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Since admitting to my shopping addiction, in my article “Are You a Shopping Addict? Identify Yourself!” I have agreed to shop smarter, learning to save money to improve my finances.
With this in mind, I started a list of things I already do to smart shop.
- Go to yard sales for needed items
- Go to goodwill and thrift Stores instead of buying new
- Shop online
Having started with these, I felt relatively sure I was saving money. I decided to start collecting receipts and writing down itemized lists for every purchase.
After a month, I did a spreadsheet and realized I was spending more than my car payment and over half of my home loan on shopping in a one-week period. I looked around my living room; what was I spending it all on?
I went online and found some articles to help me curb my spending appetite.
First, I gave myself a weekly shopping allowance of $150 a week. Then over at USNews I learned 4 searching for savings strategies found on online forums for people like me.
- Fatwallet frequently posts unadvertised deals.
- Shopping daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social have every kind of deal from shoes to electronics, to dinner reservations.
- Websites such as Ebates.com, Upromise.com and Extrabux.com give cash back by funnelling your shopping through their sites.
- Using shopping apps let you scan a bar code and compare the price of an item to compare the price at the store or online to see which way is cheaper. This is a useful app around the holidays when it will save you both time and money.
I tried all of these methods plus my own ideas of keeping receipts and keeping my allowance for one month.
The allowance was hard to stick to, but I was able to, and in the first month, I had saved over $500 of my usual monthly shopping while still feeding my addiction.
This was a success for me. I decided to look online for more shopping and saving ideas.
I found some new tips with the excellent Good Housekeeping magazine who recommended some ideas that were, I thought, pretty savvy, and included one of my tips that I was already doing: saving receipts.
Seeing that they were thinking similar to me, I looked at their other suggestions.
- Google the person or company you are purchasing from.
- This should have been common sense, yet I hadn’t thought of it. It’s so easy to check with the Better Business Bureau Website to find out all the information of a company.
- Once the product arrives, use it.
- Return policies and warranties start from the first day you receive the product so the longer you hold on to it, the longer you are running out the warranty.
- Read Contracts Carefully!
- Make sure you read everything – even the small print … especially the small print! You may be signing up for a plan that lasts longer than you want. You may be paying for service charges or extra taxes. Can you freeze your account?
One more site, realsimple.com, had a few more terrific ideas for me to add and try.
- Keep track of your regular items and their prices and sizes. Companies will frequently change the size of a product but leave the price the same, making the company a little more money. Always compare shop sizes vs. prices.
- Choose shopping buddies intelligently – if your friends have a higher spending budget than you, find a different way to spend time with them, they will easily help you spend your money while spending theirs as well.
- A picture is worth 1000 T-shirts – when you go on vacation, instead of spending money on little tokens to remember your vacation, use your phone and take 1000 pictures. This way is far more cost-effective to capture those memories, than to buy a trinket that at some point is bound to get lost, broken, or very likely thrown away.
This month I added these ideas into the smart savings plan and see what kind of savings I had earned and whether they had improved my finances anymore.
I would add my grocery allowance for the week to my spending allowance since I was keeping track of grocery sizes and prices, so that made my weekly amount $250- $100 spending allowance and $150 grocery money.
At the month’s end, I was astounded! In groceries, I spent only $525 for the entire month, so I had money left over. That has never happened before!
I had scrutinized over every item for the best-priced item, used coupons, and was careful not to buy things we didn’t need.
With my personal allowance, I ended up having leftover money as well. I felt a little deflated like I had let myself down.
However, I was able to use all of these tools and spend only $400, and I found such treasures as Jimmy Choo shoes at a yard sale and a new Keurig coffee maker online for almost half off its normal price. I hit the jackpot and was a financial genius to boot.
Readers, I ask, are you using any of these tools when you go shopping? Are there any other tips that help you become a financial whiz while still being a shopping addict? If you can think of ways to add to my list, please post. I would love to hear your thoughts.