(U.S. News & World Report) A penny saved is a penny earned, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. Because saving money — that is, a lot of it — takes discipline and sacrifice, it’s tempting to do it the easy way. Beware of that approach to frugality, since sometimes a penny saved is a dollar lost. John Schmoll, the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living, has helpfully identified five money-saving myths that could end up costing you more money than you save.
1. Buying the cheaper item
It’s often tempting to save money by buying the cheaper item, especially when it comes to big-ticket goods. But if the cheaper sofa falls apart in four years, while the better-made but more expensive sofa lasts 20 years, you haven’t saved anything. Schmoll’s advice: “This trade-off must be taken on a case-by-case basis, of course, but often times the better quality, more expensive item will actually save you money versus the cheaper product.”
2. Scoring free shipping
In order to get you to spend more, many online retailers offer free shipping for purchases of $25, $50 or sometimes as much as $75 or more. Sometimes, it’s worth it to fork over the $10 for shipping. When you buy more than you otherwise would just to get free shipping, you’re not saving anything. Schmoll’s advice: “Check out sites like FreeShipping.org to get coupon codes for free shipping that won’t cost you more money.”
Books have been written about the virtues of clipping coupons for saving money — sometimes a lot of it. But it’s only effective if you were going to buy the item anyway. Filling your grocery cart with items just because you have a coupon for them is a waste of money. Schmoll’s advice: Use coupons for items you always buy. Don’t waste your time clipping coupons for anything else.
4. Buying in bulk
Those giant bulk purchase stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, have aisle after aisle of amazing deals. While buying in bulk does lower the per-unit price, you lose money in the long run if you throw out food you can’t finish. Will your family use the industrial size bottle of ketchup before it goes bad? Schmoll’s advice: “If you like the idea of buying items in bulk, look for ways to help stretch your purchase through freezing items or splitting purchases with a friend.”
5. Using cash is always better
One way to save money is to pay with cash–only cash. After all, if you have only $20 in your wallet, you can’t spend more than that. So many decide to budget by using only cash and keeping the credit and debit cards at home. However, a cash-only system makes it cumbersome to track your spending and difficult to identify overspending. Schmoll’s advice: Credit and debit cards not only allow you to keep track of your spending, but also typically offer purchase protection.
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