How Garage Sales, Clearance Sections, and Dollar Bins Can Make You Broke

How Garage Sales Clearance Sections and Dollar Bins Can Make YouBroke

Guest post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child

I love a good bargain. Not only do I love it, it’s a bit of a high for me to find a really great deal!

Some of my favorite deals are found at garage sales and the clearance sections of my favorite stores. These same places, however, I now consider “danger zones” to my budget and my self-control.

You see, the thrill of the chase sometimes outweighs the need or desire for the item itself. Recently, I went to use my Old Navy Groupon and found a $4 cardigan for my 3-year old son. I was so thrilled with the price for a winter sweater, I picked it up to take to the checkout line. I suddenly stopped to ask myself, “Wait, do I really like this? Am I really going to dress my little boy in a cardigan???”

I didn’t end up getting the cardigan. I decided I didn’t love it and therefore wouldn’t dress my son in it. Plus, it was itchy. But had I let my “deal-loving” side win, I would have bought the sweater and it would have ended up sitting in the closet with the tags still on it nine months later.

Similar scenarios have occurred time and time again at garage sales and dollar bins. Sadly, however, I had not yet learned to stop and think, therefore ending up with a bunch of junk I didn’t need. Many garage sale “bargains” have ended up being put in my own garage sale/Goodwill pile while the dollar trinkets quickly wound up lost or in the trash.

The truth is, even if we spend $5 a week on “deals” at garage sales or dollar bins, that’s $260 a year! With that money, we could have bought something that we really loved and even paid full price for it (not that I’m suggesting that, by any means).

Here are just a few questions to ask yourself whenever shopping to avoid the “deal-buying remorse” that often ensues:

  • Would I pay full price for this? Even if you rarely pay full price for anything, the answer to this question usually determines your attitude towards the item in question. When the rubber meets the road, we are all willing to fork over the cash for the things that really matter to us.
  • Do I love it? If the answer is “no”, don’t buy it!
  • Do I feel good wearing this? If you don’t feel good about yourself in any clothing (besides pajamas, perhaps), you won’t wear it. Period.
  • Will _____ really like this gift? Chances are, your friends and family members would rather have a thoughtful card or handmade gift rather than trinkets that seemed like a good deal at the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not suggesting that garage sales and clearance sections are “bad”. On the contrary! These are the places where we all should shop. But for those of us who love the thrill of a good deal, it just means we have to exercise some major self-control to ensure we don’t buy something we later regret.

Jenae is a Master-degree holding former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home Mom. She loves finding creative ways to save money, spending time with her family, and sharing fun and educational activities on her website I Can Teach My Child.

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Get a Jump-Start on Holiday Shopping

Guest post by Jessica Miller at The Shoestring Budget

I do not like shopping when the stores are packed. I also don’t like paying twice as much as normal because of the current season. So I started shopping for my Christmas gifts earlier in the year. Like really early in the year.

Thanks to deal-posting sites like and others, I’m able to have good deals delivered directly to my inbox. I can quickly scan the list and if something pops out at me, I take a minute to decide if it would make a good Christmas gift or not, and if so, I buy it!

My husband and I have a tradition of giving a gift to each of our immediate family members on Christmas. Since we don’t have any children yet, we can still afford to do this. But that’s still eight gifts to buy in addition to the ones we give each other.

In order to save as much as possible, and still be able to bless our family members, we set a budget for our Christmas gifts. We have an allotted amount to spend on each person and after we’ve spent that amount, we’re done!

Throughout the year, I keep my eyes open for good deals on things that would make great gifts. Many times stores will run sales on items throughout the year that will also be available at Christmas for more money. By buying these early, I can save money and actually give a bigger gift.

I make a list with each person’s name on it and once I’ve bought something for their gift, I write down the item and the price and how much I have left to spend. This keeps me organized and enables me to stick to the budget we set.

So far I’ve already bought something for both my sister and my sister-in-law that took about half of their allotted amounts, so as soon as I find something for the other half, I can mark two people off the list! The best part is that I can avoid crowded shopping malls and overpriced gifts, not to mention I can experience the joy of shopping for someone else all year long.

Jessica and her husband Curtis have been married for 10 months, and are currently renting a duplex and saving as much money as possible to be able to buy a house and raise a family before long. One of the things she loves to do most is search for the best deals and coupons. Saving money has become a fun thing for her and her husband to do together. Jessica  writes about the deals she finds and tips she’s learned at The Shoestring Budget.

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Q&A Tuesday: What do you buy at Aldi?

I have a question. I noticed you do a lot of shopping at Aldi. We have one where I live, but for some reason I am hesitant to shop there. I was wondering if you could go over what you do and do not buy there, or if it does not matter at all. -Chelsea

Before I got married, I’d never been inside an Aldi store before. And I was hesitant to do so as I’d always had this impression that it was a dirty store with low quality food. However, since my husband and I had such a meager budget in the early years of our marriage, I quickly decided to get over my inhibitions and just go check out the store to see what I thought.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover Aldi wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. Sure, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a traditional grocery store has, but I’ll gladly give those up for the money I save by shopping there.

Here are a few tips for successfully shopping at Aldi:

1. Shop in a Nicer Section of Town

If possible, find an Aldi nearby that is in a nicer section of town. The Aldi stores in more run-down areas tend to be less clean and the food does seem to be poorer quality (it might just be my imagination–or the fact that it’s a lot more picked over many times!).

2. Shop With an Open Mind

Go to Aldi with an open mind (and a strict cash budget) and start carefully looking over all they have to offer. Right away, you’ll probably find some things you wouldn’t buy there, but you’ll probably be surprised at how similar other items look to things you usually buy at the grocery store.

Buy a few items to try and take them home and see what you and your family think. You’ll probably find some things you don’t care for, but you’ll probably also discover that you actually like some of their products better than the name brand products at the grocery store (for instance, we think their canned green beans are better than name brand green beans!).

The one thing I’ve found that varies the most at Aldi is their produce. At times, their produce will be great. Other times, it’s downright awful. You can always price-match their weekly deals at Walmart, so don’t feel like you need to buy produce there if it looks less than ideal. Stick with what looks fresh and high quality and skip the rest–no matter how inexpensive the price.

3. Stick With Staple Ingredients

In most cases, you’ll save the most at Aldi if you buy primarily staple ingredients there. Many of their processed foods aren’t much less than you’d pay at the grocery store (they can actually cost more than what you’d pay when combining a coupon with a sale!).

However, their every day prices on baking supplies, canned goods, frozen fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, milk, and butter will be at least 20% less than you’d pay at the grocery store. Plus, while you’re family might be able to tell a difference in ketchup brands, they probably won’t be able to tell if you use Aldi baking soda!

Do you shop at Aldi? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is best to buy there and what items you won’t buy there.

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Why You Don’t Need to Pay for Cable

Guest post by Jenae at I Can Teach My Child

How much do you spend on cable each month? Stop reading this post, go get your last bill and say it out loud. Now, multiply that number by 12. Wowza…that’s a lot of money in a year’s time, huh?

Let’s just say that it’s an even $50 each month (which is probably a very conservative number), if so, this means you are spending $600 each year on cable. That’s money you could have saved to pay off your house, to pay for your kid’s college or to spend on a brand-new dining room table!

There are so many alternatives to paying lots of money for cable each month. Here are three we’ve found to be helpful for our family.

High-Definition Antenna

What if I told you that you could still watch most of your favorite shows for free? ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and even a few other random channels can all be received for free in most areas* with a high-definition antenna. After a little upfront cost, you can watch these channels for the rest of your life. All you need is a converter box (if your TV does not already have an HDTV tuner — every new TV has one) and a high-definition antenna (which can go in your attic, wall or outside).

High-definition antennas range from $40-$150. You can purchase them at your local home-improvement store (Lowe’s or Home Depot). You can also go here for more information and to purchase one as well. And if you’re really handy (or you know someone who is), you can supposedly even make your own HDTV antenna for less than $10! It might be worth a shot!

If you own a TV that was manufactured after July 1, 2007, it should already have an HDTV tuner. You only need a converter box if your analog TV is older than that. Converter Boxes start at $40 and go up from there. Go here and here for a few converter box options.

*I realize that good reception depends in large part due to where you live. If this isn’t an option for you, you could still opt for the cheapest plan from your cable or satellite provider and implement the other two suggestions.

Netflix & Redbox

Many of you know that you can receive unlimited DVDs in the mail for about $10 a month from Netflix. But did you also know that they have thousands of movies on instant play as well? We’ve watched entire series of very popular shows instantly. You can stream it to a Blu-Ray player, XBox or Wii, or you can just watch it on your computer. Netflix is also a great resource for children’s television shows. The best part is that there are no commercials.

Redbox (a $1-per-night video rental kiosk that can be found outside many McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Walmarts locations) offers at least one free rental each month (usually the first Monday of every month) when you create an account on their website.


Libraries are not only a great resource for books, most libraries also have movies as well! And the best part is that it’s free! You can browse most titles on your library’s website. Another option is to borrow movies from friends.

We’ve gone without cable for our entire married life (almost seven years). At first, we simply couldn’t afford cable and opted for bunny ears. Now that our income has increased and we could afford if we really wanted to, we still choose not to. We enjoy enough television and movie time without spending all that money every month!

Jenae is a wife, mother of two boys’ ages 3 and 15 months, and former first-grade teacher. She loves spending time with her family and sharing fun and educational activities for young children on her website, I Can Teach My Child.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

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Ask Jesse: Should we finance our car in order to keep more money in savings?

If we can afford the payments, is it smarter to finance part of the vehicle to keep our savings, or should we go ahead and pay cash (keeping $5,000 to $6,000 in our Emergency Funds still)? -Leah

First off, congratulations on building your savings to afford paying cash for the vehicle! Having just purchased a newer car for the first time last year after years of driving old and hand-me-down vehicles, I can empathize with how nice it is to have the money set aside.

If I were in your shoes, I would make sure that your Emergency Fund is enough to cover at least three months’ worth of expenses if something happens to your income. If you have enough after that is set aside to buy a vehicle with cash, I would go ahead and pay cash for the vehicle.

Is it “smarter” to make the payments and finance the vehicle? I would say, in short, no. You will be paying more for the car with interest payments over the next five years than you would if you just paid cash outright.

Also, touching on another discussion for another day, I think we have some serious inflation coming down the pike within the next few years. If you spend the cash now, I believe the money will be worth more now than it would be sitting in savings at a later date when you would use it to pay the interest payments over the next five to seven years. So, not only would you be paying more money due to the interest payments, you potentially could be paying more due to inflation.

Additionally, if you use cash, there is a greater potential at having your money go further by being able to negotiate a better deal. When I bought my car last year, I may not have saved that much money upfront by paying cash, but paying in cash allowed me to go an unconventional route and expedite the process.

After extensive research, I ended up getting my car through a dealer who got the vehicle at a dealer auction. The car was off-lease and had been wrecked and had hail damage but the dealership repaired it as good as new under the lease. The car I bought still had the original sticker in the glove box and we ended up paying half of the value of the original price for a three-year-old vehicle. The previous owner took the hit on depreciation and we were able to get a great deal. And going the cash route allowed us to finish the deal rather quickly.

If you can afford the payments now when you have everything saved up, I would go ahead and use the already-saved money to buy a vehicle. Then, I would take the money you would have been paying for a car payment and set it aside for your next vehicle purchase or another savings goal. When setting aside money for something, I’ve found it helpful to already mentally “spend” the money while it is being set aside. Then, when it is time to write the check, it does not hurt as much. :)

What about the rest of you? Would you recommend paying cash for a vehicle or would you finance a vehicle and keep more money in savings?

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.

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