Unusual Ways to Save Money

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Portland Author, Rick Emerson, always makes us laugh while sharing helpful tips at the same time!

Life Hacks: “Five Unusual Ways to Save Money”

1) Use the Power of Shame

Have you ever gone to buy a pack of Tic-Tacs…and at the register, you pull out, like, a fifty-dollar bill? The guy behind the counter gives you a look which says, “Seriously? For Tic-Tacs? Why are you doing this to me?”

You immediately have to choose: make him break a fifty (which is bad), use your credit card to buy Tic-Tacs (which is almost as bad), or say “hold on”…and then go check your car’s ashtray for change. If you’re like me, you usually go for option number four: deciding I can live without spearmint breath for a little while.

Studies show that paying cash (instead of plastic) reduces your purchases…and that the larger the bill, the less likely you are to break it.

If you make a lot of impulse buys, try carrying a fifty (or, even better, a hundred) instead of smaller bills. That way, if you really cash, you’ve got it, but you’re less likely to spend it on things you don’t need. (As a bonus, you can do a little Goodfellas role-playing in your head every time you have to get out your library card or whatever: “Hmm…maybe it’s behind this c-note I carry around casually.”)

2) The End of the Month is Your Friend

Certain job categories have a bad connotation…even when we know it’s unfair. Calling someone “a politician”, for example, is right up there with insulting their mother. Same thing with “salesperson”: you immediately picture a bad sport coat and a five-dollar toupee.

But here’s the thing: salespeople need you more than you need them. Increasingly, we have the option of buying things online, or from a private seller…anything to avoid dealing with salespeople. That means their quotas are always on thin ice…and most companies still judge quotas on a monthly basis.

The upshot is this: the closer you get to month’s end, the more likely you are to get a good deal on cars, electronics, travel…anything with haggle room. This is especially true if you don’t need to buy right away. Nothing is more powerful than saying “well…I’ll think it over”, and getting ready to leave. (That’s when the salesperson thinks those two magic words “Oh no.”)

3) Put Your Paranoia to Work

We all know someone who won’t use the internet, or buy an Echo, or who keeps his money in a cigar box under the septic tank. (Or maybe that’s just my family.) The reason is always the same: “They watch everything you do, man..they’re everywhere. They’re probably listening to us right now.”

Let’s be clear: that guy is probably crazy…but he’s not always wrong.

When you shop online (or even just browse online), those sites share information with each other. Online stores know a lot about you…way more than you think. Depending on the site, they might know your purchase history, when you take vacations, the size of your family, if you got a raise, or what kind of computer you’re on. And….they may change their prices accordingly.

Amazon, for example, sometimes charges Apple users more (for the same items) than they charge Android or Microsoft users. Airline sites are probably the worst about this, because they use your browser history and computer cache to figure out how much they can possibly charge you: if they think the trip is something you can’t postpone, they’ll raise their prices.

You can mitigate this this: clear your browser cache and delete your cookies before making big purchases online. If possible, shop as a “guest” instead of creating an account. (Or maybe just do your shopping on a Commodore 64.)

4) Membership Meds…without the Membership

When I was a kid, warehouse stores seemed like a glorious wonderland. “10,000 cocktail straws. This is the best place ever!” What made the whole thing even more magical was the membership requirement. You had to have a fancy card to shop there, which automatically made it desirable. And, sure enough, warehouse stores are a lot more affordable when it comes to some things, including prescription drugs.

But here’s a secret: anyone can shop at a warehouse-store pharmacy, with or without a membership.

America has (to put it mildly) some complicated ideas about health care, but one thing is very simple: the “F” in “FDA” stands for “federal”. Access to prescription drugs is regulated by the federal government, and their rules are clear: warehouse stores cannot require membership as a condition for purchasing prescription meds. If the drug is legal, and if you have a prescription for it, the warehouse pharmacy has to serve you, even if you’re not a member.

5) Behold the Magic of Garamond

True story: while I was putting together this segment, my printer ink started to go out…which always happens at the worst possible time. (It’s never just as the last page comes out…it’s always on page 2 of a crucial, 90-page report that’s already overdue.)

Even worse, it was late at night, which means waiting until morning (and taking out a small loan to buy ink at the store) or ordering online (and waiting two days for delivery).

But when it comes to printer ink, there are two secrets to saving time, money, and sanity:

• If you have a color printer and the black ink goes out, switch to dark blue; it looks almost the same, and will usually last another day or two.

• If your ink is nearly out, switch your font to “Garamond”. It looks a little like Times Roman and takes less ink to print. (And yes, I realize that saying this officially makes me the dorkiest person in the western hemisphere. I’m zen with that.)