The other day, I was
trolling reading through the FinCon13 Facebook page, and I saw a post from Stephanie at The Empowered Dollar where she was asking people to share the most embarrassing things they’ve done to save money for her upcoming Confessions of a PF Blogger post.
This first made me think of my own Confessions of a PF Blogger series I started over two years ago to chronicle my financial past. Then I began to think of all of the wonky things I’ve done over the years to save a few bucks. From the cringe-worthy to the surprisingly common, here’s where my bad behaviors fall on the shame scale when it comes to saving money/pinching my pennies:
Loading up on Freebies
A lot of people responding to the FinCon FB thread mentioned loading up on free food samples while grocery shopping in lieu of paying for a meal (so have been there, done that). Some also mentioned swiping extra condiments and disposable silverware/napkins from fast-food places (yep, totally have done that before!), while others mentioned taking full advantage of buffets to line their purses or backpacks with snacks for later (what, I can’t take 5 bananas with me?!).
While I’ve done most of these, I think my mecca of free comes in part from the various sporting events I participate in. Race expos can be a gold mine of great stuff for free if you’re savvy and not shy. I’ve flat out asked for free, full-sized samples and products–and I’ve usually been rewarded for my boldness! The most shameful haul I ever pulled in? 5 pairs of brand-new Asics athletic socks that retailed for $13/each.
I was at a race and afterwards a woman put out a few cases of merchandise for the runners who were left to take home with them. I politely took my one pair but as I was turning to walk away, she grabbed my bag and stuffed in a few more pairs, saying, “Go ahead honey, take more!” I sheepishly accepted (feeling a bit odd yet elated because I really needed new socks), and I scurried my way back to the parking lot.
Estimated savings on socks, goo, drink mixes, energy bars, and even apparel: $1,000 and counting.
Milk the Student Discount
It’s no secret that I love to learn and that I’ve been pretty savvy with finding creative ways to finance my education. What’s been a bit of a secret is that I was flashing my student ID card for discounts years after graduating. I’ll admit that it’s still quite tempting to do even today, but I resist that urge because I don’t want to abuse the very programs that allowed me to have a social life when I had no money. That being said, I did get into some museums in Europe for free within the past 3 years thanks to my grad school ID. Oops!
Estimated savings on museums, concerts, travel, meals out, and other fab student-only freebies: $600+
Postpone Gift-Giving Plans
Now we’re starting to enter the real realm of shameful. Back when I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I spent two years delaying my Christmas gift giving until after the holiday had passed. Why? Because I couldn’t afford much of anything that I was used to giving people, so I waited for the after-Christmas sales, I combined the sale items with any gift cards I had received, and I bought everyone’s presents on the cheap.
Looking back, I could have just made things or given my time or even cooked/baked/cleaned for my family members. I now realize that it doesn’t matter what you give as long as you’re doing it with good, loving intentions. I no longer tie my own self worth to the extravagant gifts I can shower people with–I’d much rather just have a conversation or spend some much-need Quality Time with them!
Estimated savings after two Christmas seasons of belated gift-giving: At least $500.
Hitting the Gym for Free
In the past, I was a master of utilizing the “try before you buy” incentives at local gyms, yoga studios, and bootcamps. I was a serial gym goer…but only if it was free to me. I’d happily give out my name and spam email address, and I eagerly listened to the salesperson’s script for however long it took me to get that week-long (or even month-long) pass. Granted, this was years ago and today I don’t even go to the gym because I prefer to run/workout outside, but I shudder to think of how many places I’ve skipped out on when it came time to enroll in a paying membership.
Estimated savings through 3 years of gym hopping for free passes: $800+
Returning Clothes After I’ve Worn Them
OK, I did this once. But in my current book of financial security, once is too much. Now we are knee-deep in the arena of shame. Back when I was interviewing for grad schools and new jobs in Boston, I needed a new suit. With a pile of maxed out credit cards and only a few dollars to my name, there was no way I could buy a suit no matter how bad the need was–even if it came from a thrift store.
So what did I do? I marched into the local mall, picked out a gorgeous suit, pinned up all the tags, wore it for my interviews (all in one day thankfully), then returned it the next week. Graceful? Certainly not. Shameful? Absofreakinlutely.
Estimated savings on new suit: $350
Turning a New Page
Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since my days of ridiculous debt and living as a financially clueless wonder. I’m proud to say that I don’t do any of this stuff anymore, but I certainly wouldn’t judge someone who needs to because I understand firsthand how rough it can be to make changes in your financial world.
That being said, it’s a lot easier on your pride if you simply plan for expenses, save up for them in advance, or have an e-fund for those little surprises that can wreak havoc on your budget!