Saving money on the things you need is a skill that’s easy to perfect. In this post I’ll share 11 steps that help you spend less and save thousands on items that you’re buying anyway. I’ll even show you how I saved a thousand dollars in one shopping trip.
How I Saved a Thousand Dollars in One Shopping Trip
Over the years saving money has become automatic to me. I owe a lot of my frugality to my mom, who loves to splurge but does so strategically. When I pay full retail price for an item, it’s painful but there is always a good reason and I usually come out ahead in the long run.
I’m always searching for what I need or want at the lowest price. I combine coupons and rewards to get what I need at a fraction of the price others pay for the same items. The key is to combine sale items with one or more of the following:credit card rewards, manufacturer coupons, store coupons, store rewards and bonuses, shopping cards, shopping apps, and online websites, such as Ebates. You can get $10 from Ebates by using my referral link here. I usually get at least two discounts in for each item, but three or more is the norm.
Yesterday, I went to Kohls because I had a few items that I needed to purchase. I worked a few extra gigs this month, which also freed up money for some non-essential want items as well. Armed with my 30% off coupon and their Kohls cash promotion, I headed out to knock some of the items off my shopping list. Shopping the clearance and sales racks, I found 30 items of clothing, 2 pairs of shoes, and one Mint floor cleaner all at 75 – 90% off. The sales representative looked at my receipt and said, “I’ve never seen this before. You saved over a thousand dollars. That’s amazing”. She handed over $40 in Kohls cash to spend next week, and I smiled and replied with a thank you.
I’ve wanted the Mint cleaner since it debuted, but the $250-$320 retail price tag was a bit high for an item that wasn’t a necessity. After my coupons, it ended up costing $90 and I received $10 in Kohls cash to spend later. For $90, it’s well worth it! On a side note, the Mint is working beautifully. I plugged it in overnight and it cleaned my floors for over an hour today, putting my mopping (which was done yesterday) to shame.
11 Steps That Help You Spend Less and Save Thousands
- Plan Ahead – Planning ahead is essential so that you get the best price on items that bring value to your life. Buying items that you want, but will never use is called wasting money. It’s not saving money. I’m not suggesting that you can never have something that you want. However, I am suggesting that everything you buy works to provide value. You should absolutely buy something that you want if your budget permits it.
- Make a List – Grab a journal or a piece of paper and write down the items that you need in one column and items that you want in another column. Write down the name of your favorite stores that carry the item.
- Assign Dates – Necessities have dates. If you truly need the item then it’s likely that you need it by a certain date. For the items that you need, write down the date that you need it by. For example, if you need a dress for your Christmas party on the 10th of December write down December 9th. For items that you want, use a key milestone. Milestones can be key events such as, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, a weight loss goal, or a promotion.
- Budget – Allocate a set amount of money each month to save towards your needs. You don’t have to spend the allocated budget each month. In fact, you shouldn’t. Use the strategies below to get what you need for cheap, and save any extra money for more expensive necessities and want items.
- Wait – Wait for the item to go on sale. This is probably the hardest step. The more you practice this step, the better results you’ll have. Almost everything you’ll purchase in your life will go on sale at one point or another. The key is to plan ahead so that you can snag what you need when it’s at a great price.
- Compare – Compare resale with new items and brand name items with similar off label brands. If the off label brand is comparable, consider purchasing it in lieu of the brand name. If the brand name is the reason why you’re purchasing the item, take a step back and assess who is influencing you and why you believe you need that brand. Then think about the statement that you’re making to the world and those close to you when you wear the brand name item. If this statement supports who you are, then by all means stick with the brand label.
- Off Season – Consider purchasing items that are off season for next season. The best time to purchase swimsuits, shorts, sandals, and t-shirts is during the fall. Late in September or early October stores begin slashing prices because they are trying to make room for the Christmas merchandise and winter wear. If you have growing kids like me, purchase a few sizes up and make sure pants can be adjusted.
- Inspect – Make sure that the item that you’re purchasing is worth what you’re paying. Inspect it. Are there any holes, stains, or imperfections? Is the stitching tight or easily unraveled? Does the item function as intended? Never purchase low quality items just because they are cheaper. There’s a reason why some items are significantly less than others.
- Coupons – Keep an eye out of coupons. Many stores will offer percentages off, buy one get one, free items, and dollars off coupons. When you find a high value coupon and have budget available, it’s time to shop!
- Rewards – Combine rewards with coupons. Rewards can be cash back or points. I’ll post more on rewards programs in a future post, because there are great online and offline shopping strategies that you can use to get more for your dollar.
- Clearance – Keep an eye on the clearance section of the store. Occasionally, you’ll find an item on your list drastically reduced. When this happens you can swoop in and snag it for a fraction of the price.
What other tips do you have for saving money on necessities? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.