Trying to save money when shopping often means spending a lot of time instead. If you don’t like to shop or if you don’t have time to go from store to store, here are seven ways to shop thrifty without spending all your time.
1. Shop with a list. Obvious? Yes, but it’s still true. Making your list ahead of time helps prevent guesswork and trips back to the store for something you forgot. If you keep to the list, you can avoid making impulsive buys.
2. Buy quality. Some may say that being frugal means paying the lowest price, but I think it means getting the best value for your money. Quality items work better and last longer. You can buy one great pair of shoes to wear for years instead of going shopping to replace them every season. Sure, there’s a time and place for temporary purchases. But in general, having fewer, better things means you spend less time to maintain and replace your stuff.
3. Know your brands. It’s good to compare prices, but sometimes you need to be able to choose something quickly. If you know which brands are usually the best deal, then you have a better chance of getting a value even if you don’t stop to compare prices that day.
4. Shop at discount stores. Instead of waiting for the sales, shop at places that always offer discounted prices. Stores like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx offer everyday discounts on apparel and household goods. You can browse the entire home furnishing department in just 10 minutes if you are looking for something in particular. The trick is not to get sidetracked by what you don’t need.
5. Let the internet work for you. Even when shopping locally, I first look at Amazon or Epinions to check prices and product reviews. Are you waiting for the right price? Amazon offers an RSS feed if you want to find sales on specific items. Craigslist lets you subscribe via RSS to be notified of new posts matching your specific search (an RSS link is in the bottom right corner of the search pages). I try to take advantage of free shipping offers to save a trip to the store.
6. Check the store’s return policy. If you don’t have time to shop, you definitely don’t have time to deal with a difficult return policy. Ask if you need the receipt, how many days you have, and if you can receive a full refund instead of store credit in case you return the item.
7. Stick to the plan. Department stores put the men’s section on the first floor by the door. They understand most men just want to buy something fast, and not wander around the store browsing. Let that be your strategy. Choose a time when the store won’t be so busy (not Saturdays), and then go. Don’t get distracted by other good deals — only come home with the item you planned to buy.
I used to go from store to store to find the best prices, but with the expense of time and gas, I don’t do as much comparison shopping as I used to. Especially for groceries, I do more shopping at only one or two stores. Have your shopping habits changed? What do you do?