Thursday, July 7, 2011

Find invisible ways to save

For all the talk of extreme couponing, frugalistas, and the new frugality these days and in the wake of the recession, it is still pretty unacceptable in some circles to be watching your wallet more than everyone else.  If you're in the land of conspicuous consumption and, for whatever reason, need to blend in and keep up, then you need to find inconspicuous savings.

So to still save and avoid the questions, notice or even derision of your acquaintances or colleagues you might want to find invisible ways to save.  Areas you can cut in your budget and no one but you and your piggy bank knows the difference.  So if you need to keep your frugality under the radar here are a few good ways to put it to use without anyone the wiser:
  1. Car insurance - Shop around for the best rate and raise your deductible to what you can afford to self insure. 
  2. Cell phone plans - There may still be pressure to upgrade to a smart phone but no one except you has to know how much data or text messages you use.  If you don't really use your phone or need to find savings, cut your data plan to the minimum.  Of course, you'll need to monitor your usage since going over can be pricey, but most carriers have phone numbers or websites that make it easy to track.
  3. Buy some of your groceries generic - If you're the only one who sees them then why do brand names matter?
  4. Use gift cards for stores you regularly shop at and buy them at a discount online - The fact that your gift cards all cost you 80% of face value can stay between you and me.  This can discount your keep up with the Jonses wardrobe.
  5. Use coupons and sales when you shop alone - How often do friends or co-workers join you as you shop for toiletries or groceries?  Go ahead and penny pinch to your heart's content here.
  6. Avoid bank fees, paying interest and other invisible money pits - When money leaves your hands it should be bringing you value.  Interest on debt, parking tickets, overdraft fees and so on don't do this.  While you're at it, make sure your investments are in low fee accounts and vehicles.
  7. Negotiate your bills - Call Comcast, Verizon, your power company and who ever else you have regular bills with and negotiate.  Politely ask for better deals or to have advertised deals matched.   How much you pay for your DirectTV is irrelevant when you have the guys over to watch ESPN 10 1/2.
  8. Thrift store or vintage shops - The fashionista movement has made this more acceptable, but if you can find quality brands of barely used clothes at a fraction of the price you might just save some money.
  9. Mind your taxes - Use a 401k, FSA, HSA, or 529 accounts and every available deduction and credit to your advantage.  Plan ahead a bit and minimize your tax burden.  When tax time comes around and everyone complains, keep your savings mum and try to sympathize.
 Of course even if you aren't in a situation where you need to hide your frugal, you can still use these strategies.  I use them and I have the fabulous and true excuse of a looming tuition bill to get out of pricey outings or conspicuous consumption.

What's your experience? Do you keep your interest in personal finance or your thrifty habits under wraps?

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  1. Great ideas. You can also save money on your utility bills by doing things like installing low flow shower heads, installing a programmable thermostat, caulking around the windows, checking for leaks and weathersealing around doors, and wearing a sweater around the house when it's cold so you can notch the thermostat down a couple of degrees.

  2. I don't usually discuss my financial affairs with people other than close family. However, I am not going out of my way to keep my frugal habits a secret, either. I hear people criticizing others for spending time with frugality and using coupons. Some of the people on the receiving end of the criticism are scared of being labeled as cheapskates. Honestly, people shouldn't give much thought to how others feel about them trying to save money.

  3. I think these are all great ways to save money.

    I just happen not to be a frugal ninja. I am more of a sing it from the mountain tops, making clothes from drapes, frugal. All Fräulein Maria style.

  4. Susan - Your approach sounds like mine. It doesn't seem like it should be a big deal to me, but talking with friends and family it seems like some of them are in this situation.

    For example, I've been fortunate enough to always work somewhere where brownbagging lunch is common enough to be normal, but if I switched to a company where eating out or take out was almost universal I don't know if I could stick to packing lunch. I guess it would depend on the culture. There are cases where we need to care what people think of us.

  5. Money Beagle - Great point! There are tons of ways to save on your utilities. You can also do DIY home maintenance or comparison shop on contractors to save more.

  6. Nikki - As long as your drapes are a little more modern than Maria's I'm right there with you! No olive floral patterns for me, thanks. ;)

  7. No, I flaunt my frugality. ;)
    All my friends and family are pretty cheap so it's no big deal.

  8. Being frugal is different than being cheap. I want to be know as the former.

    Great tips; I wish I was better at negotiating!

  9. "Invisible" ways to save. I don't think I've heard it put like that before. Almost indicates that they're self-conscious ways of spending.

  10. I like your ideas, haha I like how one can use coupons while shopping alone.

    Hey just wanted to point out- if they were your TRUE friends and knew who you REALLY were you could use your coupons to your hearts content anyway! ;)

  11. youngandthrifty - I completely agree - real friends should be supportive or at least tolerant of frugality.

  12. @No Debt MBA- I can see your point. It is sometimes difficult to curb your spending when you are in a social situation. I went out to eat at Chili's with my family this weekend, when I didn't plan on doing so. I don't regret it, because I had a good time. But I spent money outside of my budget, because I did not want to miss out on enjoying time with my family and friends.