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Shopping :Cheaper, Better, Faster- Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day

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Stretch your dollars by buying things such as building materials or appliances—
even gifts—at auctions. Learn how to be an impeccable inspector, because all
sales are final.
Whenever possible, trade goods or services instead of money: haircuts for
typing, babysitting for landscaping, or housecleaning for electrical work.
Buy in bulk—protect savings
Buying in bulk may not always be a money-saving activity if your family
unconsciously consumes more when they see large amounts of anything.
Somehow that feeling of using just a little vanishes when the shampoo, for
instance, is in a quart-size bottle. To counteract this problem, have small
containers for laundry soap, shampoo, cereal, and so on. Fill them from the large
bulk container, which is stored out of sight. Besides seeming that there isn’t an
unlimited quantity of anything, the small containers are easier to handle, and the
chances of slipping and pouring out too much are lessened.
Buy in bulk—with a partner
If you are single and want to take advantage of bulk buying, find a shopping
partner—someone with your same situation—and pool your shopping needs.
Two-for-one is a real waste if the second item goes stale before it can be used.
But with a partner, each gets one for half price.
Buy used—consignment store, buying
High-quality, previously owned clothes are sold for as much as 70 to 85 percent
below the price of a similar item that is new. Shop well, and you will find
unbelievable bargains.
Buy used—consignment store, buying and selling
Make money and save money at a consignment store. If you take in used
clothing (men’s, women’s, and children’s) that is in good to excellent condition,
the owner will resell the items and send you a check for a percentage (usually 50
percent). These shops are also a great place to hunt for wonderful bargains. Find
a consignment shop in an upscale neighborhood, and you’ve got it made.
Buy used—garage sale map
Before checking out garage sales, make a special garage-sale map. Start with a
map of your local community and cover it with clear contact paper. Using a
grease pencil, mark the locations of the garage sales you want to visit this
weekend. Now you can design a logical route to make the best use of your
weekend time. Erase the marks after you attend each of the sales.
Buy used—thrift shops
Check out thrift shops, but never buy just because you’ve found a good bargain.
Compulsive shopping—$100 bill trick
If you find yourself shopping compulsively—buying stuff on credit that you
neither need, really want, nor can even afford—try this rather unconventional
tactic: Tuck away a $100 bill in a very secret place known only to you. In the
future, whenever you get the urge to purchase something or feel overcome by a
case of the “I wants,” tell yourself, OK, but you’ll have to go home and get that
$100 bill. For some reason the urge will pass quickly. Knowing you can if you
want, but you choose not to, has a wonderful preventive effect. Try it.
Compulsive shopping—go on a diet
Break the compulsive shopping habit. Don’t carry credit cards with you, put
yourself on a cash diet, and throw away all junk mail, such as mail-order
catalogs, without even opening it.
Contracts—avoid buyer’s remorse
Think about a contract for 30 days before you sign. Any purchase that requires
your signature probably requires payments. You just might have a change of
heart, and even if you don’t, you will be confident in your decision after 30 days
and will hopefully avoid buyer’s remorse.
Coupons—ask for help
When a great sale or coupon offer sends you to an unfamiliar store, don’t spend
a lot of time searching for the item. Remember, the store wants you to wander
around so you’ll just happen to pick up all kinds of other things. Instead, when
you enter the store, ask an employee for the exact location, make your purchase,
and get out of there as quickly as possible.
Coupons—doubling or tripling
Find a market that will double the coupon’s value. This practice varies
throughout the country, but if you have good coupons, make sure you find a way
to double them. Some stores even triple them on certain days.
Coupons—in envelope with grocery list
Save business reply envelopes from your junk mail and use the back for grocery
lists. Your coupons will fit nicely inside the envelope, and you won’t have to
worry about losing them.
Coupons—photo album organization
Organize your coupons in a small photo album. You can organize the coupons by
store or category and can easily flip through it to find the ones you want. The
album will fit neatly into a purse or bag.
Coupons—smallest size purchase
If you have a qualified coupon, you’ll usually save a higher percentage of the
purchase price by buying the smallest size.
Coupons—speed up checkout
If you’re a couponer, make sure that before you get to the store you use a
highlighting pen to mark the expiration date on each coupon you intend to
redeem. Your checker will be happy and so will everyone waiting in line behind
Coupons—Sunday newspaper extras
Ask your newspaper delivery person if you can pick up any leftover sets of
coupons that remain once the Sunday newspapers are stuffed and put together.
Most will gladly comply because there’s that much less for them to manage.
Coupons—use only if really saving money
Use coupons only for items you would buy even if you didn’t have the coupon
and only if it is truly a savings. Check other brands that might be on sale or are
already cheaper. Manufacturers often offer coupons as incentives on new
products. But you’re not saving anything if you buy something that was not on
your list.
Damaged or floor model goods—discount
Always ask for a reduction or discount if the item you desire is marked or
scratched or is the floor model. You’re not complaining, whining, or being
obnoxious. You’re negotiating, and that’s smart.
Electronics—buy gently used at repair shops
Before buying a new television, stereo, or other piece of electronic equipment,
check with a good repair shop. Many times, excellent-quality merchandise has
been abandoned, and the shop will sell it to you for only the cost of the unpaid
repair bill.
Factory direct—buy seconds and overruns
If you have factories in your area that manufacture things you regularly use, call
to see if they have factory outlets where they sell seconds and overruns. Try the
local newspaper for roll ends of newsprint. It makes great picnic table coverings,
gift wrapping, and all kinds of crafts. Paper factories often have toilet paper and
other paper goods available. Don’t confuse factory outlets of this type with outlet
malls that are more retail than discount.
Generic or store brands
It’s amazing how many brand-name products have a generic counterpart—
everything from grocery items to prescription and over-the-counter drugs. You’ll
be surprised how close they are to the expensive brands. Think this way when
buying clothes as well. Take a little time, and before you make that whopping
purchase at Nordstrom, sneak into Walmart and see if they don’t have a very
good generic.
Groceries—avoid the first day or two of the month
Avoid shopping on the first day or two of the month. Some stores have been
known to raise their prices during the time that government aid and Social
Security checks come out.
Groceries—bag your own for easy unloading
Bag your own groceries so you can group items together to match the way your
kitchen, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer are arranged. You’ll save a lot of time
putting things away.
Groceries—buy ahead
This will cut down your trips to the grocery store and will often save 50 percent
of the unit cost. Reorganize your kitchen and pantry. Find places outside the
kitchen to store dry and canned goods. Repackage large amounts into small
Groceries—cooler in your trunk
Keep a cooler in the trunk of your car. You can stop for groceries without having
to go straight home afterward.
Groceries—discontinued products
Today’s grocery stores carry only those items that move well to maintain their
profit margins. Watch for product shelf labels with either a line drawn through
the price code numbers or the letter “DC” or “Discontinued” written on them. By
purchasing these “unadvertised” specials, you will often find savings of at least
20 percent or more on your register tape.
Groceries—don’t shop when hungry
Never shop when hungry. You will be compelled to buy everything in sight,
regardless of what’s on your list.
Groceries—ethnic foods
Purchasing certain items at ethnic markets can often result in remarkable
savings. It’s best to go into any new store with a good idea of what a comparable
product would cost elsewhere. Just because the Asian market offers spices, water
chestnuts, bean sprouts, and bamboo shoots, for example, doesn’t necessarily
mean they’ll be sold at a bargain compared with the cost at your discount
Groceries—generic and store brands
Some store-brand grocery items are exactly the same as the more expensive
brand-name version. By law, certain items, such as aspirin, baking soda,
cornstarch, honey, molasses, peanuts, pecans, salt, sugar, unbleached flour, and
walnuts, must be exactly the same content and composition, regardless of
packaging or quantity gimmicks. Always buy the lower-cost generic brands
when buying these items.
Groceries—haul in with a trash can
If you find it difficult to carry all of your groceries at once and end up making
numerous trips from the car to the house, buy a trash can with wheels and load
your groceries into it. You can just wheel it right into the kitchen.
Groceries—lists, arrange by store layout
Arrange your shopping list according to the general layout of your supermarket.
You’ll save steps and cut down exposure to impulse items.
Groceries—lists, make them when you’re hungry
Make your grocery-shopping list at home when you are hungry. You will be
more creative and thorough.
Groceries—loss leaders, rain checks
When the supermarket sells out of the loss-leader items (those items the store
has priced below their costs to get you into the store), always ask for a rain
check so you can still buy them at rock-bottom prices when supplies are
Groceries—loss leaders and sales, menu planning
Take full advantage of the store’s loss-leader products, and design your weekly
menus around the weekly grocery store sale ads.
Groceries—meat for the freezer
When you purchase meat that you intend to freeze, slip it into one of the free
plastic bags from the produce department before you put it into a resealable
plastic freezer bag. This way you can reuse the expensive resealable storage bag
again and again without having to wash it out or worry about bacteria. There is
no need to label the bag because you’ll be able to see the label through the
Groceries—meat near sell-by date
The marked-down price of meat that has a sell-by date that will expire soon can
be dramatic. The meat is still good, but if you can’t use it on or before the
expiration date, freeze it immediately and use it within 3 months.
Groceries—meat pricing
When buying meat, bear in mind that an expensive lean cut may be more
economical than one that requires you to throw away excessive bone, gristle, or
Groceries—milk and produce runs
When you need to make milk and produce runs between your regular major
shopping trips, but you are tempted to turn the trip into an excuse to stock up on
impulse items, make a precise list and engage the services of an errand runner,
such as a responsible teen.
Groceries—perishables in no-spoil quantities
When shopping for perishable foods, buy only amounts that can be used while
they are still good. Buying in larger quantities just because you get a low price is
no bargain if you end up throwing part of it away.
Groceries—price book
Keep a price book that lists the prices of regularly purchased items at a variety of
grocery stores in your area. Refer to it when you see specials or ads to determine
whether or not it’s really a bargain.
Groceries—price by volume
When you buy iced-tea, lemonade, or fruit-juice mix, figure cost not by weight
but by the per-quart yield the whole container will make. Packaging on these
types of items can be very deceiving.
Groceries—produce by the bag
Buy produce in a bag for the best value. Watch out: Often the bruised and
spoiled fruit will find its way into the bottom of a bag. Pick out the best bag and
the heaviest one. Weigh a few before you decide.
Groceries—produce straight from the farm
Find a farmers’ market. You can buy locally grown fruit and vegetables at great
prices. Some areas hold these markets only in the warm months; in other areas
they’re held year-round.
Groceries—produce weigh-in
Prepackaged produce must have a minimum weight as printed on the packaging.
Not all potatoes are created equal, however, so a 10-pound bag may weigh 11
pounds, and a 1-pound bag of carrots may weigh 1.5 pounds.
Groceries—products shelved high and low
When grocery shopping, look high and low. Usually you’ll find the lessexpensive
store and generic brands at the bottoms and tops of the shelves. The
higher-priced name brands are conveniently located at eye level—yours and
your children’s.
Groceries—reduced prices
Search for bargains in the day-old baked goods, dented can, and meat-that-isabout-
to-expire bins. You have to be careful, but as long as the cans are not
bulging or leaking and the end dates meet your approval, go for it. Also, look for
generic and off-brands for additional savings.
Groceries—shelf-life expert
Become a shelf-life expert. Buying in bulk will do you no good if you end up
throwing most of it away due to spoilage. Some things last indefinitely, while
others spoil, even if frozen, after a certain period of time.
Groceries—shop during off-hours
Shop midweek and during off-hours. Typically, store sales and double-or even
triple-coupon savings occur midweek. Also, there’s less distracting hustle and
bustle early or late in the day or at mealtime, which allows you to do a more
efficient job of shopping.
Groceries—shop for less than 30 minutes
Plan ahead and know what you’re going to buy so your grocery-shopping trips
will be short and sweet—less than 30 minutes if at all possible. If you linger
longer, it will cost you. Market surveys indicate that shoppers spend an extra 50
cents each minute for every minute over 30 spent in the supermarket.
Groceries—shop in smaller stores
Many large grocery stores do not have the best prices. Check the smaller
independent markets in your area and do some price comparisons. They may
have fewer choices, but they may also have lower prices and shorter checkout
lines. Many small markets also accept manufacturers’ coupons.
Groceries—shop less often
See how long you can go between grocery-shopping trips. Start by doubling the
time between trips. If you go to the market every day, stretch it to every other
day. Once a week? Shop after 2 weeks next time. You’ll waste less, use less, and
spend proportionately less.
Groceries—shop only with cash
Grocery shop with cash only. You will be a much more careful shopper knowing
you can’t go over your limit because you don’t have a checkbook, debit card, or
credit card to fall back on.
Groceries—shop the perimeter
Concentrate on the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the center aisles.
Around the outside is where you’ll find healthier food with the least packaging
and processing: produce, meats, fish, and dairy.
Groceries—spices and herbs
When purchasing spices and herbs, first check your health food store. Many
carry spices and herbs in bulk quantities, and you can measure out and purchase
as much or as little as you like. Don’t buy more than you know you will
reasonably use in the next 6 months.
Groceries—stop impulse buying
When you pick up an item that is not on your grocery list, place it in the child’s
seat of the shopping cart. Just before checking out, reevaluate the budgetbreaking
items and make yourself put all of them back except for one item.
That’s your reward for controlling your impulses in the grocery aisles.
Groceries—vacuum sealing
If you buy large quantities of staple items, consider investing in a vacuumsealing
machine. But don’t buy one unless you’re sure you’ll use it.
Impulse buying—count the cost
Ten dollars here, 20 bucks there doesn’t seem like it will make much difference
in the long run. But if you spend $20 on impulse items each week, that’s $1,040
a year. Little things do matter, and when it comes to spending impulsively, they
matter a lot.
Impulse buying—let someone else care for “your” stuff
A little attitude change will allow you to thoroughly enjoy lovely things but
leave them in the stores. Let someone else dust, polish, and care for them. You
can visit “your” stuff whenever you like and change your mind without
Impulse buying—shop only by plan
Stop shopping. Shopping often means strolling through the mall when you have
nothing particular in mind to buy, simply looking for great bargains and things
that happen to strike your fancy. That is a very dangerous thing to do. I’m not
suggesting that you never again buy anything, but instead that you spend only
during a planned act of acquiring the goods and services you need and not make
spur-of-the-moment, impulse purchases.
Impulse buying—shop only with cash
Retailers are keenly aware of the statistics that prove you will spend at least 30
percent more if you are in the store with a credit card, debit card, or checkbook.
The last thing they want is a customer who carries cash. Why? Because the cash
buyer is cautious and less impulsive.
Impulse buying—shop when you’re short on time
Do essential shopping when you don’t have much time. If you have too much
time to browse, you’ll be tempted to buy impulsively.
Impulse buying—use a wish list
If you struggle with the “I wants,” create your own wish-list system. As you
think of things you want, write them on your wish list and date the entry. Then
keep your wish list with you at all times. The rule is that you must leave the item
on the list without purchasing it until it has been on there for 3 months.
Periodically review your list, especially when you add some new gadget to it.
Surprisingly, your level of need for most of the items diminishes to the point that
you’ll no longer even want it. Any item that remains after 3 months indicates
that the item deserves further consideration.
Impulse buying—wait 24 hours
If an item costs more than the amount you set ahead of time, wait 24 hours
between the time you make a decision and actually make the purchase. More
times than not you will change your mind, which means you will have avoided a
needless purchase.
Layaway plans
Many stores offer layaway plans. This is a great way to purchase something over
a period of time without incurring debt. As long as the store holds the
merchandise until you make all of the payments, it’s not a debt, because you can
change your mind and get a refund. Layaway forces you to save for things
before you purchase them.
Limit your shopping time
Is it hard for you to stick to a time limit when shopping? Buy a small oven timer
and set it to the desired time you wish to spend shopping. Stick it in your pocket
or purse, and when the timer goes off, it’s time to go home. Or you could set an
alarm on your cell phone or watch.
Mail-order shopping
If you love mail-order shopping and find yourself going nuts with the orders
even though you’ve been disappointed in the past with all the junk you ordered
that you neither wanted nor needed, here’s a tactic to help curb the urge and
actually trick yourself: Take great pains and enjoy every moment of studying
your favorite catalogs and websites. Fill out the order form or load up your
“shopping cart,” being careful to select all the items you love the most and in all
the colors and sizes you desire. When you’re done, “save for later” or prepare
the form for mailing, write the total amount on the outside of the envelope, and
then purposely set it in a place you will see it often. Leave it there for a full
week. By the time the week has passed, give yourself a little test: Without
opening the order form or catalog, or returning to the website, can you remember
what you ordered? Probably not, so it doesn’t matter anymore. Throw it in the
Major purchases—plan carefully
A major purchase deserves careful planning. Break down the cost of the item
into a monthly sum you can put aside over a period of time. Example: If you
want to buy a new sofa, put pictures of the one you like on your refrigerator and
in your checkbook. Determine the amount you will spend and how much you
will put into a special account for this purpose each week or month. If your goal
is firmly planted in your mind, you won’t feel deprived when you give
something up to keep making those savings deposits.
Major purchases—save first, spend later
Instead of putting larger purchases on credit, save first. Once you have enough
cash, make the purchase. Amazingly, by the time you save up the money, you
may change your mind a dozen times. You might even decide you no longer
need or want it.
Off-season clothes—stock up
Seasonal items (such as swimwear, coats, and boots) are often cleared out at
phenomenal prices, so if you can handle the thought of buying snow gear in the
spring, go for it.
Sales—beat the rush
If a sale starts on Thursday at 9 a.m., there’s a good chance that if you walk in on
Wednesday afternoon, you’ll get the sale price.
Salespeople—get friendly
They usually know when things are going to go on sale. Ask, and then be willing
to wait.
Many retail stores equipped with checkout scanners have store policies that say
you get the item free if the price is scanned incorrectly. Stay alert and watch the
prices being scanned. If you see something that doesn’t look right, speak up.
Curiously, each year overall scanner errors in this country register in the millions
of dollars, to the benefit of the retailer.
Cut subscription costs by using the buddy system. Find a friend or relative who
enjoys a similar magazine or newsletter that you do. Each of you pays half the
cost and shares the publication when it arrives each month. Enlarge your group
to five: Subscription rates are split four ways, and the fifth person receives the
issues last. Instead of participating in the price, the fifth reader becomes the
librarian—cataloging, sorting, and storing the publications for the group.
Look through the wholesale listings in your local Yellow Pages or online for
items that you buy frequently or in bulk, such as pet food, paper and party goods,
and garden supplies. You’ll find that many wholesalers sell their wares to the
public but don’t advertise.
Work in retail
If you are looking for a job, either primary or one to augment your present
income, consider the advantage of working in a retail store, then carefully
choose the store. By selecting one in which you already shop, not only will you
make extra money by receiving a paycheck, you will also almost always receive
an employee discount on the products you would be purchasing anyway. A 30
percent employee discount is not unusual. And remember, that’s 30 percent off
the lowest sale prices, too, which can translate to some healthy bargains.

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