In this economy, even those doing fairly well could stand to save a few bucks here and there. At our house ,we don’t take non-essential expenditures lightly, and have adopted a “try before you buy” purchasing practice. Knowing whether or not you truly enjoy a product and/or will get a lot of use out of it is important. No one wants to throw away their hard earned money on something that will end up collecting dust. Here is a list of a few things you should try before you buy, and ways to do just that!

1. Cookbooks – I must admit, I have a slight addiction to cookbooks. (Fans, feel free to send them to my home! JK) I love them. I love to sit and look through them, admire the pictures, and try out new recipes. However, on more than one occasion, I have purchased a cookbook only to find a handful of recipes in it that I wanted to make. Frankly, I wanted my $14.95 back! One way to TBYB (Try Before You Buy), is to check out the cookbook you are interested in from the library! Even libraries with a smaller selection (aka-the one by my house!) have shelves of cookbooks available. You can even place a popular cookbook on hold at the library if the one you are wanting to check-out is not available. (I currently am holding The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook.) If the library doesn’t carry the cookbook, you can fill out a request online, and oftentimes, they will go ahead and purchase it! I recently checked out a cookbook from the library that I was CERTAIN I would want to go buy. (I even had it on my 2010 Christmas list already!) Then, after going through it today, I found only 5 recipes (from a 300+ page book) that I thought my family would enjoy. 5! For me, that is not worth purchasing the cookbook. So, before you shell out twenty bucks of your cash for the latest and greatest in cookbookery, check it out at the library, and make sure it contains food you and your family will want to eat!

2. Movies – Back before we had kids (and therefore had more money), my husband and I would go to the video store and buy a stack of the used DVD’s whenever we wanted some entertainment. We would pick up the 4 for $20, or 3 for $30 deals the store would offer, and simply select movies we thought we would be interested in. While we quickly built up our home library of DVD’s (some of our friends call us their personal Blockbuster), we collected quite a few titles that were simply terrible, not our taste, boring, and something we’ve never watched again since. Now, we are much more choosy about any movie we purchase (out of learning our lesson, and financial necessity.) We really just want to own those movies that we truly love, and want to watch over again. Towards this end, I highly recommend using a service like Netflix to check out the movies you think you might want to purchase. Paying 9 bucks a month, and getting to try out as many movies as you want, is a lot more affordable than shelling out 14 bucks a DVD for something you may or may not like. Now, when we rent a movie from Netflix that we BOTH really enjoy, we simply jot it down as a movie we’d like to own. If you don’t have Netflix, borrow it from a friend, or rent it from a video store first!

3. Clothing! – This one SHOULD be a given, and you would think I (along with everyone else who has ever bought something only to bring it home and not fit into it) would learn their lesson. This is a tough one, especially if you are a mom of young children who happen to be with you while you are shopping! I know from experience how hard it is to try to take two kids (who are often bored) into a dressing room, so that you can try on the pair of pants. (Or how hard it is to try something on when you have a bored and restless husband pacing the store.) However, it is SO important to try every piece of clothing you are going to buy on BEFORE you get home! Sizes vary so much from store to store.  A woman who fits into a size 8 at the Gap, may need to wear a size 12 at Target. Even small, medium, and large do not mean the same thing at every store. This is a problem not just for women’s clothes, but for men and children as well. I’ve bought my children lots of things in the size they typically wear, only to have the item be too small at home. While stores are often good about returns (if you keep your receipt), who has the time to go make that return trip?  I sure don’t. I’m lucky for the few time a year I get to browse the clothing racks at all! So, towards that end, TRY IT ON!

4. Food – This one is trickier to do, and not many people bother with it, since food is relatively inexpensive. However, if there is some new product that you (or your children) have been wanting to try, and money is tight for you, you can often score a free sample (and/or a great coupon) from the manufacturer. Simply find the website of the company that makes the product, and browse around until you find the “Contact Us” page. In the comment section, mention how much you really would like to try their product, and ask if they have any samples or coupons available. 9 times out of 10, the company will send you SOMETHING. For lots of people, this effort is not worth saving the 75 cents, but for others, every penny counts.

5. Books – I won’t elaborate too much on this one, since it goes hand in hand with cookbooks, but utilize the library, and don’t waste your money on titles you may hate. I have a few friends who rush out and buy the hardback version of every book an author they like comes out with. I have favorite authors as well, but not every one of their books is a home-run for me. For myself, I would much rather utilize the free resource of the library, and then purchase only the books I absolutely loved. You can also check out , which is a site that allows you to essentially trade any of your books (and a few other things) with someone else. You can post what you have to trade, and what you are looking for, and the site will notify you when you have a match. All you need to do is pay to ship your book. This site allows you to gain new books at a much cheaper rate than heading over to Borders. Another resource is They have books for pennies on the dollar! Many books on their site (especially if it has been around for awhile) are less than a dollar! If you purchase more than one book from a single seller, you can combine shipping as well!

Happy saving, and don’t forget to TBYB!