The Lady in the Black furthers her scientific pursuit of the mysterious concept of spavings. In this installment, she and 5 other researchers explore the viability of converting one elusive economic entity (spavings) into a more stable and profitable formulation (savings.)
As a professional and recreational writer, I love the nuance of language; a good pun, a strong play on words, and the occasional naughty double entendre.
And while homonyms are the red-headed step child of modern-day language, I generally find them more fascinating than not. (For those seeking reassurance, you are right. Homonyms are words that are both spelled and pronounced the same as each other, yet have different meanings.) And while “savings” is NOT on Wikipedia’s list of true homonyms, it should be.
A couple of months ago, I conducted research on the “The Definition of Savings: A Scientific Exploration” and the results were pretty compelling. The key finding?
Savings is the money you set aside for future use.
Savings is NOT the money earned from a discounted purchase.
Homonym or not, when you say your “savings were huge after using coupons” or you “saved a ton at the clearance sale”, you are using the wrong word. That is spavings.
Now that we have our vocabulary lesson ironed out, let’s move on.
After my preliminary research, I felt compelled to move the whole savings vs. spavings concept a bit further. I wanted to move from perception into practice. In short, I wondered if one could transform spavings into savings?
I hypothesize that spavings can be converted into savings.
It turns out that, once again, I am right–but we’ll get to results in a moment. First, let’s review the methodology.
With a solid hypothesis in hand, The Lady in the Black needed collaborators.
Based on a first-come, first-served volunteer basis, five fellow personal finance bloggers were recruited to participate in what was code-named the Great September Spavings Experiment.
The 6-woman team is comprised of Penny from She Picks Up Pennies, Mrs. AdventureRichly from Adventure Rich, Britt from Tiny Ambitions, Abigail from I Pick Up Pennies , Nicole from Budget Like A Lady, and of course, me; The Lady in the Black.
Following final recruitment, researchers were given loose parameters in which to operate for a duration of 30 calendar days. The experiment ran from September 1 to September 30, 2017.
Researchers were reminded of the definition of savings vs spavings and given this basic direction:
“For every purchase “you save $14.43” at the grocery store, or “2 for 1” Groupon you use, you put your spavings DIRECTLY into a savings account. You can use Tip Yourself or any other savings technique you prefer.
All participants will keep track of their spavings beginning September 1 and report back on the experience at the end of the month. You don’t have to track everything you buy, just the things that literally promise/promote a spavings or you got on sale.
You can define spavings as conservatively/loosely as you wish…just be able to explain it at the end of the experiment.”
Researchers periodically checked in with each other via Twitter direct message to document individual spavings and provide encouragement for continued participation.
At the conclusion of the experiment duration, data and researcher notes were submitted to The Lady to consolidate and publish.
Here is the data.
Quantitative Data (with Notes)
Monthly Cumulative Spavings per Researcher:
She Picks Up Pennies : >$80
My biggest savings was $25 on a pair of flats that will replace two pairs of work shoes that have already done their last lap around the classroom.
Other “spavings” was quite small–a dollar here, eighty cents there–but it really did add up over the course of the month.
Mrs. Adventure Rich: $138.64
My “spavings” totaled $138.64, with my largest spavings coming from saving $31.92 on one shopping trip!
Budget Like A Lady: $175.47
My total spavings was $175.47 for the month of September. I can’t believe it! Most of my spavings came from grocery shopping.
I Pick Up Pennies: $180.91
We ended up putting aside $180.91 That’s pretty impressive because only 20 of the 54 “spavings” instances were for amounts over $1. Only five were more than $5 in savings.
Mostly, the spavings came from the use of discounted gift cards. When we use a discounted GC, I put the difference into our saved savings account. So if my husband spends $5 at Walgreens and uses a Walgreens GC we got for 10% off, then $0.50 goes into savings.
The biggest amount we saved was $25. I sent my husband to the grocery store to get alcohol for the party. He had a nasty fit of ADD-ness and decided to get liquor rather than the cider I’d requested. And of course he went high-end. (Me? Bitter? Noooooo.) So he “saved” $25 — which was more than I’d wanted to spend on alcohol total. (Okay, maybe a little bitter.)
Two of the other big savings were a free movie pass (value: $9) and 15% off several of my overpriced hair products (savings: $16.50).
Tiny Ambitions: $194.66
All told, my total spavings for September was $194.66, which I think is pretty decent for a first timer! This month was uncharacteristically spendy for me, since we moved at the beginning of the month and had to replace a lot of stuff we didn’t take with us (i.e. food, household items, etc).
My biggest spavings was on our new mattress. The company has a big labour day sale and we ended up saving $65 on something we fully intended to buy anyway (and had set money aside for). This savings was like icing on top of the very comfortable cake!
The rest of my spavings came from groceries, household supplies and some spur of the moment clothing purchases (very uncharacteristic for me).
The Lady in the Black: $240.91
The key to my spavings comes from loyalty cards or programs; grocery store, drug store, pet store, hair salon, and Fuel Rewards card.
By far, my biggest spavings were at CVS. In one transaction, I saved 49% of my total bill. I found a 75% off item, some buy 1, get 1 free vitamins and used a 25% coupon for the remaining items. Another CVS purchase, I spaved 36% off the total.
My grocery store, Ralph’s, was consistent in spaving me money, in fact, nearly 30% of my monthly spavings came from their reward program. My Target debit card spaved me an automatic 5% just for swiping it and my new Shell gas card (paired with its sister Fuel Rewards card), spaved me 35 cents a gallon at fill up.
Total Monthly Cumulative Spavings: $1,010.59
I’m always looking for ways to save even though our budget is already pretty lean. I also think it is so easy to get caught up in shopping sales and being frugal without really considering what that savings actually means. For the month of September, I “spaved” over $80.
For this month, I’m putting my “spavings” into Vanguard for my Roth IRA. While I’m on a leave, I’m not collecting a paycheck. As a result, I’ve postponed a lot of our savings and investing goals.
While this certainly won’t replace a paycheck, it is more than a step in the right direction.
I have often taken advantage of coupons or store deals…but to what end? Where did that savings go? Why not actually save the savings?!? Genius!
During September, I was able to make all of those small saves add up to a decent chunk of change. It was a relatively painless way to save a chunk of change and made all the coupon clipping and deal chasing worth it in a more tangible way. And it made me look for more ways to shave a few dollars off our bill so I could “spave” more!
I would like to keep the spavings up over the next few months. I plan to put this spavings in our investment fund, which is earmarked for a future investment (TBD… IRA? Real Estate?).
While spaving will likely not be the all inclusive hack to financial success, it is certainly a motivating tool to use in our pursuit of frugality and financial independence!
NOTE: Read Mrs. Adventure Rich full experiment conclusions here.
I like saving money (doesn’t everyone?), and I like the idea of keeping track of how much you actually save when you buy things.
This challenge was interesting because it forced me to pay closer attention to my receipts to see exactly what I was saving dollar amount wise and on what items.
What am I going to do with my $194.66 in spavings? It’s already been added to my tiny house fund!
I decided to participate because things are tight right now — specifically, we just had $4,000 in unexpected repairs — so anything to help put a little more away would be good. The spavings went right into the main savings account to help cover the second portion of repair bills.
Thoughts overall: Interesting, but overall probably not something I’ll keep doing except with things like coupons used.
We have a set weekly amount to work off of, so putting away money that we avoided spending….well, it made it kind of tough to get through full weeks, which is already difficult most of the time anyway.
As I said before, the results were great, but this isn’t something I could do sustainably in the future. It took way too much effort to check every receipt for “spavings” and transfer money accordingly. I think I’ll just stick to our regular saved savings routine.
NOTE: Read I Pick Up Pennies’ full experiment conclusions here.
I love trying new money savings techniques so naturally I loved the spavings challenge idea. I always look for ways to save money but I never tallied it up. I never thought of spavings as anything special until participating in this challenge.
This experiment had me realize how much I count of spavings in my monthly budget. I save an average of 30% on my groceries every week. I never include that extra 30% in my budget because I never expect to spend it. My grocery shopping spavings can fund another week of groceries for my family. I must pat myself on the back for that one.
I plan to spend my spavings, I will roll it back into my budget and pay for my daughter’s upcoming basketball season.
Doing the spavings challenge helped me put a dollar amount to my frugality.
Without spavings, I would need to make additional net amount of $175 per month. Instead of getting a part-time job, I am going to stick with maximizing my spavings.
Overall, I found the experiment to be pretty enlightening. Will I continue? Maybe.
It certainly encouraged me to seek out spavings more.
The tracking was a bit bothersome and part of me wants the whole tracking to be automated somehow. For the record, I took my September spavings and bought 8 shares of a particularly attracted ETF. As of close of market today, that investment of my spavings has already earned me $1.00!
The results and researcher conclusions of this 30-day experiment illuminated two fairly significant findings.
First, spavings may be far more prevalent in our daily lives than we imagine. With an average spavings of nearly $6 a day, an estimated annual per person spavings could eclipse $2,000 a year. Tracking spavings is certainly the first step.
Next, and by far the most intriguing, is the issue surrounding what to do with the spavings once they are brought to light. There seems to be two choices; absorb or convert.
The default position is to simply absorb spavings back into the budget and allocate it to other necessary expenses. For example, if you spave money with a coupon, the money is not spent, and is therefore readily available for another expense.
This type of default spavings is helpful to be sure. Individuals can hone their skills and maximize their budgets by manifesting additional spavings through loyalty programs, discounts, coupons, pre-paid plans, etc.
There is also a more active, profitable application of spavings.
By converting spavings into actual savings, it is possible for this “invisible” money to produce a passive income stream. For example, if an individual converted the estimated annual spavings ($2,000) for 5 years, they’d have $10,797 in savings (assuming 3% interest rate, compounded monthly.)
While there are thousands of tips, tricks, and suggestions on how to “save”, the conversion of spavings allows an individual to reap both fiscal and emotional rewards by quite literally and directly transforming “scrimping” into “savings.”
However, it should be noted that conversion of spavings to savings may not be possible for everyone.
Those with very tight budgets will likely require their spavings for other immediate expenses. That is a very acceptable application of spavings.
But for those with a bit more liberty in their budgets, converting spavings into savings is a viable process to fund emergency funds, designated savings accounts, retirement contributions, or investments.
I’d encourage everyone to spend one month tracking their spavings.
What you decide to do with them is up to you.