Whether you’re counting every penny or just looking to slim down expenses, few things can cut into a budget as quickly as a shopping trip. Unlike recurring expenses, such as rent or a car payment, your shopping needs and costs likely vary each month. Even small savings can add up to help you stretch your money further.
Make the most of your budget and save money shopping using these smart shopping tips.
How to Save on Necessities
Saving money on the things you want is usually a matter of deciding what items you can live without. When it comes to necessities like groceries, however, cutting out certain items may not be possible. Knowing how to cut costs when shopping for groceries, toiletries, and other necessities should help you spend less at the store.
Shop for Groceries on a Full Stomach
Grocery shopping when you’re hungry is almost always a bad idea. You’ll be more tempted to throw extra snacks into your cart as your stomach growls going down the aisles. Eat before you go grocery shopping and stick to a pre-made list. Having a full stomach should also help keep you more alert and focused as you shop. Staying focused at the store usually makes it easier to make smart purchases.
Make a Meal Plan for the Week
Taking one weekly trip to the grocery store is a great way to avoid overspending on snacks, drinks, and other unnecessary food items. Make a meal plan for the week to make the most of your trip and save money shopping. Your meal plan helps ensure you’ve got enough food for the week as well as giving you a dedicated list to stick to while shopping.
When making your meal plan, look through your pantry to see what ingredients you have on hand. You can try to plan dishes that use the things you already have in order to cut down on the amount you have to buy at the store. The less you have to buy, the easier it is to save money. Using what you have also helps you avoid buying food that then goes to waste in a pantry or refrigerator.
Consider Buying in Bulk
Getting a membership to a bulk warehouse store can potentially help you save money on groceries and other items. However, these memberships cost money. It’s a good idea to compare how much you save by buying in bulk to the cost of a membership.
The other potential downside to buying in bulk is not being able to use the food before it expires. A large package of perishable food can spoil quickly. This both wastes the food and money. If you decide to buy food in bulk, try to purchase non-perishable items, such as canned goods. Alternatively, you can purchase things like meat or vegetables in bulk and cook them right away. Freeze any cooked items you’re not using in the next few days so they’re ready to be heated when you need them.
While it can be a gamble to purchase your food in bulk, it’s usually a safe bet to buy non-food necessities in bulk. If you have the room to store large containers of shampoo, toothpaste, and toilet paper, bulk stores almost always offer a better price per unit than your grocery store. Buy generic brands of these items if they have comparable ingredients to help you save even more.
Get Out Your Calculator
Set a budget for your shopping trip before you go and stick to it by adding items on a calculator as you shop. Knowing how each item affects your budget directly may help you save money shopping. Consider adding your most important items first so you know there’s room for them in your budget.
How to Save on Big Purchases
Saving on groceries and other everyday necessities can help you keep consistent cash flow and stick to a set budget. However, what happens when a bigger item, such as your refrigerator, needs to be replaced?
In addition to smaller savings at the grocery store, you can save money when you shop for big purchases.
Try to Get Items for Free or Discounted
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to replace working appliances for newer models during renovations or other projects. For example, if someone’s washing machine is broken, they may buy a new washer and dryer set. This leaves them with a working dryer they don’t need, so they list it on an online marketplace for much less than the cost of a new one.
Checking online marketplaces, the local paper, or nearby yard sales for used items like appliances is a great way to save money. You may even be able to find big-ticket items that are in fair working condition for free.
Negotiate for a Lower Price
Most retail stores don’t allow you to haggle on pricing. However, you may still be able to use negotiation to get a deal. The floor model of bigger items, or those with scratches or dents, is often sold at a discount. The store may not advertise the discounted price, so be sure to ask the salesperson about any discounts available.
While you may have difficulty negotiating with most retail stores, it’s usually possible when you buy from a private seller. Many sellers list items at a price above what they’d be happy to get for the item because negotiating is so common. If you’re going to look at an item from a private seller, make it easier to negotiate by bringing cash. You should only bring as much as you’re willing to spend. As you haggle, you can let the seller know that you have a set amount of money. They may be willing to sell the item at a lower cost than they originally planned so they can sell it that day.
Try Borrowing Instead
It may not be possible to borrow furniture or a kitchen appliance long-term, but you may have family and friends who are willing to temporarily lend you the things you need. Buying a new lawnmower, for example, could cost you several hundred to several thousand dollars. Ask your friends if they have one you could borrow for a day to clean up the yard. Consider offering them something in return as a thank you, such as making them dinner.
Establishing Smart Spending Habits
Using these tips to save money shopping should help you better manage your money and establish healthy spending habits. Setting budgets and shopping lists helps you limit overspending. For anyone dealing with a lot of debt, getting into good spending habits may be even more important. If you have a lot of credit card debt, for example, it may be a good idea to consider your options for getting out of debt and switch to a cash-only shopping policy.
It’s never too late to get into good spending habits. The next time you go shopping, use these tips to help you save money.