Save Money On Almost Everything! Tips For Living Well and Not Paying Full Price

Samantha BiggersSamantha Biggers | Updated Jul 1, 2019 (Orig - Apr 28, 2019)

 

 

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Saving money is a real challenge with the rising cost of living. There are a lot of small things that can help you stretch your dollars. This post is going to discuss tips for saving money on everything from household basics to electronics and even a few of the small luxuries. Some of these items are things that you use every day but may only need to buy every so many years. When you save wherever you can that leaves more money for preps, paying bills down, or stashing back for an emergency fund.

I think it is important to allow yourself a few luxuries. All work and nothing just for the sake of enjoyment has a big effect on morale and mindset. This post considers a few things like books and nicer toiletry products that while not necessary for prepping, make life a little nicer for me at the end of the day after working outside and also typing 2,000+ words.

So let’s get started with ways to save and live well while doing it!

Groceries

I have to buy some special diet items and they can be very expensive at a standard grocery store. While I like to support my local grocery store, when it comes to gluten-free flours and special baking mixes, I order online and use coupons. Vitacost will ship our food in 1-2 days and it is included despite the low prices they offer. They have a site that is very easy to sort through based on dietary needs.

When we are at the grocery store, we always look for marked down meats. Tuesdays are a good day for this where I Iive but it varies by grocery store I am sure. You can freeze marked down meats and save a lot of money on protein. If you want to can a bunch of chicken, you could accumulate 5 or more chickens in the freezer and have a chicken canning day.

Online prepping groups have a lot of people that seriously skew how much they spend on food.

Grocery budgets are something I think a lot of people are not honest about. When I am in a prepping group on Facebook and see someone saying they feed 7 people on $700 per month, I just shake my head. These same folks will say the type of meals they feed and there is no way they are doing it for that price. The math comes out to $2.00 per day per person.

Maybe if you are surviving on beans and rice that is possible but these people share some of the meals they make and it is clear that either they know some major secret about low cost food or they are exaggerating.

I have to wonder if they are just not counting all the meals they eat out? I could see how you would just spend that much on household food if you are spending a ton on eating out.

My point is that you should not feel awful because you are not living up to the dishonest claims people make about their grocery budget.

Clothing

I wear name brand clothes but I pay less for what I wear than if I bought everything at Wal-Mart. How? Well I shop out of season or buy last year’s style. I only shop for new items a few times per year. I wear out clothes and only shop for items when I absolutely have to do so.  

A change of diet and weight recently made it so that I had to replace most of my clothing. I did major clothing shopping and I got $775 worth of designer clothes for $175 shopping online. Most fancy brands have a good clearance section.

If you don’t care about getting something very specific you can save a lot. I don’t need the latest name brand all the kids are wearing these days.


Jeans are the item of clothing I never buy new. There are always a ton of jeans that people discard that look like they have never been worn. Since I really don’t enjoy spending time in stores, I went into Goodwill and bought 15 pairs of jeans and a few shirts for summer. The total was $100. I won’t have to buy jeans for a few years and I have some extra for a long emergency.

LL Bean, Camp Mor, Cabela’s, ect all offer good clothing and gear for a major discount if you shop the clearance.

I recommend looking at men’s clothing if you are a woman that is large enough to fit into it. You can sometimes get an excellent deal on things like coats and shirts.

Shoes and boots

Another item that you can save on out of season is shoes. Sometimes a specific size and color of a certain style will be marked down dramatically on Amazon. I like the Keen Brand of boots and sandals because I can get a year out of them and I am very tough on shoes. Buying this brand has saved me a lot of money. I think I paid $50 for the last pair I bought. Apparently grey is not a popular color in women’s Keen.

If you are not picky about the colors of your shoes, you can save a lot. It may be easier to find women’s shoes this way than men’s although when men’s shoes are marked down, it is often the smaller sizes. I wear a size 9-10 in a women’s shoe so a size 8 in men’s shoes works just fine.

When I was a teenager I learned this trick because skateboard shoes were often $70 or more and that was back in 1997. I could get them for $20-$40 because a size 8 men’s always seems to be on sale.

Army surplus stores are another excellent source of boots. For under $50 you can find some tough boots that are great for warmer weather or you can buy them a little large and wear thicker socks or a boot liner.

Pet and livestock feeds

Sadie Grove taking a break from watching sheep to roast some hot dogs!

There are various sources for discount feeds. Here are a few common examples that can help you make the most of your money.

For more detailing info on pet and livestock feed preparedness, check out my post “Stockpiling Pet and Animal Feed For SHTF”

Bulk feeds at farmers coop and feed stores

Feed is sometimes sold by the ton for a discount. This is usually just something like corn or bulk commodity feed but is an inexpensive option. I You should double check what is in it just to makes sure you are okay feeding it to your animals. Organic feeds usually just come by the bag unless you get something locally from a farm. Buying a pallet of bags may get you discount.

Local farms

If you have a farm nearby that grows a lot of grains you may be able to get a real bargain by agreeing to buy a ton or more of grain at a time. You will need barrels with lids to seal and store it or some other food storage arrangement.

Pet foods

Some companies like Chewy.com offer substantial discounts for first-time customers or if you sign up for an auto delivery. You can always cancel after the order is delivered but they do have good prices.

Amazon subscribe and save works without a Prime membership. I did not realize this because I kept Prime for quite some time. Subscribe and Save will cut 5%-15% off your dog or cat food bill. I usually buy cat food from Amazon because they have the best deal and my local feed store just has one brand in a huge bag. They specialize in dog and livestock feeds.

Computers and electronics

As a writer, I have to keep a decent computer going. After my laptop stopped working well, I used a $105 open box special Samsung Chromebook 3 to write posts on for a full year. I was trying to get by without spending a lot. While that was a decent deal, I have found a better solution than a limited function Chromebook.

Refurbished computers are an outstanding value. The first one I got was not the best deal, but that was years ago and there are just so many available now. I just bought a refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad with a very fast processor for $186. It is guaranteed for a year. Check our Newegg.com and you will find a lot of refurbished computers and electronics. Good desktops that are refurbished are an even better value.

Let’s face it, most of us do not need a $1,000 laptop or $500 cell phone to get the job done. 

Cell phones and service

Matt and I each have a $40 cell phone. We never pay more than $50. Our phones do the same internet browsing, calls, music streaming, ect as a $600 I-phone. Our cell service is $20 per month per phone for calls and text. If we want unlimited data, it goes up to $35 per month per phone. Since we are at home most of the time, we don’t buy the data plan except if there are special circumstances. It is pay as you go so we can change plans whenever we want or add a data pack.

People act surprised when you tell them you only pay $20. It is no big secret how to get this rate, you just have to get a Virgin Mobile phone and a $20 per month plan.

The World of Subscription Boxes

I have a weakness for skincare, hair care, and makeup but I cannot justify spending a huge amount of money on it.

My budget doesn’t stop me from using stuff that is $80 an ounce. I do this by subscribing to beauty boxes that routinely send me $80-$200 worth of name brand, cruelty free, and often organic, products and my total cost will be $10-$25. This also saves me time at the store and an extra stop.

I pick and choose what boxes I get and watch out for the deals. Sometimes they will send an $80-$90 fill size product just for signing up. I have actually managed to get rid of some pretty awful acne by using the higher end stuff.

There are all kinds of subscription boxes that offer savings and little treats in the mail at an affordable cost. I use Book of the Month Club sometimes to get a new book occasionally and then pass it on to the local library stacks or mail to a friend.

The beauty and makeup boxes I use sometimes have products that I don’t use or shades that don’t suit me and those make great gifts for a few friends. It allows me to give friends some fancy things that I could not afford to give otherwise!

Go Without the AC to Save Power

I know some are gasping right now but I want to point out that when I am not writing I am farming and that means I have to be used to working out in hot temperatures. I might be at 3,000 feet in the mountains but it gets in the 80s during the summer and sometimes the 90s. While one can try to work during the cooler times of the day, you are inevitably going to have to do quite a bit during hot times.

It is easier to get used to the heat if you don’t comfort yourself with AC and let your body adapt. Fans can do a lot if they are set up right to give maximum airflow. You can also make an eco cooler for little or nothing that can help cool rooms.

Here is a post on eco-coolers and how to beat the heat without AC.

Eco coolers can be quite useful for those that have cabins or off grid homes in warmer climates.

To Matt and I it seems like a bad idea for us to pay to air condition a house that we are not in as much during the summer. I do have to say during the very hottest parts of the summer we do put a single air conditioner upstairs where we sleep. Our cabin is well insulated but made in an old style so it can get a bit too hot to sleep comfortably upstairs. This is less than 200 sq ft of air conditioned space and that saves quite a bit of money over the course of a summer.

Stop eating out and learn to make favorite foods at home

My husband can make some really good ravioli and dumplings and he manages to do them gluten-free for me!

When I had to change my diet and that meant that a lot of restaurants and convenience foods were out of the question suddenly. Even pizza was a challenge, so the solution was to learn how to cook even more foods and never even buy convenience foods.

Although we live in a tourist area with a lot of restaurants, we really never eat out. It may happen twice a year just because but it is very rare and often unplanned or a situation where we are meeting parents for a meal.

I can cook a lot better at home for fast food combo meal prices. If I eat out I have to eat not as well. $50 a week spent eating out is $2400 per year. It can really add up fast and if you have a family of 4, good luck finding a decent place to eat a meal for under $50 with tip.

I would rather pay a little more for something that is better quality and then be able to keep it for many years. Sometimes it is better to buy quality and pay the premium for it rather than waste it on cheap things.

Tools are a great example of where you save by spending more initially. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch out for a decent discount. We like Bosch and Hitachi. I have heard readers mention Milwaukee or Makita as good brands. For outdoor power tools we always go with Stihl because they hold up over time and daily use around a farm or vineyard.

Take it from some folks that have built a house, barn, outbuildings, cleared out the junk on 11 acres, etc,; Cheap tools cost you a lot of time and money in the long term. That $100 you saved doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time fixing things or you get less done. A perfect example is our power auger for fence posts. The $300 version at Lowes weighs nearly 40 lbs and broke after digging 300 grape planting holes.

The Stihl version is $900, and we have had it for many years and used it a ton. It also weighs about half the weight of the cheap auger so it doesn’t wear you out as fast. Labor is expensive. If tools cost more but allow you to get more done, then they often save you money regardless of that initial upfront cost.

Set aside a little fund for online shopping around the holidays

Ok I know that the holidays get over commercialized and there is huge pressure to spend and shop a lot. Well one way you can win at this time of year is by taking advantage of the sales and liquidations to buy items that you actually need for your household or to add to your preps.

I agree that it is admirable to buy locally but some things it is not even possible for some people to buy locally and if you are on a budget, paying significantly more is not realistic.

After Thanksgiving, companies are desperate to grab your business. Use some common sense and don’t overspend but remember there is nothing wrong with stocking up on things that you need around the holidays. It is a great time to buy clothing from department stores online.

I bought a ton of wool socks from LL Bean one year for a small fraction of the retail price. It is amazing how desperate stores are for your business when they are selling $20 worth of merchandise for $5.

Clothing swaps for yourself or for kids

Parents have been passing around kids clothes for a long time. It makes sense when kids grow faster than they can use of their clothing. Adults tend to wear things out more but there are some people that just like a change in wardrobe once in a while even if they don’t wear out things. Groups of ladies sometimes have clothing swaps. It can be a hard thing to organize though due to different sizes but there are probably easier ways like a Facebook group or something.

High quality clothes can take a lot longer to wear out than how long it takes to get bored with them and that is where clothing exchanges can really benefit everyone.

Choosing items that are easy to mix and match can help you minimize your wardrobe and not hoard a lot of clothes.

Try to buy clothes that are true to your size. A lot of us, myself included, are guilty of guessing a size or hoping to one day be able to wear it. This is not the way to buy clothes. I keep things if they are close enough in size but you do need to be careful that you do not wind up with a bunch of clothes you paid good money for and no one in the household can wear. Get out the measuring tape and save yourself some space and money by getting what is right for you. I know that size varies by company but you have a better chance of getting it right if you measure before ordering.

Books

While it is great to buy new copies of books or e-books and support authors, as a writer I understand that people are on a budget and new books in paper or electronic form can eat into that. There are also some great books out there that are out of print and impossible to find new or if you do there is a collectible price to go with your great find.

If you want to help out an author when you buy a used copy of a book, you can do so by posting a good review if you like the book and telling friends about it. Any positive attention is helpful to a writer.

I use Thriftbooks and Better World Books for used book purchases. Better World donates a lot to charities and literacy organizations. This is a fabulous way to get reference books for a Prepper Library. No you will not find everything and you do need to compare prices between the new cost and used cost on Amazon for some books, but overall I find a lot of what I am looking for.

Some books you will never find used just because they are popular. The Survival Medicine Handbook is one example I can think of.

Book of the Month Club can be a fun way to explore different books you may not try otherwise. The price is often better than Amazon and you get new releases a week or sooner in many cases. I pass on my Book of the Month selections to the library to add to the stacks or send to friends. If you have a good buddy, you can share books via the mail for very little. Media mail rate is a great resource.

If you live in a community, you can set up a Little Library and get everyone in on the fun of a book exchange. This can help promote literacy and provide books to those that don’t have a lot to spend or have a hard time making it to a library.

Of course reading books from your library is another way to save money on books and entertainment. Many libraries have ebooks that you can check out online or even whole courses you can take online to learn skills.

Buy bulk or split bulk purchases with friends and family

A small container of chives that weighs 0.2 oz costs $3 or I can get 16 oz for $30. Buying chives in a small spice jar means I pay 8 times the price of buying a 1 lb of organic.

Matt and I always buy our coffee 5 lbs at a time and roast it ourselves. This allows us to drink quality coffee at half the cost. If there is a really good deal, we may buy 25 lbs of beans at a time.

There are countless examples of how buying bulk helps you save. If you have friends and family that like to stock up on some things you can split bulk purchases so both households can enjoy the savings.

Shop at outlet and discount stores and catch good deals online but be aware of shelf life and best by dates.

Matt and I used to shop a lot at some of the outlet grocery stores that sold health foods but we have since quit doing that due to the distance we live from them and the shelf life of some of the foods.

I have noticed that sometimes I get some very good deals on a case of something from Amazon but that can come with a catch. I was really excited to find Muir Glen Organic No Salt Added Tomato Paste for about $0.80 per can when purchasing a case of 24. Well it is very good stuff and makes a lot of pasta with a little can but the best by date was only 18 months out. That is great for short and moderate term emergency food needs but for long term storage that is not acceptable at all.

Pay more for better shelf life for long term survival food needs and take advantage of the major bargain for your immediate and near future needs. Nothing wrong with a good deal but you don’t want to spend too much stocking up only to find that the shelf life is short.

Well that is just a few of the ways I can think of to save a little on everyday items, preps and luxuries. There are so many more ways if you just think about it a little bit. I will do more posts like this in the future!

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Free Guide | Emergency Food Buyer's Guide

Best Food Types, Storage Methods and Exactly What to Buy

Download Now →

Updated Jul 1, 2019
Published Apr 28, 2019

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2 Responses to “Save Money On Almost Everything! Tips For Living Well and Not Paying Full Price”

  1. Excellent article! Thanks for pointing out some areas that I had overlooked. I will definitely be using some of your tricks!

    Reply
  2. Re clothes: Clothing outlets have high-quality and name-brand clothes for less than the same type articles at Walmart. Outlets I shop at are Beall’s Outlet, Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Cato’s clothes, both in-store and online, are only a bit more expensive, but are comparable to department stores in quality and style. I suspect some of their clothing is made by the same manufacturer that makes clothing for places such as Macy’s, but carries a different label.

    As for food, I live alone and wish I had discovered freeze-dried food long ago. It seems expensive, but when I consider how much food I throw out that becomes old before I have time to use it (especially fresh vegetables), I think it’s more cost-effective to buy some things freeze-dried because there’s no waste at all. It’s only slightly less nutritious than fresh food and more nutritious than the cans of food that frequently contain more than I can use at one time.

    Powdered food can also be a money-saver. It can be preserved for a long time and, again, there’s no waste. In particular, I’ve been happy with tomato powder and sour cream powder, both of which you can dehydrate and powder yourself. I don’t like to remember how many partially-used cans of tomato paste I’ve thrown out in the past because I needed only a small amount and had no use for the rest of it. I bought a large package of tomato powder, but I dehydrated my own sour cream and powdered it. My next project is to make a powdered cream base for soups, which will also be a money-saver and which I can make gluten-free, whereas I have not yet found a canned cream soup without wheat as an ingredient.

    Reply

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