can't save money

Feeling like you're one of those people who just can't save money? Like, real money in a savings account? Read below to see if one of these money-saving sabotages is the reason.

There are signs everywhere that show you how much money you are “saving”. Like at the at the bottom of your grocery receipt, on the bottom of your CVS receipt (and if you play the Drugstore Game, you're looking at a rather large number there)…I've even been told how much money I saved while buying a stick of gum at the convenience store.

So, where exactly are these savings manifesting at?

I mean, are they actually showing up in your pocket, or better yet, your savings account? Chances are, they're not. If you're wondering where all of your “savings” went to, then find the culprit in one of these 4 saving sabotages below.

Sabotage #1: Spending More Elsewhere so You Never See the Savings

Have you ever saved $27.94 at the grocery store…only to spend it on something else because you still had that amount left in your budgeted spending? Maybe on something you weren't even planning on purchasing? Whether you did so consciously or unconsciously, somehow you never really saw that “savings”. Instead of sticking to your budgeted spending amount, you filled it to the brim (which is a strategy in itself that is great for stretching a buck, but not so great for growing a savings account).

Problem Solver: I challenge you to do something that I tried several years ago (and yes, it worked). Bank it instead. Every time you are notified of how you just “saved” money, make it tangible. Take that exact dollar amount and transfer it from your checking account to your savings account.

Psst: you'll probably want to check out my post on money mindset shifts you need to make, as a lot of money management comes down to your attitudes and beliefs about money!

Sabotage #2: Using More of the Product than You Normally Would

My husband is a coke addict (you know, the coca-cola kind), or at least he used to be. He's successfully weaned himself down quite a bit, not least because of how expensive they can be.

I know that the stock-up sweet spot – the absolute lowest price for a 12-can refrigerator pack – is around $2.50. In the past when I've seen this price, I've purchased 5-6 thinking that I had just stocked us up for the next two months.

Except that when Paul has seen these extra cokes lying around, he automatically would increase his intake probably by double, thus making the price as much or even more than it normally is. Doh!

Problem Solver: There are a few ways you can potentially stop this savings sabotage depending on what product you are talking about. The first is to create a safe spot in your home that is out of normal view where you can store those low-price items you scored and mete them out according to your normal usage (after you return from your next regularly scheduled grocery trip, simply grab one and put it in your cupboard). For us, we started putting the coke boxes in the closet in the laundry room. Another option is to use the bigger item to fill up smaller-sized containers for things like club-sized giant tubs of mustard or mayo. (Clean out the old jars/containers first).

Sabotage#3: Having Less of the Product to Use, Causing You to Buy Another

The financial hit retailers took during the recession, coupled with consumer's growing sensitivity to price increases (and not being afraid to tout them on Social Media), has brought about an interesting new way to get more money out of you: underhanded product resizing.

Yogurts that used to contain 8 oz. went down to 6 oz…with the same cup size. Chip companies kept the same sized bag and simply filled the top with a bit more air. Several of the large ice-cream companies kept the same lid size so that when you picked up a carton it looked the same, but then they tapered down the bottom part of the container.

So instead of increasing the price for the product and waiting for the backlash, they (in most cases) deceptively decreased the amount of product you received for the same price.

Problem Solver: For this one, you've either got to find a cheaper substitute (with the quantity you need to keep you going through to your next shopping trip), or consciously use less of the product. For example, in the link above you can see how one paper towel company went from 121 to 111 sheets in the last few years. Can you use a kitchen towel more often to make up for less product? That way, the cost is still the same to you.

Sabotage #4: Because the “Savings” are Actually Bogus

Sometimes I like to do experiments where I save sales flyers for a certain store for a year, or save all of the credit card offers I receive from particular companies for a year, and see if their sales and deals they are shouting at me are legitimate.

I can tell you with certainty that sometimes, they're just lying. A store may say that an item is on sale, and for many of its consumers, they don't know the difference because they either aren't price sensitive, or they don't know how much that item normally costs.

Just check out this Macy's disclaimer, where they say that “Regular” and “Original” prices may not have actually been in effect for the past 180 days (meaning, they make up any old price they want to call regular so that their discount is super shiny).

Problem Solver: Honestly, you can only deal with this issue by becoming more aware of it. I'm not suggesting keeping a lengthy price book or anything, but rather just keep your eyes out on the product you wish to purchase. Shop around, find out what it's going for, and then you will know when it is actually on sale or not. You could use a price comparison tool like, and always take a look at

Keep these sabotages and problem solvers in mind, and your savings account will grow. Well, so long as you actually hit “send” on a transfer of money from your checking to savings (you can do this!).

8 replies
  1. Bryce @ Save and Conquer
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    Good points to consider. We drink diet sodas in moderation. As long as a person can control their urges, and only drink a glass or two a day, the cheapest way to purchase name-brand sodas is in two-liter bottles, which is what we do.

    You definitely have to pay attention to what is really a “sale” at any store. There are lots of furniture stores around here that seem to have perpetual “going out of business” sales. And as you mentioned, any retailer can set whatever price they want for an item, and then mark it down in the name of a sale. It pays to shop around and use resources on the internet.

  2. Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions
    Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions says:

    Great points! I was completely guilty of #1 until I decided to empty the checking account at the end of the month into a student loan. That way, whatever we saved that month — by not spending — was immediately used and we actually “saved” the money instead of spending the savings. It also encouraged us to stop spending as much, because the feeling of making a $1,000 extra payment into our student loans was so rewarding.

    • Amanda
      Amanda says:

      What a great shift you took, Rebecca. Now imagine when your loans are paid off…and you can make that same deposit – except into your savings account!

      I’m rooting for you:).

  3. Suzann
    Suzann says:

    I calculated this a long time ago–$2.00 was my limit for a 12 pack
    of 12 oz. cans which equates to 93.7 cents per 2 liter bottle. I actually
    like the 2 liter Refreshe diet cola (Randall’s) better than diet Coke or Pepsi and when you buy 4 it is $0.75 each.

  4. Little House
    Little House says:

    I think I’m somewhat guilty of #1. A year ago I started to save a bunch of money on NOT going to Starbucks everyday, but I didn’t really bank that savings. However, I did end up increasing my monthly auto-deposits into my savings account this year, so perhaps I’m making up for it now. 😉


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