Financial Fridays: Ways to Be a Savvy Shopper

It’s time to get into the practical application of being smart with money!  As Dave Ramsey says, handling money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge.  Most of us (except Congress…) know that if you spend more than you make, you’re going to get into deep trouble.  So with that knowledge, we must modify our behavior – which is the hardest part.  However, once you start the behavior modification process and start scoring some goals, you will feel more motivated to continue the battle – whether it be paying off debt, saving for emergencies or a big purchase, or paying off your house.

A key element to being a smart money manager is knowing how to be a savvy shopper.  Especially if you’re on a tight budget, this is a must.  Getting bargains is like a game to me.  There is nothing better than finding everything I need and I didn’t pay full price for anything!  My most recent, best shopping trip was to CVS, where I saved almost $50!  (I paid under $30.)  If you’ve never intentionally shopped sales or couponed, you are missing out on some euphoric feelings!

I have compiled some tips that have worked in my own life, and I highly encourage you to try some (or all!).

  • #1 rule of grocery shopping: NEVER shop hungry!  I’ve violated my own rule before and it just makes me want to buy every delicious-looking food in sight.
  • Take 20 minutes every Sunday to look through the circulars (ads), clip coupons, and make your shopping strategy for the week.  It doesn’t need to be a Shopping Summit!
  • Always shop with a list; there are some cool smart phone apps for lists these days, or just use plain pen and paper like I do.  Bringing a calculator (or using it on your phone) is a great idea, too.
  • When clipping coupons, don’t just think about what you’ll need that week.  Think as long-term as the coupon expiration will let you.  File them and always carry in your purse or car.  A small, $1 accordion file from Target works perfectly!
  • Shop the sales, which means not marrying any one store.  Also, plan your trips strategically to save on gas; combine trips when possible.
  • With that said, store loyalty to some degree can pay off.  The only drugstore I visit (mostly for toiletries and medicines) regularly is CVS because of their ExtraBuck rewards and coupons.  However, I do buy personal products at other stores if it’s convenient and/or a better price.
  • Always check the sale racks first – in grocery, clothing, and other retailers.  You can find super-bargains there!
  • If an advertised sale item is sold out, ask if you can substitute a comparable item.  I have tried this at CVS and it does work!
  • Products go on sale cyclically, so if you observe the patterns over time and save coupons, you can really score some deals!
  • Know your spending limit before entering the store – either use cash or know your budget categories.
  • Beware of marketing ploys: “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” isn’t a good deal if you only need or can use one.  Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a bargain!
  • Don’t shop at eye-level.  That is where the popular name-brand items are located, but most of the time, generic or store brand is cheaper and the same quality.  If you have coupons for the name brand item or it’s on sale, do a comparison (get out that calculator!) to see which is a better buy.
  • Try not to shop when you’re sad or upset – this can lead to impulse-buying.
  • Clothing and shoe shopping tip: wear the appropriate underclothes/shoes/socks/companion pieces so you know exactly how things will fit.  This will save you from returning for an exchange or refund (which could also cost you gas money!).
  • Buy calendars and day planners after New Year’s.  I bought mine at Mardel this week, and a planner that retailed at $16.99 cost just $8.65!
  • Regularly check websites like Groupon, Living Social, Amazon Local Deals, and Sweet Jack.  Most recently, I bought a year’s worth of oil changes and tire rotations for $33, and a voucher for a CHL (Concealed Handgun License) class at half price ($65).
  • Grocery-specific shopping
    • Buying in bulk or larger containers is usually a better buy.  For example, buy a quart of yogurt or jars of applesauce/canned fruit, instead of individual cups.  You can make your own snack packs using reusable containers.
    • If individual sizes are on sale and/or have a coupon, compare with the larger item to see which is the better buy per unit.
    • Buy raw nuts in bulk and then roast/salt them yourself.
    • Buy meat plain and raw.  While pre-seasoned or pre-cooked meat is easier to prepare, it costs more.  Short on time or tired in the evenings after work?  Before I started a grueling internship my last college semester, I cooked a bunch of meals, divided them into individual portions, and froze them.  In the mornings, I’d put a serving in the fridge so I could just heat up dinner when I got home.  Healthy, convenient, and frugal!
    • Look up recipes from the Internet and make your own meat rubs and seasonings (using spices from – you guessed it -the bulk section!).
    • Do not buy paper plates and cups to use on a regular basis.  No, I’m not being an environmentalist – it just saves money if you use reusable tableware.

Those are just some of the ways to be a savvy shopper, and I will continue to share what works for me.  Please leave a comment with your own tips; I would love to hear about them!  Saving money by scoring deals is one of the best feelings to have – I love going out for the hunt and coming back victorious!  If you pinch every dollar, over time it will make a profound impact on how much debt you can pay off or money you can save.  In short, it’s part of a winning formula!

~Malori~

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