Growing up my family (especially my mom and grandmother) instilled ways in me to save money when shopping. It was never about name brands but finding the best value for your money.
Now with my own family I am always finding ways to find the best value and stretch our funds. Below are a few secrets I have used that helped my family save time and money. Note: We are a family of 3, these tips work for us but feel free to change them to fit your family and the area you live in.
1. Pair coupons with sales and/or discounts. This is great way to save even more money. And there are plenty of coupon websites out there now that will show you were the item(s) is on sale in addition to provide a link to a coupon. One of my favorites is For the Mommas. I also like Hunt 4 Freebies. I have found free items as well as coupon match-ups.
2. Make a weekly or monthly grocery list based on menus. This has helped our family GREATLY! How many of you have pulled out everything to cook dinner for the night and realized you forgot an item. (I am guilty of this). Tip: Buy items that don’t need much preparation, very few ingredients or need to be thawed out. Sometimes after a long day it’s hard to get motivated to cook but if it’s quick and simple it makes it so much easier.
3. Buy staple, non-perishable items in large quantities. Buy these items when they are on sale. I do this with items like: hair products, toiletries, pasta, canned foods, dry snacks, etc. Most of these items I use every week so I know they will get used and they have a longer shelf life. Tip: If you have a large family buying staple items from stores like Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale Club or Cosco is another great way to save. In our area BJ’s Wholesale Club excepts coupons, but Sam’s Club does not….and their prices are about the same.We saved money on our little one with things like diapers, wipes, baby snacks,etc. Just keep in mind there is an annual membership fee.
4. Develop relationships with your grocery/retailer. Ask the cashier or manager when shipments come in and plan your shopping trips closer to those days (Shoot for the day after because the store has had time to restock the shelves). You will usually get the first pick in the event something runs out.
5. ASK for rain checks. Most stores will honor a rain check (unless specifically stated in the ad) on sale items for up to 30 days. Make sure you ask for one if the store ran out of the sale items you were looking for.
6. ASK for military, teacher or senior discounts. Although a majority of retailers offer these discounts most don’t advertise so you have to ask. And many will give you the discount in conjunction with a sale item. Military discounts also apply to military spouses (with id) as well.
7. What to do you get a FREE gift card in the mail. Retailers like JCpenney offer these cards 3 to 4 times a year. And it’s a FREE $10 card with no purchase. The key is not to spend $100 but use the card like a gift card and only buy something that cost $10. I use these as treat for myself or gift for someone else.
8. Check your local thrift stores. I shop in thrift stores all the time and find really good deals, sometimes the items are brand new. Tip: Try shopping at some of your smaller thrift stores, the items are still quality but you will pay less. Although I do shop at Goodwill some of their prices can be just as expensive as a traditional retail store. Tip 2 : Add a little vinegar to your wash to get out the smoke odor some clothes may have. Bonus: Shopping at thrift stores helps the community and gives to a good cause!
9. Buy certain items from certain stores. When I make my list I usually make it according to the store I am going to buy it from. Example: Walmart, Dollar Tree, Dollar General: Snacks, cereal, plastic ware, party ware, cleaning supplies etc. Publix, Winn Dixie: Produce, meats, fruit, etc. Tip 1: I look at all the advertisements first before making the list to check what store may have the item(s) I need on sale. Tip 2: It also helps me map out where I need to go and I can save gas by just shopping in one area hitting all the stores I need to pick up items from. Bonus: Walmart now matches BOGO sales from its competitors so you can just go to Walmart and pick up everything. This is great, but it doesn’t always work for me with a screaming baby and only 2 lanes open (just my opinion and experience).
10. Wow it’s only on SALE! Don’t just buy items because they are on sale or cheap (I am SO guilty of this). Buy because you will actually use it or give it to someone. Those sale dollars add up quick!
11. Reward Cards. Most stores now offer reward cards that are FREE to get and can help you save money the more you spend. Winn Dixie even helps you save on gas with Shell gas stations. I frequently shop at Walgreens and I have a rewards card. You can earn points which equal money off of your next purchase on certain items. However, I recently found out that their reward card doesn’t apply to Medicare or government (military) insurance card holders. So you don’t get reward points on your prescriptions purchases. Tip: Only get reward cards from the retailers you shop at frequently, the more you spend with your favorite retailer the more points and money you can potentially save.
12: Store Brand. Try some of the store brands or “off” brands many of them have the same ingredients and taste or work just as well as the major name brands.
13. Site to Store. Many retailers offer consumers buying items from their website and shipping to the store for FREE. This is a great way to save gas and keep from driving all around town. Check with you favorite retailer about the details. Tip: Schedule your pick up date for the day you go shopping and you can get everything in one trip.
14. Check items you usually buy. Always look at items in the store you usually buy they may just be on sale. Retailers don’t advertise all their deals.
15. Double check. Always, Always, double-check expiration dates on items you buy. (Especially with smaller sized retailers like Dollar Tree and Walgreens…they typically don’t stock their shelves as often). Always, Always double-check pricing and your receipt. I have gotten over charged many times by cashiers ringing up products too many times. I always check what they are doing and double check the receipt.
16. Buy items/ingredients for multi-use. Example: When I buy ground turkey (1lb )…one night I use 1/2 lb and make spaghetti, the next night I make tacos or mini burgers. Two to three meals with one main ingredient.
17. Eating out. If you have young kids eat out on the days kids eat FREE or discounted. Most restaurant have a special on Tuesdays or one day during the week. Make the days you eat out during the week and if on Saturday try to do lunch time. The meals are usually less expensive and some restaurants even offer a lunch portion for a lesser price during their dinner hours. Just ask.
BONUS: When buying items don’t just look at using them in the traditional sense.
Example: I didn’t want to carry a diaper bag and purse so I purchased a Timi and Leslie diaper bag (image on left) that looked like a purse, but functioned like a diaper bag (it was over $100). So when it was time to replace and downsize but still have compartments for diapers, snacks and a sippy cup I looked for another diaper bag but ended up buying a regular purse instead (see image below) It was only $10 (image on right) and it served its purpose plus it was the exact same color as the first diaper bag so I was still able to use the stroller straps, insulated cup holder, and small handbag. You will also noticed that when products are specifically marketed for one use they typically come with a higher price tag.
I hope these secrets have helped you examine how you and your family can save money and time shopping. Please feel free to change them to fit your family and the area you live in. If you have secrets you would like to share please leave them in the comments below.