Embarrassing Ways to Save Money

Embarrassing Ways to Save Money - picture of Black woman holding fan of dollar bills hiding part of her face looking to side

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As someone who doesn’t really get embarrassed, I’m pretty much willing to do anything to save a buck or two.  Of course, I don’t go to quite the lengths that I used to.  For instance, back in my couponing days I would split my purchases up into five separate orders just to get free toothpaste at CVS.  Oh yes, and I totally remember when Greg and I stockpiled over 300 quarts of ready-to-feed Similac formula when that $5 off any Similac coupon came out a few years ago.  (Yes, my kids drank formula.  Sue me).

But the whole coupon thing kind’ve died off for me when my beloved Kroger stopped doubling coupons in my area last year.  Booooooooo……. And the fact that I stay so busy means that it no longer makes sense to exert an hour of effort to save a total of $3.00 when I could spend that time doing something much more productive like working. (HINT: I make more than $3.00 an hour)

But don’t worry.  I’m still totally willing to embarrass myself in order to save a buck or earn some rewards.  And while I actually enjoy awkward moments, Greg doesn’t.  In fact, he cringes when I do something that makes us look silly, weird, or broke.  Here are a few embarrassing ways to save money I tried out in the last few weeks:

  • I paid for the flooring for our new house with three different credit cards.  I didn’t tell Greg that I planned to do that ahead of time, so he was not thrilled when I started telling the cashier at Carpet One how I was going to pay. When he realized that I was going to put $2,000 on two different cards and $1,000 on another, he turned bright red. I didn’t bother to explain our strategy to the cashier but I’m pretty sure that we looked flat-ass broke.  He probably thought that we were maxing out all of our cards when we were really just hitting the minimum spend on as many cards as possible.  (We pay all of our cards in full multiple times per month with cash money, baby)
  • I paid for groceries with two different credit cards.  This was last night when I used $50 credit I had on one card for a return but put the rest of our bill on another card in order to earn rewards.  Again, we looked broke.  Again, I didn’t care.  Again, Greg was embarrassed.  Teehee.
  • I called the Chase reconsideration hotline when they denied my application for a business version of the Chase Rapid Rewards Southwest Card.  Apparently, they didn’t like the fact that I signed up for the Chase Ink Bold, met the minimum spend, and booked flights all within the span of a few months.  So they denied me.  When I called the reconsideration line, they practically made me grovel.  It was slightly degrading but will be worth it when I am the proud owner of the Southwest Companion pass later this year.  I ain’t too proud to beg.
  • I’m now known as the coupon lady at my favorite place to eat.  My local chamber of commerce sent out this free calendar with a bunch of coupons for my favorite restaurant, Asian Grill.  Well, I ended up with two of those babies and the 24 coupons that came with them.  Anyway, Greg and I went there the other day and I made my usual order: A spicy Tofu wrap without the wrap in a bowl like a salad with a side of spicy picked veg.  Want to know what the waitress said?  “Oh, you’re the one that orders the wrap without a wrap that always has coupons.”  Should’ve I have been offended?  I thought it was HI-LI-AR-IOUS.

What embarrassing things are you willing to do to save a buck or earn rewards?  Would you be too proud to use several cards in one transaction or call Chase and grovel for your favorite rewards card?

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  1. That’s hilarious that you guys got black-listed by Chase, yet still managed to get the free rewards anyways. Those are some sweet negotiation tactics you guys have!

    1. Yeah, I think they were a little suspicious after the way I used my Chase Ink Bold =)

  2. When I was interning in San Diego I was so broke I stole the industrial size roll of toilet paper and brought it home. A friend saw and told me a looked like a squatter.

    1. I never took a whole roll, but I definitely did that at a job. They’d refill the TP and be set to throw out the stub ends. I just took all the stub ends home instead. Wasn’t much, but at that time, every little bit helped.

      We are now in the more money than time phase too. We don’t roll in the money, but we make more than enough to meet our low needs (actually, this is more a factor of our low needs, I think). I still like to find little, easy ways to save. But I’m also at the point where we just donate stuff instead of trying to eke out some money on Craigslist.

    2. I have stolen a toilet roll from a restaurant while on a first date… Somehow the waiter caught me (I am still wondering how) and added £1 to our bill; when the soon-to-be-ex asked the waiter what was the £1 extra for; the waiter -very loudly- said: ‘Oh this is for the toilet roll your girlfriend stole from the loos.’ Mortifying.

      1. OMG, that is horrible! I’m glad you can laugh about it now!

      2. That is quite possibly the funniest comment we have ever had! Thank you Margo 😀

  3. That’s pretty awesome! I think cashiers probably do think you’re broke when you split things onto that many different credit cards, but when we do things like that and I know that the truth is totally different from what is outwardly displayed, I secretly think it’s hilarious! And I never bother to explain myself to the cashier, either. Let ’em wonder.

    1. Yeah, exactly. They were probably thinking, “Honey, you can’t afford carpet if you have to put it on three different credit cards.”

    2. Hm, we did that with our first bed purchase because our limits weren’t high enough to put on one card. I never thought to be embarrassed at the time. Of course at age 22 one isn’t expected to have a whole lot of credit.

  4. I’m sure I do things that other people might find embarrassing (using coupons at all is one for some people), but just don’t phase me in the least.

    1. Yeah, it doesn’t bother me either =) I just want free/discounted stuff!

  5. I’ve pretty much laid off using coupons for groceries for the same reason…takes too much time to save too little. I’d rather put that time towards other activities. I think Greg and I would get along…I don’t like awkward moments.

    1. I like coupons and use them if they are right in front of my face but I no longer have the time to hunt them down.

  6. I like to use coupons when I shop for personal care items like toothpaste, lotion, floss, shampoo etc etc. One time I had a cashier who was kind of annoyed by coupons and was making snotty comments. I was so embarrassed!

    1. Ugh! Why would they care? Weird! Just scan my shit and tell me my total, lady. Right?

    2. For real? When I get a particularly good one (this Sunday was $5 off your groceries at Publix) sometimes the register ladies have me grab a Sunday paper for them so they make sure to get one before they sell out!

  7. I’d say couponing is probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve done to save money, and not just any old couponing. I’m talking combining deals and coupons at restaurants. I seriously think the waiter/waitress thinks I’m crazy sometimes, but hey I still tip them well and I save $! Win-win. BTW loved the title of this post.

  8. I haven’t really split up a purchase onto multiple cards, but I’ve definitely found out at the register that something was more than I thought (rather, more than they had marked) and told them I didn’t want it anymore. I just think that’s sensible, but I could see why people would think I was cheap.

    1. Matt, if it’s more than actually marked, tell them so. Sometimes, that happens, but I’ve found checkers are almost always wiling to change the price or at least price check.

  9. This gave me such a laugh! I’m with Greg on this! Every time there would be a movie/popcorn combo for $5 on living social, we would always purchase some, and l die whenever we would go to use it. He proudly pulls it out, while l go off to the side and pretend l don’t know him. Same thing at Kohl’s. I know it’s silly, but l just can’t help it.

  10. Haha, that is awesome that Chase put you on the naughty list for doing exactly what their rewards program is for. The only thing I have done is pay for purchases with a few different cards.

    1. They are a lot stricter about business cards than they are about personal cards.

  11. During my first summer in Nashville, I purchased a tent, used it for four days at Bonnaroo, and then returned it! I was an intern working full-time for free and working part-time at a restaurant. Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of spare cash. Hahaha.

    1. That is slightly wrong, although not the worst thing in the world! I hope you at least did it to Walmart. Then its okay.

  12. I have and would have done many of the same. I think that anybody that just writes you off as broke and doesn’t consider that there are different reasons for doing things like splitting purchases on different cards must be closed minded, haha.

    1. There are a lot of closed-minded people out there =)

  13. I had a laugh reading this post, especially as I tend to ’embarass’ myself with my thriftiness as well. But I try to not care about what people think and just go on with my life. As it turns out, others are just as concerned about what I am thinking of them as I am about what they are thinking.

  14. When Amex did the small business Saturday where you got $10 free on every Amex you registered, I used three different cards to buy $30 worth of stuff to get it free. The cashier didn’t say a word, but I’m sure he thought I was pretty sad.

  15. We’re too busy/lazy to maximize anything. I have the hardest time remembering to use coupons even for something that we regularly buy even when we clip the coupon to the grocery list.

    1. Me too! I like it when they are on a display right in front of the item I’m buying!

  16. Two restaurants we go to send out coupons where you get a free entrée if you purchase one. We use those without embarrassment. Plus at one we have a loyalty card and about every fifth time we go there we get the whole meal for free except for the tip.

    I just wanted to comment about your children using formula. So did mine and he grew up to be a rocket scientist …..really! So obviously no harm done. Is it really anyone’s business if you breast feed or not. When did that become something on which a parent was judged?

    1. Don’t you read mommy blogs, Kathy? Feeding formula is a sin in some circles! =)

      I did breast feed for 8-10 weeks per child. That was plenty =/

  17. ha ha!!! I don’t think I’d be embarrassed putting it on several cards if I didn’t feel it was any kind of major inconvenience to them, but I probably would go a step further and explain why I was doing it (for the travel rewards), just in case they did think I was broke and trying to just figure out what card had money on it.

    1. =) I’m pretty sure the carpet store people thought I was maxxing out my cards. Oh, and I had a $100 internet coupon too. I looked trifling.

  18. Haha, nice! I wouldn’t have been embarrassed by putting things on multiple cards either. I think the most embarrassing thing I’ve done is made a cashier re-ring up my self checkout purchase of a fruit that accidentally registered as organic. I probably didn’t save enough to make it worth it, but I really didn’t want to pay organic prices for a pesticide-laden piece of fruit!

  19. It’s not embarrassing to me, but sometimes my boyfriend will be uncomfortable with the fact that we’re using a gift card to eat somewhere, and then I want to use coupons on top of it. To him, we’re getting the meal for free already, so it looks very cheap on our part. I just want to extend the life of our gift card a bit longer!

    1. Ugh! Been there!

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a gift card/coupon combo move. Totally legit if you ask me.

      1. Just remember to tip on the full price amount. The server shouldn’t be penalized because you have coupons or gift cards.

  20. I have no problem splitting expenses or whatever, although I seem to spend more by asking for best price then cash price on home improvement stuff, particularly when I don’t care about any of the credit card “fringe benefits” for a purchase.

    1. You’re missing out, Nick! A lot of places do offer a discount for paying cash, but many places do not.

  21. I fill that role in our relationship, too: the one who will pursue discounts to the embarrassment of my wife. I apparently don’t have that part of the brain that feels ‘shame’, so I’ll use it to my advantage.

    I like to just remind myself that business transactions are just that: it’s business. There’s no need to make it about anything more than the dollars and cents involved.

    1. Exactly, and coupons are made to be used….not to be thrown away, right?

  22. Ha! I think we should all be more like you, Holly, less concerned about what other people think and more concerned about what our financial situation looks like. I needed a new pair of sneakers, and I had a coupon for them. I got to the register with a line of people behind me, realized I left the coupon in my car, and told the cashier I would be back in a minute. I am sure everyone thought I had no money, but I was absolutely not paying full price for those sneaks.

    1. Hey, I don’t blame you. Shoes are expensive!!!

  23. I once was working a trade show that had a Starbucks in the space. I brought my own tea bag so I just needed a hot water. But the Starbucks baristas said that they count their cups so they couldn’t give me one. I don’t know what I was thinking but I went to the trash and took out a cup. They all have lids on them anyway so I just took the lid off, washed the cup out in the bathroom and gave it to them for hot water. Not my proudest moment, but I think I wanted to prove a point.

  24. Haha these are all funny. Wes used to be super embarrassed when I would do things like this. I think he’s just used to it now!

    1. Yeah, I think Greg is getting used to it too! =)

  25. I’ve done the split onto multiple credit cards to hit minimum spends on large purchases. You are right, you do get the look that they think you are at your maxed out point. I just shrug it off because what do I care if the person thinks I am broke.

  26. Awesome Monday Morning read Holly. I love your dare to save every penny attitude! 🙂 This weekend I returned toothpaste because I thought it was $1.66 but it scanned in at $2.49. Luckily J wasn’t too embarrassed!

  27. I don’t really worry about getting embarrassed at all anymore. If it makes since financially, then I say go for it 🙂 I think having a bit of determination when it comes to getting the most you can out of your money is certainly admirable.

  28. Haha, yeah getting embarrassed over saving money is something I’ve learned to get over recently. There is one thing I want to try but am too embarrassed to try, however: asking for last-minute upgrades on flights. I’ve read that sometimes this works and that it’s worth asking the gate agents! But for some reason I just can’t get up the courage to do it.

    1. Ohhhh….I might have to try that. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no, right?

  29. I’m all about using various rewards on a card. I once had a Discover special where I would have 0% for life on the outstanding balance but I needed to make 1 purchase a month. I would buy a stick of gum and charge it monthly.

  30. I love that Greg was constantly embarrassed and turning bright red. The most embarrassing thing I probably do to save money is point out mistakes. I pay attention and will get the clerk to fix the error. Sometimes you get nasty looks for holding up the line, but oh well. I’ve seen too many people get in the habit of brushing off small mistakes and that’s a bad habit to get into in my opinion. I’ve seen how it seems to permeate into other areas of their lives.

    1. Yeah, all of those little bits of money add up!

      1. I don’t know if it’s jsut a Canadian thing, but do you have the “Scanning Code of Conduct” there? It’s a voluntary thing, but most grocery stores here take part. If an item scans incorrectly you go to custer service to report it and you get the iterm for free (up to $10 value). The trick is not to say anything to the cashier or they’ll just correct the amount and then you don’t get the refund. I try to watch like a hawk as items are scanned but when you’re unloading and bagging you can miss things. So after it’s all bagged up and in my cart I stop and review the entire receipt hoping to find an error. I average about one free item a month.

  31. I’ve totally used multiple credit cards in one transaction and didn’t feel bad at all. Who cares what a cashier thinks? If it earns rewards points and plays to your personal financial strategy then it’s awesome! Being embarassed is a waste of time.

    1. Yeah, it definitely doesn’t matter. And to be fair, there was no one in line behind us either time.

  32. haha I can totally relate. id do the same things holly, I just dont care what my other people think of me!

  33. That’s awesome. I don’t get embarrassed anymore. My parents did all sort of embarrassing things when I was young and I grew a thick skin. My clothes are getting worn out, but I’m too lazy to buy new ones. Maybe in a few months.

    1. Ugh mine too. I also have a lot of clothes with paint on them. Trying to start a new trend over here!

  34. I think it’s very common for people to use coupons now a days so that doesn’t embarrass me but I think paying with different credit cards might. I’ve never done it unless I have a giftcard that doesn’t cover the full amount then I put the difference on another card. But hey, if you’re trying to get your rewards on then go for it. You’re the one laughing all the way to your free vacation. We should all be doing this. Responsibly, of course!

    1. I put virtually everything on my credit card to earn flight miles. I don’t care how small the purchase. I’m sure clerks often feel sorry for me and think I can’t afford my coffee, but the truth is it all adds up and every summer we head to Europe with the kids on vacation.

  35. I didn’t know you could split regular purchases across several credit cards . . I have to keep this in mind! My hubby’s gotten used to my crazy ways, so he’s not as embarrassed by me as he used to be.

    1. Oh yeah, you totally can. I usually don’t do it unless it’s a significant amount though.

  36. Hey Holly, I’m definitely not to proud to do something embarrassing to save a buck. Yes I would call chase and yes, I would split purchases. As far as the most embarrassing thing I’ve done to save money goes, I’d have to say is the price match guarantee. That’s right, I’m not above going on my phone in the middle of Walmart, finding a better price and making the cashier get the manager when he or she doesn’t want to meet the price. Hey, I’ve saved tons doing it and I’m not stopping any time soon!

    1. Yeah, I occasionally price match although not as often since I avoid Walmart like the plague!

  37. I can be a little cheap sometimes. But hey everything is so expensive. And money goes by so quickly! How can you now be careful with your money???

  38. Nice work! Sometimes you have to be willing to be a little shameless sometimes.

    For us, we love gift cards… we went to a restaurant a couple weeks, and used 3 gift cards in one visit! We had a card with about $3 leftover on it, and then we got a card with $5 on it, and then another one! We felt a little embarrassed using 3 gift cards for one order (which was only like $20 total), but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!

    1. Yeah, exactly. You might as well use those babies up!

  39. Using a competitors coupon to get a discounted haircut! (Hey, they did advertise they accept competitors coupons!). Though the guy accepted it without complaint, I could tell he wasn’t very happy!

  40. Is your husband embarrassed because people thought you were broke and using multiple credit cards or is your husband embarrassed because you are taking extra time and making extra work for the cashier?

    I would be embarrassed if anyone saw the bras and underwear that I wear most of the time. Thread bare with droopy elastics and white that is no longer white but worn out shades of grey. Not replacing those items is my way to save money.

  41. I used to get so embarrassed shopping with my Mom when she would make a big deal about a discount not going through properly or an item ringing up wrong. She would always check receipts right away and make sure everything was correct, and if not, we’d head back into the store to get it straightened out. Really embarrassing for me as a kid/teenager, but now I’m the same way! After all, a penny saved is a penny earned 🙂

    1. Yep. Same here. I guess that’s where we learned it!

  42. I guess what I do is less visible–buying reusable handwarmers and cooking ingredients in bulk, but it still feels a little funny to be cooking yourself a week’s worth of chicken all on a sunday. But here’s to penny pinching!

  43. This whole post, and all the comments, are just gold! I’m the embarrassing one. It doesn’t really phase me, but my fiancé is generally an unwilling side-kick.

    You know how Amex/Visa gift cards get declined if the purchase is over the remaining balance? Well, I refuse to give those pennies to the company, so if I duct spend it all at once I will ask the cashier to ring $0.19 or whatever, on it. I’ve gotten some ridiculous looks.

    1. I would do the same. You can’t throw away free money! =)

  44. I didn’t realize Chase had a reconsideration hotline. That’s good to know if we ever apply to so many cards that we get rejected! Thanks for the tip.

    1. Ha! Well, to be fair, I only have one other business card at this point. Chase is just a lot stricter about them =)

  45. I have used different cards to buy groceries because I was broke. I have filled up my car with gas using the credit option knowing I only have 10 bucks in the bank and then withdraw it before the gas transaction goes through.
    The most embarrassing is when I was very green from the village and my uncle took me to a restaurant in the city. When he left the tip for the waiter, I took it as we left and pocketed wondering why would he forget the money on the table. The waiter must have been pissed.

    1. Awww….well you didn’t know at the time, right?

      1. Right, I didn’t know

  46. Jennifer O says:

    I love it when products at the grocery store ring up wrong. A few stores in my area have a policy that states if the shelf price and the register price don’t agree you get the item free. While I watch the register closely most of the time if I see something ring up wrong I don’t tell the cashier. I instead pay the bill then walk over to the courtesy desk show them my receipt and get all my money back for the items that rung up incorrectly. I made the mistake once of pointing out the incorrectly rung up price to the cashier before I paid and he just made a price correction there and wouldn’t give me the item free. (Frickin’ jerk!).

  47. Any time you get a nickname from your local restraunt, it means one of two thing: they either love having you or hate you.
    I think they probably hate you, but in a good way. They probably hate that you keep on getting good deals. Keep it up, it really shows how frugal you are (in a good way)!

    1. They probably hate me….but I always tip 20% on the before-coupon amount so maybe not! =)

  48. I would totally do all of the things on your list! Heck, one of my favorite things to do is split up orders so I can use 2 coupons to save money. I get funny looks all the time and probably piss off the employee but that’s the way it goes when dealing with the coupon king!! Self proclaimed of course 🙂

  49. LOL – Crazy coupon lady!!! 🙂 I always like to test the servers or checkout people at retail stores with multiple coupons that clearly say “Not redeemable with any other offer.” Sometimes, they don’t care, sometimes they don’t notice. Sometimes the system won’t let them do it because you’re not supposed to…then they get a manager and have them override the system. Then again, sometimes they DO care, and DO notice and then it’s slightly embarrassing….but totally worth it for how many times it does work!

  50. LeRainDrop says:

    Here are my most recent things that may have embarassed other people, but I convinced myself to do them: (1) I had a $7 manufactuer’s coupon for Zyrtec and a $4 Publix coupon for Zyrtec. I asked the cashier if she would accept those coupons for the Publix brand of the same drug. She said yes, so I got more of the product for much, much less! (2) When I was shopping for a bike lock at Target, I noticed the exact same lock was on two different rungs with two different prices — one was $9.99, and the other was $15.49. I looked closely to confirm they were the same product, and since they were, I took a picure of the display fairly close-up on my phone. When the lock rang for $15.49 at the register, I told the cashier of the $9.99 pricing and showed her the picture on my phone. She zoomed in on the price tag and was like, “The register is showing that product should be $15.49, but I’ll change it to $9.99 for you. That was smart of you to take a picture!”

  51. Do you know Amazon payments? It’s like paypal and you can send money to people for free. I don’t use it as is looks US only but you can use your card to meet your minimum payment threshold, and deposit the cash on your account.

  52. My wife used to be so embarrassed when I would do things in order to save us money, but when she realized it was working, she finally came on board! She’s gotten so good at it that I let her handle those aspects of it! But, I’m one of those that doesn’t care what others think of me, because I’m doing what’s right for us, and our bank account. Glad you are too!

  53. Wow, i thought im the only one who did use multiple credit cards just to save money, well, my hsbc cc had a problem, it was blocked, now im using my other local cc to buy things online… tough times needs fast decision making, so just cover my face too.. haha it was funny but what can i do…

  54. Hahahaha I totally do embarrassing things, especially when it comes to negotiating at yard sales that my husband.

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