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The Modern Shopper

When I was a kid, couponing was popular. But coupon-clipping is time-consuming and encourages me to buy items I don’t need, which can cancel out whatever savings have been achieved. Besides, the way we shop today is different than the way our parents shopped.

These days, we visit a greater variety of stores in any given month. We order online. We have more options for purchasing and receiving discounts on items than ever before. We also have more access to used items than in the past. With so much variety available to us on any given day, we have to use discretion and shop wisely if we want to save money.

Over the years, I have found that certain approaches to saving money on shopping make sense and others just don’t. When I employ specific strategies for certain types of items, the savings can be substantial. But I’ve noticed that the strategy that works for one type of item doesn’t always work for others. For example, some buying habits work well for non-perishable items, but they would lead to too much waste if applied to perishable items. Having more choices of where and how to shop can initially feel overwhelming, but when we parlay our choices appropriately, we can save a bundle.

Check out my top eight ways to save year-round and see if you can adopt any of these easy, money-saving habits into your shopping routines. Even one of them can save you a bundle over the course of a year.

1. Shop your favorite money-saving stores. We all have stores in our region where we would rather not shop for one reason or another. Besides, if you are like me, you want to be smiling as you save. You may also want to try a few samples, appreciate the company’s ethics and have pleasant conversations with store personnel and fellow customers while you shop. Which stores in your area save you the most money while providing a pleasant shopping experience? Take into account the stores that have the best prices for items you often purchase and make them your keepers. The more familiar you are with where you shop, the more you can save.

2. Join Amazon Prime. For a reasonable annual fee, you can get a lot of perks from Amazon. Free two-day shipping on eligible items to most cities in Canada, discounted one-day shipping, free standard shipping where one- and two-day shipping are unavailable and no minimum purchase. Whether you are shopping for yourself or for someone else, when you need something specific that is not a commonly-stocked item in your area, Amazon is your best bet.

3. Avoid membership warehouse pressure. Don’t you hate being constantly pressured to increase your membership fee at your local warehouse store? Me too. I don’t need any more of a temptation to overspend. Just visiting is tempting enough. But with lots of practice, I can now walk into my local warehouse store once or twice a month with a short list of items I know my family can consume before they expire and get out without things I don’t need. When I am not there to buy clothes, gifts and household décor, which is most of the time, I don’t even look at that stuff.

4. Get the best price on gas. Figure out where the best gas prices are in town and try to fill your car(s) there exclusively. If your pumps are a bit of a drive, hit the local station for just enough gas to get you through the day and then fill up at your usual station by day’s end. You can also download handy apps to locate the lowest priced pumps in town on the fly.

5. Buy generic when comparable. I just purchased a year’s supply of generic allergy medicine at the cost of a two-week’s supply at my local drugstore. With savings like this, you can’t afford to spend your hard-earned money on name brands. Often going generic can save you big money on over-the-counter medications, toiletries and other miscellaneous items where the difference from the brand name item is going to be imperceptible to you and your family.

6. Take advantage of used. If this has not already been established: I am pretty picky. So I am unlikely to buy any old thing second-hand just to save money. There are some items, however, that I actually enjoy buying used like books, movies, clothing, accessories, household décor, dress-up clothes, costumes and shoes.  I also like shopping vintage for everyday items and will opt for a beautiful old item when the newer, cheaply-made version of the product sells for essentially the same price.

7. Use online coupons. Any time you shop online, always do a quick search for online coupon codes to use before you check out. This is how that reasonably-priced black dress that your daughter needed for her choir uniform becomes an unexpected bargain. When purchasing large-ticket items, put in a few extra minutes into searching so you don’t miss out on any significant savings opportunities. Go ahead and give businesses you frequent your email address so you can get discount offers. But use a separate email just for newsletters in case your email gets compromised.

8. Consider frequent-buyer programs with dramatic savings. Go ahead and test-drive a bunch of frequent-buyer programs in your area until your wallet is bursting with cards. Then, after a year or so, winnow your supply down to those that save you the most money. For me, these frequent-buyer cards belong to my local pet store, my corner drugstore and our regular movie theatre.

Some people get a kick out of champagne; Christina gets  a kick out of saving a few bucks when she shops. But she  doesn’t want to make a lifestyle out of it and that’s where  habits come in handy. Her latest book is The Art Of Making Time For Yourself.

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