Developing Money-Saving Shopping Habits
5 of 5 in Series: The Essentials of Reducing Your Debt
Don’t allow your shopping trips to turn into a spending frenzy. Many simple tricks can help you save money. Take time to think about how you spend. It takes about 12 weeks to develop a habit, and developing good spending habits requires focus, dedication, and persistence.
Prepackaged groceries generally cost at least twice as much as whole foods. For example, you can buy ready-to-heat twice-baked potatoes for approximately $1 per serving, or you can buy the ingredients to make twice-baked potatoes from scratch for less than 15 cents per serving.
Try to buy whole foods whenever possible: fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. If you’re limiting your fat intake, buy fresh eggs and discard the yokes (the fat is in the yoke). This approach costs you about half as much as the reduced-fat egg substitute in a carton.
You can reduce trash by minimizing your use of paper towels, disposable plates and cups, and plastic shopping bags. Instead, reuse cloth towels and durable plates and cups and take your shopping bags with you to the grocery store.
You can reduce the number of items that you purchase by sharing with others. For example, a rototiller might come in handy only once or twice a year, so instead of buying one, consider borrowing one from a neighbor or renting one.
The following are some other ways to keep your shopping expenses low:
Use a shopping list and purchase only the items on your list. Sticking to the list allows you to plan your expenditures and eliminate impulse purchases.
Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. People spend more and buy more processed — and, therefore, more expensive — food when they’re hungry.
Buy dry goods in bulk. Often (but not always), the more you buy, the cheaper the price.
Buy merchandise when it's going out of season. Buy next year’s winter coat or swimsuit at the end of the season, when they're dirt cheap. And when you’re shopping for clothes, buy wash-and-wear rather than dry-clean only.
Shop at discount stores. Deep-discount grocery stores can save you a lot of money.
Avoid brand names when a generic equivalent is available. Often, the generic form is of the same quality and can save you 50 percent over the leading competitor.
Use old-fashioned household cleaning products instead of expensive cleaners. Boric acid, ammonia, and vinegar can replace almost all household cleaners. A substantial supply of these cleaning products will run you about $3. Peroxide and baking soda are effective and inexpensive alternatives to toothpaste, tooth-whitening products, and mouthwash. A year’s supply of baking soda and peroxide sets you back almost $2. However, the equivalent store-bought products can easily cost more than $100 for a family of four.
Don’t buy items that you won’t use often. Sure, an item may be on sale, but if you don’t use it, don’t spend the money on it, no matter how great a deal it is.
Don’t buy impulsively. If the item you want to purchase isn’t on sale, try a 30-day cooling off period. After 30 days, if you still feel you must buy the item, you may return to the store and purchase it. Now the purchase is a planned expenditure and not an impulse decision. However, after a few days, the item is unlikely to have the attraction it originally had, and the hassle of returning to the store may be enough to deter you.