Price-conscious consumers have an advantage over the average shopper because they know how to pay the lowest cost for a variety of items. Smart spending is more than just clipping coupons. It may take some effort and planning at first, but finding ways to save money on various items can become second nature after a short while.
1. Use Shopping Apps
Use smart phone apps to find great deals, comparison shop and get cash back.
- Ibotta (I-bought-a) is a cash back app that searches for discounts and rebates on groceries, clothing, medicine, etc. without having to clip coupons. Discounts are found by scanning receipts with your camera. Over 750 retailers are participating, including Walmart, Best Buy and Walgreens.
- Snap by Groupon is designed for saving online and in stores. The app is now formatted to view retailer specific offers rather than being product-specific. Groupon continues to promote great discounts on a variety of services, classes, events, products, etc.
- The Jet app offers online shopping deals with a reward for frequent purchases. A large assortment of items are available (food, pet products, appliances). You can unlock additional savings by adding more purchases. There is an additional discount of 1.5% when using a debit card. Free shipping is offered for purchases over $35.
2. Subscribe to Store Email Offers
Avoid applying for those additional credit cards offered by retailers, but do agree to join their email lists! Many retail businesses, such as clothing or department stores, will ask for an email address since they want to notify customers about upcoming flash sales and special deals. Stores will frequently send special offers, coupons or discounts to subscribers, so this is a great way to have money-saving opportunities delivered to your inbox.
Tip: There is always the option to cancel the subscription email if it is not providing value.
3. Furniture Shop Online
Furniture and bedding are big budget items. Furniture stores typically have huge mark-ups, in part because they are covering the cost of the retail space and sales staff. Many online retailers offer a variety of home furnishings at discount prices along with free shipping. For example:
- Wayfair offers quality brands on hundreds of household items that range from kitchen tables to patio furniture. Free shipping is available for purchases over $49. They list upcoming sales by category and date so an email notification can be sent before the sale starts.
- Overstock is another online store that carries furniture (among many other products, including rugs, kitchen appliances and baby gear). Enjoy a 10% discount off your first purchase by signing up with an email address.
4. Save on Books
Save money on electronic books by setting up a connection with the local public library instead of buying expensive Kindle books from Amazon. The average cost of an electronic book ranges from $15 to $25, but many titles are available for free from the public library.
As another option, BookBub is a free subscription service that provides books at discounted prices averaging less than $2. Some titles are free. They send a daily email with deals and specials that are linked to Amazon for convenient purchase and download.
5. Buy in Bulk
Shopping at bulk warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club is an obvious cost savings, but they sell large quantities that can be difficult to store. Suggest a shopping split with friends or family to share bulk purchases that can be easily divided and then everyone saves. This works well for non-perishable items and paper products.
Of course, there are membership costs for the warehouse stores: Costco has an annual fee of $55 and Sam's Club is $45. To avoid the cost of membership, you may want to consider an online version, such as Boxed, that offers bulk sales of similar products with no membership fee. They have free shipping on orders over $50 plus a 1% cash back reward. The convenience of shopping online will save time, gas and money.
6. Lower Utility Expenses
Utilities, including phone and cable service, are big expenses for all households. Check your monthly billing statements for phone and utility costs as well as cable service. Review the line items on your bills to see exactly what is being charged and investigate options to cut costs.
- If you live in an area where you have a choice of utility companies, such as electricity in Texas, comparison shop to be sure you are with the best service provider.
- There may be a lower cable rate available by bundling the package with other services or changing to a web-based service such as Netflix or Hulu.
- Check with your cell phone provider to see if a more affordable plan than what you have now might meet your needs. Also shop around to see what other providers have to offer. Be sure to check out pre-paid and no-contract options.
- If traveling out of the country, there are high fees for international phone connections. Consider keeping in touch by text messaging instead of calls. Install a free app called WhatsApp that allows messaging via the internet and be sure that your friends and family also have this app loaded on their phones.
7. Find Senior and Military Discounts
Review discounts for seniors and military that may not be advertised. Many restaurants, shops and hotels offer discounts.
- For example, a military discount of 10% is available all year long at Home Depot and Lowes. Many restaurants and retail clothing stores provide these discounts as well. Old Navy, The Gap and Banana Republic all have Military Monday which means they offer a 10% discount to military customers, active duty and retirees every Monday. Chick-Fil-A has a military appreciation day on special holidays such as Veteran's Day.
- Seniors citizens are appreciated by many businesses (theaters, restaurants, etc.) with discounts. AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is a good resource for a current list of discounts. Some senior discounts are available all the time, while others are limited to on specific dates or times. For example, Kohl's gives a 15% discount on Wednesdays to customers age 55 and over.
8. Buy Used Items
Purchasing previously owned items can be a great way to save big money on things you need or want.
- Consignment stores and thrift shops offer good deals on gently used items such as furniture, clothing, and other items
- Shop secondhand for items like maternity clothes, costumes or handbags that get little wear or change with the fashion trends.
- Children's clothing and toys are frequently available for resale because kids grow quickly.
- THREDUP is a great secondhand clothing resource for consumers with a desire for designer fashions but are on a tight budget.
- Garage sales are great for finding used bikes and sports equipment.
- The website Nextdoor is a social network and online bulletin board for listing used items for sale.
- Electronics are less expensive when purchased refurbished and they may still have full warranties. Amazon and Best Buy offer great deals on refurbished appliances and electronics such as e-readers, cell phones and laptops.
9. Save on Groceries
Grocery shopping is a big part of the household budget. For those items that are repeat purchases, Amazon offers discounts with a plan called Subscribe and Save. The amount of the discount will depend on the item. Pet food, cereals or paper products would be a good fit and there is the added convenience of having the purchase on a schedule.
You can also save money by adjusting your in-store shopping strategies.
- Before you head to the store, make a list of what you need for the week and stick with it.
- Keep a price list of those items that are frequently purchased in order to do cost comparisons or recognize when they are on sale.
- Buying the grocery store brand instead of major brand names will save on many items such as cleaning products and detergents.
- Purchasing large cuts of meats or poultry and then cutting them yourself into smaller portions will result in less cost per pound.
10. Barter Rather Than Buy
Bartering is an old fashioned practice that has an updated appeal for many services. It is the simple exchange of goods or services without payment or currency. Some typical services that fit into this realm are yard work, home repair, tutoring, personal care and technology assistance.
- Set up a network of friends and family to swap services as well as books, movies, games, etc.
- Using social media or a network of contacts is a great starting place to search for local barter services or websites, such as Swap Right. This free website helps people find the services that they need and it is available for posting services.
Spending tips are a helpful way to stay on budget. The rewards of reduced spending are immediate because there is more money to reach other goals, such as savings or vacations or paying down debt. These helpful tips may seem like minor changes but the savings are magnified over the weeks and months of shopping.