One of the toughest parts of getting out of debt is finding extra ways to save when you’ve already cut your spending to the bare minimum.
It may seem like there’s no other option apart from exploring ways to earn more money, but there is something you can do.
You can save when you spend.
It may seem counterintuitive to think of spending when you’re looking for ways to save, but by optimizing your spending you can reduce the total outflows so you have more left over.
Probably the most obvious way to save when you spend is to use coupons. I’m not an expert couponer, but I do make sure to join the reward programs for the stores I shop, especially for groceries. Just by being a member you can get advertised discounts without clipping anything. But if you do a little research you may find greater savings without much more effort. My grocery store has a mobile app that allows me to quickly and easily load coupons straight to my card.
Add to this the targeted coupons they mail to my house and my bill always drops by a good chunk after the cashier hits the total button.
Look for Sales
In addition to using coupons, don’t forget to check for sales. The app Flipp puts all your local store fliers right on your phone so you can quickly see which stores are having sales and on what.
It’s a great tool for researching local deals. My favorite feature is the ability to search. Have bacon on your grocery list? Pull up Flipp, do a quick search for bacon and see which stores are having a sale nearby. Awesome!
Discount Gift Cards
Another great way to save when you need to spend is to use discounted gift cards. When you know you’re going to be shopping at a particular store, stock up on discounted gift cards ahead of time to have a bit of a built-in discount. There are a few ways you can find discounted gift cards. First, membership clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club often sell them. Second, check your grocery store’s app for any discounts or other benefits (like fuel points) they might offer. Third, if you have a Target Red Card you can get the 5% discount on gift cards purchases. Fourth, PayPal often runs sales on their gift cards purchased through their eBay store. Finally, you can use sites like Raise.com and GiftCardGranny.com to buy directly. There are several discount gift card websites so just make sure you check their policies and guarantees to make sure you don’t get ripped off.
Cashback/Reward Credit Cards
It may not feel like saving in the traditional sense, but using credit cards with reward points can add up to future savings, especially with cash back cards.
Our Citi Double Cashback card provides 2% cashback on every purchase. Discover offers 5% in certain categories that change quarterly and our Amex Blue gives 5% on groceries and 3% on gas. You’re basically earning money when you spend on cashback cards. I usually cash out my points for statement credit but some cards offer the option to redeem points for gift cards. You may also have access to shopping portals via your credit card’s website. You can often get extra discounts by shopping through these portals. Also, check your account homepage for cashback offers with purchase (for example, $5 off a $20 purchase at select vendors).
Buy Online to Save Even More
Buying online offers even more opportunity to save when you spend. Not only can you combine all of the methods above, but you can also use rebate sites, browser extensions, and price trackers to lower costs even more.
Rebate sites are a great way to save effortlessly when shopping online. There are several programs you can use such as Ebates, Upromise, and Swagbucks. The amount of shopping and how much your spending (as well as how you’d like to receive your savings) will determine which service you want to use and whether it’s worth your time to sign up for multiple ones. Ebates is the one I use the most for simplicity sake, but their rebate percentages are not always the best. You can use this Chrome browser extension if you want to see how different rebate sites compare while you’re shopping. Each rebate site should also have their own browser extension to help you remember to “click through” their site to get your rewards.
Browser Extensions for Coupon Codes
Speaking of browser extensions, apart from using them for rebate sites, you can use them to automatically find and apply coupon codes. I used to look for coupon codes by searching Google “store name + coupon code” and then painstakingly try each code out to see if any worked (frustratingly, most didn’t). But now there are extensions that do the work for you with a simple click of a button.
I’ve been using both the Honey extension and the Piggy extension to try to find deals. Both have libraries of discount codes they test and apply to your cart to get you the best deal all with a click of a button.
Another great tool if you’re shopping for something specific is to use a price tracker. Sites like CamelCamelCamel and Keepa have years worth of pricing data for Amazon products. You can search for your desired product and see how the price has changed over time. With a little analysis of their charts, you can get an idea of when the item tends to go on sale and evaluate if the discount is worth the wait. To ensure you don’t wait in vain, these sites offer pricing alerts that can email or message you when the item you’re tracking has dropped to your target price. While these sites are specific to Amazon pricing, many times the price changes coincide with other large stores’ discounts or might be useful in price matching if you prefer to buy in a store.
Savings After You’ve Spent
One final tip is on how to easily save money even after you’ve spent it. Paribus and Earny are a couple different services that will monitor your email for purchase receipts and track the prices looking for future drops. When they discover price drops they’ll automatically appeal to the vendor or your credit card for a refund of the difference. The Walmart app also has a savings catcher feature that will automatically track your Walmart purchases (you’ll need to scan your receipts in) and refund you for any price drops within a certain timeframe.
Time to Take Action
Cutting your spending is probably the easiest way to save money, but when you have to spend, you might as well spend as little as possible. Using the strategies above you should be able to realize some extra savings that help you hit your financial goals without compromising your values.