Are you a smart shopper?

Follow these shopping tips to get more from the money you spend.
Nicole
You want to make the most of the money you have, right? Even if you have tons of shopping experience, we have some tips that could help you shop smarter.
Justin
The little stuff you buy everyday can really add up. Check out these ideas.

Smart shopping tips

Here are some shopping tips to help you get the most from the money you spend.

Instructions: Click on each tip to learn more.

At the store

  • Resist impulse buying (such as gaming systems or TVs).
  • Ask yourself: Do I really need it? Do I need it today? What if I don’t buy it now? Can I do this at a lower cost?
  • Limit the cash you carry.
  • Shop with your spending plan in mind.
  • Avoid ATM fees by using your bank’s ATMs.
  • Watch for sales, wait for the right price, and look for coupons and rebates.
  • Shop for value.

Food shopping

  • Save money by eating at home.
  • Make a shopping list for the grocery store or commissary.
  • Watch for sales and coupons.
  • Buy products you use frequently in large sizes or bulk quantities.
  • Don’t go food shopping when hungry.
  • Consider buying generic instead of name brands.

Credit card tips

  • Limit the number of credit cards you have.
  • Avoid having a monthly credit card balance greater than 10% of your monthly net income.
  • Don’t make the mistake of using credit cards to buy things you really can’t manage.
  • Don’t drown yourself in credit card debt! See the topic All About Credit to learn more.

Cell phone tips

  • Shop for a package deal.
  • Watch out for high text messaging and data charges.
  • Read the contract before you sign.
  • Ask questions; make sure you understand all features and fees.
  • Keep track of your usage.
  • Pay your bill on time and in full.

Take advantage of discounts

Military member holding sign that says 'Military Discount Available'

  • Members of the military and their spouses are eligible for many benefits and discounts at stores and restaurants.
  • Research the benefits and ask stores what discounts are offered to military soldiers and their families.
  • Some grocery and drug stores offer savings cards for customers.
  • Some stores and businesses offer their employees a special discount on merchandise. You might consider getting a seasonal job at a store where you plan to do your holiday shopping, for example.

Skip the rest, save for best

  • Consider skipping a few low-cost purchases you could do without in order to save for one item you really value.
  • For example, trade-off your next few purchases of jeans and t-shirts to save for one nice outfit, or skip your visits to fast food restaurants in order to afford one dinner at a top restaurant.
  • Bypass small luxuries (like fancy coffees and movie rentals) for a few months and use the money to help you afford one great travel experience.

Find a creative way

Think about ways you might be able to obtain something you want at a lower cost or even for free. For example, you might be able to see a play or hear a concert by volunteering to usher. Or you might get some friends together in order to qualify for a volume or group discount.

Avoid high-cost, short-term loans

Avoid high-cost, short-term loans on your paycheck (payday loans), car title (car title loans), or income tax refunds. These loans typically have high interest rates and fees. Some payday loans may have automatic rollovers, which increases their costs and disguises the fact you are paying more interest on these loans over time.
 
Two strategies can help you avoid these services. First, put a portion of every paycheck into a savings account by using direct deposit or automatic transfer. If you consistently build savings over time, you will have a ready resource for unexpected expenses. Second, talk to your banker about short-term loan or line of credit options that may offer lower-cost alternatives to payday and car title loans.
 
Note: Not sure where your money’s going? It’s easy to keep track of your spending: keep your receipts and review your monthly statements. Check them both against your spending plan. Also you can ask your financial institution if they offer online tools to help you track expenses.
 
Learn more about creating a spending plan in this topic.
 
For more information about buying on credit, see the topic All About Credit.

Click the Next button for advice about major purchases.