The Best Way to Save Money

Clipping coupons is great, but not if you spend 2 hours clipping and sorting to save $5 on items your family doesn’t like to eat.

Purchasing that cute shirt at a discount seems rational, until you get it home and realize it doesn’t fit… and then you never bother to return it.

Dining out with a free meal deal is fabulous, unless you have to spend outside your budget for the rest of the meals to get one “free.”

It’s smart to build a stockpile with items that have been purchased for a few cents, unless you’ve purchased so many that you end up throwing them out.

Snagging that free RedBox code makes for a frugal at-home date night, but not if you forget to return the movie… for a week.

Slashing your cable bill from $63/month to $28/month is money-savvy thinking, until you realize the two shows you keep the cable for can be watched online… for free.

That $10 off $20 product Groupon sounds like a great deal, except that you have to spend $50 to use it.

It’s easy to get so lost in the myriad sales and deals and offers that can’t be beat but you need to order right this very minute, that we lose sight of the greater picture.

Before spending money, even a little bit of money, ask yourself… will I wear it?  Use it?  Like it?  Do I need it?

Can I do without it?  Make it myself?  Use something I already have?  Is this cost better spent elsewhere in my budget?  Is there a better way?

Often, the very best way to save money is to not spend it in the first place.




  1. Amen, Amy. (And I realized, during a recent and rare visit to the “big mall”, that I save a lot of money by not going there… it wasn’t until I was surrounded by the glitz and glamour that I even REALIZED what I “don’t have.”
    That right there is a sign that I don’t need it. ;))

  2. Great post! You said it very well, we often think we need it because it is a great price, but many times even a great price is not great if we don’t need or won’t use it. It is so easy to go after a great price without thinking about the whole picture.

    • I’ve bought a few too many things because of that great price, for them to just end up in my next GoodWill or garage sale box. Whoops!

  3. So true Amy, so true. I’ve been guilty of a few of these mistakes and now have your stance on saving money. I don’t clip every coupon, just those that I know we’ll use (not too many honestly). We shop for things only when we need them. Though we do often miss out on some great sales, we wind up saving money anyway.

    I have to say though, passing up Kohls’ 50% off sale (today only of course) with my $10 Kohls cash and extra 30% off coupon will be tough. I’m going to shop online first, see if anything is worth buying for under my budget, then *maybe* head to the store.

    • Oh, golly. That sounds like a great deal to me, too! I’m most certainly NOT an “all or nothing” girl with any of my money-saving strategies. 😉 (I say go to Kohls’ if it’s not too far out of your way and you can snag something cheap that you need anyway!)

  4. I remember coming home once after buying some school clothes for my boys and telling my husband “I saved $115!!!”. He jokingly asked “How much did you have to spend to save that?”. Very true. In the end the only thing that affects my checkbook is what I spent, not what I saved. If it’s something I need, that’s one thing. If it’s not…that’s a whole other.

    • Ah, yes. And it makes me so stinkin’ cranky when stores mark UP prices, just so they can put them on “sale” and make us all think we’re getting a deal. Grrrr

      • What’s worse is that SO many people fall for it. My mom use to work at a jewelry store and she could not convince people that her jewelry was the same quality (if not better) than the big name store across the street who marked theirs up, slapped on a sale, and was still hundreds more than hers. How frustrating! I still admire her boss for not following the trends. He priced it at what it was worth plus a little profit for the store and he wouldn’t pretend it was worth a ton more.

        • So many stores are doing the mark up strategy, then having sales ALL THE TIME. Kohl’s and JC Penney both do it. NOTHING is a good deal at Kohl’s or Penney’s unless it is at least 50% off and then you still have to be careful. Hobby Lobby is another store here that is always selling things for 50% off. Why can’t they just lower the price? I have stopped shopping those places as much unless I am looking at their 80% off items. Don’t check your brain at the door when you go shopping! 🙂

          • See I find shopping at Kohls usually my best place. Maybe it is just the Kohls by me. But I ALWAYS find my clothes, my kids clothes and almost always there shoes for a great price. I just went to Kohls last week, and got ALL 5 of my kids shoes, they all got a few misc. clothing items they will need for spring, three shirts for me, ( I just lost 100lbs). 2 new pairs of pants for me and spent $72. I find shoes all of the time there for $3 a pair or around there. My jeans were only $4 a pair. I am constantly getting coupons for Kohls as well. You just have to have the time to shop through the clearance racks and the shoes, because most of the time they are mixed in well, and sometimes the shoes arent even marked as clearance on the box and end up being a lot less.

        • Yes! Quality often gets overlooked for % off.

  5. Nice article! Its the spending that matters and it usually comes in the garb of Savings. No wonder stores advertise ‘Let the savings begin!’, tricking customers to think that they are saving money when they are actually spending.

  6. Heidi Meier says:

    Other than What are some of the other websites you can watch shows on?

  7. Just like what Marlena said “…the only thing that affects my checkbook is what I spent, not what I saved.”

    I’ve gone from “must have all the deals” to avoiding shopping for weeks. I’ve saved so much money from not shopping at all, those fillers and impulse buys add up!

    • I have to drive at least 16 miles to shop anywhere. By NOT shopping, I save at lease $7 in gas money. 🙂

      • came here through money saving mom…good thoughts, thanks. thanks for the reminder to factor gas into shopping / saving. we live 23 miles from anywhere at all interesting to shop and i guess that trip costs me $7 (two gallons). i try to overlook that, but shouldn’t.

  8. flutemom says:

    i don’t remember where i first heard this, but i keep passing it on anyway…. elephants at two for a quarter are only a bargain if you have a quarter and need two elephants!
    i save money best by not even going to the stores. at the beginning of the week i go through the ads and write down what i might need to get for that week. sometimes i don’t make it to the store and so at the end of the week, i just tell myself “look how much money you saved!”

  9. What a great article! I think that so many times we get caught in the “it was on sale” mind set. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. My thoughts exactly! 🙂

  11. I grudgingly skipped Free Kids Meal at Chili’s day yesterday because we’d have spent over budget for eating out. It was really hard because it would have been nice to have a restaurant meal without spending an extra 10 bucks for two mac and cheese plates. Plus, I tried a new recipe for fried rice instead, and it came out gross! I was really wishing for Chili’s! But I am not usually good at self discipline, so I ate the yucky rice and tried to be glad.

  12. So true! Last year I worked for a large dept. store which shall remain unnamed and here’s one thing that drove me crazy: At the bottom of the receipts, a total amount of savings would print. We were supposed to circle that number and point it out to the customer.

    But here’s the catch – that savings was calculated based on the retail price of items — which is usually a crazy-high price. To me, it’s not savings if I had to spend a bunch to get that savings!

    And besides that, if I purchased a sweater for 1.00 (yes, I actually have!) and I “saved” like 49.00 (or something crazy like that), was that sweater actually WORTH $50 at some point? I don’t think so!

    Great article!

  13. Amy – this is the first visit to your website/posting and I totally agree with you. 🙂

    Everyone must understand there is a tactical philosophy on how to effectively and efficiently use coupons, get great deals, etc. and to look beyond the surface and instead, look at the overall whole picture.

    This has been engrained in me and implemented since I was a pre-teen (which was many years ago) and I have been teaching it to my own kiddos as well as to my Financial Peace University students.

    Have a great day! :0

  14. Great wake up call. I have been a “victum” to these marketing strategies and it is very easy to fall prey to them!

  15. A friend of mine was talking to another couponer, and the super shopper couponer told her that “you really have to look at how much I’ve saved, now how much I’ve spent.” I was shocked! My savings are not as impressive as most other super savers out there, but there’s just so much we don’t need, and it’s easier to go without than to spend way too much time hunting down one more deal! I love this!!!

  16. So simple, yet so profound! I always try to stress this with my readers but you did it so succinctly. Love it!

  17. Wow! This was a great reminder! I passed up going to CVS last night to use a coupon on something that I really did not need even if it was going to be a $6 money maker. I figured by the time I drove there and back I would have wasted a gallon of gas which is now $3.60 in our area. My new goal on anything is to do ALL of my errands in one day so I am not breaking even.

  18. Very nice! I have to constantly make sure I am not getting sucked in! If I do go out, with a coupon, I tell myself ahead of time what I can spend and then before I get in line to buy it, I try to imagine how I will feel after I get it home and it’s been there a few days, many times I think I will feel guilty, so that stops me sometimes!

  19. thanks for sharing it really help. i need some advice/tips on cable tv, phone & internet, because right now we are paying almost $200 dollar for this bundle, since our account for this provider is near to expire, im thinking to change to different provider that will offer the best cost-saving offer. if you know some provider that offer less, can you suggest which? thanks..

    • We were paying $160/month on our land line, cable, and Internet bundle. We dropped the land line (we already had low-cost cell plans b/c we don’t use the phone much) and cable, and brought our bill down to around $40. We hooked up a computer to our TV and watch shows on individual stations’ websites, Hulu, and Netflicks. I don’t even miss cable, and I was raised with TV as the background to my life! Not only did dropping cable save money, but it made me more deliberate in what I do watch.

    • Actually, we don’t have cable at all and just have pre-paid cell phones. We renew the phones for $100 each per year. We do keep and use our land line all the time (for safety and because cell service isn’t all that great around here). For phone, internet and cell phones, we pay about $100 per month total.

  20. Saw your post on moneysavingmom. It reminds me of the quote, “You can go broke buying bargains.” (I think it may have been Dave Ramsey that said this.) I am a sucker for bargains, but I have learned that not only can it hurt your finances, but it can also steal your focus from where it should be to constantly look for bargains. One of my biggest weaknesses has been clothes for my children, but I am discovering it makes life a lot more complicated if the drawers and closets are overflowing, not to mention having to deal with that many clothes when they outgrow them.

  21. Kelly Logan says:

    I just totally fell for this one this week. I went to Khols b/c I had a 30% off coupon and then they had a promotion for $10 Khols cash if you spend $50, and so I did spend it on stuff I didn’t even need!!! and now I have to go back and use my Khols cash!!

    • Kelly – no you don’t “have to go back and use my Kohls cash!” I fell for this last time they offered it. I went back and returned the things I didn’t really need. The cashier told me it would de-activate my Kohls cash, which I hated. But in the end, I went home with $20 more in my pocket than I went in with. That was a GREAT feeling!

  22. I am reminded of a time when my father was at Kmart. There was a clearance table with super cheap items. An elderly lady looking through the loot picked up an item and said, “I have NO IDEA what this is, but it’s so cheap I’ll buy two!” My dad was floored. He could not imagine buying an item that not only did he not need but had no idea what it was! Not a bargain, to be sure.

    If something is on sale for x% off, I remind myself that I can save 100% if I don’t buy it! Especially if I 1) don’t need it 2) can’t use it and/or 3) can’t afford it, even at the discounted price!

  23. Christine says:

    My husband agrees with you. He’s been telling me this for years…The best way to save money is not spend it! LOL

  24. Great GREAT points you bring up…All those couponing-freebie women need to read this. Sadly many of them have turned “saving” into an OBSESSION: I saw on TV a woman who coupons her way into many freebies everyday, and ends up hoarding everything in the garage. Can’t even consume all those things in a month.

    This freebie and coupon-ing attitude very easily converts to shopaholicism–even if you are using savings is still a VICE and a problem comparable to chronic gambling.

  25. Good post. Reminds me of a history lesson, teaching about the change in everyone’s expectations when the “Sears Catalog” was created. Create the expectation that you can’t live without it, you must have it, and the marketers have done their job. We have to have more self-control and be intentional about how to spend money. Asking “do I like this?” and “do I need this” are simple ways to start realizing we can do without everything that’s out there… and be better for it!

  26. My sister and I for several months had “no spend” weeks. We would have to go the whole week without spending any $$. That included getting gas, grabbing that gallon of milk on the way home, or “Oops! I forgot to pack a lunch today!” It required us to think ahead and we really did save quite a bit. I was amazed at how many times I spent $$ in the name of convenience.

  27. This is so true. Most deals are more like smoke and mirrors to get you to jump. You must ‘proceed with caution’ when something seems too good to be true. Great post!

  28. I recently purchased my first gift certificates to thinking I got a GREAT deal – $2 for $25 certificates. SCORE, right? Mmmmm.. not quite so sure. The first place we tried was terrible and we ended up not eating two of the meals and spending $50 anyways on top of the free $25. The second time we only ordered 2 meals (I shared with both of my kids) and we did splurge with 3 desserts. I took my kids to the car while my husband paid and saw the next day we were charged almost $75!! Still can’t figure that one out. So much for the savings!!

  29. So true! I’ve often shared my thought that a good deal on something you don’t need isn’t a good deal after all!

  30. I love walking out of a store empty-handed.

    I tell myself, “You just saved $25!” (or other random amount of $$)

  31. So true. I keep a daily calendar and I keep track of my daily spendings (no matter how small). It is my goal to write $0.00 done everyday that I can.

  32. Thank you! You couldn’t have said it better! Totally true, and I have to remind myself of that stuff all the time!

  33. This is so true! SO true and perfectly written. Going to post a link for others to read this on my blog.

  34. Wanted to tell you I like your site and I needed to read this post today. It’s so true and wise.

  35. Thank you for this post today. I came here from MSM and am so glad I did! I needed to be reminded that it’s OKAY not to hunt down every good deal. I have found that it can become a little bit (or alot) of an obsession if I’m not careful. Someone up there said you save 100% if you don’t buy it. I love that!!! 🙂

    • I think it’s in our competitive nature to “score some deals” and perhaps we feel like we’re missing out if we leave well enough alone. Have to retrain the thinking. 🙂

  36. Wonderful post! Just recently I started throwing away the packet of restaurant coupons that comes to me each week because we won’t go out to eat if there isn’t a deal, and without the coupons, we won’t go out to eat at all! There are VERY few opportunities to go out to eat for less than making an economical meal at home.

  37. Great Point. I needed to hear this today. Can’t wait to share it w my college aged girl who LOVES TO SHOP in any way!!!!!! Thanks.

  38. Great post, Amy. I came here from MSM.

    I’ll add another one to your list which is buying a brand you don’t really like to save money. I’ve done this several times (obviously once wasn’t enough :-)) and every single time I think, yeesh, when are you going to learn it would be better to spend the extra $2 to get what you really want, works and you will use!

    • Ah, yes! I’ve done that! The worst (for me) is dishwasher soap. I now stick to my brands, even if I haven’t planned ahead and they aren’t on sale.

  39. Love this post! So true. I live in a house without a basement. Storage is sparse, so I ask myself, do I really need this? Can I live without it? Usually I walk away; so far I haven’t suffered death from passing up a “good deal”. The nice thing about that is then I have the money to get something that our family really does need, when we need it.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  40. Renee Metzler says:

    I appreciate this post. I have felt this way for a long time and it’s nice to have someone put words to it so eloquently. On my blog and $35 meal plan book, I talk about sticking to your bottom line. We have to have a bottom line budget. Just because it’s cheap or even free doesn’t mean we need it! Love it! Renee

  41. This is something I have definitely struggled with in the past and still do from time to time. Thanks for the reminder to keep me on track!

  42. Love your blog and all the comments, which I found through MSM. How I wish I’d had all this information when I was younger but it’s coming in extremely handy being retired and on fixed income! Only thing I might add that I’ve seen on MSM is that when you have a surplus of things that you’ve gotten as a “good deal” but decide you don’t need/want is to donate those items to a homeless shelter or food bank. For me to go anywhere to shop, it’s 16 miles in two different directions (just for groceries). I absolutely hate having to spend that gas money so will pay the $3+ for a gal of milk at the local convenience store! Wish my daughter felt the same driving 45 to hit Kohls or the mall! Maybe I can get her to read this! LOL! Great post! Keep it up and bless you!

    • I have to drive 16 miles in two different directions, too! Our local convenience store closed recently, so I have to be really careful with my shopping trips. Make do, or do without!

  43. For those of you who asked about how to reduce your cable bills…free TV can be had with a simple antenna on your roof like the ones our parents used to have! We dropped our satellite TV last year around this team (1 year free of TV bills! Yay!) and haven’t missed it for a second. We bought a pretty powerful antenna for 50$ since we live in the ‘burbs away from the broadcasting.

    You’ll spend less time watching random shows, I guarantee, and more time doing other things with your family. 🙂

    • Thanks, LK. We have the antenna, too. I wonder if we need a different one, though, because we just get one main channel and a couple others that we don’t watch. Actually, maybe that is for the best. 😉

  44. melanie keck says:

    My sister has a habit of these kinds of things. She gets a little crazy. My Dad will often comment “there she goes again, going broke saving money”
    I love it and keep it in my head Am I going broke saving money? is this a good choice for me?
    It is true you can get cought up in saving money that ends up costing you more than you save. I am very deliberate about what I spend and how I save money.

    • LOVE your dad’s comment! It has inspired me to unsubscribe to all my store emails with sales advertised…if I didn’t know there was a sale, I wouldn’t have bought a thing! Thank you! You have no idea what a blessing this little comment was!

    • “going broke saving money” Great quote!

  45. The best thing I did when trying to save money was switch to a prepaid cell phone. Instead of spending loads of money on a contract phone, I am paying for the minutes and texts as I use them. TracFone has some great deals for people on a budget and they really accommodate to everyone’s needs!

  46. chrissbozz says:

    i have been mall shopping with my b/f a bit lately…i only shop goodwill for my clothes and have to walk out of the stores when i see $49 for a shirt that i could hunt down in gw for $3….i just can’t justify spending a half of our food budget on 1 shirt!!

  47. Very well put! When I first attempted to fiscally change our lifestyle, I came up with tons of processes and schedules of clipping coupons, searching for deals, shopping at fifteen different stores, and always stressing about missing that “great buy.” I was exhausted, frustrated, and saw very little return for my efforts. That’s when I just decided to live on the bare minimum. I only bought what I absolutely needed. I gave up the coupons and shopped for consistently cheap products. I have slashed our grocery, clothing, and entertainment budgets by almost 75%. Saving money shouldn’t be about playing games, but rather about reassessing your lifestyle. Great post!

  48. So many truths contained in one concise post! Bravo!

  49. This is sound advice, Amy.

    Thanks for saying important things so concisely.

  50. I your writing style truly enjoying this internet site .

  51. The best way I have found to save money is don’t spend it!!!

  52. I have passed on many Groupon deals that require spending a certain amount before the savings is applied. Groupon is supposed to be changing their advertising strategy to a pull instead of push I.e., consumers seek out their website and deals instead of sending emails and pushing marketing on the Consumer. Groupon stock is projected to rise this year, so maybe they will be offering a better product. Love your blog and MSM.

    • I made a HUGE mistake with Groupon once. Grabbed a Groupon for a pair of eyeglasses. $150. That $150 did NOT cover the cost of the glasses!!!!!!!! I had no idea it was for such a “fancy schmancy” eyeglass place. BAD decision.

  53. Thank you Amy!! It keeps me inspired to save money by reading posts like this!! Staying out of stores and not envying other peoples “stuff” has saved me a ton of money!!


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