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Ask DSM Readers: How Do You Make Your Virtual Savings Real?

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 10, 2009 · 59 comments

Save Your Pennies
Reader Candy recently emailed me with a very valid question:

Been reading your blog for a while, thank you for all the tips & advice. But can you tell me how to SAVE all those savings?

If you walk out of the grocery store having saved 60% off your total purchase, have you really saved 60%? If you use fuzzy logic you may be able to trick yourself into believing these virtual savings are concrete savinsg, but in reality they're not unless you're translating those savings into a tangible format.

I realize that some of us seek out these savings out of necessity. There just isn't any wiggle room in the budget without couponing -- and believe me, I get that.

But what about those of us that are living comfortably but still love a good deal? Are the savings that we enjoy from hunting down bargains and clipping coupons concrete or just an excuse to spend more? Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle, placing some money in savings but enjoying a few luxuries that you might not splurge on otherwise.

Either way, do you have a system in place to ensure that you're making at least a portion of your virtual savings each week into a tangible savings, and if so, what methods do you use?

Of course there's no right or wrong here, but perhaps we can share some tips with each other on how to instill some accountability for actually SAVING some of our savings each week!

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patty M November 10, 2009 at 10:24 pm

My husband is 55 and is eligible to retire but can't because we have 2 sons in college plus a 13 year old. So all the money I save from couponing goes to college payments and extra mortgage payments. (we still have 13 years left on mortgage) In June I was laid off and spent the summer looking for work. When I couldn't find work I took a serious look at how much I was spending and was appalled to see just how much I spent on food alone. I did a spread sheet for the year, saw that I spent anywhere from $250-375 per week on food with July being the highest amount at $1,500/month (Gasp!) So for the last 2 months I've made this a full time job and because of sites like this have learned to cut my food/drugstore bills in half maybe more. I'm still in stockpile mode so I feel as though I'm spending a little bit more at the moment. So for me I definitely know where my extra money is going: college, mortgage, stockpile. Thank you Tara for this great site.

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2 Nichole November 11, 2009 at 1:59 am

Mary Beth, I was going to comment that I only use black ink. I changed my printer settings to print in only black and that way I save because the black ink is cheaper. Also, I go to Staples and they price match competitors and allow you to use competitor coupons.
Liz Taylor, GREAT IDEA about the mortgage payment.
At this time, I am not able to save my savings. I just don't have the money to buy the things I need. I have been couponing, mystery shopping and rebating and I have saved these checks and plan to cash them in at the end of the year. (before they expire) My daughter is in college so I use mypoints to get her gift cards and I will use the rebates for something else special. Since I just started getting this serious about couponing I have not been keeping track BUT I have been able to spend less because instead of going out to eat, I just sign up for a mystery shop and eat fee. My plan next year is to continue what I am doing and track my savings and do like Liz and pay an extra mortgage and car note payment.

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3 Red August 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I use black ink only also. Printable coupons are accepted in black ink.
I use RefundSweepers.com for printable rebates on groceries and the forum area too.
I stock up when stuff is on sale plus I have a coupon for it too.

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4 Cheryl Yoder November 11, 2009 at 6:39 am

I have the family on a strict budget, so I'm not sure how well mine applies to everyone. However, I keep my receipts throughout the month and the price (sans coupons) is what I place in the budget. Any additional income (such as surveys, rebates, etc) go into savings. At the end of the month, I tally up the budget and any "leftover" money goes into savings. Of course, there are times when I have to dip into the savings for emergencies, but with this method I've been able to build our savings and create a stockpile. This month I've bought almost no groceries (except fresh fruit, veggies and milk) due to the stockpile. So...my grocery budget for this month will almost all go into savings. It has worked well for me! I love deals and coupons!

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5 Mary Beth November 11, 2009 at 7:38 am

Thanks Nichole!

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6 Mary November 11, 2009 at 11:58 am

Thank you so much for putting up this question and to all of you who responded!!!!!! I was going to just pay for everything with cash and then just put leftover in a jar to use the next week. BUT I saw a problem with this...family may see it as "free" money and dig in it, myself included.

Now, I think it would be a great idea to have my checking/savings acct combo, that I rarely use, reserved for couponing/grocery shopping. I will transfer $100 into the checking every two weeks. What is left over at the end of the month will go into the savings acct. I plan on starting this Jan. 1 since I am in stockpiling mode. (We just bought a house and before the big move I bought only parishables for three months.) I feel sure I will be able to do well by year's end as before couponing I stuck pretty well to a $300/mo. budget for a family of 4.

Three things we are planning that this money will be used for 1. Living room furniture, 2. Disney World Trip w/o use of credit cards, 3. Payoff car and truck by end of year in order to buy a much-needed SUV for trips for entire family.

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7 Amy J November 11, 2009 at 11:10 pm

One of the best ways to know if you are getting a good deal is to price check most of your items at various stores. For example I always try to pay $1 or less for items like: shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, facial tissues, body wash, canned soup, cereal, and juices. When in doubt put something back. I give myself a $75 budget for groceries and toiletries for the week (family of 6). I try to keep each shopping trip under $20. That way I can shop the sales of the 3-4 stores in my area.

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8 Sara November 12, 2009 at 11:17 am

My number one rule...I only use coupons for things that I know I will use. I never use a coupon and go buy something just because its a really good deal. For most of us that may seem elementary, but I've talked to several couponers here lately who will go buy all kinds of things just because they can get a good deal on it. Then their house becomes cluttered, and they don't truly know what they have. They actually end up spending more money than they would if they weren't couponing.

Secondly, I stick to my budget. When I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, I made it my "job" to save us money. For a year, I saved all of my receipts and then figured up what we were spending on average per month in each area. I found places where we could cut back and created our budget based on those figures. When I shop with coupons and sales, I almost always spend less than what our budget allows. I take the extra money and put it into savings.

By doing these two things, in the past 2 1/2 years that I've been staying home, we have bought a vehicle (paid cash), had another child, paid off our mortgage, and are living debt free with a good amount in savings.

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9 annette July 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Hi a way to save on buying milk is use your cvs bucks or rite aid bucks. Thanks

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