There are some people who just seem to know how to save money. They can head to the local outlet mall and come back with a $500 dress for less than $50. They show up to the office wearing designer suits that look like they cost a fortune. Their homes sport furniture that looks like it leaped off the pages of Better Homes and Gardens.
These smart shoppers come from all walks of life. Some are barely making ends meet, while others are comfortably pulling down six figures. No matter what their financial station, savvy shoppers have a few things in mind. Learning their ways to save money can help you join their ranks.
They Know That a Low Price is Not the Same as a Bargain
Savvy shoppers are always on the lookout for a good deal, but even more they are on the lookout for a great value. Savvy shoppers know that an inferior product is no bargain – no matter how low its price.
Smart shoppers also know that paying more for quality makes sense. Buying a well-made dress they can wear for many years is much better than seeking out lower-priced but poorly made clothes.
They Understand Their Limitations
One thing that savvy shoppers have in common is a desire to live within their means. That might mean giving up the occasional bargain or missing out on a great deal, but those sacrifices help them avoid debt.
Smart shoppers know that going into debt for a great deal is no bargain. Interest charges and credit card costs could easily double or triple the original purchase price, making it no bargain at all.
They Do Not Shun Used Items
You might think the designer dress your coworker is wearing cost more than she makes in a week, but she could be harboring a money-saving secret. Savvy shoppers are not afraid to buy used furniture, household items and even clothing.
They know that the best bargains often come from the local thrift store instead of the high-end department store. Those smart shoppers benefit from the spendthrifts who spend a fortune on dresses, suits and other items that end up gathering dust in the closet.
A few of our favorite online consignment stores:
They Know How to Care for What They Own
Savvy shoppers know how to properly care for the items they own, from the furniture in the living room to the clothes in the closet. They understand that the right care can make everything they own last longer and retain more of its value, and that helps them save even more money.
A quality piece of furniture can last for decades, especially if it is cleaned and polished regularly. A stylish dress can retain its good looks season after season if it is laundered or dry cleaned properly. A well-cared for winter coat can keep you warm for ten years or more. Those long-lasting items will not have to be replaced, and that can free up more cash and keep more money in your pocket.
They Know That “Stacking” Adds Up to Additional Savings
You should never purchase an item without checking for coupons, codes and rebates. This may mean signing up for a rewards program at your favorite stores in order to access exclusive savings. You may find downloading a few kicka$$ (free) smartphone apps scores you massive steals over time. A few of my favorite programs:
Ebates – I don’t shop online without it! Ebates is a free program that pays you cashback for shopping at partner stores online. No special credit card necessary. Simply click through their site when you are ready to shop. They also pay you for referring friends. I usually receive a check for around $1,000 each quarter.
Swagbucks – This program allows you to earn SB which can be redeemed for cash by PayPal, rewards and gift cards. Let those points add up throughout the year and then cash them in for a few no-cost Christmas gifts.
Target – If you are a frequent Target shopper, sign up for a REDcard. You get instant savings of 5% at the checkout (and online). You also get free online shipping. Exclusive member discounts are also available periodically.
Amazon Prime – We all love the free 2-day, but did you know Prime also comes with free streaming video (movies and TV programs), music, photo storage and exclusive deals? It’s true. And it comes with a free 30-day trial.
Save on Groceries
- I pick up fresh fruits & veggies from Bountiful Baskets. They come every two weeks, which is also how often I grocery shop. I wait to pick up my baskets, or at least see what the bonus packs are, and then create my menus and shopping lists. This saves a lot of time and money to have someone else making a lot of the decisions for you.
- Grocery Apps – These are a must-have these days. If you aren’t doing some type of scanning or swiping, you are missing out. Saving money doesn’t necessarily mean going out of your way or enlisting some crazy, time-consuming tactics. Saving money comes down to shopping smart. And that’s something we can all learn to do better. When it comes to money management, there are no excuses. The only person responsible for your success or failure is you. But, big things are possible. And you can start turning your financial life around TODAY, at this very moment. The first step is the hardest, but here are 50 ways to save money starting now. Ibotta is my favorite.
- Learn to shop the sales. Create your weekly menus around what’s on sale. Use one of the many price-matching sites to find coupons to stack on those sales.
- Better yet, start using a meal planning service. This is a great way to try new recipes and stick to a shopping list.
- Buy your pantry staples at Sam’s. That place can be dangerous for a budget shopper, I know. But there is big savings to be had if you can stick to your list. And always check at the end of the day for discounted rotisserie chickens. I’ve found these marked down to just a few bucks when it’s getting close to closing time. I buy several and freeze them up for later.
- Plant a garden and learn to can.
- Only shop for groceries every two weeks. You cannot go in there every day to pick up “one thing.” Seriously. We both know you aren’t just buying one thing.
- If there is a big sale on an item and when you get there the shelf is clear, ask for a rain check.
- Embrace freezer cooking. It doesn’t have to be difficult or consume an entire day. It can be as simple as making a double batch of what you are having for dinner tonight and freezing the other half for later when you don’t have the time or energy to cook and may otherwise order in.
- There are so many yummy coffee creamers available today. Find a favorite and brew your own delicious beverage as opposed to spending $3 a day on Starbucks.
- Stick to your shopping list. Always.
- Stop throwing food away. If something is nearing the expiration date, use it or freeze it.
Save When Shopping
- I shop for free whenever I can by earning free gift cards through programs like Swagbucks.
- I shop for free wherever I can by referring friends to my favorite online stores that offer free store credit for doing so.
- I earn cash back for shopping online through Ebates. Those quarterly rebate checks can then be put into savings or used to shop for upcoming birthdays and holidays.
- Whenever I need to pick up a rug or furniture item for the house, I check Overstock.com first. I recently picked up the same rugs I picked out in our local furniture store for 50% less on the site.
- Are you a teacher or veteran? See if any discounts are available at your favorite stores, or find a few new favorite stores that offer them.
- Instead of shopping for new kid’s clothes each season, get your best moms together for a swap.
- Sign up for the loyalty programs at your local grocery store, PetSmart, Petco, Walgreens, CVS, etc. This often entitles you to exclusive savings and rebates.
- Shop at the end of the season. I need new patio furniture, but I’m holding off until fall. That’s when stores will be clearing their garden centers for the year and there will be big savings to be had. Same goes for grills and mowers. The same is true for clothing.
- Become an Amazon Prime member. Not only do you get free 2-day shipping, you also enjoy free streaming of music and movies, free photo storage and access to exclusive deals. It also comes with a free 30-day trial!
- Have a big event coming up and nothing to wear? Shop the clearance racks first. Or, consider a clothing rental service like Gwynnie Bee.
- Turn off one-click ordering. Make yourself think about your purchases.
- Capsule wardrobes are all the rage. That’s a fad I can get behind.
Save on Entertainment
- I pick up Groupons for movie tickets and local restaurants.
- We watch movies and television programs online with our Amazon Prime membership which also entitles us to free 2-day shipping and exclusive sales.
- Find out where and when kids eat free in your city.
- Are you a Bank of America customer? Do you want to be? You get free admission to museums, botanical gardens and science centers across the nation on the first weekend of the month. Just show your credit or debit card and photo ID.
- Rather than spending another night with everyone staring at their smartphones and tablets, go to the library. Rent a few books – real ones – movies and more. All for free.
- Shop around for the best television, internet and phone service in your area. Many places now offer a discount for “bundling.” If you are happy with your current service, see if your company can match the price of their competitor. If you find your provider is offering new customers a better deal than you are receiving, ask them to match that. You may be surprised what kind of deals you can score if you stop being afraid to ask.
- Get off the couch next time you want to rent a movie and head to RedBox instead of ordering through Pay-Per-View. And check for codes before heading out.
- Almost every community website has a calendar of free local events. Check those out before planning a family outing.
- Have an unbeatable hankering for your favorite steakhouse? Take advantage of early bird specials. Go for lunch instead of dinner. Order it to go and share one meal with your spouse as opposed to ordering two meals.
- The same theory goes for the theater. Hit the morning or afternoon show for big savings over the evening viewings.
- Get a cash back credit card if you shop online often or spend a lot on those popular big-return categories like groceries or gas. Many rewards cards come with no annual fee. Just make sure you pay it off every month and never carry a balance!
- Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital. This online service helps you keep an eye on all of your checking, savings, and even retirement accounts in one place. Track your net worth and also where you are spending your money. They even offer financial planning services if needed.
- Take advantage of free health screenings at Sam’s or perhaps your local medical center has a health fair in town.
- Take responsibility for your credit. Know your score, you can get it free through Credit Karma, and diligently work to improve it. Everyone from your insurance company to your cell service provider looks at this number today. It’s not just affecting your ability to get a loan. You may be paying for bad credit in more ways than you can imagine.
- Ask your credit card company for a better interest rate.
- Refinance your mortgage if you are in a better financial situation now than you were when you took out the loan.
- Pass on the extended warranty. It’s crazy to pay $299 for a warranty on a $500 item. By the time you need to use the warranty, you are probably going to be upgrading to the latest model anyway. And most higher priced items come with a one-year manufacturer warranty anyway.
- When you use cash for a purchase, save the change. There’s power in the piggy bank. We can usually deposit a couple hundred dollars per year into our savings just in change.
- Make paying off debt a personal challenge. Whenever we feel overwhelmed by expenses, we write it all down and start that very moment seeing how quickly we can pay everything on the list off. Pick up a few odd jobs. Ask for some overtime. Babysit a couple neighbor kids one weekend. You will be surprised – and empowered – by what you can do when you put your mind to it.
- Always pay more than the minimum amount. That goes for credit card bills, car loans and mortgage payments. We spend so much money on interest! Overpaying will save you so much in the long run.
- Make it a habit of clearing out the closets and basements every spring and fall. Instead of donating or tossing unwanted items, try selling them. Almost every city or county has a Buy/Sell Group on Facebook. You can also have a garage sale or send gently used clothes to ThredUp or Tradesy. Then, stash those earnings into savings.
- Maintain what you have. A small yearly service fee is far more inexpensive than a major breakdown. This goes for cars, heating and cooling systems, etc.
- Change filters and vacuum dust from around your microwave, refrigerator and dryer, etc. The less they are fighting for air, the more efficient they can run.
- Take care of yourself. Wash your hands. Eat right. Exercise. Get your teeth cleaned twice per year. Take advantage of the free annual exam offered by your insurance company. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Be accountable. Revisit your budget regularly and discuss it openly with your spouse. Get a savings buddy or join a personal finance forum. No one is going to take care of your money for you.
There are so many things that could be added to this list that you already know; turn off the lights, quit smoking, take your lunch to work.