One of the most important aspects of frugal living is avoiding paying full price on as many purchases as possible. If you are willing to get organized, creative and at times a little bold, then you can save money. This will require a time commitment for researching, organizing and learning. You may also have to allow extra time for the actual shopping process. Just as it takes time to make money, it also takes time to save money.
For many families, the grocery bill rivals only the house payment as the largest monthly expenditure. Routinely avoiding paying retail for groceries will provide more annual savings than trying to save on less frequent purchases.
Clipping coupons is an obvious way to save as long as you are not using them to buy items you normally wouldn’t use. Coupons are available in Sunday newspapers, at various online coupon site such as coupons.com and even at your grocer’s website. Most grocery stores have savings cards that you have to present at the register in order to get their sales prices. Additionally and oftentimes, you can go to their websites and load coupons directly onto these cards. Some grocers print additional coupons at the register to be used during a future visit. If you are lucky, you live in an area with stores that double or triple coupons.
If you are serious about using coupons to save money, you might join a coupon club. This will provide a means to exchange and purchase coupons so you can collect multiple coupons of like items and stock up during sales events. Nationwide coupon clubs allow you to obtain coupons that are not distributed locally. Some online coupon clubs keep track of local sales cycles in each geographical area.
Check your local grocery and drugstore sales ads. These ad fliers often include rebates and store coupons, which can be combined with manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings. Look for items you have coupons for that are also on sale. Combining a coupon with a sale is quite rewarding, especially at stores that double or triple coupons. If you have multiples of the same coupon, stock up on that item if you intend to use it. This is the method TV coupon queens use to get free items or items for pennies on the dollar.
Meat and poultry items generally do not offer coupons, although they do frequently go on sale. One way to save on meat is to purchase it wholesale. For example, you may be able to buy a side of beef or a butcher hog from a local farmer. This will be higher quality meet, and it allows you to put your money back into the local economy. If you do not have space for a side of beef or a whole hog, then you may be able to split one with one or more family you know; also check with your local butcher. Some butchers offer wholesale deals on different packages or boxes of meat. If you don’t know where to find a local farmer in your area, then check Local Harvest. In searching for these sources, you may also find a place to purchase farm fresh eggs, although these are often pricier than at the grocery stores.
When produce costs less by purchasing it locally, it affords significant savings compared to the grocery store. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market or at produce stands. Sometimes, you can even negotiate for lower prices at these places. You can also ask around or check Local Harvest to find out if there is a local food co-op you could join for further savings.
One indirect method of avoiding paying retail for groceries is to cook from scratch. This is healthier, tastier and can make wonderful memories. For example, rather than paying retail for Lunchables, you can purchase cheese, crackers and pudding yourself and make several for the price of one. You will even have ingredients left over for other goodies. Breakfast items such as waffles, pancakes, and biscuits can be made ahead of time easily and even frozen. This is like paying wholesale prices because you get a larger amount of a superior version of the same food for less. Even better, you will probably end up with extra ingredients for other goodies!
Wholesale clubs such as Sam’s Club or Costco are excellent sources of scratch ingredients, and they can also help save money. However, you have to pay an annual membership fee to use these clubs, and although they are called “wholesale clubs,” they do not really offer wholesale pricing on most of their items. What they do offer is the opportunity to buy in bulk. Keep a couple guidelines in mind. First, only buy items you can freeze or use before it spoils. Second, buying in bulk does not guarantee a better deal. Become familiar with the unit pricing of commonly purchased items, and compare the unit pricing before purchasing. These stores do not usually accept manufacturer’s coupons, so this should also be considered.
Household and personal items
The easiest way to avoid paying retail for many common items such as clothing, small appliances, dishes, tools, vacuum cleaners, and even larger items such as furniture, is to buy them gently used, or at least previously purchased. This would include shopping at garage sales and thrift shops, but also online at places like eBay or the Amazon Marketplace. You may even find new items for used prices.
Garage sales usually have the lowest prices. A toaster for a dollar, clothing marked at under a dollar per item and nice sofas for under $100 are all examples of items found at some garage sales. You can literally furnish or decorate your own home in good taste exclusively from items you purchased at garage sales. Garage sales are usually held on Fridays and Saturdays, but may start as early as Thursday or run until Sunday. Learn about garage sales through your local paper, on Craigslist or by driving around looking for signs. Going early will give you the best chance of finding the nicest items, as many garage sale shoppers are early birds. Going towards the end of a sale will often allow you to purchase items at lower prices or even obtain items for free, as people hosting the garage sales do not want to keep the leftovers.
Thrift shops and consignment shops are also excellent places to purchase many items for very low prices. Thrift shops usually sell anything from used clothing to appliances. They obtain their merchandise through donations and wholesale auctions. Thrift shops are generally higher-priced than garage sales, but still offer excellent deals, and often have sales that would rival garage sale prices. Consignment shops usually specialize in clothing, and often only sell quality brand-name clothing. These shops pay a portion of the proceeds to the previous owner of the clothing if they sell within a certain amount of time. Consignment shops are usually more expensive than thrift shops, but they are still much cheaper than paying retail. This is a great way to obtain high-end merchandise on a low budget.
You can also buy quality used merchandise online. The most popular sites for doing this are eBay and Amazon. eBay is an auction site, but they also have many products that can be purchased immediately without having to bid. This is called a “Buy it now” option. You may also come across a “Make an offer” option, where you offer a lower amount for the item. Before shopping on eBay, you need to become familiar with their policies. In order to bid or purchase an item on eBay, you will have to set up an eBay account. This is free, and it involves setting up a username and password. You will also need a PayPal account, which is the primary method of payment accepted by eBay sellers. This account only takes a few minutes to set up. You will have to connect your PayPal account to a bank account or credit card in order to use it. It is very secure, and it includes a buyer protection plan, which ensures the safety of your purchase transaction on eBay.
A few concepts will help you get the most out of your eBay experience. “Buy it now” items are often more expensive than items you can bid on. If you really want to save money, you are better off going through the bidding process. The exception is for items that are in high supply and low demand, such as older VHS videos and DVD’s. The most cost-effective method of placing a bid and getting the item you want is to wait until the auction is almost ready to end, and place your bid in the closing seconds of the auction. This will make it impossible for other bidders to bid up your price. If you use this method, decide ahead of time how much you are willing to pay, and place your bid for that amount. Don’t use even amounts. If you are willing to pay $20.00 at the most for an item, bid $20.03 or an odd number like that, because if two bids come in for the same amount, the first one to come in wins. Don’t bid early. This just shows your hand to other bidders and allows them to ride up the price.
Amazon also has a marketplace where you can purchase used items. When shopping on Amazon, you may notice that many items will also show a new or used “starting at” listing just above the item description. When you click on this, you are shopping in the marketplace. Although your purchase is through Amazon, you actually purchase the item from a separate seller. Keep in mind that Marketplace items often have separate shipping charges and don’t necessarily qualify for Amazon’s “super saver shipping” option.
Many other websites offer excellent prices compared to brick and mortar stores. Alibris is an excellent place to find used books, and Vitacost is great source of quality vitamins and health products. You can find many excellent sources online, and when considering a purchase, to get the lowest price, always compare store prices with online prices.
Scratches and dents
If you are willing to purchase items that have minor defects or damage to packaging materials, you can save a lot of money. Even large retailers like Walmart and Home Depot will negotiate with you in these situations. This primarily applies to higher-priced purchases like televisions or appliances. Most people don’t realize this, but managers have a certain amount of discretion on price. If you see a flaw in an item, or if the item has a badly damaged carton, then ask to speak to the store manager. Don’t bother with the cashiers or even customer service as you need the manager for this. Sstart with the department manager, but most likely that person will direct you to the store manager. Once you point out the flaw, ask for a discount. It really is as simple as that. Some managers won’t budge on price, but many will. And remember, you don’t know if you don’t ask, so don’t be afraid to ask. You can get an item for as low as half-price this way.
These are only a few ways to avoid paying retail prices. With all the options online and offline, smart shoppers know they do not have to accept the first prices they see. Shop around, ask for a better deal and talk to people; you will be glad you did.