Saving Money by Learning from Your Mistakes

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jar of money on concrete by grassy lawn, with text overlay: Frugal Fridays.

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Often times in our endeavors to save money, we can get tunnel vision. We think about “saving money,” but sometimes forget the “cost” involved in achieving that goal.

  • A local store has a really great deal on pepperoni. It will save you fifty cents per package over the store right around the corner. But, Store A is a fifteen minute drive away and costs you $3 in gas to get there. Did you really save money?
  • You find a beautiful sweater at a yard sale for $1. Other sweaters cost $15 to $20 on sale at the department store. You buy sweater A because it’s less expensive, right. Later you find out that it is dry clean only. If you really wear the sweater, cleaning costs will eat up your $14 savings pretty quickly.
  • Your grocer has discounted what appears to be a gourmet coffee. You’ve never tried it, but for $4 a pound, what could go wrong? You buy 10 pounds. This is so cheap! Turns out you hate the coffee and are forced to make a decision: dump or give away $39 worth of mediocre coffee or force yourself to drink it. Either way you lose.

We all have these stories, do we not? We shop carefully, in the name of Saving Money, and yet, we sometimes don’t think the transaction all the way through to the end result.

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Sometimes the gamble pays off and sometimes we’re drinking swill disguised as coffee to pay our “stupid tax.”

I’ve had this happen innumerable times. Things that help me?

Cleaning out the cupboards often

Not only do I see what I have so that I buy the right things, but I’m also reminded of dumb purchases that are languishing in the pantry. It’s a great reminder not to do it again.

Cut your losses

Sometimes you just can’t make it through that stash of bad coffee. Don’t stress over it. Just move on.

Laugh at yourself

Laughter is the best medicine. Don’t be too serious about a mistake or misstep. Laugh and then try not to do it again.

Learning from our mistakes can be a great way to save money in the future.

How do YOU save money?

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  1. A while back, I did a crazy soup deal at Jewel. I had never tasted Healthy Choice soup, but I ended up getting 30+ cans because it was such a good deal. Needless to say, I can’t stand the taste of this brand of soup…too bland! We’ve donated some and then added cheese or spices to the other ones. I won’t be doing that again!

  2. Once I bought 6 boxes of Bluberry Pancake mix. Although there was nothing wrong with the mix and it was a great deal, about 2 weeks after I bought it we had a leak in our cabinet and at least 4 boxes were ruined!! Boy was I bummed.

  3. I’m posting a link here for the first time and appreciate all the great recipes and frugal ideas. My post is a recipe for homemade laundry soap that really works. Really, it does. Thanks for hosting!

  4. Uh huh….been there, done that. I hate that I’ve gotten sucked in to a “too good of a deal to pass up” and then realize, oops, good deal or NOT, it’s not for me (Mr. Clean anyone??) … the coffee thing would have killed me…I probably would have kept trying to force it down!

  5. Hi Jess, Yep, I have had to cut my losses a few times on purchases that just didn’t work out. I have made it a habit though to sleep on bigger purchases and discuss them with my husband and other loyal friends so we don’t run into this trouble again. The other day I tried to return something I already had without the receipt and they wanted to give me the sale price. To drive back home would have cost a lot more in gas than the difference in the price, but my pride had me. I asked for the manager, asked for them to look up my credit card and see if I had indeed made the purchase. When I made them go to this trouble, they gave me the full prize back. πŸ˜‰ tricky me! Linking up my baby steps to a rockin’ life and some of the great tips are frugal! All the best, Alex

  6. I’m a hard-core, couponer, bargain-shopper, so a few weeks ago, I thought I was getting this GREAT deal on milk, sold in 1/2 gallons from a local dairy, in the old-fashioned glass jars. I saw where you could return the glass jars to the store, and get the 2.99 back you paid to begin with, so in essence, you are paying 3 bucks a gallon! NOT BAD…until after a month of returning lots of jars, I looked carefully at my receipt (should have done this from day 1), and saw that I was actually paying 6 bucks a gallon!! (the store actually tacks on an EXTRA 2.99, and that is what you get back)

    I liked what you said about laughing. Laughing helped me disregard my losses.

  7. One thing I’m kicking myself around the block for is buying an ebook on impulse without looking into the author’s time organizing style. Charts & complicated methods and I just don’t get along very well. I’m a simple gal. The only thing I know that may redeem my money wasted that could have gone to a Chrstmas gift is the fact my daughters may be able to relate to the ebook better than I. So for me? Looking into things is key. Even if a well meaning person just loves a method, their ‘language’ and personality may be the opposite of mine. Oh well. : ) I have found from mistakes like this; it is worth it to pray, chew and think on things overnight at least. It’s also best to see excerpts of books first before purchasing them.


  8. When I began my journey to frugality, made many, many mistakes. I bought things we never used just because they were on sale or a good price. We tossed and gave away A LOT of food. Not very frugal.

    I’m much more choosey in my selecting now. We do still experiment, but on a small scale. Now our problem is when we do find something we enjoy, we have a hard time finding the ingredients we found on sale.

  9. I’ve paid my fair share of stupid tax but life is a learning process. And you are so right, we have to be able to laugh at our mistakes and move on.

  10. In our house the big money waster at the grocery store is lack of communication. I can’t tell you how many times my husband stops in at the store on the way home and picks up a lot of the same stuff I already bought that week. If he would just call me and say he is stopping I could let him know. He has the best intentions, but we have to work on the communication. πŸ˜‰

  11. I would return the coffee (most places are pretty generous with returns when all you want is store credit, Trader Joe’s really rocks in this department)
    I would handwash the sweater. For $1 you don’t have much to loose and it is probably handwash safe since manufactures only have to list one safe cleaning method.

    My frugal mistakes often revolve around expiration dates and forgetting about something in the cupboards. Or stocking up on something and then watching it get used up at a far faster rate than normal. That always happens to juice.

    1. @Leigh,

      Whenever I do a stock-up, I never buy snack food in great quantities, especially if it is close to the weekend. If I do, all the snack food will be eaten by Monday and all those “savings” will be out the door.

  12. Here is my frugal mistake for the week. I buy the Smuckers Natural peanut butter, Target sells it for $3.99, & I usually get 2 jars. Recently they had it on sale for $2.01 a jar, I thought, I’m going to stock up. They ran out, so I drove 25 minutes to another Target, where it was priced at $2.06 per jar. I bought 6. When all was said & done, I was so excited to tell my husband about it, he pointed out that I probably burned more gas going out to the further Target to get the peanut butter. Lesson learned.

    Bright side? I have (now) 5 jars of peanut butter in our pantry! πŸ™‚

  13. As a new mom with a now 1 year old (birthday was yesterday!), I find that the best activities for us are either free (parks, walks) or drop-in music & play classes. Paying ahead of time may either sound like a deal/breakdown to a few dollars a class, but we never make it to them all!

    1. @Trissie, That is EXACTLY why I didn’t sign my kids up for any classes. With two babies at home, you never know when one is going to be sick, teething, cranky, of if you’ll be able to make it out the door on time. We kept missing classes and so I canceled everything and only commit to free stuff at the library or playdates with with friends. Much easier to cancel something free!

  14. I am so guilty of this. Love how you go through your cupboards often to remind yourself of those bulk purchases that didn’t pan out. in my kitchen now? Several cans of coconut water (?!) and condensed milk that were on sale, but which I have no idea what to do with!

    1. Now sometimes those mistakes can be blessings when you learn what to do with them! Both of those things can be used in baking, especially when you run out of milk. Google them both and you’ll come up with tons of recipes. Is the milk sweetened? That’s important to note before you start baking. Have fun!

  15. We have a bad habit of always wasting one banana by letting it get too overripe. Well, I’ve taken to freezing those over ripe bananas and tonight I made a batch of home made banana chocolate chip muffins so we have breakfast muffins/snacks for at least the next few days.

  16. That is a great post and I have made a few stupid buys in my days like the bargain den furniture that now only a few years later is lookin’ sort of bad.

  17. Thankfully…as I have gotten older I have also become wiser. I had to laugh about the coffee example. That usually happens to me. Or did. On the flip side. I would only buy a tiny bit of something and it turned out to be super good but no longer available! Live and learn. Thanks so much for hosting and I am loving this months Pantry Challenge!!