Shopping Doesn’t Have to Make You Feel Guilty
We all have guilty pleasures, and for most of us, it could be simple things such as fast food, ice cream, watching a horror movie, going out to bars, and…shopping. But, why is it that shopping and spending money has to be a guilty pleasure, and not just an enjoyable past-time that requires little to no effort to save money? Why does shopping have to make us feel so guilty? The reason is simple:shopping can easily leave you in debt if taken too far, and requires a little bit of work to maximize deals. Think of those extreme couponers, people that could help you as much as hiring a life coach when it comes to saving big on huge purchases. Their methods of extreme couponing can lead some of these folks to even have money owed to them by their grocery store! However, the methods of extreme couponing are tedious, require hard work, and can have you wishing you were receiving dental care rather than shopping (ouch).
Luckily, shopping to save money doesn’t have to be as grueling or as time consuming as extreme couponing. All it takes is a trained eye, easy and quick internet searches, and knowing when to shop in order to get the most deals all year round. Here are five tips to help you get started on your journey towards saving the most money on the most necessary items.
1) Go Grocery Shopping Using Rewards
Of all the things we enjoy shopping for, food is the one thing we feel less guilty about. The reason is simple: we need food to survive. Because of this, grocery shopping can take up a big amount of your paycheck if you’re not carefully budgeting and doing the most to save money. Luckily, there is a way to maximize off of your everyday grocery purchases through rewards programs. Though 85% of shoppers made the decision to purchase their items by reading product packaging, an even easier decision for purchasing would be seeing if it’s on sale and part of a rewards program. Virtually every big chain store in America, from Ralphs, to Vons, Pavilions, etc., have a rewards program where all you have to do is sign up, get deals, shop, and gain rewards points that can later be used for things such as gas.
Surprisingly, most people don’t feel they want to sign up for a program due to thinking it costs money, will be a hassle to sign up for, or has no benefits. None of these are true, as most grocery stores allow you to sign up fairly easily, within one to two minutes, and list their member price versus the regular price on virtually every item in the store. Though you could shop at cheaper markets that don’t offer rewards, such as Aldi’s or Food for Less, it’s better to save money while buying items on sale and still get extra rewards points that can stretch out your dollar even more.
But why stop at grocery shopping? Tons of chain restaurants like Chick-fil-a and even coffee shops like Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf all offer rewards programs that give you free food, and sometimes rewards out of the blue, the more you purchase and eat. If you visit a restaurant or coffee shop on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to ask about rewards programs and save money while enjoying your meal.
2) Save Money on Owning a Home
After you finish grocery shopping, you’re going to want to bring all those groceries into a great investment and the second most important thing to buy: a home. Buying a home sooner rather than later is the best move for those looking to make the most out of their income. In fact, it is hardly ever better to spend your hard-earned money on paying rent that has no value than paying a mortgage. The sooner you buy a home, the sooner you can stop wasting valuable income towards the black-hole that is rent.
However, don’t jump the gun too soon and start shopping for a home without doing the most research on money saving ideas. Though you might want to buy a home based on purely its architectural design, or its gorgeous high ceilings, or the huge front lawn, buying a home needs to be a carefully planned and researched shopping experience in order to save you the most amount of money, and give you the best real estate investment possible.
For example, look to start buying a home in an area that is near, rather than inside, of an up-and-coming community in order to save 20-30% on your home. You will find that your home value will still appreciate, and your investment won’t have you feeling guilty.
Besides the location in real estate, another money saving measure you can take is looking for ways to lower your real estate agent’s standard commission. This commission usually takes up about three percent of your home costs, but certain real estate programs can cut this commission percentage in half, saving you even more money. In addition, another way to save money is by negotiating closing costs that can cost you tens of thousands of dollars when sealing the deal while buying your new home. These closing costs can include anything from lender fees and title fees, attorney fees, escrow fees, interest on home loans, termite inspections that could lead to fumigating, radon testing, the list can go on if you find yourself buying a home that’s a fixer-upper as well.
The closing costs for any home are negotiable, however, and can add on additional savings that you can use for anything, like that new home theater installation you’ve been envisioning in your dream home this entire time. You’ll find that living in a home where you can easily put down a 20-30% down payment, has the right location, and didn’t cost you thousands in closing costs will be a much more guilt-free purchase, and prove that shopping doesn’t have to hurt your bank account.
3) Research and Cut Costs on Childcare
Besides food and home-buying, another big and necessary expense most adults will face is that dealing with childcare. Child care can include anything from health insurance, school, after school care programs, extracurricular activities, and clothes among other things. The good news is, you can start saving money on virtually all of these things by simply doing shopping research before purchasing. For instance, health care for children is now virtually law in the United States. In certain states such as California, Medi-Cal and Medicare programs can save you hundreds of dollars a month if you qualify for their insurance. Another option is to look for places of employment that not only offer insurance for you, but your family as well. Family health insurance plans can still be cheap and affordable, but you must make sure to ask future employers about premium rates, and don’t be shy about it. These insurance programs are competitive among employers, and can make or break their staff.
In addition, save money on child care and after school programs by shopping around, getting referrals from other parents and quotes, and even by signing up for new daycares that offer savings on yearly memberships rather than paying month to month for child care. Or, you could simply rely on family if no other options are a good fit, or even day-care programs at local colleges and places of work dedicated to helping give care for those that otherwise couldn’t afford expensive options. Visiting local mother’s groups on Facebook can give you great insight as to the what the best, and most cost-efficient options are for daycare shopping.
4) Do as Many DIY Projects as Possible
As we mentioned earlier, you can save money shopping by shopping for the right things: in this instance, do it yourself tools. This doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, or even impractical. Save the ac repair to the professionals, and try to shop for items that can help you, for instance, do your own t-shirts and print design. Or, plan a design addition to your home and have your kids help out using second-hand furniture and paint supplies to redecorate. With sites such as Pinterest, Youtube, and the internet as a whole, do it yourself projects can not only be fun, but can save you money and make you feel less guilty when shopping around for fun ideas.
In this DIY category, you could also fit cooking, which can save you a huge amount of money and can be a great overall activity for you and your family. A plethora of information on the basics of cooking, pre-made meal design plans that are delivered to your doors, and the aforementioned grocery shopping savings call all contribute to saving costs when it comes to cooking time.
5) Don’t Just Look for Food Deals on Groupon
Finally, the modern equivalent to our old shopping coupon books is the ever growing and increasingly beneficial deal giant, Groupon. Groupon, and other apps like it, are getting more and more attention from shoppers that want to save money not only on meals and restaurant deals, but also save money on things such as changing their car oil, changing their tires, and even buying toys and other items.
If you don’t already know, Groupon is an app that allows you to purchase deals ahead of time, and use them for a variety of things such as half off a dinner for two, 20% off a trip to the museum or the zoo, and other deals that can help you plan a date night. All you have to do is download it for free, make an account using your e-mail, and set up your credit or debit card information to make purchases. The app itself is free to use, but keep in mind, that certain Groupon deals you get might not be able to be used within the first 24 hours, so it’s essential that you shop for deals ahead of time and while they’re still hot. Your purchased deal will then be e-mailed to you, and you simply show up to the restaurant, museum, etc. and show them your Groupon number.
When shopping on Groupon, it’s different than saving money on big websites such as Amazon. Not only is it more convenient to get very specific deals, but also,because apps like Groupon often include deals from small businesses such as mechanic shops, beauty salons, even doctor and dentist appointments that all want to bring customers in by offering deals. And even if you purchase a Groupon deal, and reach your set amount of deal purchases, there is a waiting period before you can start saving money and buying deals again. Splurging while saving money, and even picking a new hobby such as fencing or horseback riding, doesn’t have to be a luxury anymore with online apps and a plethora of deal websites online to take advantage of.
Never Stop Looking for Deals
More important than saving money by looking at deals, is having the mindset that shopping, even for necessities, is a responsible past time. Though you can use these tips and make a great home purchase, buy the right food, the right insurance plan, and plan your trips to the mechanic with more savings, the important thing is to never stop researching deals in order to save you money. When you stop researching and start shopping without taking full advantage of all the resources out there to help shoppers and bring customers in, then it becomes a waste of valuable savings. Among other things, always have a plan B when shopping and not finding the right price, visit different retailers during different times of the year such as spring, winter, or summer for season clearances, and ask around for deals that can continue to help save you thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, over your shopping experience lifetime.