If there's one word that would describe me, it would be frugal. I've been a bit of a penny pincher for as long as I can remember. I remember stashing any dollar I'd get in an envelope taped to the back of my headboard when I was a kid. There was something so painful about spending money. In my eyes, very few things were worth me giving up my dollar for. It was never a love for money, so I never proactively pursued it. In fact, I didn't have my first job until I was 18. But knowing that those incoming dollars were few and far between meant I did my best to hold on to them.
Years later, not a thing has changed. Very few things that are short of necessity get my hard earned dollars. It's not often that I frequent shopping centers or online stores, but when I do, it's usually just to peruse and occupy time. In those few times that I do shop, I have one mission: Get what I want at the lowest cost possible. I must say, I'm pretty successful at this. So, here are my top five tips for shopping on a budget.
- Shop clearance. I can only recall one time that I've not shopped on clearance for clothing. Even for that anomaly, I tried to return the dress once it went on sale to get the difference. Here's my thought: if it goes on sale, it can't be worth the original asking price. I will never understand paying full price for something that will eventually go on sale. It's like a car-- it depreciates in value. Playing the game of "when it goes on sale" has its inherent risks. There's the obvious risk of them not having your size or it selling out. In either situation, I consider it not meant to be. On to the next one! Next time you're in the store, check out the clearance section. You'd be surprised at what you'll find among the hodgepodge of pieces.
- Shop online. Though there are very few things that I feel comfortable buying without trying on, I've become an advocate of shopping online. Basic items like T-shirts, camis, sundresses, and under garments all fall into my online shopping category. I'm an advocate for online shopping because it provides the opportunity to use rebate programs like Ebates, where you get a percentage back from your purchases. In less than a year, I've received ~$80 back from purchases made during my wedding planning through Ebates. Online shopping also allows you to combine discounts that would otherwise not be allowed in store.
- Use gift cards. I am the queen of using gift cards for purchases. Over the past few years, I can probably attribute three shopping trips or relatively big buys to my own personal funds. Obviously, you can't go around just asking people for gift cards, but on those special gift receiving occasions, it's ok to express that your preference is a gift card. Most people would probably prefer this over buying a gift anyway, considering its significantly less hassle. My job has non-cash rewards that can be used to get gift cards from a large selection of stores. I've been completely blessed to receive several of these over time. Once I've decided what I want to buy, I just select a gift card from that store to make the purchase. If the gift card amount can't cover the total cost, I'm ok with paying a small amount out of pocket. An example is only paying $10 out of pocket for a Fitbit HR. Win! This rule applies to makeup lovers as well. I'm a MAC girl, but without gift cards, I'd likely not buy many products. Fortunately, our local MAC is housed within a department store. So if I get a gift card for that department store, I can use it for my makeup purchases.
- Shop quality over quantity. I've already established the fact that I don't like to spend money, so if I'm going to spend it, it has to be on something that will last. Invest in quality, durable material that will last for years. This doesn't mean expensive. I've seen some pretty poorly made items marked up to be extremely pricey. You can find quality pieces at discount stores like TJ Maxx or Steinmart. When you buy quality items that last, can be dressed up or down, and will still be fashionable regardless of the latest trend, you are able to shop less and save more money in the long run. I still own and wear jeans from when I was in 8th grade. Yes, 8th grade!! Quality matters.
- Use coupons. This is the most obvious one of them all. My favorite app when it comes to shopping is Retailmenot. Not only do I use the app in store, but I ALWAYS use their website when shopping online. Combined with Ebates, it's like online shopping paradise. It's a quick way to check for sales and coupons right on your phone. I've even used coupons with items that were already on red dot clearance. Listen Linda, I do not play! Hey, clipping the coupons in the mail still works, so don't be shy about doing it. Another easy way of getting coupons is signing up for the stores email list. Yes, they're annoying, but there are the rare occasions when they give you some great deals.