Many times people ask my advice about how to save money. After four years of reading my columns, many of you know how I feel about certain financial subjects -- how to save on appliance purchases, how to maximize your printer ink, how to reduce food waste, and so on.
There are times that some people are surprised when I tell them certain things our family does not do to save money.
As with all financial decisions, there is a risk-reward evaluation to be made. Sometimes the reward of the savings does not outweigh the cost of the risk.
First, our family does not necessarily seek out the least expensive gasoline. If we are driving along the interstate and decide it is time to fill up the tank, we exit the interstate and look quickly to decide what gasoline is the cheapest. I do not drive a half-mile or more looking for the best price. I pick quickly from the gas stations right there in the area.
I really do not believe gasoline savings at a few cents per gallon is worth hunting down. I will not typically drive across town or even two or three miles up the interstate from my house to get the best price.
Let’s look at it this way: If my van gets an average of 20 miles to the gallon, and I drive four miles round trip to save .05 cents per gallon, I may save as much as $1 on my 20-gallon tank. These days, gas costs an average of $2.25 per gallon where I live, which averages out to a cost of .11 cents per mile. If I drive a four-mile trip to get that $1 savings, I will spend .44 cents getting to that gas station and back home again. My net savings is only .56 cents. I’m not sure that is worth the extra time.
Second, our family does not do much outlet shopping. I would say we never shop at outlets, but that would not be quite right. There are times when the outlets that are prominent in Georgia and South Carolina offer free gift cards.
These promotional offers are sometimes a $10 gift card at no cost.
The most recent offer was a $20 gift card for only $10. At times like that, our family takes advantage of the proximity of an outlet mall. But for the most part, we avoid them.
I find that I can spend so much less on clothing for my family in thrift stores. From time to time, I splurge on a trip to Bath and Body Works, but I shop there only when the semi-annual yellow duck sales are in place. Outlet malls, to us, are not where big savings can be found.
Third, our family does not shop at Wal-Mart often. Sometimes there are necessities that must be purchased at Wal-Mart. If we need painting supplies, we might stop in. When we moved, Wal-Mart was a great resource for products such as Damp-Rid and anti-slip pads to lay down under the new rugs.
However, our family simply does not find good savings on food at Wal-Mart. Their everyday low prices and inability to double my coupons keeps me away. While some readers have had good success with the Wal-Mart Savings Catcher program, recent restrictions to reduce the radius of stores the program will price-match have reduced the overall savings potential. For these and many other reasons, we avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible.
There are other things we don’t do as we try to save money, but I will save those for another column.
Are there any surprising actions your family takes to save money that seem counter-intuitive or out-of-the-ordinary?
Contact writer Rachael Mercer at email@example.com.