Technology has given us a lot of ways to save money, but there are still a couple of simple things we can do to save on frequent, everyday purchases. If you play your cards right, you might just end up saving a lot of money over the course of a year with these tips.
We’ve all been known to buy things which we never use (thus the term buyer’s remorse). However, the main reason for that remorse is overspending and ultimately failing to buy the things you really need! There are many small costs that add up over time to be mindful of. But once you start catching these little money wasters and cut them out of your life, you’ll have a nice little bit of money left to treat yourself with at the end of the month
With that in mind, here are 19 tips on shopping that will help you pay your bills, keep your shopping cart full, and your wallet fat.
- Use online coupons for every purchase – One of the oldest, most tried and true ways to save money on everyday purchases is to clip coupons. It may seem like this habit has fallen by the wayside, but it can still save you a lot of money. The digital age has made the task of obtaining coupons easier with sites like Blippr, allowing you to choose the coupons you want to use for your next shopping trip and add them to a list that you can easily print out and take with you. This is actually a significantly less cluttered option compared to the days when we went to the store with hundreds of small squares of paper in a clip; searching through them for items you’d chosen to purchase that day upon reaching the checkout line. Don’t pass this oldie but goodie up, as this is an excellent way to save some cash!
- Make a grocery list before you go to the store – For grocery shopping, try making a list before leaving the house. This simple trick (along with the age-old recommendation not to shop while you’re famished) will keep you on track. You won’t be as inclined to pick up an expensive, impulse purchase; and you’re also less likely to forget something that you actually need. Remember that items placed at the ends of aisles are meant to catch your attention and usually aren’t the less expensive option. The most expensive brands are found at eye level, but remember that there is nothing wrong with buying generic! Take a look around, compare, and check a product’s price and ingredients before you decide on getting an expensive name brand. You might be doing yourself a disservice by not doing so.
- Eat at restaurants with low-cost specials – When eating out, try restaurants that run promotions or have special coupon offers. Lots of places have promotions on slower days to attract customers (e.g. Denny’s has a “Kids Eat Free” offer for every purchase of an adult meal promotion on Tuesdays). Do a little research into the restaurants that are near your home and see if they are running any specials, and then plan your nights to eat out around those. You can save a little money and still have a nice night out with your family; what could be better than that?
- Shop at consignment stores for clothing – Here’s a good tip: Try consignment shops for clothes. Hear me out now: consignment and second-hand shops have come a long way from what they were back then. Now, there are shops that only sell gently used designer labels, should you be the type who looks for that sort of thing. It’s not all Hawaiian print shirts and clothes from the 60’s anymore! You can even find some really nice things that probably haven’t been touched there. Take this advice to heart especially when shopping for infants. They grow up so quickly, and a few gently used onesies and jumpsuits are just what you need for that first year. And if you buy something that your little one outgrows before they get a chance to wear it, you can always sell it back to get a little spending cash for something bigger. It’s a win-win situation!
- Brew your coffee at home – For caffeine lovers out there, try brewing your own coffee at home instead of spending $3 every morning. It’s cheaper to simply spend the money on a quality coffee maker for your home. I’d recommend one with a grinder and a timer, which you can catch one during a holiday sale. Just put your beans in the night before, and set the timer for a few minutes before you leave in the morning and voila! You’ve got freshly ground and brewed coffee waiting for you by the door on your way out. You’ll get something with the perfect strength and blend, without waiting in line behind someone who is obviously having a bad morning and taking it out on the poor barista.
- Use your library card – For my fellow readers out there, I know it’s tempting to run to the book store and plunk down $30 for a new book with a pristine hard cover. But there are other ways to handle your literary addiction. Go to your local library and reserve the book, so they can hold it and notify you when it’s returned. There might be a wait involved, but at least it’s free! Or if you simply must have the book for your collection, check out a used book store. I’ve found many well-preserved second-hand books you could barely tell had been touched, but with several dollars marked off from the price due to their used status. This is an excellent way to get your fix and not break the bank.
- Avoid ATMs with fees – Here’s a good one that adds up over time: ATM fees. Try and stay away from generic ATMs and ATMs that aren’t owned by your bank. Most people don’t realize that you get charged on both ends of those transactions: by the company that owns the ATM, and by your bank. These fees, when combined, could cost up to $5 a pop! Do it once a week and you’ve just robbed yourself out of $20 every month. That’s worth as much as a Netflix subscription!
- Get printed coupons – While there are a number of sources such as newspapers, pamphlets, and online sites, we still prefer newspapers because they seem to remain as the primary marketing channel for various companies promoting their brands. Always remember to buy more than one copy if there are some really good coupons in a particular paper.
- Organize your coupons and sale dates – Okay, so you found some great coupons. Do you want to know how you can make it better? By organizing them! Many stores allow stacking coupons for multiple discounts. If there’s a flash sale going on at your neighborhood store and you waste time rummaging through the different coupons you collected, someone might just beat you to the bargain. It doesn’t matter if you organize them by date, brand, or color; it’s just important that you do.
- Keep track of prices when buying bulk – Even though getting 10 pcs. of a certain product for $10 might seem like a sweet deal, keeping track of actual product prices is important as it allows you to spot deals that offer real value. Moreover, knowing actual prices prevents you from falling for fake promotions; such as in the case of a product regularly priced at $1, that’s available on ‘sale’ at $10 for 10 units.
- Check the bill before you pay – Though this is more of a shopper tip that a couponing tip, it’s essential to check the bill or receipt before leaving, to make sure all of the discounts have been added accordingly.
- Avoid decoy pricing tricks – Decoy pricing is probably one of the oldest techniques used to trick customers into believing that they are paying less for something when it is, in fact, the same price. For instance, if a company has a small packet of chips being sold for $1 and a large packet of chips being sold for $5, most people would buy the smaller packet since it costs considerably less. However, if they add a medium sized packet at $4, the number of people buying the larger packet of chips would grow, since the price gap between the larger and the medium packet seems less. The same applies to anything that’s available in three or more different sizes.
- Resist the fake sale urgency – This strategy is so common that some people are actually aware of the fact that ads showing ‘limited time offer’ or ‘offer valid till stocks last’ are nothing but techniques meant to trick your brain into believing that it’s ‘now-or-never’ type of deal. This creates a false sense of urgency and, well, you know the rest. How do you deal with this? Take a deep breath or two and evaluate if you really need to buy the item, as most companies always seem to have stacks of these ‘limited stock’ products available.
- Evaluate “Buy One, Get One Free” deals – The typical BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) has been used for decades to lure the public into buying products (after all, we have a tendency to be attracted to something with ‘free’ written on it). But in reality, a BOGOF is nothing but a 50% discount on a product but twice the sales. This is useful when the shopkeeper intends to clear out inventory or has a certain sales target to meet. Not only does he meet the target; he also creates a good first impression of the store and gets more loyal customers as a result!
- Have a list and stick to it – The most common reason for overspending is that we just decide to go shopping and end up getting distracted by other products because we don’t have a list that we need to complete. Simply make a list of products that you find essential and you’ll notice that you won’t end up getting distracted by different products, as you now have an objective to complete.
- Bring cash – Another reason for overspending is that we bring our credit cards and end up buying something we don’t need. Not only do we end up paying the original amount for the product, but we also get a little bit of interest on top. Instead, just calculate the total cash you would need based on your shopping list, and add an extra $50 or so for emergencies. And most importantly, leave that credit card at home!
- Price compare highly discounted items – That $900 dress you see on a 50% discount might be attractive, but its real original value might actually be less than $1,800. While this isn’t the case all the time, the best measure of buying a product on sale is still whether or not you need it.
- Do your shopping alone – Your friends and colleagues can become shoppers-in-crime if you do not pay attention. Sure, a sandwich or two is okay, but the seriousness begins when your friends encourage you to buy something without being aware of your budget. You’ll probably get buyer’s remorse in the end, so it’s good to shop alone to make sure you don’t overspend.
- Ask yourself: “Do I need this?” – You could face a situation where you might find a product that’s attractive, but you aren’t sure if buying it would be a waste. For events like these, the most simple solution is to ask yourself: “Do I really need this?’ By doing this, you give yourself time to evaluate whether you want to buy that product or not.
We’ve now taught you everything you need to know about saving money. You should already be a wise spender and a shrewd saver by now. Time to get out there and apply what you’ve learned!