A Penny Saved

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for ways to save a buck and stay on budget in the midst of earning that degree or navigating newlywed life or the busyness of family. Sometimes it seems like life costs more than the resources we have to pay for it. Over the past few days, I’ve compiled a list of 5 topics where you can save money without grand amounts of effort.

Treat this article as a guidebook. Don’t feel like you have to read or use all of it—just what is most important to you! And as always, please reach out if you have questions or comments.

1. Trips to the grocery store

  • Paper coupons – The best place to find these is newspapers. The first week I used newspaper coupons, I saved $15 on a $75 purchase at Walmart. I was thrilled! Not every time will be that successful, but regardless of the amount, it’s money in the bank as long as you use them on products you would have bought anyways. Don’t fall into the trap of buying extra things just because you have a discount.
  • Ibotta – Ibotta was the first online couponing app I ever used! It’s a super easy way to add electronic coupons and cash them in by scanning a receipt. I’ve had this app for about a year and I’ve earned over $150. If you sign up for Ibotta using a referral code, you get a $10 bonus if you make $10 in the first month you have your account (which really isn’t that hard to do). Click this link and use my referral code to get the bonus: wapslls.
  • Fetch Rewards – This app is my FAVORITE! It’s easy to use because you simply scan any receipt and get points towards gift cards. I earned several Amazon gift cards in the first few months of having the app and used it to buy Christmas gifts! Want to sign up with an extra bonus? Click here to sign up using my code. 
  • Other receipt scanning apps – I use several other apps and learn of new ones monthly. Some of my favorites are ReceiptPal, ReceiptHog, and Shopkick.

2. Online shopping (for all the things)

  • Rakuten – Maybe you’ve seen the cheesy commercials, but I’ve been using Rakuten since back when it was called Ebates. Once you install this easy-to-use browser extension, all you have to do it visit a website and it will pop up the % or $ back you can earn from purchases on that site before you place an order. This works on nearly every online store! Use my referral link to give it a try (click here).
  • When in doubt, GOOGLE IT! I have found it worth my time to google coupons or special offers for sites I’m ordering from online before I press “purchase.”You would be surprised how many times you can find a coupon to save you money. For example, I always look for coupon codes for my Walgreens Photo and Vistaprint There are very few times I haven’t been able to get a discount that way. You can even get add-ons to your internet that pull up better offers and coupons automatically. Honey and Wikibuy are popular ones that I’ve used.

3. Date nights

One thing that can add up quickly in a monthly budget is date nights. Think about it—dinner at a fancy restaurant, a movie, museum admission, or a trip to the mall—it’s hard to leave a date night on less than $75 these days. A few ways my husband and I combat this is to come up with unique, inexpensive, but meaningful date night ideas. This helps us save hundreds each month! Here are just ideas a few to get you brainstorming…

  • Picnic at the park
  • Paint night
  • Star gazing
  • Afternoon hike
  • Make your own sushi night
  • Movie night with cookies (our favorite 😊)

4. Household décor

When I moved out of my college dorm, I realized how little home décor I actually had. With a minimal budget, I began by mission to make a beautiful home. It involved a lot of dreaming, searching and work, but it is more than worth it! Here are a few of my tips.

5. Vacations & Getaways

  • Get creative with booking. Flight prices vary tremendously for certain times and locations. I love using Google’s Explore Flights feature (click here) to look at the cheapest destinations for weekend trips over the next six months. Also, don’t be afraid to fly discount airlines! I once got a $57 round-trip flight to Pennsylvania to visit a friend doing this.
  • Research. You can often find hotels or Airbnbs discounted during the off season. If you have a flexible schedule, use this to your advantage and do extra research to find better deals. Using Rakuten and Groupon are great ways to find discounts on places to stay and activities wherever you go! My husband and I have used those to find everything from discounted dinner cruises to massages.
  • Be willing to drive and stay with family/friends. The cheapest and most memorable vacations and weekend getaways are often to places close to home or with people who can lodge you for free. Brainstorm nearby cities and sites you’ve never been to and make those into special trips.
  • Be wise. Travel deals are great, but NEVER put yourself in danger for the sake of a “good deal.”

All of this advice is helpful, but no advice is more helpful than contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us that godliness WITH contentment is great gain. Godliness and contentment should be our goals way before saving a penny. Wherever and whenever you can, cut back, hold off, don’t spend. Most of the time, we can make do without the things we buy and be content with what we have.

Saving money is a journey that will never end, but we must never let the endeavor consume us. We “save” as an effort towards stewarding the time, energy, and resources God has given us. In prayerfully considering how God wants you to display contentment, generosity, and frugality, I hope these techniques will be helpful to you as they have been to me.

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