If you’re struggling financially, or just feeling more fragile about your future, you’re probably brainstorming ways to cut back on your expenses.
The U.S. inflation rate is going in the wrong direction again, eroding wages. Borrowing costs have spiked. If you’ve got federal student loans, you’re bracing for your first monthly payments since 2020.
And despite lots of mixed messages about the prospects of a U.S. recession — made worse by partisan bickering over how well or poorly the economy is actually faring — there are still plenty of warning signs flashing.
Depending on how motivated you are, there are tons of cost-cutting suggestions out there, for everything from setting a household budget to lowering energy use to cooking more at home. Even when you’re out shopping for everyday items, there are lots of ways to save money, and not just by getting things on sale or using coupons.
Here are five shopping tricks and tips you may not have considered before.
Think About Your Timing
If you’re like most of us, you’ve run into the grocery store to grab hot dog or hamburger buns for your last-minute barbecue plan at least a few times in your life. But do you go for the clearance section of the bread aisle? You should.
Bread and other bakery products that are closer to expiring are often marked down significantly in a special spot of the bread section, so if you’re eating right away, there’s no need to go with the full-priced versions.
Along the same lines, there is often a clearance section for other grocery items that may be closer to expiring. It’s always a good idea to scan this area for a beverage or a jar of baby food you can easily use sooner rather than later.
Don’t Settle When a Purchase Doesn’t Work Out
If your child’s water bottle breaks in the first week of school or your strawberries are really mushy, think about trying to get your money back.
Many retailers have more liberal return policies than we realize, so we may not be stuck with a poor purchase (and having to pay for a better choice).
Whether you’ve used a product already or not, don’t be afraid to speak up. You may still be able to get a full refund — not just a store credit — even without the receipt. Retailers like Walmart can track a recent purchase if you give them the debit or credit card you used.
Don’t Assume Bigger Is Always Cheaper
You’ve probably heard that buying in bulk is cheaper. That’s true in many cases, and useful for any family who can afford to buy ahead and has the room to store extra household supplies or non-perishable food.
But don’t assume this is always true. Some larger sizes are actually more expensive for the amount you are getting, or at least no cheaper than the smaller sizes. And with food, if you’re not saving any money, why not buy two smaller packages and keep one fresher longer before opening?
In some cases, that’s probably the most cost-effective thing to do even if bulk is a little cheaper: Not everyone is going to use up a giant jar of mayo before it gets old.
Luckily, there is an easy way to figure out which size is actually less expensive for what you’re getting, and it doesn’t require you to be good at doing math in your head. All you need to do is compare the unit price, which is usually right next to the retail price on the store shelf. Just make sure the units are the same. Sometimes stores like to mix things up, using both quart and ounce prices for milk, for instance.
Weigh Whether (and When) Brand Is Important
Most people know that generic or house brands can offer significant savings, though many still avoid them because they’re more sure about the quality of the name brand that they’ve come to trust. But discount stores like Dollar Tree have so many off-brand household and personal items that you are bound to find some you don’t feel is a risk. For instance, do you care what brand of birthday card or bleach you get?
If you don’t regularly visit a discount store with your weekly or monthly shopping list, you probably should. Besides the off brands that you may have no problem with, there are lots of name brands for items like toothpaste, over-the-counter medicine and soap.
Cash-back credit cards are a great way to earn a little extra cash, but not if the store or restaurant is tacking on an equal-sized fee for the privilege of using them. (Make sure to ask about fees when you hand over your plastic, because many places don’t tell you they’re charging more.)
If you are paying an upcharge, you may be better off paying in cash, especially if you’re trying to be more disciplined about spending. It’s often easier to part with money when you’re not forking over cold, hard bills.
Credit: Source link