Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Saving Money On Shopping
The one good thing about a down economy is that you can find lots of bargains on just about everything you need (or want) to buy in life -- groceries, household supplies, clothes, sporting goods, cars, appliances, multimedia, even entertainment and restaurant meals. And you don't even have to spend hours clipping scraps out of the local paper to save -- thanks to the internet, there is no good reason to pay retail for ANYTHING anymore!
Pinch That Penny Until It Screams
I come from a long line of serious penny-pinchers. But if you think that you have to clip coupons to trim your budget, think again -- all you have to do is realign the way you view shopping, spending, and saving money.
- plan before you shop (impulse buys will kill your budget faster than anything -- if you go to the store to buy bread and milk, don't come home with fried chicken, chocolate cake, and a bottle of wine, too! -- if you want to prevent a bigger-than-expected bill at the checkout stand, then you've got to avoid "browsing" -- know what you want before you walk in the front door and keep your eye on the prize -- only visit those sections of the store where the items on your list are located, move purposefully, and try not to be distracted by "sale" signs -- planning ahead also means scouring the internet or newspaper for deals BEFORE heading to the store -- make sure you've got a system for storing and organizing your coupons, one that is portable and that you keep either in your purse or in your car -- it does you no good to remember that you found $1 off of that item in the Family Circle that week, if you've left it at home on your kitchen counter)
- harness the power of the internet (you can also save tons by signing up for programs like Restaurant.com, Entertainment.com, and Groupon -- however, maximizing these deep discounts requires that you remember to look for and print out their certificates in advance -- just be careful about loading up on deals you THINK you might use, then allowing them to expire before you can cash them in -- I find that the best approach is to have a system for locating savings -- before I do anything costing money, whether it's eating out or visiting a museum, getting the oil changed or replacing a toner cartridge, I check my discount sites -- I also visit the actual company/store website, and perform a general internet search, as well -- and don't forget to look for coupons through your AAA membership, credit card, or professional association -- you never know who's going to be offering a special that week)
- shop smart at the supermarket (grocery stores are scientifically designed to make you spend more money than you intend -- name brands are placed right at eye level, while off-brands are hidden away on higher or lower shelves -- but it's worth the search to find a generic version whenever possible -- ironically, you're actually getting the exact same product as the big brands, for as much as 50% less because you're not paying for the advertising and flashy containers -- another grocery trick is locating more expensive foods at the heart of the store, while cheaper bulk items are shoved way off along the perimeter -- to save money, stick to the outside ring of store, where the fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy reside -- and when you do have to visit the interior for a package of pasta or some disinfectant, try to avoid all those pre-packaged meals and snacks -- "convenience" foods will burn a hole through your budget in no time!)
- be an opportunistic shopper (smart savers are flexible shoppers, willing to bend their needs to match what's on sale -- so if you had originally planned to make spinach lasagna for dinner, but it turns out that spinach is regularly priced and eggplant is half off, you might consider eggplant parmesan instead -- substitution is king! -- pay attention to the sales in the grocery store circular, because those usually emphasize deeply-discounted items that they are overstocked on and need to clear out quickly -- but of course, only take advantage of store-provided coupons and specials when it's something you needed anyway -- supermarkets are notorious for providing a "sale" on a more expensive name brand item, which ends up being more costly even after the discount that if you had just bought the generic version)
- look at unit price, not total price (when comparing different brands and different sizes of the same product, it can be hard to tell which is the best bargain without a slide rule, scientific calculator, and advanced calculus degree! -- so the way to get the best deal is to pay attention to "unit price" -- this is the one constant in grocery store mathematics, how much that item costs per ounce or pound or piece -- fortunately, most stores now provide this information right on the sign for that product, so it's easy to see whether buying a different brand or a larger bulk size container is going to save you more)
- comparison shop (the difference in price on the same exact product from one store to the next can be staggering -- companies count on the fact that you will be too busy to shop around, that you'll be willing to pay a bit more to run all your errands in one place -- but it's usually a lot more expensive to buy food at a drug store and household cleaners at the supermarket, than if you got each at a shop specializing in that category of product -- and don't forget the power of the internet when it comes to comparison shopping -- if an item costs $40 in the store, you can probably find it for half price or less on Amazon or Ebay or some other discount site that has lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar retailer)
- stock up (shopping in onesies and twosies is almost always more expensive than buying in bulk -- purchasing larger quantities of just about anything, from spaghetti to ball point pens, toilet paper to motor oil, will cost you less per unit -- if you don't have the space to store a case of canned green beans, or you can't eat 15-pound slab of salmon before it goes bad, find a few friends to split the deal with you -- just be sure to evaluate that unit price before you buy, especially when shopping at the warehouse clubs -- some items are a good deal, but some are actually more expensive than if you bought a smaller quantity elsewhere -- another way to stock up is to take advantage of seasonal sales, like back-to-school, Black Friday, inventory time, and after the holidays -- load up on school supplies for the next year or holiday decorations or household staples when they are marked way down)
- loyalty pays in the end (as long as there are no annual fees, customer loyalty clubs are a great way to either save money on your purchases or earn cash back for shopping with a particular merchant -- some stores have even started marking their products up higher for non-club shoppers, so they can offer deeper discounts to those with the magic membership card -- it's a little bit disingenuous, but you might as well take advantage of the disparity!)
- barter is smarter (whenever you can trade for the products and services you need, you'll almost always come out ahead -- folks are willing to offer more generous "packages" when there's no exchange of cash to deal with, no sales tax to charge, and no paper trail for the IRS to follow -- if you don't already sell something that you could offer in barter, think about using your talents creatively -- you might help your chiropractor's office with filing in return for adjustments, or stuff envelopes for a mass mailing your gym is sending out to pay for your membership fee -- you could provide home-baked refreshments at your hair stylist's open house as a swap for a free cut and color -- you could even offer babysitting services to your favorite cheese shop owner if she'll keep you in brie -- everyone has something of value to offer others)
- used is the new "new" (while of course, you probably don't want to be shopping for used underwear or yogurt, there are very few other consumer goods that you have to buy new -- and while I'm a big thrift-store girl, I'm not suggesting that you have to shop at the Salvation Army to get a deal either -- consignment stores carry top-brand clothing at a fraction of the cost -- plenty of electronics stores resell used movies, music, and video games -- Craigslist, Ebay, and even the Amazon marketplace can be great resources for bargains on sports equipment, appliances, computer equipment, tools, toys, anything you can think of -- and, of course, this rule goes double for vehicles -- new cars depreciate by as much as half the minute you drive them off the lot -- buying a good 1-year or 2-year-old vehicle will save you a ton -- if you're concerned about possible problems, shop with a certified reseller that offers a warranty)
- sell or trade first (quite often, we buy new things to replace old things without getting rid of the old things first -- Matt and I have developed a "one-in/one-out" rule -- for example, if he's going to get a new video game, he has to trade in an old one at the same time -- we do this with books, music, movies, and sports equipment -- not only does it keep clutter away, but we can apply the trade credit toward the price of the new item -- and if you can't find an establishment that will take your used items, consider a yard sale or posting it on Craigslist)
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posted on: 7/19/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Simplify Your Life
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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