Mar 3, 2011

Four small things I do to save money

I do a few things that result in small savings, but that psychologically make a big difference to me. Here are three four of them:

1. Buy gift cards at Ralphs for stores that don't offer rewards. My main credit card is an American Express Blue Cash card, which gives 5% cash back for grocery purchases (after the first $6,500 in total purchases each year). Ralphs Rewards gives me $1 for every 100 points I earn (usually 1 point per dollar spent; Ralphs is our Kroger affiliate here). That means I get 6% back when I buy gift cards at Ralphs. I shop a decent amount at Target and Amazon, so I buy gift cards for those stores there at Ralphs. Amazon doesn't participate in any cash back sites, so this is pretty much the only way I can save extra money there. And while Target offers 5% back every day when you use their credit card, I really don't want another card. So buying gift cards while I'm at the store anyway helps save me money.

2. Use online banking instead of sending checks. I save on postage by using my bank's online payment service instead of mailing checks. It also saves me money on checks, since I use fewer of them and need to reorder much less often.

3. Redeem cans and bottles for CRV (California Redemption Value - $0.05 for small bottles and $0.10 for large ones). We don't drink that much soda or bottled water, so it takes me 3 to 4 months to collect enough to redeem for about $10. But still, that's $40 a year I'm getting back, and it doesn't take much effort.

4. Use reusable grocery bags. Some stores give a credit when you bring in your bags, so I've become quite good about remembering them. The one exception is Target, where I find the cashiers extremely unreliable about giving me the credit, and where I have a hard time remembering to remind them (because I have kids vying for my attention, or there's a coupon issue that makes me forget, etc.).

I find that these small steps help me to be mindful of all savings, no matter how big or small. Each step by itself may not save much, but they all add up to a big savings in total.

What small steps do you take to save money?


Camille said...

We've been squarely in the "credit cards are evil" camp for about 5 years. Then in November we decided to sign up for a Kohl's store card in order to get some specials they were offering. We shop at Kohl's enough that we knew the monthly coupons they send out would be worth having the card.

Now I'm thinking of getting a general credit card that gives us something back (like your AmEx). If it will help stretch things further, I think it's worth a shot!

Chief Family Officer said...

@Camille - I just love the convenience of credit cards; we pay off the balance each month, and we're still pretty disciplined with how we spend, so it works for us. Also, I LOVE American Express customer service - the few times I've called, they've been fabulous. About a year ago, when I didn't receive a delivery from Gymboree and Gymboree insisted that their records showed my order had been delivered, I called Amex to initiate a dispute and the CSR said he'd just credit my account for the amount and if the order eventually showed up (which it finally did), it would be a gift from Amex. It worked out in their favor too, since because of that fabulous experience, I'm more willing to charge things to that card instead of going to my Visa and creating a one-time use code.

CJ said...

I use my Discover card for almost everything including utility bills (I pay off my balance in full every month). I can usually earn around $100 a year in gift cards from that. My city's Entertainment Book includes 6 $5 off coupons for my favorite grocery. Last week I bought $100 worth of gift cards, used 2 coupons for $10 off and charged the $90 on my Discover for which I'll get 5% back. So $100 worth of groceries for $85 (I'll buy $200 more and earn another $30)! Plus I can use those gift cards on Thursdays if I buy $50 worth and get another $10 off! I also do surveys and emails on line that I earn gift cards or cash. Every little bit adds up!

Gina @ MoneywiseMoms said...

We use our AmEx card for everything too and get cash back. I never thought of buying gift cards for those couple of stores that don't offer other rewards. Very good idea!!

Chief Family Officer said...

@CJ - You don't get charged a fee for using your credit card with the utilities? Awesome! And you've made me decide to take a closer look at the Entertainment Book - I know there's a coupon in there for Ralphs, but I just assumed the $5/$75 coupon excluded gift cards, and I never spend close to $75 unless I'm buying gift cards. Thanks!

@Gina - What's funny is that I caught on to the Target gift cards a couple of years ago, but Amazon didn't occur to me until about six months ago!