Before our current economic downturn, I used the following twenty-one steps to shop smarter and easier. Today, these same techniques continue to help me save money and keep my stress level to a minimum. Hopefully, they will benefit you too.
1. Creating a calendar and sticking to it. I shop for groceries every other week. If I forget to purchase something, it waits until my next scheduled visit to the supermarket.
2. Determining what I need ahead of time. No matter what I am shopping for, I make a list before I leave home. It helps me stay within budget.
3. Budgeting myself. Again, before I step outdoors, I determine how much I am willing to spend. Once I am in the store, I stick to that no matter how attractive the bargain.
4. Using cash whenever possible. That way, I am not paying (interest) to use anyone’s credit card. Those cash back rewards and other promotional incentives aren’t worth it.
5. Using coupons and paying attention to discounts. I check my Sunday newspapers, Clipper magazines, the Internet (including social networking sites), and any other coupon-redeeming or discount source that will help me save money.
6. Signing up for and using the stores’ cards. There’s no cost for signing up and I save a lot.
7. Shopping on sale days especially at the supermarket. I review sale sheets ahead of time to find out what items have the best deals. I keep in mind that supermarkets operate on a 12-week sale cycle. Whatever is on sale this week will not be on sale again for another 12 weeks.
8. Shopping on off-peak days and at off-peak hours. I avoid the crowds and keep my stress level down.
9. Shopping online for items like clothing and books. There is a great chance I won’t pay for shipping, I’ll definitely save on gas, and I won’t have to stand on line.
10. Calling ahead or checking online to find out if an item is still on sale or available. It saves me a wasted trip. I also like to comparison shop the other store branches in my area.
11. Shopping at consignment and thrift stores. They no longer bear the stigma they once did and I can find great bargains on pretty decent items.
12. Shopping expediently. I go directly to where the item I am purchasing is. If I am not familiar with the store, I ask a salesperson for assistance.
13. Shopping in bulk especially for items without expiration dates like toilet paper and detergent. Warehouse buying clubs like Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s are perfect for this. Join with a neighbor, friend, or family member to split the membership fee.
14. Purchasing store brands items instead of name brands items. They are made with the same ingredients and it’s cheaper. I am not paying for a brand name.
15. Securing that sales rain check and using it the next time I shop.
16. Negotiating on big ticket items like furniture.
17. Having a backup plan before I enter the store to save time. What if the blue blazer I wanted is out of stock? Should I purchase the black one or something else?
18. Scanning my own groceries at the supermarket. Unless I have a lot, it is faster than waiting for a cashier.
19. Bagging my own groceries at the supermarket. It gets me out of there quicker.
20. When I am standing on line, I use the time to catch up on my reading, check my messages on my cell phone, or simply listen to music on my MP3 player.
21. Eating at home to avoid spending money on junk to satisfy my hunger or boredom. If children are tagging along, it’s a good idea to feed them too before leaving home.