Married to the Empire

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Income 101: Shopping Strategies

The budget has to be trimmed in order to keep one spouse at home. Bargain shopping is part of the game. How this is done will be different for every family, as there are several factors to consider. For example, I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and we have a plethora of stores from which to choose. Those in more rural areas will likely have a harder time finding bargains and may have to figure out other money-saving strategies from what I'll present here.

Here is what works well for me:

My #1 tool for bargain hunting is my subscription to The Dallas Morning News. Seriously. In addition to the news and comics, it's filled with ads and coupons. I'm alerted to sales and can often find coupons for percentages off total purchases. This came in very handy last year when we needed to get a new suit for Steven. Sometimes there are special offers in the newspaper bag, such as the recent coupons for a free Starbucks iced coffee and a buy-one-entree-get-one-free card for Peiwei.

Speaking of coupons, I cut them out and squirrel them away. I keep an envelope full of coupons in my purse so I always have them on hand when out and about.

Match coupons to sales. I sit down with the grocery fliers that come in the newspaper every Wednesday, circle what we need, then match coupons to sale items. It's especially effective if the store doubles and triples the coupons.

Learn to stockpile. Learn prices of the things you use, then buy when prices hit rock bottom. I have a big shelf in our garage where I keep our extras. Stockpiling means going from store-to-store, which takes time, but it's so worth it!

Get on store mailing lists. This often nets me free gift cards/coupons. I will often use the $10-off-any-$10-or-more-purchase cards that come in the mail towards gifts or practical items we need like socks and underwear. Or sometimes I just use them for something frivolous. It's free money, so why not?

I also use craft-store coupons like mad. I rarely pay full price for any of my crafting supplies.

Check clearance or bargain sections of stores. I've found amazing deals and many gifts for people by doing this. Bookstores are especially great for this, I've found.

Shop outlets. I'm a preppy girl, and I like expensive clothes. I'm very fortunate to have a Talbot's outlet in my town. I rarely pay more than $10 or $15 for any article of clothing. Often, it's $7.50 or less. You'd never know how cheap thrifty I am by looking at my wardrobe!

Buy in bulk or in whole form, then divide or cut up and store yourself. I often buy meat in bulk, then divide it into smaller portions for freezing. I buy vegetables in their whole form (think carrots, celery, etc.), then cut them up myself. A bag of whole carrots is much cheaper than a bag of baby carrots. The extra work involved in prepping them myself is minimal.

Learn to use CVS and Walgreens. If you're not familiar with their savings programs, Money Saving Mom has great tutorials. I've never actually used Walgreens, but I love CVS. Many people who shop there work the system so that they constantly generate Extra Care Bucks and never pay much for anything. Personally, I buy only what we need and use. Choose the strategy that works best for your family.

Use credit and/or debit cards with rewards programs. This is a strategy that may not work for all families. If you use a cash-only system, this isn't for you. However, I like the ease of using cards. We get points with both our credit and debit cards, which can be turned around for gift cards or cash back. We put our recent roof and gutter repairs on our credit card, then paid it all off with the insurance money. We netted a lot of points with that, and I've already cashed some of them in for some gift cards.

Try thrift stores and garage sales. Admittedly, I don't do this one enough. But the few times I have, I've netted some amazing bargains. Meredith's blog is a great source of inspiration for this particular category.

Try Ebay. Great prices on new and used items. Plus, auctions are kind of fun, as long as you don't get carried away.

Know when to spend money. Sometimes bargains aren't always the way to go. For example, we use a very expensive synthetic oil in our cars. I never find it on sale, and it makes oil changes pretty pricey. However, the big picture is that it keeps our cars' engines cleaner and more efficient. Spending the money on this makes our cars less expensive to maintain in the long run.

Next up: What I Do All Day.


AnneK said...

One thing that I have found very helpful especially for saving money on groceries is having a weekly menu. That way, I only buy what I need and want and not impulse stuff. It helps me to be very efficient too. I have been doing that for many years now with occassional lapses.

AnneK said...

That should be months not years :)

Jill said...

I have been home for six years now. I have used most of your suggestions as well. I find that making a menu is the key to keeping our grocery bill low. My favorite places to shop are discount stores like TJMaxx and Marshalls. You can get some great deals on home item and storage there.

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

I'm loving this series! I linked it today! :)

Debbie said...

I am enjoying this series too. I often think that most peole would be quite surprised to know how much of my time and effort goes into running our family as frugally and as well as I can. I find it fulfilling but it is annoying when people think you are well-off or maybe just lazy! Thanks for the support.

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

Debbie, that's an excellent point! People wondered why I stayed home and what the heck I did all day, but running a frugal family takes *time* and people don't seem to realize that!

Ewokgirl said...

That's just it; it takes time to save money. It also takes time to make things yourself. I wouldn't be doing most of this if I was still working full time, especially as my job was one that involved taking my work home with me every single night. Anyone who thinks teachers only work from 8-4 is deluded.