Last week was weird.
It alternated between feeling like a typical February in the classroom (Children climbing the walls! Teachers climbing the walls!) and something totally atypical. Between worries on Wall Street and people bracing for the possibility of a pandemic, things just felt strange.
Still, saving and earning took priority over worrying in our slice of the world. Though I did stock up on a few jars of peanut butter.
Here’s a closer look at how we attempted to keep more money in our bank accounts against the backdrop of some really unusual events.
5 Ways to Save
What a far cry this is from my extremely stupid couponing days. I still save money, but I hardly clip coupons anymore. It’s not that I’m opposed to coupons. It’s just that I got too hung up on the deals and missed the point about buying what you actually need.
RELATED POST: Extreme(ly Stupid) Couponing
Here’s how we saved this past week without clipping a single coupon:
Let people know you’re frugal
There’s so much stigma surrounding “free” and “cheap” and “frugal” in our society. But once you let your frugal flag fly enough, people think about it. And that’s a good thing. Once people know that you’re interested in second-hand items or borrowing things, they’re more likely to offer.
Last week, my parents went on vacation and wanted to part with their perishables. My dad mostly stood by and cringed. But my mom had a grand ol’ time loading up plastic bags she’s been hoarding and reusing since the 90s with a cucumber, a few peppers, a half pound of ham, three cheese sticks, and whatever else she could find in her fridge. It might seem silly to some people (like my dad!), but it cut down on their food waste a ton and also saved us some money grocery shopping. We got four nights of salads and some snacks. Plus, my husband took ham sandwiches to work for lunch for a few days.
I often note how we do not keep a lot of excess food (or anything really!) in our house. A combination of winter storm watches and the coronavirus had me rethinking that strategy. I still contend that I will be first eaten in a zombie apocalypse. But I did restock some adult and kid cold medicine from the last bouts of illness that we all had. I also picked up a few extras, knowing full well that we can happily send the excess to our food pantry. I didn’t do this out of fear of sickness so much as I did it out of fear of rising prices. Even if our grocery stores stay well stocked, I believe time is money. I don’t want to wait in long lines or engage in a battle royale over the last box of Mucinex.
Food waste is a big problem. Not only does it drain our budgets, it is also really bad for the planet. I know…and yet, I still cannot bring myself to eat bananas once they get spotted. I will not eat them, Sam I Am. No I will not. But I also don’t toss them or even compost them. I simply throw them into the freezer whole. Then, when I’m making banana bread or banana pancakes, I defrost one or two on the counter. Think GoGurt tubes but with mashed banana. Easy peasy and no wasted food or money.
Be strategic with clearance
I stumbled across some long-forgotten clearance at our Aldi. More precisely, HP did. I swear he has a sixth sense for noticing anything PAW Patrol related right now. What he unearthed was a pack of stickers set up for Valentine’s Day. They came in a pack of 32, but he’s already used 4. Still, I know he won’t have 28 kids in his class next year. It was $0.25, and I tucked it away in my gift wrap box for next year.
One of our favorite things to do when the weather is nice is to park hop. I know what you’re thinking. Penny, it’s the first week of March and you live in Chicagoland. How nice could the weather be? Look, I saw sunshine. I heard birds. I took the lining out of my parka. It felt like a trip to North Avenue Beach this weekend. Rather than go from store to store like I used to in my free time, we go from park to park. We have a handful of parks in walking distance from one another, so we pack some snacks and go for it. This weekend was the perfect time to get back to park hopping.
5 Ways to Earn
My husband’s coaching gig for the year ended last week. Excuse me while I cry tears of joy. He went from coaching three seasons (that’s the whole school year if you’re counting) to one. HP and I are thrilled to have more time with him, and we’re also looking forward to that stipend check in a few weeks. Since that money isn’t in the bank yet, here’s a look at what did manifest this week:
It’s my favorite work for a lot of reasons. First of all, I don’t really think anything compares to a good day in the classroom. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone learn something for the first time. It’s really special.
I also love my W-2 job because the pay is steady and the benefits are so very good. This past week, my husband and I both snagged our usual paychecks. Huzzah!
Sell that gift card
I plan to do a full-blown post on this soon, but I’m still waiting for the PayPal dust to settle. I made $17.50 selling a gift card that had been sitting in my drawer for over two years. The money is in my PayPal account, but I’m waiting to see the $1.00 hold reversed before I
throw myself a party publish the blog post.
Thankfully, my side income streams are all simple to manage. That’s in no small part to the fact that everyone I’m working for now pays promptly and are just generally amazing humans. It is always a bit of work to invoice at the end of the month, but it’s so worth it! A couple hundred dollars cleared this week alone, so that’s something to smile about.
Save your receipts
I use a lot of different grocery apps, but I’m
lazy strategic about it. Buying things you don’t need, even if they’re on sale, is wasting money. So instead of letting grocery apps tell me what to buy, I upload my receipts and hope for the best. This week, I snagged over 2,000 points using the Fetch Rewards app. I’m not rich, but I’m inching my way to a $50 gift card.
Actually return things
Stores absolutely bank on people not returning things. And in the case of my very best friend in the whole world, they are getting their money’s worth. Her trunk is full of items that she is going to return. Eventually. Soon. OK, never. As much as I like to tease her, I realized that I was actually holding onto returns at three different stores. I wove the returns into my regular errands this weekend and walked away $60 richer. While this isn’t technically earning money, it’s putting money back on my credit card. Good enough for me.
Final Thoughts on How I Saved & How I Earned Last Week
There’s a lot of potential to be had with this gift card site assuming that I get my PayPal $1.00 back. Otherwise, looking at our saving and earning is just plain reassuring. It’s nice to know that we have the means to stay the course even when the 24-hour news cycle seems to want to whip things into a frenzy.
So Tell Me…How did you save last week? Are you trying anything out to grow your earnings?
Loved it! Way to go! I am working on slowly writing about our past with coupons. Mrs. Gov used to be an advanced couponier. She would bring home a carload of groceries for like $5. Unfortunately that meant buying things with “overage” where they paid you to take it out of the store. We *never* used that stuff and it was crappy for the planet.
Things changed after that show “extreme coupons”. The stores couldn’t offer the overage deals anymore because everyone had figured it out. But I think it was time for us to move on anyways. We’re living a much more ecofrugal life now without them.
I feel this, GovWorker! One day, I brought home four bottles of contact solution that I got for free. No one in my life wears contacts. No one. Thankfully, I realized I could donate them. But what a waste of my time and probably lots of other people’s time for that matter!
I (finally) returned a present I got that didn’t fit for store credit, then sold the gift card for cash. Is that like, a double win?
You are a superstar!