A big reason why I started my blog in 2009 was to show you how I live in frugal decadence. Sort of a “lead-by-example” so that I can help you add to your savings account’s bottom line.
I mean, I love saving money, squeezing more out of our paychecks, and in general wasting as little as possible. It gets me fired up! Add to that how I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and it’s the perfect recipe for me.
So I started a series called Frugal Confessions Fridays, where I could specifically point out the details of one way I saved our family money during that week.
As my blog matured, it made more sense to use this series on my Facebook fan page to engage with a larger audience of people that way instead of to house it on FrugalConfessions.com. It was a tough decision for me to come to, but in the end I’m happy with how things turned out (it’s so fun giving readers digital high-fives with the ways they’ve saved their family money over the last week!).
Except that some of you don’t “do” Facebook. That’s totally understandable! I only got into it so much because of my blog. And for those of you who love Facebook, they have this crazy algorithm where only about 10% of the people who like my fan page actually have the posts show up in their wall. So you’re probably missing them anyway unless you actively seek me out.
So I thought I’d take the time to show you real-life samplings of the favorite ways I’ve saved our family money in 2015, all taken directly from my Frugal Confessions Friday Facebook series.
Favorite Examples of How We Saved Money in 2015
- Free Guy’s Day Out (Complete with Free Beer): My friend Cindy gave me the cardboard containers to 30 six-packs of Saint Arnold beer she had accumulated. It turns out that you can cash these in for a factory tour and even some merchandise at their brewery here in Houston. We finally made use of them when my husband, Paul, and his brother hung out at the Saint Arnold's brewery earlier in the year. They each enjoyed free admission to the tour (usually $10/person), three beers, and a souvenir mug to take home without having to pay a dime. How cool! Thanks again, Cindy:).
- Ridiculously Cheap Spring Flowers for Our Backyard: We had a St. Patty's Day party (so much fun!). I wanted to get a couple of flowers to spruce up the backyard for the event, plus they would double as landscaping for us for the rest of the year. I went to Lowe's and checked out their flower section, and man did I score. They had beautiful petunias, marigolds, and all other sorts of annuals for just $0.50/six pack! The reason for the huge markdown was because it had been 75 degrees for a few days, but winter was coming back for several days, so they had to move them fast. I scored 10 six-packs for $5.10, marked down from $39.16. Woohoo! That's all of our spring flowers for the year. Better yet, with the weather here in Houston, lots of my annuals actually last for several years instead of just one.
- Amazon.com Messes Up and Pays for My Order to Make Up for It: I had a customer service snafu on Amazon.com. I was trying to use a gift card someone had given us for Christmas to order a few classic movies I miss (the original Parent Trap, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and of course Ghostbusters). The gift card worked fine, but when I attempted to take the last $12.17 off the order with my credit card reward points (which were supposed to be connected with their system), no one could figure out why it wasn’t working. After half an hour on the phone, I was given a free $20 credit and came out almost $8 ahead.
- Free Date at the Houston Zoo: My husband, Paul, works 7 days on/7 days off. And it just so happened that one month this year he was off during the Houston Zoo's free afternoon (first Tuesday of each month, except summer months)! What a lovely, free date for the two of us (tickets are typically $16/person).
- Free Crib and Mattress: I'd like to give a huge thank you to Helen who graciously gave us her beautiful crib + mattress for our nursery! Both are in perfect condition. One issue we did find was that it is a drop-side crib, which no longer passes federal regulations (thanks to Aurora for pointing this out!). The great thing is that I was able to find this particular model online and order a free repair kit to make it safe per the new regulations and laws. Woohoo!
- Free Breast Pump of My Choosing: Getting a little personal to help out any other mamas and mamas-to-be. While talking to my sister (who was also pregnant this year!) and to my friend, Aurora, I found out that they each got a breast pump courtesy of their health insurance company. So I called mine up, and sure enough, I get to choose a breast pump from a list provided by a vendor (and the list is chocked full of highly-rated ones) for 100% free to us. We don't even have to pay shipping. I believe this is a feature of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The one that I chose is around $150 at Target…what a great savings. So you might want to check with your insurance company to see if you can get one for yourself courtesy of your health insurance premiums you're already paying.
- Free Airline Tickets Home for My Brother’s Wedding: My brother got married in May. Congratulations to Adam and Jen, his new wife! Since we had just taken a big trip for our 5-year anniversary, I knew I had to get smart about paying for the wedding airfare home to PA as well (just one month after). So, I leveraged a credit card offer and our trip (aka, travel hacking). At the beginning of this year I opened up a new Southwest credit card with an offer of “Spend $2,000 in the first three months, and get 50,000 free frequent flyer miles”. $2,000 is a lot of money, but since we were going to Cozumel for our five-year anniversary anyway, it worked out that we took care of it in one fell swoop. The points were credited to my account in time to make our reservations for two roundtrip tickets to PA. And the total cost to get us to my brother's wedding? Just $22.40 in security fees. Woohoo travel hacking!
- Taking Defensive Driving In Order to Not Pay a Full Speeding Ticket: Paul's commute is pretty horrendous (over three hours a day). While he's been really good so far, he did get a speeding ticket for the first time in years a few months ago. The cost would have been $254. However, he opted to take an online defensive driving course instead, and pay a smaller admin fee. In total, our cost was $139.10, for a total savings of $114.90. On top of this, we submitted the certificate of completion to our insurance company, who then gave us a discount of about $12/six months on our premium.
- Salvaging a Great Pair of Boots with a Small Repair: Paul purchased a pair of black Timberland boots off of his naval base almost ten years ago. They're in great condition still…except that the sole came loose on one of them (so loose that it was flapping). So he hasn't been able to wear them. Instead, he's been wearing his work-issued boots which unfortunately rub his feet the wrong way. I looked up the price on replacing his Timberlands, and nearly fell over when I saw the cost would be about $139. So what did I do instead? I took them into the Shoe Hospital store here in Houston on Kirby. For just $16.24, they repaired his boot! What a great savings.
- Free Watch as a Safety Award Won at Work: My husband, Paul, won a Safety Award at work! Way to go, sweets. His prize was reward points that he was able to cash in for something that recently broke on him: a new watch. His new Fossil watch came just a week later, and he's a happy guy wearing it around.
- Cheap Way to Refurbish an Outdated Wardrobe: My husband Paul needs a bit of a wardrobe update. He hardly ever buys clothes and it's finally come to the point where there's more holey-shirts than non-fitting ones. So I've been on the lookout for deals. JCP sent me one of those awesome $10/$10 coupons, + a $10/$25 coupon, and so with an additional $25 out of pocket, I scored two handsome polo shirts (he's in love with them) plus a new pair of shorts that actually fit him. Triumph! We'll continue the wardrobe update over the next few months while phasing out some of the riff-raff (definitely the struggle, as Paul doesn't like to get rid of things in his closet).
- The King-Sized Score of the Year: My husband and I purchased a King-sized mattress several years ago from a Sear's Scratch ‘n' Dent. He's quite tall, and it turns out he had always wanted a bed where his feet don't dangle off the bottom (who knew? :)). However, I quickly discovered how costly it is to purchase bed linens for such a big mattress. Needless to say, we kept our old comforters and just shifted them horizontally. Not an exact fit, but they've worked. Well, I've finally had a HUGE score on a gorgeous King Comforter set for winter. At Kohl's, I scored this beautiful, Vera Wang comforter in the clearance section at a ridiculous 90% OFF of the original price!!! I hauled off this $389.99 treasure at just a $38.99 cost to us. Woohoo!
- Alerting a Company of a Problem Yields a Free Product (and Probably Saves Someone Else’s Tooth): This frugal confession was actually much more about the health aspect, but it did result in a free product so I thought I'd share. Several months ago I bit into a spoonful of Honey Bunches of Oats…and felt something really hard in my mouth (I thought I had broken off a tooth). It turned out to be a very hard corn kernel. Since my first job out of college was for a snacks food manufacturer who had one customer chip a tooth on a rogue olive pit, I knew how important it was to alert the company. I sent them the kernel (washed, of course), the UPC label of the box it came from so that they could trace it back to the product plant, and an explanation of what had happened. They sent me a nice letter in return, as well as a coupon for one free product of my choice (up to $4.49). I'll take it! Honestly, I'm just very happy to have not chipped my tooth.
The estimated grand total of savings I’ve been able to keep in our wallets (just from these examples, not from the entire year’s worth of Frugal Confessions Fridays)? Probably around $1,824.21. Now that’s what I like to see!
What are your favorite ways you saved money for you + your family in 2015? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Who knows, you might inspire others to think outside the box and save their own family money!