Over the years, I have saved and scrounged for money in some pretty interesting ways, some of which I’ll explain in a future post (a small preview: I lived rent-free in the maid’s quarters of an old mansion in exchange for ironing and cooking on the weekends). In the meantime, though, here are a few creative ways I’ve put together some extra cash to pay off debt this year:
- Returning unwanted gifts for store credit: A well-meaning family member had purchased a maternity clothing item for me on clearance towards the end of my pregnancy. The clothing item was about 2 sizes too large, and sat in my closet for months. I decided to return it, and the store clerk gave me the full price back on a store credit, since the clothing item wasn’t on clearance at our store. The store credit went towards our next baby formula purchase.
- Selling at consignment stores: We have a children’s consignment store nearby. We also have a 6-month-old baby girl whose length seems to increase at a giraffe-like rate, and family members who like to buy her A LOT of clothing and toys. Every few months, a trip to the consignment store nets us another $30 or so on unused items that we would end up giving away anyways. I’ve also tried my hand at selling back my own clothes at stores like Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor, but they don’t usually take most of what I have because *gasp* I purchased it earlier than last season. I am so uncool.
- Buying at consignment/secondhand stores: When I do need an item of clothing, secondhand stores are usually my first stop. We all buy SO MUCH MORE than we need these days, so a lot of the clothes in these types of stores either look brand new, or even still have the original tags on them. It’s an awesome way to get something you need for 90% off. Some of them even run special sales promotions—Clothes Mentor just had their entire store marked down 25% last week.
- Meal planning/freezer meals: My husband travels frequently for work, and often at the last minute, so we can’t really plan a week of meals ahead of time. What I have started doing, though, is taking stock of what we have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and then I brainstorm a list of meals that I can make from those ingredients (Pinterest is a HUGE help if you need meal ideas. Just type in one of the main ingredients, and voila! Ideas galore). If I need something last-minute, I’ll pull out a freezer meal. Otherwise, I’ll make something off of the list. Using up our existing ingredients saves us a ton on groceries.
- Bottles and cans: We had a huge pile of bottles and cans in our basement. I hauled them to the bottle return and in 10 minutes, made about $35.
- Coupons: I am not a voracious coupon-clipper, but there are a few things that we purchase regularly with coupons. Instead of buying the newspaper just to clip coupons, I use a variety of other strategies, including: clip-to-card store coupons (from Tops Supermarket), coupon apps (like Target’s Cartwheel app), coupons that come in the mail or to my email, and others that I ask family members to save for me (primarily for diapers). I will also occasionally send a quick email to manufacturers of items we use a lot and request coupons (I did that for Blue Buffalo—the brand of dog food that we purchase).
- Loose change: We have a large yard on our property, and my husband has been waiting to buy a weed wacker since we moved in a few years ago. I REALLY wanted to get him a good one for Father’s Day this year, but wanted to stick to our budget. I gathered all of my loose change, had him gather all of his (even my sister pitched in with hers), and took it to a Coinstar machine. Coinstar charges a fee if you change the coins into cash, but if you turn them into a giftcard, there’s no fee. The end result? I used the coins to purchase an Amazon giftcard, and when I combined that with another small Amazon giftcard, I was able to cut the cost of the weed wacker by more than half and keep the purchase within our budget.
The bottom line is to be creative. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time on any of these ideas. I just looked around at the resources I already had and tried to figure out how I could squeeze a little more money out. While each strategy might seem relatively small, if I add up all of the savings, we’ve netted at least $500 this year with very little extra effort.