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Penny-pinching sages share their stories

Oh, the things we do to get a good deal. We spend hours clipping coupons from the Sunday circular, stand in long lines for discounted theater tickets, drive across town in search of the cheapest gasoline. But the diligent penny-pinching sages of our favorite blogs have gone to even greater lengths to save.

Bloom to bacon

Amber Bustanoby is the mastermind behind Coupon Connections. The Seattle mom of four has found great efficiencies in a flower-for-meat program she operates with a friend. "We are big-time garage sale freaks, and we also grow hundreds of dahlias during the summer," Bustanoby says. Every week during the season, the pair hits the sales in their area, bartering $5 bouquets for clothes, furniture and household items priced (or bartered down) in $5 multiples. "Once we're done, we head over to our local meat shop where we sell the remainder of the bouquets and use the money to pay for our meat," she says. "I am not sure if this is funny, crazy or just weird."

Playing the market

Jenny Martin, the blogger at Southern Savers, is proud of what she calls her "scratch and dent cow." The Columbia, S.C., mom of three called a local cow farmer and asked if he had any animals that were not fit for the market but still safe to eat. Her family went home with a 450-pound cow with a cleft foot, and delicious roasts, steaks and ground chuck were had. After a local butcher processed the animal, the end product was split among four families at a cost of $3 per processed protein. "That's an awesome price," Martin says. "And probably the craziest thing I've ever done to save money."

A free agent

Melanie Heywood, the blogger behind SmartySaver, says her friends make fun of her for always asking for freebies and discounts. However, she says the joke is often on them, since she frequently gets what she asks for: free food, entry into nightclubs and more. But sometimes, she has to give up a little something in return for the favor. On a recent family trip to Disney World, the Fort Lauderdale mom balked at the $15 price to park at Animal Kingdom and asked the attendant, "Is it free parking for Florida residents today?"

He responded with, "It is if you sing me a song." So she belted out Whistle While You Work from Snow White. Result: free parking. "And my family had a great laugh about it," Heywood says. "Just goes to show — can't hurt to ask!"

Heywood also did what few bargain shoppers admit to but are guilty of: She double-dipped on coupons. Or should we say, dipped 15 times. "I needed to save money so badly after having my daughter that I bought 15 rebate coupons for baby formula on eBay, and then had my friends and family members fill out the forms since the deal was just one per household." We promise not to tell anyone.

Going cold turkey

Sometimes, the craziest thing people do to save money is the first thing we should all do: Stop frivolous spending. That's what Budgets Are Sexy blogger J. Money did four years ago when he quit "window-shopping" cold turkey. He was a big purchaser of what he calls "random" things, and would hit the mall for any reason he could find. He'd also splurge weekly at places like T.J. Maxx, Best Buy and his favorite: thrift stores. His four-year moratorium on buying only the necessities saves him about $400 per week. "I had no idea I was spending so much until I stopped walking into stores and saw my credit card balances level out. It was awesome," says the married Washington, D.C., blogger. "This experience really opened up my eyes to just how willy-nilly I was getting rid of my money."

Penny-pinching sages share their stories 05/26/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 26, 2012 5:31am]
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