10 Penny Pinching Tactics You Should Skip

In these times of economic woe, ideas for trimming your budget abound. However, unless you’ve got unlimited amounts of time, you’re not going to be able to implement every single money saving idea you come across. And honestly, some money saving ideas are just not worth the time or the effort or the feeling of deprivation they bring.

So, here are 10 penny pinching tactics you should skip, along with 10 things you should do instead.

  1. Taking extra condiments and napkins from restaurants

If you’ve getting takeout and you’ve got extra soy sauce or ketchup, then by all means, use those up.  But for goodness’ sake, don’t take extra from the restaurant when you’re eating out.  Not only is it in poor taste, it’s also pointless.

Any condiment that’s out there free for the taking is going to be worth almost nothing (That’s why things like barbecue sauce are behind the counter but ketchup and mustard are not).  An entire bottle of ketchup costs little more than $1, and you’d need a huge pile of ketchup packets to equal what’s in the bottle.  Napkins, especially the thin type that restaurants stock, cost very little as well.

Instead:

If your budget is so tight that ketchup and napkins are difficult to afford, there’s no sensible reason for you to be eating at a restaurant.  You’ll save a whole lot more than the price of a few condiments by cooking a meal at home.

  1. Couponing for items you don’t use

Though it can be thrilling to get anything for free, if you’re looking to maximize the return on your time, you should focus on obtaining items you can actually use.  Free hair dye is awesome if you use it, but not so awesome if you don’t.

Money, Card, Business, Credit Card, Pay, Shopping

[Image courtesy of jarmoluk/pixabay.com]

On a related note, even if you’re obtaining items you can use, it doesn’t make sense to stockpile large amounts.

It’s true that you can sometimes donate free items you don’t need, but if you’re spending a whole lot of time and gas obtaining these free items, you may want to consider whether a cash donation would make more sense.

Instead:

Find deals on items you use, buy less than a lifetime supply, and then focus your efforts somewhere else.

  1. DIY-ing everything in the kitchen

While you can save big bucks by cooking at home, not every kitchen project is an effective money-saver.  If you’re making your own version of an expensive food (granola is a great example of this), then a DIY recipe makes a lot of sense.  But if you’re making your own colored sprinkles or are making a labor-intensive condiment, the return on your time will be very poor.

Instead:

Focus on savings-intensive kitchen projects and don’t worry about the rest.

  1. Eeking extra years out of a car seat

Car seats have expiration dates on them for a good reason: after sitting in a car for a number of years, the parts begin to deteriorate, making them ineffective in a crash.  A new seat is expensive, but it’s nothing compared to hospital bills or worse, losing a child.

Second-hand car seats are also an iffy option unless you know for sure the seat hasn’t been in a crash.

Instead:

Pay attention to the expiration date on seats you own, and keep an out for a sale when it’s time for a new one.

  1. Making an extra trip to save on gas

Obviously, you’ve got to use gas in order to get your car to the station, so don’t make an extra trip to find a cheaper station. It only takes a few extra miles of driving to completely negate any savings on the actual gas purchase.

Instead:

Plan to get gas when other errands take you near a gas station, and if you can’t do that, fill up at a nearby station.  This will almost always save you more than driving to another station.

  1. Sewing your own clothes

There are plenty of reasons to sew your own clothes (you can customize the fit, you can use the fabric you want, you can avoid supporting sweatshops, to name a few), but if your focus is saving money, there are better ways to go.  Fabric, thread, patterns, and notions such as elastic, buttons, and interfacing all add up quickly, and it takes time to sew as well.

Instead:

Shop thrift stores, consignment stores, yard sales and clearance racks to stretch your clothing budget.

  1. Shopping at 10 different grocery stores

Grocery stores do all tend to run great loss-leader sales each week, and it’s tempting to visit each one of them to snag their best deals.  But if the stores aren’t very close together, you’re going to be using a fair amount of gas during your bargain shopping trip.  Plus, multiple store stops take a lot of time.

Instead:

Pick a handful of stores that run the best deals and stick with them.  You’ll still be saving money, but you won’t be wasting gas and time.

  1. Nixing insurance

Life insurance, car insurance, health insurance, and homeowner’s or renter’s insurance can feel like unnecessary expenses, but skipping out on them is penny-wise and pound foolish. If you ever find yourself in a place where you need the coverage, you’ll seriously regret not having it and the expenses you’ll incur will be far more than the amount you saved on premiums.

Instead:

Pick another area of your budget to trim. Call around to get quotes from different companies.  Get a high-deductible plan to reduce your premium (Just be sure to save up enough to cover your deductible.)

  1. Eating processed foods

There are always fantastic deals to be found on packaged and processed foods, and foods based on refined grains (Ramen, anyone?) are much less expensive than meats, dairy products, and produce.  But a low grocery budget is no bargain if you end up with a poorly nourished body.

Instead:

Buy produce in season, make use of frozen produce (it’s just as nutritious as fresh), stock up when you find a sale on healthy foods, and focus on naturally cheap whole foods (brown rice, oatmeal, root vegetables, legumes, chicken thighs, and eggs, for instance).

  1. Implementing frugal practices you hate

Thought we all have to do things we dislike, it’s best to pick and choose the money-saving activities that are the least painful for you.  The odds of you sticking with a habit you loathe are slim to none, and frugal habits are most helpful when you stick with them over the long haul.

Instead:

If you hate shopping at consignment stores but love cooking from scratch, focus on the cooking.  If you don’t mind using cloth napkins, washcloths and towels, but would rather die than give up your toilet paper, then just keep on throwing a pack of TP into your cart.

There are plenty of wise ways to save money without sacrificing your integrity, health, sanity, or all of your free time, and if you choose carefully, you can keep your budget and your attitude in good shape.

What penny-pinching tactics do you skip?

Kristen is an east coast wife, mom, and blogger behind The Frugal Girl. In an effort to inspire others to live frugally, Kristen contributes to the CareOne blog, a community that provides debt consolidation and money-saving advice.

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Create a Bit More Buzz About the Gift

The explosive growth in popularity of gift cards is quite literally beyond measure. What started out with a few gift card offerings in random industries not so long ago has turned into a phenomenon. Standard or customized, they’re now available and provided by a great number of companies in practically every conceivable industry.

Business owners who have integrated gift cards into their sales and marketing arsenal can truly take the marketability of gift card presentation one step further. To truly make the presentation complete, they are electing to supplement gift cards with custom gift card holders.

Plastic gift card holders offer additional options to heighten the design theme and message of any plastic card. Coming in 4 standard sizes, custom sizes are also available.

Gift Card Holder

[Image courtesy of Tom Eppenberger Jr./wikimedia.org]

Available in full photo quality color, images can be printed on one or both sides of the card holder, and use a Standard 10 pt White Material for 1-side stock, or 10 pt C2S for the tri-fold card carrier. These card holders and carriers, also known as Fold Over card carriers, are available in the following sizes: Standard size fold size gift card carrier measures 4″ x 6″; Standard top fold size gift card carrier measures 4″ x 5.5″ (even fold); Standard top fold size gift card carrier measures 2.8″ x 8.75″; and Standard tri-fold size gift card holder measures 4″ x 7.875″.

Customers can choose a custom material for the card holder based on any color or ‘feel’ preferences.

Quality, trusted online printing stores, like MyStop1.com, offer all these options, and much more on their websites.

The marketing of the image or other information doesn’t have to be exclusively on the outside of the card holder. Printing on the inside of the card carrier is an option, and is a great way to carry the message even further. This is an ideal area to print any special instructions about the card, or to perhaps highlight special use features for the card. Limited time offers or sales printed on the inside of the card carrier can give the user that last moment reminder of something significant, which really is a nice feature.

Giving a gift card to someone in a custom gift card holder is an inexpensive way to perhaps create a bit more buzz about the gift, and provide just a bit more exposure for their product.

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Basic Check Precautions To Keep In Mind

For safety purposes, people avoid carrying that much cash especially if they are having transactions in places that they aren’t familiar with. That’s why credit and debit cards exist or simply the “plastics”. However, they are cases wherein you really need to hand over something as good as cash and this time around, checks are the only solution to it.

Opening up a checking account in your bank of choice, whether it’s for personal or business purposes, is most likely more expensive compared to the usual savings account. The reason behind is that checks can be of any amount depending on what you’re going to write on it and can sometimes be used for fraudulent transactions.

Most of the time, the bank personnel would explain the do’s and don’ts in having one upon giving your first booklet. Part of what so called ‘orientation’ would be the possible lawsuits you would face whenever you would issue a check that has no money in it.

They would also be discussing about the bank charges whenever a certain check would be deposited under other people’s account and you failed to place funds in it before the indicated date. These bank charges aren’t cheap and you would really regret the fact of not taking the dates seriously.

Also avoid placing your signature on your blank checks or you will curse yourself for the rest of your life. It’s a basic precaution that every check holder should bear in mind. If you happen to issue some checks in the future, make sure to print the amount yourself rather than letting somebody else to do it for you.

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