Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nearly every purchase has a cheaper option

In my quest to save money I've realized I know one thing that's nearly always true--there's usually a cheaper option. So, for any purchase, step back.... pause... and ask yourself: should I really buy this item for this price?

Perfect example: my husband's cell phone recently died. He's hard on phones. When he gets a brand new one he might as well just flush it down the toilet, use it for fetch with our Lab, then attach it to his car from a string and drag it 40 miles on a gravel road... so when his phone died too soon for us to renew, I knew a used one was the best option.

Photo: My phone appears nearly new next to his mangled mess.
I remembered that a friend on the same network had an extra phone she didn't need. I called her, but didn't reach her. I panicked...aaaggghhh! We had to have a phone! We can't live without a phone!

So, I checked an on-line company that someone I knew had used: <---don't use them. Long story short: I ordered a phone, it didn't work, they promised to send another, didn't send one... they don't offer money back, and so on... probably just lost 70 bucks because of impatience. And wouldn't you know, my husband's co-worker just got a new phone and gave his old one to us. Just like that. So easy. So free. What should I have done? Well, I could've posted a note on my facebook account, I could've sent out a few e-mails, I could've asked strangers on the street, and in all likelihood, we'd had a phone that same day if I hadn't panicked. How many of you have old phones sitting at your house right now you'd been happy to see put to good use? You know the phone, too good to throw away or recycle, just sitting there... and you keep thinking to yourself... "I ought to sell that thing on Craig's List" but you haven't. There's usually a cheaper, or even free, option... when you take the time to consider your situation. Clothing. Furniture. Cars. All things we buy used all the time, so often, in fact, that whole industries are based on used clothes, cars, furniture, appliances, houses... But what about everything else? Here are some random examples from my life where I realized I could find a cheaper or free option. Carpet (cheap). My house has hardwood floors, but with the addition of baby, I realized I wanted some softer areas. Instead of buying expensive rugs, I just bought remnants from Fraziers. You can get any number of large or small sizes of varying quality and pay as little as $12 or as much as $200. They have a whole area devoted just to remnants, just ask when you go in.

Seeds (free). When it was time to plant my garden this year, I realized it'd cost me $20 just in seeds because I wanted so many different plants--zinnias, cucumbers, okra, watermelons, sunflowers, zucchini, marigolds, green beans, peas, etc--and I didn't want very many of each plant either. I mulled it over and realized I could just ask my mother, who plants a large garden every year, for a few seeds of each of the items she was also buying.

Coupons (free). Many couponers buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper to get to the good stuff--the coupons. I just get my parent's coupons from their paper and from a friend couponer who gives me her extras.

Fertilizer (cheap). I have two fish tanks, a 30 and 75 gallon, and I have 30+ houseplants. One day I put two and two together. When I siphon the yucky muck from the bottom of my fish tanks... I put that into my houseplants. Sorta free, but I do have to pay to keep up the fish.

Photos: some of my many house plants.

Gift bags (free). Next time you receive a gift from me, it'll be in one of the many gift bags I've received over the years. I recently realized--while decluttering--that my emotional attachment to gift bags ends now.

Photo: that's an 18-gallon container stuffed full.

VCR (free). Plenty of people have given their video cassette tapes to McKay's Used Books & CD's, but not me. I keep all my favorites, whether on disc or tape, so when our VCR died, I thought about how like the above cell phone example, plenty of people had VCR's they were dying to get rid of. Sure enough!

The above examples don't begin to touch on the amazing savings one can get with coupons. If you still haven't ventured into the couponing world, I urge you to do so. An example: for the last few weeks, my new best friend and I have been scrapbooking once a week. That stuff's expensive, but... A.C. Moore will email you a coupon each week, print one on the bottom of your receipt and give you another in the Sunday paper, Hobby Lobby emails a coupon, JoAnns, Michaels... Scrapbooks and More will match competitor's coupons once a week and usually have their own coupon in the school coupon books.

We also need to print out some of those millions of digital pictures we have. Shutterfly can't seem to stop themselves from offering me 50 free prints time and again--all I pay is shipping. Walgreens gave me 25 free prints when I bought 25 this week. Offers abound--find the one that's right for you.

Everything we purchase might have a cheaper or free option. About to throw down money on something? Wait! Let's put our heads together first and see if we can think of a cheaper option.

Finally, many thanks to everyone I've alluded to in this post!


Ocean Child said...

I am in LOVE with all your house plants. One day I hope my house looks like that. If we could just settle down in our own home and not move so much that is ...

My mom has ALWAYS recycled her gift bags and so I do to. Gift bags are always so nice and pretty - it's a shame to do anything with them other than save them and re-use again!!!! In fact one gift bag I kept I loved the cover because it was the cover of an old children's book I loved as a child and I had it framed recently and it's in Elijah's nursery now on the wall!

Mamabelle said...

What a neat idea for a nursery wall item! I am thinking some of the bags will make great background or accents in a scrapbook of my daughter, so that's another idea for re-using them.

Alyssa said...

Gotta love Freecycle too!

Mamabelle said...

I didn't have a good experience when I tried out freecycle, perhaps I should try again!