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How to Save Money While Shopping

21 Okt 2021

Author: Lote Steina

The world is being silently terrorized by a new public enemy. It hurts countless innocent people and wreaks havoc wherever it goes. No, it’s not the pandemic, although as with all things recent it has certainly played a role in giving the new bogeyman a boost.

The culprit is *drumroll* inflation and the billions of its unsuspecting victims are our budgets. Regardless of what you want to buy these days, the price tag seems to have gone up for practically everything. 

The reasons for this are long and varied – a significant jump in energy prices that usually translates into higher prices for practically everything else, productivity gains that cannot keep up with capital inflow in the economy (remember the recent stimuli?), and a shortage of vital components and parts that in turn tempers the overall supply of a variety of finished goods while the demand remains buoyant.

The worst thing about inflation is that it just makes everything – from everyday items to experiences – more expensive. In the end we end up with less bang for our buck than before.

This, however, does not have to be the case. Sure prices may go up and we should do our best to keep our income growing too. But we shouldn’t forget that there is always room for improvement as to how we spend our money.

This blog post will be exactly about that. I’m going to highlight some of the ways you can change your shopping routines and habits to save some significant bucks.

Shop Online as Often as Possible

Truth be told, I personally prefer shopping at the store. However, even I, in my old-fashionedness, have to admit that e-commerce can be easier, less time-consuming, more varied, and – yes – cheaper.

Think about it this way – in the olden days you had to walk down either a street or a mall corridor to compare prices for identical or similar products. It took time and effort to find the cheapest option and in the end you still ended up overpaying for a product just through wasted time and energy.

Shopping online – whether for groceries, fashion, electronics, or really anything else – lets you look for the best deals, compare products, and read customer reviews quickly and without leaving the comfort of your home. Not just that – it lets you use that saved time to get other things done.

If you already do some or most of your shopping online, don’t forget to do the following things to get the best bargain:

  • Check if there are coupons available. When you combine your online purchases with the discounts offered by coupons, those savings can really add up. We all have our mindless phone scrolling moments every day. Devote about 5 minutes of that time to scroll through coupon sites, to see if there is something useful there. Just remember to use them carefully - to buy things you actually need and use, not the things you think you will use.
  • Time your purchases. Unless you are shopping for essentials (groceries, medication), most other purchases can wait a week or two. There are dozens of online stores out there and every single one of them has special offers at least several times a year. These are your usual “get a certain percentage or amount deducted from your purchase if it exceeds $100”. There are two benefits to this. First, you save a couple of bucks. Second, if you wait for a product, the initial urge/motivation begins to wane. Maybe you’ll end up keeping all of your money.
  • Set up price alerts. This is pretty self-explanatory. There are sites and apps that offer the possibility to track price fluctuations of a product you want to buy. You probably don’t want to do this for everything you are planning to buy as the notifications and emails will overwhelm you, but for any major purchase that requires a bit of consideration this can help keep the costs down.
  • Look for alternatives.The beauty of online shopping is that you have access to an immense reservoir of products and reviews. Chances are that you will be able to find a good quality product from a variety of brands and manufacturers. Compare their reviews and if the customer satisfaction and specs are similar, opt for the one that is the best value for money. You no longer have to constrain yourself - a vast ocean of products is at your fingertips.

Smart Grocery Shopping

Regardless of whether you get your groceries online or in store, one thing is essential – knowledge. Knowledge of what you have, what you need, and what is on offer is at the core of smart shopping. Let’s break these three down:

  • Knowledge of what you have. Don’t be one of those people who shop just because they feel like it. To avoid food waste, keep your wallet full, and yourself focused on the task at hand, know the resources you already have to make the right decision. If you don’t know what you have, you’ll either get too much or too little. In the case of the former, there is a major chance of products going bad. In the case of the latter, you’ll return to the store (or pay delivery fees) more times than you actually need thus wasting time and potentially buying something unnecessary.
  • Knowledge of what you need. Once you know what you have in stock, you can draw up a meal and activity plan as well as a to-do list for the week ahead to know what you need to get from the store for everything to go seamlessly. Involve your family members in the planning process not to have a Sunday evening realization that your kid has a practical school project and you don’t have the necessary things/ingredients.
  • Knowledge of what is on offer. Now that you know what you have in stock and what you need for the days ahead, do a quick research to find out which supermarket chain or online store has the most attractive offers for the items you need. If you have a loyalty card, check if there are special discounts for you there. Reading through special offers might actually encourage you to change your meal plan or try something new if a particular product is on sale. In addition, if you have a solid and long-term understanding of your stocks and potential needs, you can live like me and hardly ever buy anything at the original price (for example, replenish your shampoo or pasta stocks when there is a discount, not when it runs out).

These three “knowledges” may seem trivial, but they can be essential to your financial success. With careful planning my family of three spends only around $280 on groceries every month, which is three or four times less than the average American family of similar size spends (with food prices being more or less comparable). Do a little math and you see thousands of dollars of yearly savings that can either be invested or put aside for a major purchase.

Do You Really Have to Buy It?

For better or for worse our modern economy chugs along because of insatiable consumption. More often than not, people just buy stuff that ends up unused on a shelf. Needless to say, this is both environmentally and financially bad.

So, before you set out to buy anything that is not essential, do yourself a favor and wait for a couple of days. Then, once the first impulse has subsided, ask yourself again whether you really need the thing you were so enthusiastic about a few days back. Pretty often you’ll realize that not giving into your initial impulse saved you from splurging out on something that you really didn’t need.

Avoiding impulse buying can be somewhat harder if you are at a shop and the product is right in front of you (maybe even at a discount price). To prepare yourself for a situation like this, try these two simple solutions:

  • Prepare a shopping list. It will keep you focused on the task at hand and help to guide you away from some of those unnecessary temptations.
  • Bring only the money you need. Whether it’s cash or a separate card, only bring the money you have set aside for shopping. I know - sounds like a coercive limitation to your shopping intentions, but it works.

Finally, if you really need an item – let’s say a drill or a hair straightener – is there really no one you can borrow it from? I personally bought both of these things and I can attest that I’ve used each of them less than three times over a two-year period. Was it worth spending that money, if I could have asked my parents or friends? In hindsight – not really.

Even if there is no one to lend you the thing you need, maybe it is not always the best idea to get a brand new one. There are plenty of little-used, high quality products being sold online at a fraction of the original price. Garage and moving sales are also an option.

Don’t Give in to the Brand Hysteria

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – overpaying for a label may make you seem more fashionable, but it also signals to everyone that your financial judgement is pretty weak. And it hurts your wallet too.

I’m not bashing status symbols per se. Occasionally we all want to show ourselves in the best possible light. If it’s with a Gucci purse or a Rolex watch, that’s fine by me. However, be aware of the trade-off you are making and what it’s costing you (for example how many months of rent or mortgage payments you could cover with that money).

For practically everything else – it just doesn’t make too much sense to opt for the more expensive option. Most generic store brands offer the same quality as their corporate counterparts at a fraction of the price (think store brand rice and Uncle Ben’s rice for example). And this will be true for other food items, electronics, clothing etc. Don’t be a pawn of the corporate marketing machine!

There are countless other small tips on how to save money while shopping. Let the principles I outlined in this blog post serve as a gateway to your own path towards greater savings.

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!