10 Shopping Tips to Help You Save
Knowing your needs versus wants is one thing, but avoiding impulse buys and retail therapy mini-shopping sprees is a challenge in itself. So how can you stick to your budget and not suffer from bouts of buyer's remorse? Whether it's grocery shopping, buying clothes, or a new car, maintaining a disciplined approach to spending will help you hit your goals without digging too far into your budget.
Here are 10 shopping tips to help you stick to your financial goals:
Shop With a List
Beware of casually browsing in a store, or going inside without knowing what you want. Creating a list before you set foot inside will help prevent you from overspending. Shop with intention, and keep in mind what you planned to purchase. This will help you block out marketing messages that urge you to buy stuff you don't need. This also goes for shopping online; making a list beforehand will lessen the lure of tempting pop-up ads.
Avoid the "Latte Factor®"*
Coined by financial author David Bach, the "Latte Factor" illustrates a simple money-saving concept: Spending small amounts of money regularly adds up over time. For instance, spending $6 a day on a cup of coffee five days a week adds up to $30 a week — that's $120 a month or $1,440 a year. Whether it's dining out for lunch every day, impulse buys for apps, or little online purchases here and there, those purchases can add up quickly.
Shopping with others can cause you to spend more, and to cave in to pressure to buy more. Instead, opt to shop by yourself and with a list. That way you can hone in on what you really need, and don't give in to social influence and spending just to keep up with the Joneses. Plus, you won't be stopping by a nearby eatery for a lunch date after your shopping trip.
Set a Budget
Set a budget and stick to it. Getting specific — and figuring set amounts on how much you can spend each month on dining out, groceries, clothing, and entertainment — will help you live within your means. Don't forget to budget in one-off and seasonal expenses that may seem to creep up on you, such as renters, homeowners, auto, and life insurance; holiday spending; and back-to-school purchases for your kids.
Set a Time Limit
Avoid spending a leisurely afternoon casually perusing the aisles of a store. Instead, stick to your list, buy what you need, and then leave. Otherwise, you'll be prone to impulse buys and the illusion of saving from purchasing something off the clearance rack.
Don't Shop Hungry or Angry
Behavioral experiments on consumers show that those who went shopping for groceries while hungry were more likely to buy more; some folks even purchased items that weren't food. In other words, hunger creates a mindset to acquire more. The same goes for when you're feeling angry — or experiencing strong emotions. They can cloud your judgment and cause you to make poor spending choices. For instance, stress or depression can lead to retail therapy.
Figure Out the Best Time of Year to Shop for Goods
Take advantage of semi-annual sales and times of year when retailers are getting rid of current inventory to make room for the new. Do your research to figure out when to snag the best deals. For instance, in May you'll snag the best deals on computers (some states offer tax-free days on computers). July is a great month to get deep discounts on summer clothing, while February is the best month for winter clothing and mattresses. If you're looking for lawn mowers, grills, or patio furniture, the best time to buy is September or early fall. December is when you'll score a great find on major appliances. Shopping for a car? You'll want to look either at the end of the year or end of each month. For non-urgent buys, plan your purchases around seasonal sales and major deals.
Do Your Homework on Major Purchases
If you're in the market for a big-ticket item such as a car, you'll want to do plenty of research to make sure you get the best rates and terms possible. Look at different makes, models, years; from there you can decide on what kind of car you want, and what your budget is. Then figure out your financing options, and get a pre-approved rate before stepping onto a car lot. You'll want to get rates on both used and new cars, as they tend to vary slightly. To help you figure out how much your monthly payments are and how much you'll be paying in interest, use an auto loan calculator.
To Coupon or Not to Coupon?
Long gone are the days when you clipped coupons from mailers and stuffed them in drawers only to forget about them. To make the most of couponing, "coupon stack," or use multiple coupons for a single item. Know the store's coupon policies, and know your price points and how many of each item you need before stepping foot inside the store.
Look for Freebies
Scour Craigslist, Facebook community groups, and Buy Nothing neighborhood groups to score things for free. You can get a variety of goods, such as housewares, furniture, clothing, and miscellaneous items from neighbors. You'll be surprised at what's been collecting dust in someone's garage that they're eager to give away.
While keeping in mind these shopping tips may take a bit of effort on your part, your savings can really add up over time. The benefit is that you'll stick to your budget, have extra cash for your savings goals, and won't resort to reaching for your credit card. Your future self will thank you.