“A penny saved is a penny earned” is a phrase with a well-known origin – it comes from Benjamin Franklin’s book, Poor Richard’s Almanac. Like many of the expressions in the book, it is something that many of us continue to say to this day. It teaches us that it’s just as useful to save money you have already earned as it is to earn more. The question is, how diligent are we in applying this expression in our daily lives? We all wish that we made more money, so why not feel like you have more without needing to earn it! What I’d like to talk about today are some simple things you can do everyday to save without having to sacrifice a whole bunch.
1. Search for coupons online
While couponing is commonplace at physical stores, we don’t always look online for them. You would be amazed at how many different coupons are available, especially if you are a first-time customer for a site. Let’s say you’re buying a pair of jeans on Banana Republic, or ordering food delivery from Doordash. A simple Google search could save you a lot of money. Even better, you can download automatic plugins that will automatically search the internet for you. One of my favorite ones is https://www.joinhoney.com/ . It integrates directly in to your Chrome web browser making it simple to find deals.
2. Negotiate the Price
In todays society, many of us accept the sticker price and don’t do a great deal of negotiating. While we understand we should do it for big purchases like a car or a house, we often neglect negotiating on monthly and daily transactions. I like to think that everything is negotiable. While you probably won’t convince McDonalds to give you 50% off your McChicken, there are instances where you can and should negotiate. Here are a couple examples:
- Monthly subscriptions: cable companies and satellite radio companies often have great introductory prices, but then slowly raise the price on you. When you call back to negotiate the price down, they say they can’t do it. Don’t listen to them. While it might take some time, if you threaten to leave their service for another company and ask to speak to a supervisor, you can often negotiate a pretty significant discount.
- Home services: most yard, cleaning or other home services companies will often provide some sort of discount if you ask. They key is that you’ve done your research and have a general idea of how much that service should cost.
3. Do it yourself
What I mean withthis one is that if there is a good or service you’re looking at paying for,see if you can do it yourself first. This could be something as little asbringing your lunch to work to something as big as fixing some drywall oranother repair on your home. You’d be surprised how many little things thereare out there that you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost. Of course,you’ll need to weigh the importance of your time: if you have a new baby athome, you probably want to be spending time with him or her instead of doingthe yardwork.
4. Search for used items
The internet hasmade it so much easier to buy and sell secondhand goods. While you probablywouldn’t want to buy a used mattress online, there are many areas where itmakes a lot of sense! For example, my wife loves to buy nice clothing for ourson Jack. Since Jack is three years old, he often spills whatever he is eatingon his clothes. This is not a great situation if he is wearing a nice RalphLauren shirt. So my wife, instead of going to the store and paying full retail,searches for those same shirts online, only slightly used. At the end of theday, she’s able to get almost the exact same quality shirt at a fraction of theprice. It’s a win for everyone!
5. Don’t spend the money
My last example mayseem obvious, but it’s an important one. I think we often find ourselves insituations where we think we need to buy something when that may not be thecase. Smartphones and Amazon have made it so easy to shop from anywhere, andmarketers are constantly bombarding us with personalized advertisements. It’sso easy to click the “Buy It Now” button, and before we know it, we havepackages arriving on our doorstep everyday. It never hurts to stop and askyourself if you really need that extra trinket. It may seem necessary at thetime, but looking back from the future, there are a few purchases we all knowwe didn’t need to make.
While this wasn’t designed to be an entirely exhaustive list, hopefully it got you thinking of some ways that you could be a little more diligent in saving a little here and a little there. It’s not easy, and it’s one of the reasons Ben Franklin’s expression has been around for some time. As with many of the things that Eric and I talk about, little things can add up. Why not make it feel like your making more money without having to go and get a higher paying job!
Patrick’s emphasis of Franklin’s phrase is an important one – especially in today’s society where people looking to save money are swimming upstream against the current of personalized advertisements, marketing algorithms, and recommended add-ons designed to increase the size of your shopping basket. Finding ways to disarm these marketing weapons will pay dividends for you over the long-term.
However, the same technology used to sell you things can be used to help save you money. To Patrick’s points, websites and apps aimed at saving you money are always popping up, and while each is slightly unique, they are all centered around the concept of “a penny saved”.
RetailMeNot.com will help you find deals and promocodes for websites. Sometimes a 30 second search can get you free shipping or 10% off of your order. Regardless of what you’re buying, 30 seconds for any amount of savings is a great return.
Groupon and Living Social have an army of sales reps working to bring new discounted offerings directly to you. If you’re planning a social outing, looking to book a massage, or even ordinary things like home services can be found on this site at handsome discounts.
Open Table will reward you with points for booking reservations and eating at restaurants. While eating meals out will end up costing you more money – if you simply book reservations for meals you would have eaten out anyway, you can earn things like cash back or free appetizers after a certain number of reservations.
Acorns will round up each credit/debit card transaction to the next dollar and put the difference into a savings account, thus automating your savings on purchases that you would have made any way.
Like Patrick, these are simply examples and not intended to be an exhaustive list. It was literally last night that I searched Groupon for deals on an oil change for my car. In addition to reviewing Groupon’s offerings, I went directly to a few companies’ websites to print coupons for use. I’m yet to decide which deal I’ll actually use for my upcoming oil change – but rest assured, I’ll be saving somewhere between $10 and 15% for 5 minutes of my time and a single piece of printer paper.
A penny saved certainly is a penny earned. And in many of the examples above, we’re talking about significantly more than a few pennies. Find a way to work some of these tips into your every day shopping habits, and you may find yourself saving $50 per month for a minimal time investment. $600 per year in savings (or earnings, to be true to Franklin’s expression), isn’t bad for the limited amount of time required in the world of digital savings offerings available to us.