You don’t have to max out your credit cards or sacrifice your financial future to buy what you want and need.
You can save some serious cash with a little planning! Here are my tried and true tips to help you save money while you shop.
18 Tips For How to Save Money When You Shop
- Don’t Buy What You Can’t Afford
- Don’t ignore those credit card emails
- Store credit cards aren’t always your friend
- Always use loyalty programs
- Coupons are still a thing
Don’t Buy What You Can’t Afford
It’s no secret that our eyes are bigger than our wallets and buying everything we need plus everything we want can lead to deep financial trouble.
If you don’t have the cash for something, putting it on a credit card can be appealing in the moment, but carrying a balance from month to month will ultimately cost you.
Simply put: if you can’t pay something off in full each month and you don’t really need it, don’t buy it.
Don’t ignore those credit card emails
In addition to points, miles, and special discounts, your credit cards also have benefits that you might not be taking advantage of. Before deleting that promotional email from your credit card company, take a quick peek at what they’re offering as it might include something useful.
For example, as I write this American Express is offering a variety of extra discounts, including $25 off a Sam’s Club purchase of $45 or more and $25 back from any Levi’s purchase of over $125 when you shop with your American Express card.
Store credit cards aren’t always your friend
At checkout, the cashier starts telling you about their store card and all its amazing benefits. Sounds fantastic, right?
While many store cards come with sweet perks, like an extra 5% off eligible purchases in the case of the Target card, and a discount off your first purchase, like with the TJX card, applying for store cards not only requires a pull on your credit report, they also come with hefty APRs.
If it’s a store where you shop frequently and you know you can pay the card off every month – and you’re not concerned about another pull on your credit card report – the card might be a good option. Just think it through before applying.
Always use loyalty programs
Especially if you shop at a store regularly, take the few minutes and sign up for their loyalty program.
You’ll earn points for every purchase and have access to exclusive discounts. But what about all those little keychain thingys that you have to carry around?
Try scanning them into an app like Stocard, which holds all the data from those little cards. You simply scan the store’s barcode on the app whenever you shop and rack up those points.
Good, old-fashioned research
When you shop, knowledge is power. Unless you’re just window shopping, you probably have a general idea of what you want to buy.
Before heading to the checkout with that new, shiny thing that caught your eye, make sure you comparison shop. You can even do this on the go with a quick Google search on your phone or by using a price comparison app, like Yroo.
You might find that the item is much cheaper at another store or online.
Coupons are still a thing
Coupons, in one form or another, have been around for decades, and they are still a good way to save a little money.
You can find them in a variety of places including on receipts, in your physical or digital mailbox, in newspapers, on coupon sites and apps, and by using browser extensions online.
Plenty of retailers will also send you coupons and alert you of sales if you join their loyalty programs or download their apps.
Keep in mind that many stores also honor manufacturers’ coupons, allow coupon stacking, and some of them will even offer to match a competitor’s coupon on the same item — it never hurts to ask.
Use price matching policies to your advantage
Price matching can save you a lot, especially on a bigger purchase like an appliance or a tech item. Many stores do it – from Bed, Bath and Beyond to JCPenney – and it usually just requires that you show an ad from a qualifying competitor that features a lower price. Y
ou can do this at the time of your purchase, or in most cases for a limited period after, which typically ranges from 15-30 days. In-store is usually better. Some retailers will not only match a competitor’s price, but they’ll give you more. Home Depot and Staples offer 10% more back!
The Krazy Coupon Lady has a really good rundown of all the stores that price match, plus their policies.
Wait for sales
We all know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but the Holiday season is far from the only time retailers have major sales. Other gift-giving holidays are good for sales. Jewelry often goes on sale before Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, and it’s easy to get a good deal on home-improvement products before Father’s Day.
Three-day weekends, like Memorial Day and Labor Day, are good times to catch sales in a variety of categories. Then there’s Amazon’s yearly Prime Day sale in July, which occurs around the same time as “Black Friday in July” and early Back to School sales from a number of retailers.
There’s a lot to know, but I do the research so you don’t have to! So be sure to visit my homepage if you’re ever wondering what’s on sale. You’ll always find a blog post and a few TV segments on the topic.
There’s no season like the offseason
It’s sad when your favorite holiday is over, but one thing to celebrate is that the prices on holiday-themed merchandise are at their lowest.
Halloween candy, costumes, and décor are on clearance right after Halloween. Christmas-themed gifts and décor are at rock bottom prices right after December 25, and so on. Retailers generally operate on the same principle when it comes to seasonal goods and clothing.
If you want to snag a sweet deal on a new coat, wait until February. It might still be cold outside, but that’s typically when stores start stocking up on spring clothes and need to make space. The same goes for spring apparel in May, and summer clothes in August. Temperatures don’t just have an impact on clothes.
September can be a good time to get a deal on big-ticket outdoor items that get heavy rotation during the summer. At that time of year, retailers are anxious to clear space for the next season, so items will be priced to move.
Don’t be shy
When you’re shopping in-store, sometimes store associates know more than you do.
An associate might know of current sales and what’s going to be marked down in the near future. It never hurts to ask!
Use live chat
You can sometimes save money by asking online by starting an online chat session and inquiring about sales and offers.
The agent may not be able to offer you a discount then and there, but they might know of an upcoming promotion if you’re willing to wait.
Bring the kids
You probably want to leave the kids at home so you can shop in peace, but there are two not-so-great things about this.
1) You’re missing an opportunity to teach your kids how to be savvy shoppers and manage their own wants and needs.
2) Kids can help keep your spending in check.
If your kids are with you, you’ll be more likely to stay on task than if you’re taking a leisurely stroll down each and every aisle.
Make the most of the mall
You’ll find lots of sales at the mall, but did you know that some malls have their own promotions?
If there is a mall that you frequent, sign up for their emails so you’ll be aware of special sales and events.
Some malls offer shoppers the ability to earn points on their purchases, which can later be redeemed for gift cards, free food or other goodies.
Outlet malls = discount paradise
You probably know that outlet stores offer great deals on big-name brands, but some outlets also have periodic sales.
Sometimes you can even use the same coupons that are accepted at their regular retail stores. Cheaper prices aren’t a given, though: Always hop online and double-check the price of each item you’re considering.
Also, keep your wits about you and don’t buy without a thorough inspection. It’s not uncommon for goods at outlet stores to have slight damages.
Items with irregularities are usually marked as such and priced accordingly, but it never hurts to take a careful look.
Don’t shun the clearance displays
Just because something is on clearance doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality.
Retailers need to make space for new inventory and they do that by selling off the current season’s merchandise.
Clothing will usually be hanging on clearance racks or shelves, and look at end caps and bargain bins for even more savings.
The danger of discounts
Finding a good deal can trigger a feeling of success and self-satisfaction, which can sometimes cause us to purchase things we don’t need.
Remember, 50 percent off is great, but it still means you’re spending 50 percent.
The challenge of “cheap”
Similarly, it’s easier than ever to find crazy-cheap items on sites like Amazon and in dollar stores.
But if something is priced so low that it’s too good to be true, don’t be surprised if the quality is sorely lacking.
That outfit you bought for $10 might start to fall apart after one wash, which means that you’ve just wasted $10.
It’s OK to put things back
Before you check out, stop and think: Do you really need everything you put in your cart? Have you grabbed a few impulse items, while you waited in line?
Saving money means waiting for sales, using coupons and comparing prices, but sometimes, saving money flat out means not buying something. Can you afford it?
Could you use that money for something you really need? Asking yourself these simple questions can serve as a helpful gut check before you blow your budget.