As we've mentioned a few times and you've probably noticed, we are frugal. We look for steals and deals in everything, from food to clothing to solar panels. We clip coupons, search the Internet and ask for discounts everywhere. And, we've learned from the best, Debbie Burke, Brandon's mom. Ask anyone who has been out to eat with her and they will tell you, it's better to not invite her, than to go without a coupon.
Now, we're not cheap! There is a difference. Cheap is going out to eat when you can't afford to tip appropriately, cheap is buying something off brand with bad reviews rather than forking over a little extra cash for name brand and reliable, and that is not us! We are flexible with most things, but do keep some brand loyalty for tried and true products and we ALWAYS tip. In fact, before heading out on the road, Brandon and I were chronic over-tippers. We consistently left 30-50% tips for excellent service. We worked in restaurants and tipped how we wanted to be tipped. While living at moms for a month prior to departure, we had to train ourselves not to overtip. We started slow and felt like assholes almost every time we paid, leaving only 25%. Now that we are following a strict budget we feel more comfortable leaving 20-25% but still occasionally drop a fifty on a $19 dollar bill when our server is a rockstar. (Ellis Island, Las Vegas 4:45am )
Okay back to couponing. When I first met Brandon, he told me the story of his mom bringing her own American cheese to a burger joint because they charged .50 cents per slice to add it to a hamburger. This guy has grown up penny pinching and now after 14 years together we definitely know how to save some dollars. We do, however, leave the cheese at home.
1. Google. Check online while shopping in the store. When buying clothes, pet supplies, appliances or anything from a large retailer like Petco, Macy's, Home Depot, etc., we always throw a quick search into google and scan sites like retailmenot.com. We never purchase something without a quick browse, sometimes we save up to 20% and sometimes come up empty, but it's always worth the few minutes.
2. Sign up for their email. When checking retailmenot.com sometimes it will tell you $5 off when you become a member. This is easy money! Head to the home page of the store you're at and sign up for their emailing list. Most 1st time signs ups are the best offer. Sometimes we use the 1st offer and unsubscribe from future emails so we don't get bombarded with a full mailbox. But, if you shop there consistently, stay on the mailing list and you'll be sent coupons and specials so you're never paying full price.
3. Use your phone number. Grocery stores and drug stores have member programs set up by phone number so you don't need to keep a card handy. Some stores have online coupons and apps, always check these before going shopping. The specials they have plus your coupons can equal out to paying almost nothing for certain products if you're lucky!
4. Pick up a Sunday paper. The $1.50 it costs for the Sunday paper will be well worth it with the coupons you get. The trick here is to not be brand loyal. Sure, somethings are worth paying the extra money for to use the same brand but things like body wash, cereal, laundry detergent, mascara, snacks and more can be almost free when using coupons from the Sunday paper. You can also keep up with current events as a bonus.
5. Yelp! and social media Companies and restaurants are hip these days. Many have updated social media outlets with even more deals and discounts. We check Facebook, Instagram and Yelp, even if you don't come up with a coupon, you get a good look at what to order! Yelp! is great for checking photos, reviews and many places have Yelp! deals on the app. We also use google search for happy hour or daily specials. A simple "Boise Happy Hour Monday" search is usually all it takes to find some awesome deals.
6. Again, check the website. Restaurant websites are the best place to look for coupons. There are a bunch of BOGO, free dessert, $5 off coupons just waiting to be used. Most restaurants will let you just show the coupons from your phone but always double check the fine print. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS tip on the PRE-DISCOUNTED price! You're frugal not cheap remember!
7. Apps. Our most used app is probably Gas Buddy. You can scan a map with gas stations and pricing so you can get the best deal. A mile or two off the highway could save you .30 cents a gallon, and when you're filling an RV that can equal some big savings! We also take a quick peek at Groupon, Livingsocial and Travelzoo when on the road. These sites have fed us, sent us to spas, and put us on wave runners for next to nothing!
8. Ask for a discount. When purchasing from a private party, giant corporation or mom and pop shop it doesn't hurt to ask for a discount. Military, senior, student, locals, visitors or cash discounts are the most popular. We saved $115 on our RV solar panels asking for a cash discount. When visiting a new restaurant mention you've never eaten there before and ask if they have any specials. "You have a military discount? 'No.' You have a senior discount? 'No.' We'll all be, no love for an old soldier." -Grandpa Burke.
9. Keep Track! I know, I know, nobody likes a budget but it’s probably our best money saving tip. The more you know about how you spend money the easier it is to cut back and save. We use an app called My Finances. It goes with us everywhere we do so it is super easy to add money in and account for expenses. Once you have an idea of what your making and where your money is going it is easy to make adjustments.
So there you have it, a few ideas to save you some money for the next time you go out to eat or head to the mall. Let us know if you have any extra ways to save! And please, don't bring your own cheese!