6 ways you think you're saving money, but you're not
Even when you're big on saving money, it can be easy to miss these everyday ways you're paying too much. See if you identify with any of these 6 ways you think you're saving money, but you're not.
(1) Going out of business sales –
Savvy shoppers need to know retail prices before they buy anything – and this sale situation is no exception. With most going out of business sales, the prices are all returned to regular retail (or worse, suggested retail) – and then “slashed” by 30% – triggering a shopping frenzy.
The psychology behind it is the fear of missing out. People react and buy because the idea of a store going out of business generates the mentality that everything must be an amazing buy – even when it's not. A mere 30% off isn't better than a normal sale, and the fact that you can't use additional discounts and coupons on store-closing sales makes it even worse. Save your money and shop a store that isn't closing. Use Swagbucks.com to save even more through their cash-back rebates and online coupons. If you can, get a gift card through them first, then buy what you need to save even more!
(2) Unlimited cell phone plans –
Obviously, if you're a phone gamer, have lots of lines that all share, or use your phone extensively for business purposes, unlimited may be your cheapest route. But the average cell phone user does not typically need “unlimited”. Check your average total usage over the past 6 months to see how much talk, text, and data you really use. You'll likely be surprised that it isn't nearly as high as you assumed. A limited plan could save you $10-30 a month over an unlimited plan.
(3) Packaged and boxed mixes –
You have to really evaluate what comes in the package. One expensive boxed example is meal helpers. They're convenient but you're paying a premium for that convenience. Even on sale at $1, you're only getting about 30-45 cents worth of actual food. Instead, buy large bags of egg noodles and learn to make the sauces from scratch.
(4) Loyalty, rewards or points programs –
These can be tricky because they are supposed to both save you money, and (spoiler alert) make you loyal to one particular business or brand. The problem comes in with the loyalty part. If you're always shopping at the same store because of rewards or points; or you're automatically inputting your membership information into forms online – you may actually be paying the same or even more.
Amazon Prime has come under fire for this exact thing: Prime members discovered (and proved) that they were not actually saving over non-Prime members. The supposed “free shipping” that came with their paid membership wasn't free at all, it just went from “paying for shipping” to being buried within a higher product price. And you'd never see the price difference if you're always logged in as a member. Amazon has worked on fixing this, but it still happens all over the internet.
At the time of this writing, a major hotel chain was touting on their website “Join now for lower rates”. Input an email to check out their free loyalty program, and watched the price jump up per night, rather than down. Worst part? Couldn't get back to the lower rate. And that is precisely why you need to first check prices without any membership or rewards information entered. Then add it in and see what you save – if any – for your loyalty.
(5) Buying the wrong things at the dollar store –
The dollar store definitely has bargains and there are some things I don't advocate buying anywhere else. But other goods are more expensive or even double the price elsewhere.
The key is to watch the ounces of what you're buying. One example is grape jelly. You can get a small jar there, maybe 6 ounces, which comes out to almost 17 cents per ounce. Buy a 32-ounce jar at a regular store for around $2.29 – and pay less than half per ounce, just 7 cents.
(6) Grabbing everything you need at the same store –
If you're the type of person that will get sucked into buying a bunch of things you didn't plan on, shopping all at one store might not be financially harmful in the long run. But if you're excellent at buying only what you need, just grabbing items from the store you're already in is expensive. Some places (like the dollar store mentioned above or pharmacy stores) can be less expensive, especially for non-grocery. Making another stop could save you half or better.