By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Looking to save some money for your end-of-the-summer vacation? Here are five commonly-touted tips on thrift that you should ignore:
1. Go cold turkey. For the same reasons that crash diets don’t work, trying to stop all of your superfluous spending all at once is likely to be an ineffective tactic. In fact, you may end up spending more money on future impulse buys if you try to.
What to do instead: Try tapering off your inessential purchases gradually. For instance, you can start off by simply: start skipping your daily trip to the local coffee shop. Depending on what kind of caffeinated cup you usually order, this little trick may end up saving you $3 or $4 a day. You can still get your caffeine fix–just make your drink at home using ingredients purchased from the grocery store. A quick online search can give you a host of copycat recipes so you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between your home-brewed version and the coffee shop’s. (See How to Brew Coffee Like a Barista.) When it comes to resisting large purchases, like a new plasma TV, or state-of-the art standing mixer, you may want to wait a few weeks before spending your money. Chances are that, after giving yourself some time and distance from a shiny potential purchase, you won’t feel a strong urge to buy it—you may even forget that you wanted it in the first place.
2. Bulk up all of your buys. A 10 for $10 deal may seem like a real bargain, but if the sale is on perishable goods that really can’t be frozen (fresh fruits, veggies, etc.) or things that you aren’t likely to use a lot of (reams of high-gloss cardstock) you should resist the temptation to buy.
What to do instead: Stock up on certain items. Trash bags, toilet paper, toothpaste, and soap are all items that you’ll always need, and that will keep indefinitely. If you see that these kinds of products are on sale, don’t hesitate to nab them before someone else does.
3. Adopt a ‘the cheaper the better’ motto. Most of the time, purchases from your local dollar store are so inexpensive because they are cheaply made. This means that it probably won’t be long before you have to spend more money to replace your bargain buy.
What to do instead: Exercise discretion. Inexpensive doesn’t always equal bad. As with buying in bulk, the key to bargain hunting is being selective about what you buy on the cheap. For example, grocery store generics are generally of the same quality as the brand names they sit beside. Sometimes they’re even the same product in different packaging. (See Dollar Stores: What to Buy & What to Avoid)
4. Forgo regular maintenance (for you and your stuff). Skipping out on things like regular dentist checkups and oil changes for your car may appear to be a good way to save a few bucks in the short term but, over time, putting them off can add up.
What to do instead: Be smart when spending money on upkeep. Regular maintenance may not cost as much as you think. For example, most vehicles don’t need to have their oil changed as often as the local oil change place recommends. You can save money by consulting the owner’s manual in your car to see how often the oil should be changed in order for your vehicle to continue running smoothly. When it comes to dental care, being without health insurance may mean forking out anywhere from $75 to $200 for a biannual tooth cleaning. But putting it off, even for just a year or two, can end up costing you way more when you eventually get back to the dentist’s chair. Excessive plaque build-up, gum recession, and tooth decay are all costly problems to fix. If you’re really strapped for cash, consider scouring deal-a-day websites like Groupon, and LivingSocial for deals on checkups and x-rays at dental clinics in your area.
5. BOGO blindly. A buy-one-get-one deal can make you feel fabulously frugal—but, keep in mind that not all BOGO deals are bargains. If you don’t need more than one pair of shoes, jeans, etc., a well-marketed BOGO can basically trick you into spending more than you need to.
What to do instead: BOGO with caution. Not all BOGOs are bad ideas. If you really need two pairs of jeans, or shoes, then you should feel good about finding a good deal. But, before you buy, ask yourself if you’ll really use two of whatever is one sale. If your answer is yes, you may want to calculate out what the cost per item will end up being with the discount. If it still looks like a bargain, then go for it.