Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I have a reputation for extreme thriftiness, but since Hansel's expensive accident, I have been making an extra effort to save money, which has of course gotten me thinking about all the ways I conserve my cash on a regular basis. Here are some thrifty tips that I hope you can benefit from too!


The Target Redcard is a credit card that allows me to save 5% on every purchase at Target. I don't know of any other store that offers such a consistent discount on their store card, and since Target usually has the best prices on everything, and I shop there regularly, it is pretty much a no-brainer. Those leery of holding another credit card can also opt for a Target debit card, I'm told. I am also a member of the Cartwheel club, which basically allows me to select coupons for a variety of products, usually the Target store brand, for a trifling discount (usually 5 percent). Plus, I have Target Pharmacy Rewards, which gives you a gift card after 5 prescriptions filled at the pharmacy. These loyalty programs aren't worth much—in the year and a half I've been a member of Cartwheel and Pharmacy Rewards, I've saved about 30 dollars, but every little bit helps!

Discover Card and Bank

All credit cards offer rewards these days, but my favorite is Discover Card, which offers a 1% Cash Back Bonus on every purchase. You can sign up for additional bonuses every quarter (if you remember, which I usually don't). Additionally, I have Discover Bank checking and savings accounts, which offer their own perks. I get a pretty darn good interest rate on the savings account, and a 10¢ Cash Back Bonus on every debit card purchase through the checking account. So I use my Discover debit card to make all my small purchases under 10 dollars. The only downside is that a lot of businesses don't accept Discover, so sometimes I'm stuck using my regular Capital One debit card or cash, which offer no bonuses at all!

Gift cards

 Last year, I learned that you could buy gift cards at several online marketplaces for a discounted price—I always start at Gift Card Granny, which scours all the gift card sites so you can find the best discount. I buy gift cards for all the stores I shop at frequently—Home Depot gift cards at about 8% off (for all my hardware, home improvement, and occasionally artistic needs), Joann Fabrics cards for around 15% off (for the rest of my artistic needs), and various clothing store cards at 10-30% off (for all my fashion needs!) are my favorites. And if I use my Discover card to purchase the gift cards, I get my Cash Back plus the discount on the cards!

Reward Points

In my free time (when I'm too lazy to be artsy or active), I try to fill it with brainless activities that also reap rewards. I'll fill out surveys for any number of companies. If you qualify, you spend a few minutes answering easy questions, and at the end of the survey, you earn points which you can redeem for prizes or cash cards. Sometimes the surveys can be painfully tedious, and it can be very frustrating when you submit a whole series of screeners only to find you don't qualify to complete any of the full surveys. But every once in a while, you'll hit the jackpot and get invited to participate in a product trial (a few months ago, I got 6 free cans of Diet Pepsi to try out and review, and I got compensated for it!). The points don't add up fast (I'd say I earn about a 25 dollar gift card from each company once a year, when I'm participating a few times a week), but it's easy to earn a few pennies instead of loafing around watching TV or playing computer games, so why not? If you're going to get into the survey-taking business, steer clear of the companies that only offer sweepstakes entries as a reward—you want a guaranteed compensation. My favorite is Ipsos i-Say, which usually gives you a few points just for trying, even if you don't qualify for the full survey.


 If you have the time to wait, you can get almost everything you need for free secondhand. My couch (yes, the sagging disaster) was free. My guest bed, comforter, and one of its sheet sets were free. My toolbox (to replace the one I got as a gift at age 16) was free. Two of my nicest coats were free. A significant portion of my clothing was free. My dining table was free. Bike rack—free. Wardrobe—free. Dresser—free! Bookcase, bed, doormat—all free! The list goes on and on. How do I get all these good deals? Mostly from Freecycle, a network of local people who give away the old things they don't want any more. But also, because I have a reputation as a scavenger, other people I know who are not Freecyclers also give away their old things to me. When you're not paying a red cent for most of your possessions, you don't always get the cream of the crop, nor all the features you want, nor the best matched collection of anything, but you do get a lot more money to spend on the things you are particular about!

These things really only scratch the surface of my obsession with saving money, but they are some of the simplest websites and groups anyone can join, put in minimal effort, and reap the benefits! Happy Penny Pinching!