worth it and since it was an email, didn’t cost me a dime.

    just sayin 😉

  6. Tonya says:

    Ask if they give discounts if you pay in full with cash.

    Also, regarding toilet paper, get a bidet toilet attachment. I have had one for years and only use about a roll of toilet paper per month (guests). I purchased it for $ 30.00 on Amazon, it is currently selling for over $ 40 but when toilet paper was scarce, it went up to over $ 60 and sold out pretty much instantly. Has been a great investment and makes “everything” so much cleaner. I hate using the toilet anywhere except for home now.

  7. Deja View says:

    Man- you should’ve seen my eyes rolling around in my head and foam building at my lips when you wrote “make your own coffee”. I was all “WHAT?!!! you can doooo that?!” Boing!! How could I have possibly missed this magical DIY opp? My mind started going gansta pioneer on the idea when it hit me (like a sad, dumb ton of bricks): oh. Make your own coffee as in- brew it. Not as in, buy a mold with tiny bean shaped holes and somehow create coffee. Thank god. I’m in! Good tip!

  8. Lauren from Winnipeg says:

    #12 – I do this. It really works. At least 50% of the time by the time I get to the checkout the item has lost enough appeal for me to question why I want it.

    #31 – This one made me laugh 😂😂. While I totally agree with the concept, I’m seeing you drink months of Diet Pepsi that you don’t like the taste of. Like the restaurant that’s says “Sorry we burnt your fries but we gave you extra to make up for it.”

    These are all great tips. I’m going to make use of more of them. Especially the searching for promo codes.

  9. Vikki says:

    Probably because of my tiny birdlike brain, I bought things because they were pretty/shiny/cute. A trick I find that works for me is to ask myself–where am I going to put this thing or store this thing or have to take care of this thing. Now that I’m out out space, out of energy, and out of ideas, I usually buy nothing.

  10. Bridget says:

    The Honey web extension has saved me $50 easily this year on online purchases. I also use the Ibotta rebate app and have saved over $1500 dollars. 1-5-0-0 yes!

  11. Heather Powell says:

    Love this post! Always been on the poorer side, but as a family we like to make being poor look good! I’ve always been very thrifty. Learned that from my grandfather.
    Anyway, if you wear prescription glasses check out zennie! Went to the eye doctor for my husband, they wanted over$300 for one pair of glasses and he has insurance! He was upset and left. I called and got his prescription and ordered online. We also found a promo code for20% off on honey! Ended up getting 4 pairs of prescription glasses for $31 and change!!!! The glasses started at $7! And my husband looks like a movie star in them! Well I hope this tip helps others. I found you last summer googling about powdery mildew on my zucchini! You had me at “do you like to swear and do stuff?” You are awesome! Also where does one find royal fascinators for squirrels? I have a little red squirrel friend I call long tail who would look absolutely fabulous in this while snacking on the treats I give her! Thanks again for this post!
    Heather

    • whitequeen96 says:

      Zenni is the BEST for prescription glasses. No one will believe me when I tell them I have 6 pairs for about $100. I have duplicate pairs of bifocals, which I wear the most, and I often get compliments on them. I have 3 pairs of long distance glasses; a $7 pair for watching TV across the room, and 2 pairs for driving, sunglasses for day and regular for night. I have a pair for doing close work, like beading or embroidery. Just be sure to ask your eye doctor for the measurement between your pupils, or have someone measure it for you.
      I’ve tried graduated lenses and couldn’t handle them, so zenni is the only place for my glasses. I don’t know why anyone would pay full price!

  12. Erica says:

    Hello,

    I’m intrigued by your “Make your own coffee” advice. I’ve searched your website but I cannot find a post on the topic. Can you advise, please? We don’t have the climate to grow coffee where I live. Thanks!!

  13. Garth Wunsch says:

    Great article!
    I just got $7 in coupons back from Agropur/Sealtest. Whipping cream I bought was “thin”. They were very nice to deal with.

    Obeying rules of the road avoids more than tickets… slowing down to at least the posted speed limit and avoiding hard acceleration and braking will save you at least 15 -20% on fuel and repairs. Watch the traffic lights and brake lights wayyyy ahead to avoid hard braking. An Interesting thing is that you get where you’re going in about the same length of time. On four lane road I travel regularly I travel 10 km below limit. Save a ton of money, and still get there, and more safely too. Someone with “money to burn” wants to pass – go for it!

    And one other BIG saving we often don’t think about… all spending is in “after tax” dollars.

    And use a budget app like YNAB -You Need a Budget. Yo’ll save a whole bank account full of cash!

  14. Maria says:

    I like this list. I do some of these things too.

    Paying for shipping is a thing of the past and I don’t do that. It saves money.

    One thing I do is if it’s something I’m going to buy anyway, I go to swagbucks and buy a gift card. This earns me swagbucks points which I can save up and redeem for amazon gift cards. I use a credit card to pay for the gift card that gives me points on the amazon website. This takes about ten extra minutes to do this. They don’t have gift cards for all the stores but if they do, I use it. They sell a Lowes gift card which is the hardware store up the street from my house. It’s a built in sale price. I use a coupon if I have it. Another thing I do is I pay all the monthly bills I can with this same credit card and I usually get between $75 and $100 credit a month to spend on Amazon on anything I want. I buy food, and appliances and anything on Amazon and I get free shipping bc I’m a prime member. Finally, I pay the credit card in full every single month. No interest taking money out of my pocket. If you saw a dollar laying in the street wouldn’t you pick it up? I pick up pennies and save that money

  15. Great tips Karen. I find that keeping a spending log for our household makes it much easier to see where we’re spending and make adjustments. Before that we were just guessing where the money went.
    Right now we’re trying to lower the electricity bill. So I recently added a timer switch to the hot water tank so it turns off overnight. Switch was $74 at home depot and I installed it myself. Payback should be less than a year.
    Also I took out my PC Optimum points as cash back for 4 years, deposited them faithfully into my brokerage account (which helped save me the brokerage account maintenance fee) watched the money grow and then bought my (new to me) car. So I bought a car with PC points!
    Getting creative can indeed save thousands.
    Thanks for the tips and congratulations on the increased readership. You’re so much fun I bet they stick around.

  16. Susan Mercurio says:

    #6: Grow your own vegetables: *Especially* grow the vegetables that are most expensive in the stores. I’m talking about leeks (I love a good cock’a-leekie soup!), kohlrabi, and shallots.
    I live in an apartment and I grow them in pots.

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