12 Smart Shopping Tips
Let’s admit it: Shopping is fun. With a few exceptions, almost everyone I know loves shopping. If shopping is listed as one of your “favorite pastimes” but you’re not being too careful with how you shop, it can quickly and easily transform into a major headache instead, especially where finances are concerned. As fun as it is, shopping is also expensive. Here are a few tips to help save you your money (and a headache) and to make sure you have an enjoyable and successful shopping experience from here onwards.
Written by Charlene D Albert, Mother of Two.
1) Budget, budget, budget.
Ah, the dreaded “B’ word! Probably the most obvious, but the hardest to do. A budget not only helps you determine how much purchasing power you have, but it also helps you come up with a few number of how much you can afford to spend on your shopping trips. Whether you use the old school way of listing everything down on paper, or the help of the many apps available on the market today, budgeting is one of the most effective ways to help track your spending. Crunch those numbers and after deducting all your expenses (rent, bills, etc) and savings, the numbers you’re left with is what you are left to spend for your other expenses, including your shopping sprees.
2) Make a list (and stick to it).
This is pretty self-explanatory but it’s very easy to spend on something unnecessary when you’re out shopping. I find myself going to the store to get “just milk” but come home with a bag of other things I had no plan of getting in the first place. Planning ahead and having a list in hand avoids unnecessary purchases as you go through the store and check things off your list. This is not only saving your money, but your time as well.
3) Cash is king.
This goes without saying but you are more likely to be extra careful with your money when you can see, touch or smell it! Conversely, it’s easier to overspend and go over your budget when it’s something you can’t. It also makes sense to bring only the amount of cash you are willing to spend. If you’re an impulse buyer and you don’t trust yourself with your spending habits, don’t be afraid to leave your debit/credit cards at home!
4) Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Or bored. Or lonely.
If you’re shopping on a full stomach, you won’t be as easily tempted to shop on “snacks” and other things you don’t need. You’d be surprised to know that studies have shown that our emotions can also influence our purchasing decisions. There’s a reason why some call it retail therapy! Hah!
5) Shop with a calculator in hand.
Maybe not literally, but make use of that calculator app on your phone 🙂 One of the things I do when I go shopping is keeping a tab of the things I have in my cart so I can see the actual numbers of what I would need to pay at the checkout counter. Every time I see it come up to a number that I am not willing to fork out, I force myself to go through the items in my cart and list them down according to priorities. The items are then regrouped into two categories: what I want and what-I-want-but-can-wait-until-next-time. Obviously only one group (the former) makes the cut in the end.
6) Bargain hunt.
Everybody loves a discount. This is especially true with big-ticket items like electronics items, cars, vacation packages etc. It’s tempting to go with the first deal you receive. Do your research and always compare before you make a final decision. Even if it’s RM50 cheaper somewhere else, that RM50 is still a RM50 note that you could have otherwise spent on something else. Even the smallest numbers can quickly add up before you even realize it.
7) In similar fashions, hunt for sales.
Is there a sale going on somewhere? Are there Buy One Get One (BOGO) offers that your friends know of? If you’re doing grocery shopping, items that are nearing their expiration dates are normally going to be clearance out. As long as you know you’re going to be using them soon, going this route actually works in your favor!
8) But don’t buy it just because it’s on “sale”
Remember that stores are just what they are – stores. They exist to “sell” and will sometimes come up with the craftiest gimmicks just to get their inventory going. Do your research. Some stores are notorious with hiking up prices before lowering them down then marking them as “sales”. Be diligent and don’t fall for the first thing you see. Don’t be seduced by the
S word easily. Remember – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!
9) Question or second guess yourself.
Even if you find something that is on sale, ask yourself questions – “is this something I am going to use/wear?”, “is it in the color that I like?”, “is this something I really need right now?”. If the price is the only thing that attracts you, there’s a good chance that it’s probably going to be sitting in your closet for the next few months or even years! Spending money on something you will never wear or use is never a good deal, no matter how cheap it was.
10) Buy refurbished/second hand.
Don’t be afraid to shop second hand! I have found many second-hand gems by doing exactly this. Join preloved groups and hit your local thrift store. If you can find a group of like-minded individuals, form a swap group where you can swap goods instead of buying. By doing this, you not only save your hard-earned money, you’re also doing the environment good by saving the raw materials, packaging and pollution that would otherwise have been created by producing that new item.
11) Rent (or borrow) what you will only use once.
If it is something you will only use or wear once for a special occasion, renting (or borrowing) from a friend or family member is the way to go. There really isn’t a need to buy a RM300 evening gown that you will only be wearing once for that one wedding you’re attending next weekend.
If you’re the creative/crafty type, then this would be right up your alley. Before running to the stores, see if it’s something you can make yourself. Not always, but more often than not, it costs a lot less to make something rather than buying something similar brand new. It doesn’t even need to be something you create from scratch. Need a new pair of shorts? Go through your closet to see if there is a pair of jeans from the good old days that you are no longer wearing. Here comes the fun part: get your scissors out and just have a go at it. I have saved myself the need to buy shorts by doing this for many, many years!
Whether you’re a student, a working individual, a stay at home parent, or simply a person who is looking to trim your bills, I’m sure you will find one (or more) of these tips useful. Just remember that what works for one person, might not for another.
Here’s wishing you a smart and successful shopping experience ahead!
Written by Charlene D Albert, Mother of Two.