12 Shopping Tricks to Keep You Under Budget
Emily H. Bratcher
Use these tips to stay under budget.
What do inflation, interest rates, gas prices and groceries all have in common? They’re all high. With many goods and services costing more these days, your money has to stretch further to pay for everything you need.
That’s why you need a few good shopping tricks to stay within your budget. Shopping experts Gigi Lehman, editor of LivingOnTheCheap.com, Trae Bodge of Truetrae.com and John Schmoll, founder of FrugalRules.com share their tips.
Buy in season.
Trying to keep your wardrobe updated with new, in-season fashion apparel can cost you. But when it comes to produce and products, purchasing what’s in season can save you money. “One way to save on produce is to buy what’s in season: watermelon and berries in summer and citrus in winter, for example,” says Lehman. “Even nonperishable products are seasonal. For example, summer products include condiments, barbecue sauce, hot dog and hamburger buns, sunscreen, adhesive bandages and antibiotic spray.”
Stock up during sales.
Everyone loves a good sale. If there are items that you regularly use – for instance, a certain kind of toothpaste or cleaning product – buy them when they’re on sale, and try to stock up on them. Lehman calls this practice “strategic shopping.” “Ideally, you’ll purchase these staple items in large enough quantities to last until the next sale,” Lehman says. “If done correctly, smart shopping should save you more than buying at full price with coupons.” It might seem like you’re spending more in the short term, but you’ll save money over the long haul.
Be patient on the big items.
Good things come to people who wait. When it comes to purchasing a costlier item – for instance, a mattress or an appliance – Bodge recommends waiting for a sale period like the Fourth of July weekend, Amazon Prime Day or Labor Day weekend to snag a great deal. “If you have something specific in mind, you can also use a deal site like Slickdeals.net to set a ‘deal alert’ for that item,” she says. “When that item goes on sale, you’ll automatically be alerted and you can make your move. I’ve used this tool to save on things like a new fridge, a laptop and Apple Airpods.”
Be smart about travel.
With high gas prices, surges in hotel rates, rising restaurant prices and airline delays and cancellations, travel costs a lot these days. Consumers have to weigh the desire to get out of town with the desire to stay under budget. For that reason, Bodge has some very direct advice: “My advice is to get out there and do things but avoid any big trips and events until the prices come down. And when you do purchase these things, use a card that has great rewards.”
Search for the best gas prices.
With gas prices so high, Bodge highly recommends doing some cost comparisons. “This is not a time to stop at the first gas station you see,” she says. Instead, she says to use an app like Google Maps, Waze or AAA to find nearby gas stations and compare their prices. “Google Maps is my go-to: I just realized that it will map out the most fuel-efficient route for you. Look for the little leaf,” she says.
Fuel up at the club.
If you don’t have time to compare gas prices, there are other ways to save money at the pump. For instance, if you have a membership at a warehouse store like Costco and Sam’s Club, why not fuel up your vehicle after you shop for all your bulk goods? You’ll save a bit of cash for each gallon you pump at these clubs since gas savings is one of their benefits, according to Bodge.
Buy and freeze your food.
Another good way to stay under budget as you shop is buying and freezing food. Sometimes grocery stores buy too much of a certain product, and they’ll slash prices to move the inventory (rather than holding on to it at a higher price and letting it all spoil). For instance, Schmoll says his family cashed in on a sale of bone-in pork shoulder at Costco. “We bought a couple, chopped them up, and put them in our freezer, and we’ll be able to use them in the upcoming months.”
Plan a meatless dinner or two a week.
Making a lentil soup, a PB&J or a plate of beans and rice for dinner once or twice a week for dinner can conserve some cash and help you stay under budget. Meat comprises some of the costlier items on your grocery list, so skipping the chicken, pork or beef in lieu of a $1 bag of beans, lentils or rice will help free up some money.
Stick with a list.
Try to make a shopping list and stick with it, and you might be surprised how much money you can save simply from avoiding impulse buys. Schmoll says: “Going in with lists are great because it’s so easy to see something you didn’t think of and buy it, but then later wonder, ‘Did I really need that?’” Right now, with elevated prices, he says consumers are going to feel those impulse buys all the more.
Negotiate your streaming service subscriptions.
During the pandemic, many people stacked up the subscriptions, from Netflix to Disney+, Hulu to Amazon Prime Video. But those subscriptions add up month after month. Schmoll says now is the time to rethink those streaming service subscriptions. “The beauty of streaming services is that you can cancel them or you can pause them,” he says. “We’re huge college football fans, but during the summer we don’t watch it, so we can pause that streaming service and reallocate that money in our budget.”
Make and stick with your budget.
To be under your budget while shopping, you’ll need to make a budget in the first place. Compiling an estimation of your income and expenses over a certain time period and reviewing it on a regular basis goes a long way to keeping your spending in check. There’s not a lot consumers can do about rising prices and interest rates, but they do have control over how they adapt to them via cutting costs or finding ways to earn more money. “I’m a huge advocate for budgets, and I think right now it’s even more important – and it’s often what gets overlooked,” Schmoll says. “It’s not a cure-all, but it will stretch your money further.”
Get help from apps.
There are apps for just about everything now – some of which offer great value when it comes to personal finance topics. For instance, there are apps for budgeting, apps for overspending and apps for wealth management and more. Schmoll relies on the CapitalOne Shopping app, which helps shoppers find deals, earn rewards and even automatically adds coupons. “Both my wife and I work from home, and it’s way too easy to do online shopping,” Schmoll says. “But even if it’s a few dollars back or a small percentage off, I’m a big believer in using apps.”