Between gas, groceries, clothes, fees and entertainment it seems like money comes and goes quickly, doesn’t it? We walk into Target planning to buy one item and when we get to the checkout our bill is $100+.
How does this happen? There’s got to be a better way to save on everyday items, right?
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Well friends, I’m going to let you in on a few tricks I’ve discovered, but the first and most important way to save on everyday items requires a shift in mindset.
You see, many of us are emotional spenders. We buy items because we WANT them, not because we need them. We treat ourselves, not always to big items—sometimes it’s little purchases here and there—because buying a new item feels good.
I’m certainly just as guilty of this mindset as anyone.
We all deserve nice things. We all deserve happiness and to live out our dreams. Sometimes, moving toward the big picture means letting go of “I want it now.” The little ways you save on everyday items add up. Once you’re ready to begin, it’s easy to find wiggle room in your budget. These aren’t secrets, just simple strategies to inch you closer toward your big goals.
So, prepare your budget and get your game face on. We’re going to find ways to save big on everyday items.
1. Always Shop with a Plan
When you’ve organized your budget and it’s time to shop, go in with a plan in hand. The best way to save on groceries is to plan meals, cook ahead and shop with a list. Plan meals around foods that are on sale and in season. Look for items that add a lot of flavor like spices and citrus to add to a meal without compromising your food budget.
The same goes for navigating Target, Costco or any other store. Before we even set foot in the store, we should know exactly what we’re planning to buy. Check sales flyers to find the best deals on items you need, but always browse with specifics in mind.
It’s tough to pass on clearance, but for many of us the temptation of the clearance aisle is too great. Adhere to your list. Set a budget and know exactly what you need. If you happen to find a great deal, all the better, but never purchase an item simply because it’s on sale.
2. Use Apps that Pay You Back
Download apps that pay shoppers back for their purchases. There are many popular apps out there to help us save on everyday items. Ibotta is a great app that provides rebates for commonly purchased groceries. Simply scan the receipt and a rebate is added to your account.
Favado is another popular grocery savings app that alerts you to the best deals for items on your list. Rakuten (formely-Ebates) provides rebates to customers on online purchases from retailers like Old Navy and Banana Republic.
InboxDollars allows users to earn money by completing surveys and simple games online. They also offer rewards for shopping online at select retailers such as Walmart and Kohl’s. You can also earn money back by shopping online through Swagbucks. Use the Swagbucks search engine and earn “bucks” to trade toward gift cards.
3. Don’t Forget Gift Cards
When you’re low on funds and looking to save on everyday items, check your inbox and look through desk drawers, old pocketbooks and other places you might stash coupons and gift cards (and even cash).
If you happen to find a gift card, use it toward a purchase you’ve already planned. Receive a gift card that isn’t exactly your cup of tea? Visit Gift Card Granny, Cardpool or CardCash where you can exchange those cards for what you’ll really use.
Many of the card exchange sites, as well as stores like Sam’s Club and Costco offer discounted gift cards. If you’re a very savvy budgeter, you can purchase the cards at a discount and use them toward line items in your budget. Watch for cards to use toward entertainment and travel as well.
4. Shop Sales & Deals
Coupons can save you money but admittedly, as someone who was an expert coupon cutter, I found sometimes the time spent finding, clipping and researching coupons doesn’t always offset the savings. To become a successful coupon user, you’ll need organization, planning and dedication. Often you need to purchase items way ahead when you can maximize your coupon and store them for later.
Even if couponing isn’t for you, you can still save by watching store flyers for sales. Scan through the various ads (or use an app) to determine which stores are offering the best deals for items on your list. Keep a rock bottom price list (the lowest possible price you’ve discovered for any item on your list) and never buy items when they aren’t at the best price.
Do a quick search on sites like Groupon and Coupons.com before making an online purchase. Many stores and services not listed on eBates or other rebate sites still offer online coupon codes. Don’t forget to check with your employer and affinity groups you may belong to. Employers may offer incentives on phone plans, rental cars and other services as a perk to their employees. By all means, don’t forget to inquire about student, military, teacher and other discounts if you qualify as well. Research opportunities to ensure you’ve found the best deal possible.
5. Ask for Price Matches & Fee Reductions
We’ve all made a purchase only to discover the item went on sale the very next week. Many retailers will honor the offer if you missed it, so don’t hesitate to ask.
There are also many retailers who offer price matching on competitor’s ads—Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Wal-Mart to name a few. Various restrictions apply, but it’s certainly worth the effort, especially on a major purchase.
When it comes to fees, particularly late charges and activation fees, it always pays to ask for a waiver. Certain credit card companies and banks will wave a late fee or one-time service charge to a customer in good standing. If you notice an unrecognizable charge on your statement or utility bill, give them a call. The same goes for creeping monthly rates. Often a simple phone call can help you save. There are also services like BillCutterz who will negotiate for you (but keep a portion of the savings).
6. Use Preventative Maintenance
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and it’s certainly true if you’re looking for ways to save on everyday expenses. It may seem like an unneeded expense to get your car serviced or call a furnace technician, but in the long run preventative maintenance will save you hassles, stress and the cost of a replacement.
Preventative maintenance extends to your health as well. Scheduling regular checkups and physicals is good practice for heading off concerns early on. Keeping your body, home and vehicle healthy will ensure you plenty of cost-savings down the road.
Keeping your home organized will also prevent overspending. When we can’t find an item immediately, what do we do? Run to the store and buy it even though it’s on-hand. In a messy, disorganized kitchen, food spoils and goes to waste. Preparation and organization are great ways to save.
7. Borrow and Trade, Buy Used
Save money on everyday items by finding opportunities to buy second-hand, borrow or refurbish what you need. Whenever you need an item check Craigslist and send out an APB on Facebook, to your Nextdoor group, or to any fellow moms you know.
Kids grow fast and often outgrow items before they wear them out. Chances are, someone you know has an extra set of ballet slippers, a keyboard, a hockey stick or little league mitt. Hold off on buying equipment until a hobby sticks or a new endeavor is successful. You can always upgrade down the road (and you may even find used items fit the bill just fine).
If you have items to sell or trade, post them on eBay, Amazon Trade-In or other outlets. Check with your local consignment dealers as well. You never know when your trash will become another’s treasure and money in your pocket.
8. Use a Rewards-Based Credit Card (if You’re Very Diligent)
Savvy budgeters with a great deal of self-control can reap big rewards by using and paying off a credit card for monthly purchases. This may work especially well for items like gas or travel where using a credit card is convenient and even offers protection.
Rewards vary by card, so if you plan to use a reward offer, look for a card that fits your lifestyle. For example, airline miles might not help as much as cash-back, unless you’re a very frequent traveler. Always read the fine print, pay off the card every single month and look for a card where the annual fee doesn’t out-weigh the rewards.
If you’re not up for using a credit card, there are stores like Target that offer savings when you use their debit card (linked to your personal checking). Many stores also offer “member savings” when you sign up for a loyalty card. Keep the cards from cluttering up your key chain and wallet by downloading an app like Key Ring. Some loyalty cards offer discounts, while others give you points to use toward gas or cash back on purchases.
9. Buy in Bulk and Store
Buying items in bulk and on sale is a great way to save. Look for store and generic brand items which often offer the most savings (but compare it to your Rock Bottom Price List to confirm). Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, as well as discount stores like Aldi offer great prices on their in-house brands.
If you can’t use up a four pack of Almond Milk before the expiration date, split it with a friend to save. You can also store many items in the freezer or pantry for later use. Check expiration dates to ensure you aren’t buying more than you’ll need. Items like toothbrushes and paper goods store for years.
Many regular grocers offer case lot sales or bulk buy days, where you receive discounts on packaged and canned goods. Again, check your price list, but these events are often good times to stock your pantry. Don’t get swept up in the sales, though—some items are better deals at other times or in smaller quantities.
10. Share & Pool
When it comes to saving, sharing is caring. Get friends on board to split deals, share plans and memberships (check restrictions of course). Buy items to split or share with friends or neighbors, such as yard equipment or tools.
Carpool with coworkers and friends to save gas as well as wear and tear on your car during your commute. Offer to swap babysitting evenings and playdates. Consider sharing a sitter for older kids as well. Share books, movies and even plan a meal swap or clothing swap party with neighbors.
Even if you aren’t sure who you’d share with, check your service providers such as Spotify, Netflix and your phone plan for multi-user offers. You and your spouse may save money by switching to a family plan, especially if you have teen users coming down the pipeline.
11. Do It Yourself
A great way to save on household expenses is to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Tutorials abound on YouTube, many will walk you through every endeavor from crafting to canning to small repairs on your car and even to cutting hair. If you want to save money, DIY is the way to go.
Create your own natural household cleaners. Cook food at home rather than going out. If you’re feeling adventurous, plant a garden to grow your own veggies. When you go out for the day, pack a lunch and bring water bottles to save on beverages.
Brewing your own coffee and hosting a pal for a coffee date is as much fun as visiting a coffee shop and much cheaper. Walk with a friend or even follow an exercise DVD or video rather than paying for an expensive gym membership. Saving money doesn’t mean giving up on being active and social. It simply means finding workarounds that work for you.
12. Simplify & Streamline
The biggest theme when it comes to saving money on everyday expenses is to plan and approach it in an organized manner. Simplify your budget. Decide on the essentials and leave out the rest. The simpler your schedule and lifestyle, the more you’ll save.
Plan and streamline your errands and routine. Pare down your inbox so you aren’t tempted by sales alerts. Avoid running to the store or going through the drive-thru simply because you’re bored, sad, tired, or feel like treating yourself.
Shifting to a “savings mode” mindset can be a challenge! Eliminating the clutter, cutting out the noise and simplifying helps immensely. We can learn to separate needs from wants. We can become singularly focused on our big goal and long-term financial plans. We can successfully save money every day.
These methods aren’t big secrets. They’re about embracing a frugal mentality and finding little ways to save. Build on each success and achieve your financial dreams. It may take time, but I promise, it’s possible!