Who says you can’t have fun AND save money? Contributor Andy Shuler is back with some great frugal living tips that keep money in your wallet without killing your lifestyle.
Best part? They take almost no time at all…
For the last two years, I lived with my wife in Lincoln Park, a downtown neighborhood in Chicago. We paid $1800/month in rent for a 1 BR/1 BA, 800 sq. ft. apartment. We paid outrageous taxes. We paid crazy prices for food and drinks. We had to pay for soooo many things that I never thought I would have to pay for. For instance, this was the process of going to buy a two liter of diet coke at the store:
- Walk to my car, where it was parked somewhere on the street as close to my house as possible, usually at least a few minutes away. The monthly cost to STREET PARK was about $10.
- Drive to Walmart. Pay to street Park.
- Buy a two liter of diet coke. Pay $.68 in the sweetened beverage tax ($.01/ounce). Pay over 10% in sales tax.
- Put the two liter in a plastic grocery bag. $.07 tax for the bag.
- Drive home. Hope that I find a place close to my apartment to street park, that I pay $10/month for that privilege. Spoiler – I never did find a good spot.
Based off this introduction, you might think that I hated living in Chicago….you’d be wrong. There were so many amazing things to do. The restaurants, bars, festivals, access to all kinds of entertainment, the ability to be on a beach and in a city within a five-minute walk, and so many others…were absolutely incredible. But nothing was ever easy. Everything was always a hassle.
We knew that living in Chicago was going to be a short-term as my company typically moves us around every 2-3 years, so we wanted to make the most of it and truly experience all the city had to offer.
Chicago is extremely expensive, so I did every possible thing that I did to save as much money as possible on our activities, and I was the most frugal person you could ever imagine.
I would literally go to Walmart and look at Kleenex, then pull out my phone and check the price on Amazon, and then buy the cheaper option.
My wife would laugh at me, but even if I could save $5, that was then $5 that I could use doing a Chicago activity that I might not have the ability to do every again without having to travel back to Chicago. When we moved from Cincinnati to Chicago, we were used to spending money as we pleased and spending money with no regard – we both quickly learned that had to change if we wanted to fully enjoy Chicago, so it did.
I’m purposefully not going to list out a ton of specific applications that you can use, but more so talk about some of my logic and then you can find your own ways to make it work for you…below are some “hacks” to living frugally:
Tip #1: Going out to Restaurants or Bars
I frequently would look for good deals when going to eat or get drinks. This was my favorite part of Chicago – all of the amazing opportunities for good food and cool bars will be something I’ll always miss. Unfortunately, this also was extremely expensive, so I spent a lot of time trying to find ways to continue to do this, but save money while doing so.
Two apps that I used, Yelp and Seated, are great tools to get discounted meals/drinks. I would frequently visit a restaurant in Chicago called “Old Grounds Social”. When we went, we’d be there for hours, watching various football games. We’d get a good group of people together and easily rack up a significant tab. Looking on Yelp and Seated, both of them had great offers, noted below:
As you can see, the Seated App (left) shows that you can get 21% back in Seated Rewards and Yelp (right) shows 20% off your order. So, I’d combine these two together…imagine this:
6 people at the restaurant/bar for 4 hours (normal when watching multiple games)
Step 1: Make a reservation on Seated
Step 2: Have fun. I will assume that the average spend is $75/person or $450 total
Step 3: Show Yelp coupon to server when cashing out
Your $450 bill has now been reduced to $360 and then you get another $75.60 in Seated Rewards, saving a total of $165.6, or $27.60/person. Again, this might not seem like some ridiculous number of saving, but I literally spent an extra 15 seconds and saved 36.8% of my bill (even more important when you’re with your significant other any paying for two!)
Another simple way is to simply Google search for happy hour deals in your area. There are so many websites that show you all the happy hour specials so you can try out a new place…chances are, you’ll find a deal at a place you were wanting to try anyways!
Tip #2: Frugal Entertainment and Comedy Shows
One of our favorite activities in Chicago was to go to comedy clubs. We’d always go to the Laugh Factory for a cheaper show than some of the other locations…only $17 a show!
But wait…then I did a little research…$17? Ha, forget that! I found a great deal on Groupon for the Same. Exact. Show.
So instead of paying $17, I’m now paying $5.75/ticket. Not too shabby for again, doing almost nothing.
Tip #3: Frugal Shopping for Groceries
This deal, admittedly, is the slowest deal to really realize any true value, but it does help. I use an app called Ibotta, and all I did was simply link my credit card and then select which items I intend to buy before I go grocery shopping. Literally two minutes before I leave, I select them.
On average, I probably only save about $2 – $3/grocery trip, but that can be over $150/year.
Tip #4: Online vs In-Person Shopping
Earlier, I said that I would get on Amazon and price shop from my app, while at the store itself. I’m not lying. I would literally do this. I would do the math, that if I could buy 48 rolls of TP online for a cheaper price than buying it at the store, I would. Here’s an example of Paper Towels:
This example is much more simply as no math is involved in converting the rolls/ply to a dollar amount. (Yes, I know I’ve probably lost a lot of you at this point). Again, I know this probably seems like such a meaningless savings, but to me it was worth it. It took 30 seconds.
And yes, I only saved $1.54 (w/ the $.25 coupon), but that was $1.54 that I could then go spend doing other things I wanted to spend it on. Our savings rate was a nonnegotiable, so this money was put back into our “fun fund”. For many people, their savings isn’t a nonnegotiable, or might even be nonexistent, so a few bucks can really make or break the future for them. That’s the mindset I’m trying to hammer into everyone’s mind.
Tip #5: BONUS!!! (Frugal Home Improvement)
When I rented in Chicago, I never cared about Lowes. Like ever. I had a landlord to fix all of my issues.
Well, now that I have a yard that needs mowed, and a driveway that needs a snowblower, and porch that needs a grill, and a yard that needs fertilized, and the list goes on and on…I thought to myself… “there has to be a better way!” That’s a little Shark Tank joke (to myself really), but when I was considering paying $1500 for a riding mower, and couldn’t find a coupon anywhere, I really thought there has to be a better way…and there was. My personal hero, Amazon, comes through again:
I literally just searched for a Lowe’s coupon in Amazon and found a 10% off code. The code costs $3.65, so as long as I’m spending more than $36.50, I’m saving money. I will say I’ve only used this online, but I’ve done it twice and it works like a charm.
As I mentioned earlier, this article really is not meant to be a guide for all the apps and hacks for everyone to implement…it’s more or less trying to get you motivated to think differently and to think outside of the box.
Chances are, there are different apps and methods for you to find cheap deals in your city too, you’re just not looking at them.
I strongly encourage you to spend some time looking at these various methods of saving, doing some research on your own, and then going out there and having some fun. Chances are you’re going to find some ways to save on things you’ve already been wanting to do, and some new ideas too, and your wallet will thank you for it.