Author’s Note: This is the second article of a two part series this week on teaching you the skills to become a better shopper, for non-couponers and couponers alike. Check out the first article here.
Many of my readers are in the same spot as you; they like the idea of saving money, they think my articles are cute and funny, but they can’t seem to bring frugality into their own lives. Couponing takes too long, price shopping is just an added trip onto a growing errand list, and life has greater priorities then to spend time saving money.
If you are in this boat, here are some great tips to saving money that take little time, and will reap you great rewards by helping you to shop smarter, not harder (or longer).
- Shop Clearance First, Not Last: Here’s a secret I have yet to share: whenever I enter a store (online or in person), I always shop the clearance section first, even if I am using a gift card. You would be amazed at the deals you can find without using any coupons. Some of my favorite finds include a picnic blanket for $7.99 (originally $50), a year’s supply of spray-on 50 SPF sunscreen for $6.00 (that is 7 bottles, which do not expire until 2012), salmon fillets at Randall’s for half the cost (manager’s special meats: you will need to cook or freeze them within two days to be safe), a $100 long wool coat for $39, etc. I even shop clearance racks first at discount stores such as Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Half-Priced Books.
- Make Two Transactions: Thrown off by the Drugstore Game? Here’s how you can easily get in on the action. Every week drug stores offer free products for store credit. At CVS, you receive the product price in ExtraCare bucks, at Rite Aid you receive rebates after purchase, and at Walgreens you receive Register Rewards good to use on your next purchase. This means that when you need to purchase something from a drugstore—such as makeup, cold medicine, feminine products, etc.—pick up the weekly sales ad and first purchase the free product (or close-to-free). This way you will get a shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, or whatever else for free because you then immediately spend that reward on your next transaction, which is the purchase you were going to make anyway. No coupons involved. Here is an example from this week’s CVS ad (good through Saturday, May 22): Buy the Blade 5 razor system for $6.99, and get $6.99 in ExtraCare Bucks (register rewards). Use these right away to purchase whatever else you need. Or Walgreen’s ad (good through Saturday, May 22): Buy a Gillette Body Wash (10-18 oz) for $4.49, and receive $4.49 in register rewards (store credit). Use this right away to purchase whatever else you need.
- Use Warren Buffett’s Advice…Well Sort of: Purchase when everyone else is not buying, and don’t buy when everyone else is buying. This is a good rule of thumb. Plan a trip or a wedding in the off season. Buy homes in the wintertime, when sales are down. Buy clothes out of season. Buy decorations after major holidays when they are reduced by 75%-90%.
- Buy Bulk on Sale of Products You Use Most: There are certain products that we all use more of. For Paul and me, it’s coca-cola, mustard and Ziploc bags (we buy bulk meats to freeze, and also we both pack lunches everyday). For you it may be batteries and mayonnaise. Whatever your frequent products are, the next time they are on sale somewhere, buy many of them. Coca-Cola refrigerator packs run anywhere from $4.45 when they are at their peak in price, to $2.00 when I can find them at their best price. So I purchase 6-8 packs of them at the $2.00 price and then I won’t have to buy them again until the next great sale. That right there is a passive savings of $14.70-$19.60. Because of the amount of cokes we go through in a year, we’re talking a yearly savings of over $100. (Ah yes…an even greater savings would be to stop consuming them!)
- Eat Out for Lunch Only: Instead of frequenting your favorite restaurant for dinners, think about eating there for Saturday lunch, or Sunday Brunch. The lunch menu is always cheaper than the dinner menu, and you could even bring some leftovers home for dinner (if there are any!).
- Shop at Uncommon Locations for Your Product: Why do I purchase spices at Walgreens or CVS instead of the grocery store, a fish tank fluorescent tube light bulb at Home Depot, and bird seed at Kroger’s? Because by not purchasing them at the specialty store or the most common (and intuitive) location, I get a much better price.