Even shoppers with the best intentions consistently overspend on food, clothing and household items. If you’re shopping on a budget, you could save a fortune with a little planning and a few ground rules.
Keep reading for valuable tips that will have you smiling all the way to the bank.
Grocery Shopping on a Budget
Keeping your kitchen organized is half the battle. It pays to be aware of waste. Be mindful of everything you throw away, and stop buying things that go bad before you can finish them. Your family may be burned out on black beans, mango or Cheez-Its.
Before you make a shopping list, go through your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have to work with. You may be surprised. Then, plan around those ingredients as you leaf through recipe books.
Here are some good policies for grocery shopping on a budget:
• Shop with purpose. Stick to your list.
• Don’t buy an item you wouldn’t normally choose just because there’s a coupon for it. Clipping coupons can backfire.
• Do most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store in fresh food sections. Those tempting chips, powdered gourmet coffees and breakfast cereals are budget-breakers. Not only that, but most of them are terrible for you.
• Don’t be afraid to buy meat that’s heavily discounted because it expires that day. If the color is good and it smells okay, you probably still have a couple of days to use it. You can always immediately freeze it for another time.
• Look for bargains on low or high shelves. Most hard-to-reach products are of comparable quality at a lower price.
• Do the math. Grocery stores have made comparison shopping much easier for those of us who didn’t ace algebra. The label on the shelf usually has the price broken down by the ounce or another unit of measure. If small cans of tomatoes are on sale, buying two might make more sense than buying one large one.
• If your kids shop with you, set strict limits on treats and extras.
Saving Money on Household Items
Isn’t it discouraging to spend $100 or so and get home with nothing to eat? Paper goods, cleaning products and personal hygiene items add up.
Here are some strategies for saving money on household items:
• Avoid buying them at the grocery store. They’re usually cheaper at Target or Wal-Mart. If you have enough storage space, buy in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club.
• Stock up on things like Solo cups, paper plates, foil and food storage solutions around the holidays.
• Do an internet search for homemade cleaning products that use cheap ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and lemons. They’re better for your health and the environment.
• When it comes to bedding, towels and table linens, don’t automatically buy the cheapest ones you find. Reputable brands are pricey, but they withstand more washings and wear-and-tear. You’ll save in the long run.
• Buy holiday-themed goods right after the holiday. Keep a list of your purchases so you don’t accidentally overbuy the next year.
Shopping for Bargains
Seventy percent off isn’t a bargain if you don’t especially need or love an item.
Clothing is a perfect example. You may be tempted by a terrific deal on a dress only to get home and remember that you look ghastly in that color or that you don’t have shoes to wear with it.
Before you whip out your credit card, take a careful inventory of everything in your closet. Consider why you never wear those great-looking, expensive shoes. If they’re uncomfortable, try wearing padded inserts before you replace them. Look for classic pieces, such as a black jacket, that could be updated with a little tailoring.
Here are additional tips when shopping for bargains:
• Ask retailers if you can purchase seasonal displays or out-of-box items. After Independence Day, for example, they’re looking to get rid of that patio dining set. Sweetly point out minor scuffs for even greater savings.
• Buy clothes and shoes in the overlaps between seasons.
• Periodically check with retailers to see if the items you bought have gone on sale. Many stores will refund the difference or issue a store credit.
• Regularly check the Groupon website for deals on everything from haircuts to dining out.
• Remember to enter promo codes when you check out online.
Finally, for any kind of shopping, pause before you buy. If you can resist picking up even more items, walk around the store for a few minutes or make a phone call before you check out. Reconsider your choices. Nine times out of 10, you’ll put something back and stay within your budget.