Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Don't Leave Money On The Table: Dry Cleaning

This is one in a series of short articles about claiming all the benefits you are entitled to – be that discounts, freebies, or whatnot. I’m not going to go to the length of, say, extreme couponing, but I have found there are often discounts or bonuses you can easily take advantage of that can save you money without making major changes in your spending patterns or behaviors.

The following is a perfect example of what I mean by "don't leave money on the table." By making two extremely simple changes to my routine, I saved a couple hundred dollars a year. I didn't have to switch brands or start patronizing a different business. I simply took advantage of everything that was offered to me by a company I was already doing business with anyway.

What you wear to work each day depends greatly not only on your profession, but also on your company. When I worked for a video game company, I could come in to work wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals. Now that I work for a credit union, it's Dockers and a button down shirt or nicer. If you have to wear nice clothes every day, odds are you will be doing a lot of dry cleaning and that can add up. It's a significant enough expense for me that I actually have a line item for it in my monthly budget and track it via

Given that dry cleaning is a recurring expense for me, it makes sense to look at ways to reduce it. One way, which I actually did when I was on a strict debt-reduction plan, is to wear more clothing that does not need to be dry cleaned. That turned out to be a mixed bag. Although my dry cleaning costs dropped, I ended up with more laundry to do at home, which was more work for me :-)

I noticed that my dry cleaner had a website and they offered an email newsletter you could sign up for to receive discounts. The "newsletter" turned out to just be a once a week mailing that had a link to a weekly "secret code phrase." The email is sent out on Monday and, if you take your clothes in on Tuesday and tell the employee that week's secret phrase, you get a 15% discount on your order.

For me to get this discount, I had to make some minor changes to my routine. First off, I used to drop my clothes off on Monday and pick them up on Friday. Changing to dropping off on Tuesday was easy to do and didn't really affect me at all. My clothes are still ready to be picked up by Friday. Second, I head to work before the cleaners open and I drop my laundry off in their night drop on my way. I never speak to a person, so I can't tell them the secret phrase. I contacted the owner with my dilemma and he had an easy fix - just print out the secret phrase and put it in the little pouch that is on my drop off bag. Piece of cake! (I actually prefer this because I'm extremely introverted and probably wouldn't say the phrase to someone in person anyway - especially when the phrase is sometimes something like "rubber baby buggy bumpers.")

These super simple changes to my routine save me an average of about $6.50 per week. That's almost $350 a year in savings!

Do you have any tips for not leaving money on the table? Leave them in the comments!


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