Ten Money-Saving Tools We’re Thankful For


This time tomorrow, I’ll likely be buzzing about our kitchen, whipping up some pumpkin pies and corn pudding. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be on in the background, and Johnny and I will be contemplating just how much we should allow ourselves to eat for breakfast so that we’re still amply famished come feast time. And then later, as we stuff ourselves with, well, stuffing, we’ll take a minute to sit back with our families and remember what we’re thankful for. But just in case we’re more focused on getting second helpings than on giving thanks (not that that would EVER happen), we wanted to take today to share some financial stuffs for which we give thanks.

So here goes.

  1. Priceline Negotiator – Don’t make fun. This is for real. Thanks to Priceline Negotiator, we’ve stayed in many a four-star hotel and haven’t had to pay top dollar. Or even middle dollar. I’m thankful to be able to sleep in a swanky place and know we didn’t break the bank to do it.
  2. HomeBudget App – This is our budgeting app that we use to track every cent spent. It keeps us in line, y’all. Oh, and we pray to it. Just kidding. Kind of.
  3. 401ks – Or rather, my 403b and Johnny’s now Roth IRA. I’m grateful for a company that gives 3% just for kicks and then matches another 3% with the 3% I give. We’re all for free money that also grows on its own. Woo!
  4. Airline Rewards Cards – While we don’t recommend having even a cent of credit card debt, we sure love our credit card rewards cards. We’ve saved hundreds on airline tickets over the years thanks to our plastic babies. We just put our everyday expenses on our cards, and in return we get free flights!
  5. Debt Snowball Method – This is where it all started. Thanks to debt snowballing, we were able to pay off $20k in school loans in under two years. And when we were debt free, all of that money went to savings — and we’ve never looked back.
  6. Ebates – When we shop online, we’ve trained ourselves to first check to see if it’s listed on Ebates. It’s totally free to sign up, and the site gives you cash back when you shop your favorite stores through their site. Cha-ching!
  7. 529 College Savings Plan – We’re grateful to have a place where we can save money for our girl’s college education and watch our money grow and give us tax kickbacks. Yes, please (and thank you, of course).
  8. Amazon Prime – While it’s not for everyone, Amazon Prime is our go-to location for online shopping. It prevents us from compulsive in-store shopping, we get free two-day shipping (even though we pay for it via a subscription), and I save extra on baby items using Amazon Mom. Oh, and I’m obsessed with reading consumer reviews so I know I’m buying not only cheap items but also quality items.
  9. CamelCamelCamel – Speaking of Amazon, the site CamelCamelCamel is suhweet — weird name aside. It tracks the price history of items on Amazon and other sites and lets you know the historical low and high price for any item. We also get deal alerts when we’re waiting for certain items to go on sale (like my KitchenAid mixer!).
  10. Envelope System – Our very first month of keeping a budget was spent using cash-only and envelopes (dividing the cash into each of our spending categories). Although we don’t stick to this method now, it’s what got us on the path to budgeting success. We will always be grateful for it, and we’re planning to start off 2014 by revisiting the envelope system in January. More to come on that later!

Each new tool Johnny adds to his toolbox only increases the likelihood of not being able to find any of the other tools in there. But in the case of our financial toolbox, I say the more tools the better. What tools would you add to this list?

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies November 27, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Mint! So awesome at automating everything and keeping me and the Mr on the same page. =)

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:32 am

      Mint truly is one of the best things ever. I know I’ve mentioned before that it’s almost too easy and automated for us to really be budget-conscious, but it definitely simplifies life when it comes time to needing an at-a-glance summary of our finances.

  • Reply Maureen November 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Amazon Prime has probably saved us hundreds of dollars, if not more. Between the free 2-day shipping and the free videos it’s a lifesaver! Since you can split the membership between 4 e-mail addresses, we split the cost with my mom & my brother making it even cheaper!

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:37 am

      Amen and amen. We used to split our account with a few friends in NYC, but we need to recruit some fellow cost-splitters where we’re at now. Great suggestion, though.

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone November 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I’ve never used ebates or camelcamelcamel.

    I’d add target.com to the list (with RedCard use). This is where I do most of my clothing shopping, and I generally spend $8-15 for dresses, blazers, and other items that I can wear to work. Plus shipping is free if you use your redcard, and you get an extra 5% off.

    Oh, and craigslist! When you get used goods, you’re helping the environment and your pocketbook!

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:41 am

      Jo and I used to buy a lot of our clothes at Target. Awesome, awesome deals. But mannn, that place is hard to walk out of without buying a bunch of other stuff you didn’t need. We try to avoid the brick-and-mortar Target for our budget’s sake.

      Good call on Craigslist. That definitely deserves a spot.

    • Reply Jeni April 5, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Cartwheel (The Target Discount app)
      It has a bar code scanner that I use as I am loading things onto the belt at target and it will accumulate all of the coupons for everything that you have bought onto one bar code that they can scan at the end. It had save me A LOT. Plus it shows you items that are similar
      to what you are buying if that specific item isn’t on sale.

  • Reply Chadnudj November 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Mad props to Amazon Prime, too, for the lending library for Kindle (you can “borrow” one free book a month to read) and the awesomeness of Prime Instant Video (which has continuously expanded its offerings and now is almost as good as Netflix, albeit without the new Arrested Development season and/or House of Cards) – for $75 a year (or whatever Prime charges), or less than $7 a month, you get free shipping, to borrow 12 books, and watch tons of free video content. Just a great option all-around.

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:43 am

      Joanna is all about the lending library. And we’ve only recently started browsing through their Instant Video library. It’s definitely a lot better than when I first looked earlier this year. With a few more choices, we might be able to drop Netflix (that is after we watch the next season of House of Cards). 🙂

  • Reply Lara November 27, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I heard the kitchenaid mixer will be cheap at Kohl’s from another money-saving blog I read: http://spendlessshopmore.blogspot.com/2013/11/kohls-black-friday-deals-2013.html#more

    Thank you for your great blog and updates!

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:44 am

      Awesome! Hope you were able to snag it.

  • Reply Marissa @ Barefoot Colorado November 27, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Flippin’ love Amazon Prime. I buy all of my gifts, books for school and many other personal items from Amazon. PLUS I get to rent free books from the Kindle Lending Library 😉

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:47 am

      Amazon Prime makes life wayyy too easy. I know it’s a hefty subscription fee upfront, but for us, it pays for itself within the first two or three months of the year.

  • Reply Sweta November 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I’d add swagbucks.com I always save up 2500 sbs and then trade them in for $25 added to my paypal. The only downside is that it takes a while. My referral link if you’re interested: swagbucks.com/refer/atxgirl623

    I also like http://www.reddit.com/r/frugal and r/personalfinance they have lots of good info there.

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:55 am

      We haven’t tried swagbucks, but I’m a huge fan of those subreddits. Lifehacker also has some good personal finance stuff.

      • Reply Morgan December 3, 2013 at 9:20 am

        Oh I’ve done swagbucks! Great site. You can print coupons from there too. Also try http://www.mypoints.com I have been a faithful user for a long time and I usually can get a gift card every few months if I try. Also a good place to print coupons for groceries 🙂

  • Reply Morgan November 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I absolutely love Ebates! I dislike when sites aren’t included and I try to not shop at those sites if I can help it! haha. Currently I’m searching for the lowest priced contacts and hoping they are among the highest % back on ebates! Happy Thanksgivings guys!

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:49 am

      Funny you mention that. We just spent an hour strategizing our Cyber Monday purchases based on best Ebates payouts. Obviously we made sure that the prices were also lower or on par with Amazon and other sites, but you can’t beat taking an extra 5 – 10% off with today’s Ebates rates.

      • Reply Morgan December 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

        I’m glad I’m not the only one then 🙂 I was a little nervous when Kohl’s dropped to 6 but then for some reason they went back up to 8%. I hope I can still get money back with Kohl’s cash (that would be awesome!)

  • Reply Mary November 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

    If you don’t already, you should follow the blog Hip2Save. She’s a huge couponer but posts everyday deals. She recently posted about the KitchenAid mixer. I’ve saved a ton of money learning from her. I never used to coupon and found it too confusing and intimidating but now I only buy on sale or with coupons or both 🙂

    And yes, love Ebates! Sometimes you get back pennies but every little bit counts right? I like to take those checks and just stash them in savings 🙂

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:51 am

      Awesome, thanks for the suggestion. Joanna and I have talked about making 2014 the year of attempting couponing. Nothing crazy, but at least seeing what we could stand to save.

  • Reply Sweta November 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I left a comment before Morgan but I think it might be caught in your spam box since I attached links. Please confirm my comment, it hurts my feelings that it is still awaiting moderation 2 days later (just kidding)

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 2:56 am

      Hurt feelings erased! Our spam box is ruthless sometimes. 🙂

  • Reply sarah @makingitmyhome.blogspot.com November 29, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    we are starting a new budget system as of dec, 1st after doing some re-arranging with our bills. the portion of the budget that I am responsible for, I will be using the envelope system for the first time. I’m actually looking forward to such a low-tech system.

    • Reply Johnny December 3, 2013 at 3:06 am

      Look forward to hearing how it works out for you. We could use a budgeting kick-in-the-pants, and the envelope system should be the perfect solution.

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  • Reply Jay McInnes, a Vanvouver Realtor December 8, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Sometimes you don’t even know where to begin to start your saving (or paying-off) journey. The Envelope System is definitely a proven method. It is also a good idea to have envelopes that are specifically for emergencies and you could even take it a step further for saving for a new car or home.

  • Reply charles January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Good Morning,
    Thanks for the tips, will try several pf them out. On the credit cards, I’m guessing you pay them off each month so no interest and you use only the no annual fee cards-Thanks!

    • Reply Johnny January 10, 2014 at 1:45 am

      Hey, Charles. As far as our credit card philosophy, we always always always pay off our credit card balance every month. We view our credit cards as debit cards, so we only spend what we know we have in our bank account.

      As far as credit card fees, the majority of our cards are fee-free. We do have a few travel reward cards that carry annual fees, but we signed up for them during promotional periods with high rewards on sign-up that usually negate the cost of the annual fee. After one year, we usually close those cards so that we don’t have to fork over that fee for a second year.

      Hope that helps!

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