How to Save Money on Almost Anything You Buy
Spending less money on the products and services you use on a regular basis may seem like a small step toward financial independence, but the impact can drastically change your lifestyle—as long as you’re consistent with it. Imagine spending just 10 percent less on items in a given month; with the median household income around $59,000, we can assume monthly spending of $3-5,000 for most families, which would translate to $3-500 of monthly savings, or $3,600 to $6,000 a year. Over the course of a decade or two, smart investing could turn that into tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So what strategies can you use to save money on almost everything you buy?
Learn When to Splurge and When to Save
First, you should learn when it’s appropriate to splurge and when it’s better to buy less expensive products; in some cases, buying a cheap product can be more hassle than it’s worth. For example, buying a cheap mattress can lead you to sleepless nights, back pain, and other health problems that cost you far more than you’d pay for a better mattress. When it comes to your health and wellness, more expensive products aren’t necessarily better, but you shouldn’t intentionally spend less money if it’s going to result in an inferior experience (or expose you to specific threats). On the other hand, there are many areas where buying less expensive products makes little to no difference; for example, there are rarely significant differences between name-brand and generic breakfast cereals.
Find and Use Coupons
Next, work on finding and using coupons whenever possible. Coupons can be offered by a variety of sources, including the manufacturer of a product (like a toothpaste company) and the retailers offering those products (like a pharmacy or grocery store). In some cases, you’ll be able to use coupons from multiple different sources in combination with each other, resulting in heavily discounted—or even free products. It usually takes a few minutes or less to look for coupons for the products you need most, and they could save you a ton of money.
You can almost always save money by comparison shopping, on multiple levels. If you have a favorite brand of a given product, like food or a hygiene product, consider looking at other brands—they may be able to offer a similar product experience for less money. You can also look for your favorite brand’s products at a different store, where it could be offered for a lower price. A few minutes of research could knock several dollars off the total price.
Wait for Specials
Most products tend to fluctuate in price from season to season, as supply and demand change over time. For example, in areas with cold winters, lawnmowers and other yard-related items tend to be heavily discounted toward the end of summer, when the need for such items is waning but stock in stores remains high. During the winter holidays, consumer electronics and other popular gift categories tend to be heavily discounted to encourage gift sales. Sometimes, waiting a few months for the right time can save you a ton of money—especially on big-ticket items worth hundreds to thousands of dollars.
You’d be surprised how much is negotiable. At estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and other peer-to-peer opportunities, you can easily talk your way down to a lower price. You may even be able to negotiate rates for doctor’s appointments, and with other professional services. And if you’re willing to put in the time, you may be able to negotiate your credit card rates, or your loan payments. Simply asking for a better deal is sometimes all it takes to get one.
Trade In or Sell Old Items
If you’re buying something new, you likely have an older product that needs replacing. Instead of simply getting rid of it, consider trading it in or selling it. This is especially true for electronics, which still hold significant value, or other practical items with high resale value.
These strategies are meant to apply generally, so you can get used to using them in a variety of contexts, but there are ways to save money in specific categories as well; for example, you can save money on a home by buying smaller than you can afford and putting down a bigger down payment. You can also save money by buying fewer things in general, cutting down your entertainment budget or downsizing your lifestyle a bit. In any case, the combination of smart saving strategies and frugal living can, over time, make a big difference in your bottom-line finances. Don’t underestimate the power of these strategies.