How to Shop and Save on a Budget
- Shopping for food, clothing and home furnishings can eat away at your budget and savings - if you let them. There are lots of opportunities to cut costs on a daily basis, as long as you put forward a little effort and take advantage of them. Once you learn how to shop within certain guidelines, it will become easier and even enjoyable every time you do, so commit yourself and start saving!
- Change your behavior. Are you constantly hitting the ATM on the corner throughout the week, taking out $20 at a time and then blowing it before it even gets warm in your wallet? For every withdrawal from a bank where you donít have an account, youíre being charged by that bank and in many cases by your own bank for the transaction. Instead, once a week go to your bank only and take out a set amount for the entire week. Track what you spend, right down to the latte you had to have Tuesday afternoon, and make sure you donít go over the limit you have set for yourself.
- Cash is King! When youíre out shopping, pay for everything in cash. This will keep you aware of what youíre spending and discipline you to put down an item you really donít need and really donít have the money for. The best part is you wonít have a bill to look forward to next month for todayís purchases with added interest.
- Savings in Aisle 10! Food shopping is probably the easiest place to cut spending. If cutting coupons makes you think of mom in an apron with a beehive hairdo, think again. Coupons put money back in your pocket, especially if your supermarket multiplies them and/or accepts competitorís coupons. Buying non-brand or store-brand items is also a great way to cut costs, but if you do the math you might be surprised to find that your favorite national brand of ice cream with a multiplied coupon actually comes out cheaper than the store-brand. Also be sure to apply for a savings club card, if your local supermarket offers one. This will get you special discounts on certain items that are exclusive to cardholders.
- Bulk up! Buying in bulk for items that are frequently used in your home is smart and economical, but just be sure that the items will get used and that you have a place to store them. Two months worth of toilet paper wonít go to waste, but a two pound bag of lettuce for just one person will probably be in the garbage before you get halfway through it.
- Check yourself. Create a little checklist for every time you go food shopping. This checklist should include eating before you shop (because we all know the pitfalls of shopping on an empty stomach), a shopping list (stick to it), a set budget (donít go over it) and a calculator. As youíre throwing items into your cart use the calculator to keep a running total of what you have, and to keep a running check on yourself. When in doubt, put it back.
- No, they donít sell fleas... Garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets are great places to pick up furnishings for your home. If theyíre not in the greatest condition use your creativity to refinish them or just cover them up. Use imperfections to your advantage - haggle down the price for every scratch and nick.
- Cleared for markdown. When shopping for clothes, head for the clearance rack. Many times perfectly good clothing is marked down to make way for the next seasonís high priced items, usually months before the next season begins. Also take advantage of sales and, again, coupons. Thereís no reason to pay full price when four days later itís going on sale at 25% off, and then another 10% after that (the calculator really comes in handy here too). Many times a store will allow you to get the discount if you bought the item before the sale started, as long as you have your receipt. If the discount equals more than the amount of gas used to drive back to the store, go for it.
- I just had to have it. Avoid impulsive buying, no matter how badly you want it. Impulsive buying almost always leads to spending too much, buying something you donít need, and/or never using the item. Look in your closet and see how many shirts still have the tags on them. Be honest! By setting a limit to what you will spend and sticking to a list of "needs" (not "wants"), you will avoid most pitfalls. Save the impulsive buying for when you have a fistful of birthday money.
- Tis the off-season for giving. You know theyíre out there - the people who have finished their holiday shopping by the end of the summer - and you think theyíre crazy! Yet when youíre standing in holiday lines for hours in December spending too much on items you didnít want because you waited too long, whoís the crazy one? Why not join these overachievers by simply making a standard list of everyone you have to shop for every year, and keep it with you at all times. Then whenever you hit those wonderful sales throughout the year you will have the perfect gift without the stress, without the high prices and without the tremendous bills in January.
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