We’re breaking down all of the different ways we’ve had success saving money on everyday purchases. From buying gently used items to stacking discounts, we’re covering it all here!
Kim and I do our best to live a thoughtful life in which we only bring items into our lives that serve a necessary purpose and bring us joy. Also, whenever possible, we utilize the ‘buy once, cry once’ philosophy in which we purchase high quality items that will last for a very long time as opposed to things that aren’t as well made and/or might not last as long.* That said, buying high quality items doesn’t have to mean paying full price! In fact, we pride ourselves in rarely paying full MSRP because we don’t enjoy spending money that we don’t have to! Here are 8 ways to save money that have worked for us.
*We are also not immune to changing our minds or refreshing a space when the mood strikes.
1| Buy Secondhand
Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace are all great ways to score gently used or new items for a fraction of the retail price. Yes, it can take some patience and some digging, but the hunt is half the fun! In the last few months alone, we’ve purchased a Strider balance bike for Lucy at 67% off retail, a tonneau cover for our new truck at 65% off retail and a high-end child carrier backpack at 75% off retail.
All of these items were clean and gently used, but with TONS of life still left in them. We like buying secondhand not only because we love a good bargain, but we also love putting money into the hands of people with an item they no longer need. Most of the sites mentioned also have alert functions that can email you when a specific item is listed, which can help ease the effort involved in searching.
Tip: Joining local Facebook groups for parents or specific hobbies can help narrow searches. We’ve also purchased bicycles and awesome clothes for Lucy through neighborhood-specific groups. Plus, you might be able to walk or ride a bike to pick up new-to-you items!
2| Buy Coupons on eBay
Did you know you can purchase coupons on eBay? In the past, we’ve purchased coupons (for just a few dollars!) for Crate & Barrel, Lowe’s and Target to help lower the cost of major purchases. A few tips before pulling the trigger that could help save some frustration:
- Check the expiration date! Make sure the coupon can be used within your timeframe.
- Check for coupon limits ex: 10% off up to $500 etc.
- Confirm how the coupon will be delivered. Will a digital code be emailed to you immediately? Will a physical coupon be mailed?
- Confirm where the coupon can be used. Is it only for use in store? At a specific store location? Can it be used online?
- Determine if the coupon can be used on sale/clearance items, or only on full price items.
In short, read the fine print of both the eBay listing and the coupon itself. If you confirm that all of these parameters suit your needs and timeline, the savings can really add up.
3| Shop Retail Outlet Stores and Floor Model Sections
Living in a major metropolis like Chicago is full of perks. Among them is that many major retailers also have outlet stores for clearance, overstock and floor models. We’re lucky to have Crate & Barrel and Room & Board outlet stores in nearby suburbs, and we’ve scored great deals at both!
For example, our current dining table, the Blox from CB2, retails for $499. A few years back, we found ours at the Crate & Barrel outlet for a fraction of the cost. The only catch was that it was missing all of the hardware. The sales associate gave us a helpful tip (wink wink) that if we called Crate’s customer service number, they’d most likely send it to us for free. We called them right then from the store and sure enough, had a free box of hardware on our doorstep a couple days later. We’re generally not the most patient people on the planet, but we’re definitely up for making a quick phone call if it helps save us a bunch of money!
If you don’t happen to live near the outlet store of your favorite retailer, many stores have a dedicated section for scratch and dent, clearance or floor model items. IKEA is famous for having an entire section that’s usually tucked in a corner near the exit.
4| Purchase Last Year’s Model
This method might not be best for folks that are compelled to have the latest and greatest of everything, but please hear me out. While not directly home renovation related (but very indirectly related because we’re constantly hauling stuff!), we recently purchased a new truck. Our Honda Ridgeline is a 2020 model that we bought halfway through last December. Here’s the kicker – It had been announced that Honda was releasing a refreshed model for 2021 with a few additional features that a lot of buyers decided to wait for.
By making our purchase at the end of the calendar and model year we were able to negotiate a price that was more than $6k below MSRP. The dealer also threw in a couple of accessories free of charge to sweeten the deal. Financing rates for new vehicles also tend to be lower toward the end of the calendar year, so we were able to secure the loan through Honda with a near 0% interest rate!. In the end, we ended up saving around $7,000 overall! That’s serious money!
We’ve also applied this method to purchasing our last few iPhones. For example, when the iPhone XS was announced, prices on the iPhone X dropped drastically. This is true of almost every generational release. If you’re willing to be a year or so behind on the newest technology, it’s easy to save hundreds of dollars on a phone purchase!
5| Get Stuff for Free!
We’re big fans of the Buy Nothing Project! We’re members of a couple of local groups on Facebook, and tend to give away more items than we claim, but it definitely works both ways. We also love Little Free Libraries as a fantastic way to exchange books and literature for both ourselves and for Lucy.
If you’re up for a bit more adventure (and definitely some deep cleaning), the alleys of Chicago serve as a sort of de facto free thrift store. There’s an unspoken rule that useful but unwanted items go on top of or next to trash cans as opposed to inside them. In addition to the infamous garbage sofa that we rescued for the One Tail at a Time adoption center then refinished (above), we’ve found tons of other great stuff in alleys!
Last summer, I found a perfectly good soundbar/subwoofer combo sitting in the alley behind our two flat. The remote was missing, so I took a chance and ordered the one from eBay for $7. The sound system works perfectly and my group of dad friends used it for outdoor concert live streams until the weather got too cold for us to handle.
6| Sign Up for Email Lists
Most likely, every website you’ve visited in the last few years has hit you with a popup invitation to join their email list. We all know that this invite often includes a promo code good for a rough average of 15% off of your first purchase. Signing up for email lists is a great way to find out about upcoming sales and promotions and to help support small businesses. Since businesses own their proprietary email list as opposed to instagram or facebook owning their follower list, signing up can be a great way to show your support for independent brands you love!
The codes provided in exchange for joining the mailing list can usually be stacked on top of other sales as well, so the savings can add up to be even more significant! Prices for items that are handcrafted by smaller businesses can sometimes be slightly higher than those of mass produced items, but these discounts can help to level the playing field and make long lasting handcrafted good more approachable.
7| Coupon Code Extensions
Coupon code extensions are a relatively new way to make sure you’re getting the best prices when shopping online. Honey, Rakuten and Capital One Shopping all promise savings of varying degrees.
Please note: Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links we provide.
Kim has been using Honey for a couple of years and has reported big savings on skin care and frequently purchased home products. She’s also installed Capital One Shopping and now pits the two against one another to see which can offer the best deal! These plugins are free, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to try them out.
8| Stack Sales, Rebates + Store Points
When renovating the kitchens over at the Two Flat, we purchased our new appliances in waves based on the best sales. Instead of purchasing all of the appliances at once, we saved by buying a couple of them from Best Buy when they were on sale for Memorial Day.
We then took the Best Buy points that we earned from the first purchase and used them toward the second purchase when the rest of the appliances went on sale over the Labor Day holiday. This also helped to spread out the costs so we could avoid making credit card purchases that we couldn’t pay off immediately.
Bonus: We also earned cash back rewards from our credit card company, which we then applied to additional renovation expenses!
We hope these tips were helpful and we’d love to hear about any that we missed!
Can we talk about the little cylindrical wooden people?! So cute!
This is so helpful, thanks so much for sharing!
I love our kid’s strider bikes, and we get all their bikes, toys, and clothes second hand. I figure there are enough kid items in the world already that we don’t need to be getting new, and then we donate them on to the next family. I also love love love Little Free Libraries. We also find a ton of savings being a Costco member. They have great prices to start with, sales all the time, excellent customer service, and a rebate back on the membership and credit card.
The book ‘Press Here’ was a recent little free library find, and Lucy is obsessed! We love the community aspect of it, and she gets excited to donate her own books as she grows, too.
I love the yellow brick home page. My daily routine is to see if there are new posts while I drink my coffee. I play a game when there’s a new post to see if I can guess whether Kim or Scott did the post. I am probably about 90% right but get surprised sometimes :O) Thank you both for sharing all your inspiring home reno projects, tips, and resources.
Aw, haha, I love that! Did you guess right this morning?
I didn’t! I think that’s why I put it in my comment. Thanks again for all the effort you put into your page and IG. Great inspiration and information. I have lived in NM for the last 33 years, but grew up in Central Michigan and love to see your tree house, Chicago home, and get to see a little of “my home”.
Tip for email lists: make a coupons email and just have everything go there! Keeps your main inbox clutter free and then when you need a coupon or code, just search the company!
Awesome tip! I do have a junk email address I use when I sign up for things. It’s also less distracting during the work day since I don’t see those sales coming through, haha.
Kim, your dog food storage container was a big hit with my daughter (recent birthday surprise).
She is on the lookout for dog crates, puppies arriving soon, and she is having a hard time finding good ones.
Reviews posted on some of the big sellers talk about sharp edges, smart puppy escapes, and fatalities. Yikes!
I looked back at your dog supply posts and did not see crates mentioned, do you have any suggestions?
Hi! We’ve always just purchased the standard dog crate, but it’s been years since we’ve used one. I’m sure they’ve come a long way since then, but if you’re feeling uneasy, you might want to check with a local dog rescue to see if they can recommend a certain brand or type!
I don’t mean to sidetrack your post but: how do you like your Ridgeline so far? Is it easy to get Lucy in and out? We’ve been looking at it too, to make DIY/landscaping etc easier, but I’m nervous because we’re still very much in the carseat stage!
Hi Mariana! We’re absolutely LOVING our Ridgeline. The backseat is really spacious and there is a ton of room for storage under them. They also fold up so we have space for Catfish’s 24″ x 36″ bed. Lucy’s car seat fits nicely and she loves the elevated seating position. Also, having a bed to haul lumber, mulch, soil and plants in the back and then be able to rinse it out afterwards is the best! We can’t recommend it enough! Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more questions.
Thank you – that’s so helpful to hear!