As you walk the grocery store aisles, you may hear audible gasps from fellow shoppers. Thanks to the post-pandemic economic rebound, inflation is currently hovering at heights not seen in decades. With prices rising on nearly every product across every industry, saving money becomes imperative. Here are seven simple tips to hang onto more of your hard-earned cash as you do your shopping.
#1 Use Debit More Than Credit
When you’re trying to cut spending, using a debit card more often than a credit card is a smart strategy. It’s true that there are times when using a rewards-based credit card can save you money. But any unpaid credit card balance collects interest charges, and it’s easier to spend when you’re using other people’s money.
If cash flow issues occasionally make the flexibility of a credit card necessary, aim to pay off your balance at month’s end. In general, though, avoid falling into the credit card habit if you can help it. It can be easy to overspend and increase your debt when you use a credit card frequently. By using debit more often than credit, you’ll be less likely to spend money you don’t really have.
#2 Don’t Grocery Shop Without a List
It is a well-known rule that you shouldn’t shop when you’re hungry. But did you know shopping without a grocery list also increases your likelihood of buying things you don’t need? You’re more apt to overspend if you don’t have a predetermined list guiding your purchasing choices. Before each shopping trip, plan out your menu items and other grocery needs for at least a few days. Then stick religiously to your list.
Of course, there may be times when straying from your list becomes a financially responsible decision. Your objective is to become a disciplined shopper, not an automaton! If you notice a great sale on nonperishables or items you use regularly, take advantage of the lower price. Even if the items aren’t on your grocery list, buying them at a reduced price will help you save money.
#3 Plan Weekly Menus Around On-Sale Items
When planning your meals each week, let current grocery store advertisements and sales guide your menu. Make note of some of the upcoming sales on meat, produce, and other ingredients you and your family enjoy. Then create a meal plan around those cheaper ingredients.
Avoid food waste by planning new meals you can make with leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. These extra steps will help you stretch your monthly budget as far as it can go. When done thoughtfully, this method will yield a variety of good meals at a bargain price.
#4 Purchase Large-Ticket Items at the End of the Season
If you need to buy an expensive item such as a car or washing machine, time your purchase wisely. Some big-ticket items are heavily discounted during certain times of the year to make way for new inventory. If possible, buy the item at the end of the season to take advantage of off-season discounts.
If you’ve got a big-ticket purchase coming up, research the optimal time to buy to get the best deal. Many car dealers and home improvement stores offer the lowest prices around the holidays. Black Friday is a great time to take advantage of special promotions on electronics. Though Black Friday technically falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the deals often go for a week or longer. Time things right, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
#5 Buy Used
Whether you’re looking for a car or a nail gun, you can get a cheaper price by purchasing used instead of new. Thrift shops and online marketplaces can yield the things you need for a fraction of the retail price. Of course, you’ll need to do your due diligence to make sure the used item you’re buying is in good condition. But the time it takes to examine the item or have a professional inspect it is often worth the money saved.
Be careful, however, to never put money down on an item listed by an online seller. There are many scammers out there who will happily take your money and give you nothing in return. If someone demands that you pay for an item before you see it in person, move on.
#6 Leave Items in Your Cart for a Day
The one-click convenience of online shopping makes impulse spending all too easy. Before proceeding to checkout, let your e-commerce cart sit for a day. You may decide the items it contains are things you can live without.
But even if you decide your cart contents are must-haves, there’s a good reason to hold your fire. Most companies have an automated program in place to try to encourage people with abandoned carts to make a purchase. Taking advantage of cart abandonment discounts is one of the lesser-known methods for saving money on purchases made online.
Within a day or two of leaving your purchases in your cart, you may receive an email from the seller. Typically, the email will contain a special discount code that applies only to your cart. Simply by delaying your gratification, you can save money on items you already planned to purchase.
#7 Look for Coupons
No good money-saving guide would be complete without mentioning coupons. Luckily, you don’t have to become a coupon hoarder to take advantage of the benefits they provide. In most cases, you don’t even need to cut out and organize paper coupons in order to save.
These days, many coupons are digital and can be pulled up on your phone or other electronic devices. Some grocery stores also offer digital coupons that can yield impressive savings on your regular grocery haul. Download store apps to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the coupon savings available. Online, browser extensions like Honey and Capital One Shopping will crawl the web to find the savings for you.
The cost of living has gone up, but that doesn’t mean your quality of life must go down. With some extra time and effort, you can still buy many of the same products you’ve always enjoyed. By following these tips, you can save money on everything from grocery staples to the car you’ll use to haul them home.