Daniel Scocco, author of Daily Blog Tips, is running a group writing project on his blog called 2009 in Review. I thought it was a fun idea so here are my best and worst ways I saved money in 2009.

Here are some of the best lessons I learned in saving money over the past year:

Asking for something if I need or want it.
When I moved into my house, I couldn’t help but notice my neighbors left a cool looking bookcase outside in the rain.

Maybe they were putting it outside while they moved furniture around or were giving it to someone else. Really though, I didn’t ask at first because I was worried I’d look like some cheap vulture.

I hopped onto the Ikea website to look at pricing some options. The cost was $69 for a Billy Bookcase… and $250 to ship it. Even my cheap local options still involved similar costs and the hassle of transport and assembly. Was my pride really going to get in the way of saving $100 or more?

I finally worked up the nerve to walk over a few days later. I introduced myself as their new neighbor and told them I was looking for a bookcase when I saw theirs outside. Did they still want it?

“We’re getting rid of it. It’s a good thing you asked too because after work tonight, my husband was going to chop it up to bring to the dump.”

It really does never hurt to ask if you do it politely and handle the answer to your request graciously.

Shopping online carefully.

I now automatically go to Google, Ebates, and RetailMeNot before I do any online purchasing for price comparisons, cash back incentives, and coupon codes. When I do buy online, I save between 10 and 20% or at the very least get free shipping which makes my needed purchases a little more worthwhile.

More importantly, I also use the online resources to see if I can get things cheaper locally. Most of the time, in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling of buying local, the comparative hassle of shipping or waiting makes me take the plunge locally, which is really good for both me and the economy.

Negotiating the big bills.

I negotiate prices for my business all the time, why wouldn’t this extend to my personal life? I finally realized this and in my search for a new apartment, I was able to negotiate $150 a month below the asking price of my dream rental so I could afford it.

In the best financial book I’ve ever read ‘All Your Worth’, the idea is to save money on the big expenses before beginning to pinch pennies. I finally now no longer feel weird calling up companies I do business with and seeing where I can save money and I put this into practice in a big way this year.

Relaxing about the small stuff.

It was weird one day to realize I was debating getting rid of my Y membership. It would have saved me $40 a month but to what end? Reducing exercise time and social interaction is not worth that $40 a month to me.

Sure, it’s nice to save a few bucks but as of this year, I am now no longer feel guilty for putting money towards things that are important to me. Because in business you have to spend money to make money and in your personal life, you have to spend a little bit of money sometimes for overall happiness.

And here are four ways I thought were actually saving me money but were really me wasting money:

Waiting until December to get an accountant.

Ignoring finances (besides cash flow) for my small business until this moment was not my brightest idea. The good news about dealing with money, or anything in life really, is that you can always choose to start and anything you do will help.

While I would have paid for an accountant initally, a good one would have saved me money not only on taxes but in helping me make good decisions. Lesson learned.

Not keeping track of money spent while vacationing.

When I am on vacation, my saving money standards get lax. I eat the ridiculous meal (I’m only there once) or visit the attraction (It’ll make a great photo op!). Then I get home and have to tighten my belt for a month.

My next vacation I go on, I am going to budget before I go, not try to figure it out while I’m there. It’s not about deprecation but putting the money instead where it counts, speaking of which…

Using self deprivation as false security.

Can I skip going to the grocery store for a week or trim my own bangs to save a few bucks? Sure. But really, it’s cutting down on the big expenses more than the little ones that’ll make a difference. So for the stuff that matters to me (like good food!) I am going to spend a little more and not feel so guilty about it in 2010.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in saving a few bucks, but to what end? It’s a good question, and one I’ll ask myself more often, rather than just saying ‘no’.

Being impatient about getting things ‘fixed’.

Two things that happened this year that freaked me out: 1) My dog’s health started to decline and 2) My check engine light came on (and stayed on) in my car. Do these have anything to do with one another? They sure do!
I paid over $100 in both cases to get the answer of “wait and see’. Facebooking my dog’s health problem yielded the really good suggestion of switching her food because she could have developed an allergy. And with some asking around, I found out Subaru oxygen sensors are notorious for making the check engine light turn on. Sure enough, I waited a week and it went off. And I switched my dog’s food and she seemed better.
So rather than worrying and going immediately to a professional, I am going to do my homework, and maybe even just wait when problems first arise and see if they resolve themselves. Maybe I am just a lucky person but they really do seem to!
Wow, I learned a lot this year! I’m really glad I wrote this post; I didn’t even realize I had taken all this in.
Here’s to a profitable 2010, and I can’t wait to see what the other participants in this writing project wrote about their past year…

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