If you are careful and intentional with your regular shopping you can spend less and use the savings to invest and improve your financial situation, while not giving up anything.
- Consider generic instead of brand names for commodity type products. A growing trend appears to be stores that offer their own generic brands. For example, Walmart has the “Equate” brand and Costco has the “Kirkland” brand to name a few. Wherever you shop, keep your eyes open for the generic brands. Be willing to try them at least once to see which ones work for you and which ones don’t. You will likely find many that work well which will save you a lot of money over the long term compared to buying the more expensive premium brand name items.
- If you are shopping in a physical store (not online), start to pay attention about how the store presents the products. Keep in mind that they are placing products in the store very strategically to get you to spend more. For example, they might have the milk and other staples in the back of the store so you have to walk through the store and see other products. Also notice that the higher priced items that they want to sell are often at eye level. The lower priced alternatives are often in more obscure locations such as the bottom shelf near the floor as it’s not intuitive for you to look there. Check this out next time you shop. Give some of the lower priced items a try and you might be pleasantly surprised.
- Make sure you comparison shop price, especially for the more expensive items. It only takes a little effort, and you can do it right in the store on your smartphone. Go online and type in the item, make or model and see what others are charging for that product. This will let you know right away if the deal in front of you at the store is the best deal.
- When buying online, there is no reason not to check prices. It is so easy to just google search the item to see what competitors are charging. If you always buy from the same retailer you are likely going to pay more. Keep your favorite retailer honest by checking prices!
- For online purchases, also consider using tools such as ebates.com and honey.com. Ebates gets you cash back by shopping your normal online stores via the Ebates buying group. Honey.com is a browser extension that automatically looks for the lowest price for items you are searching to buy, as well as showing you the price history of the items. You can even put in a price alert to tell you when a product hits your price target. Now that’s automation!
- One tool used by savvy shoppers involves keeping a price list of items you buy frequently. The price list would list the item and then the unit price at each of the stores you visit. You can put that information right in your phone, or you can write it down. Use it as a tool to follow who has the best price for a product. For example, you might keep track of who has the best price for water softener salt. When comparing be sure you have the right unit of measure, as many stores will play games with the sizes to appear cheaper. In this example you want to know the price per pound, as some will sell in 40lb bags and other 50lb bags. Let’s say Costco has a 50lb bag for $5.59 ($0.1118 per lb), Walmart has a 40lb bag for $4.94 ($0.1235/lb), and Aldi has a 40lb bag for $4.99 ($0.12475/lb). When you calculate the price per pound you realize that Costco has the best price per pound, followed by Walmart and then Aldi. Buying from Costco would save you about 58 cents for the 50-pound bag. Let’s say that you buy 2 bags per month, or 24 a year. That would be a savings of about $14 a year. Now that does not sound like a lot but this is one item, so if you do this for many of your frequent purchases it will add up to some substantial savings over time
- Once you get to know the best prices at various stores, you will do the best by rotating stores and buying the items that are the best deals. For example, you might shop at Aldi one week, Costco the next week, Walmart the next, etc. Each time you shop you buy the item with the best price. In the previous example, you would buy the softener salt when you go to Costco as it is the best price.
- It’s very disruptive to your schedule to have to run to buy an item because you are out of it. This costs you time and money (extra miles on your car and probably a higher price because you are in a rush to buy from the closest available supplier). Simplify your life by reducing the number of occurrences. One way to do this is to follow a kanban philosophy as many businesses do. This is coined from a Japanese business process of visual inventory management. To follow this at home you would start by buying two of a product you use regularly. Let’s use water softener salt again as an example. You start by buying two bags of softener salt. The visual management process would be to put on your list to buy another bag when one of them is used up. You would then buy another bag when you go to the store on your next regular shopping trip. That works great since you will still have one bag at home you can still use. Give this a try for a few items you use regularly and see how it improves things.
- Buy off season whenever possible. Buy winter jackets, gear and equipment at the end of the winter season, wrapping paper after the holidays, summer clothes at the end of summer, etc. Retailers will drop their prices dramatically to get rid of the items and you will swoop in to reap the savings.
- Buy in bulk whenever possible. Be sure to check the unit price to make sure it is a deal, but if it is, and you are going to consume the item anyway, buying in bulk will save you money, as long as you make sure you don’t consume more than your normal rate.
Many credit cards offer price protection. Some retailers do as well. I’ve used this a number of times with one of my credit cards. I bought a product at one price and then later found it cheaper somewhere else. You can submit a claim to the credit card and they will refund the difference as long as you show an advertisement or online screen print showing the exact make and model of the item with the price. Also, many retailers will match a competitor’s price in order to not lose business.