I Got It From My Mama

Growing up, I loved shopping with my mom. She and her best friend would take me with them whenever they went to Sims, TJ Maxx, and the outlets. They taught me how to look for the best bargains, but emphasized that quality always outranked quantity. Thanks to these fantastic women, I have an eye for sales. Not just clothing or shoe sales, but groceries too. One lesson that my mom taught me is to always watch the screen when a cashier is scanning your groceries. I used to get embarrassed when my mom would say “excuse me, but this rang up $4.99 and the sign on the shelf said $3.59,” but as I got older, I came to admire her gumption. Many stores will give you the prices listed on the shelf, and some stores will even give you the item for free if it scans incorrectly. Mike and I went grocery shopping a while back to buy chicken for him, and the massive package we were purchasing scanned incorrectly- you better believe that I said something, and the store gave us the chicken for free!

The price of the item is not always the best price to look at, either. My mom taught me to look at the unit price (usually the price that’s on the left) instead of just the price. This is very helpful in determining how much bang you get for your buck. I wanted to get some shredded wheat yesterday, and saw that one of the name brands was on sale. I checked out the unit price and compared it to the generic brand, and saw that the generic brand was still cheaper per pound! Just make sure that the unit prices you’re checking are consistent. Some list their price per pound, some list the price per ounce, and some list by 100 count.

photo cred: tradingupdowntown.com

Being conscientious is extremely important, especially if you’re like me and are a grad student who is tight on cash. One of my New You Solutions is to be a better shopper. It is very rare that I buy anything other than groceries or gas, but even with those, I want to be able to leave the store saying “that was money well spent.” It is very easy for me to walk into Trader Joe’s, Target, or J Crew (swoon!) and convince myself that I need all of their new and/or seasonal items. A new cardigan here, some fancy black licorice there- this unfortunately adds up very quickly and could leave you with the dreaded feeling of “buyers remorse.” This is where my “money well spent” motto came in. I never want to leave a store again thinking about whether or not I should have spent money on something. To ensure that I’m saving the most money I can, here are a few steps that I take.

For grocery shopping:

1.  Always look at the weekly circular before you go to the store. If you don’t get the circular in the mail, all stores have their circular posted on their website. You can check the sales with those items on your shopping list and stock up when prices are low. You should also have discount cards for those stores that you frequent the most. I have discount cards for all supermarkets and chain drug stores within a 10 mile radius of my apartment. Unless you’re going to a store like BJ’s or Costo, discount cards are free and very useful.

2. As mentioned above, always always look at the screen when your items are being scanned.  It may seem trivial, but it all adds up in the long run.

3. Again, I mentioned above that you should be comparing unit prices, not just the sale prices. It’s good practice.

4. Coupons are your friend. You can find coupons online, in the newspaper, and sometimes in the store circular. Every little bit counts, right?

For clothing shopping:

1. If you can avoid it, don’t shop retail. As I said, I am a big advocate of quality over quantity, but that doesn’t mean that I drop a lot of money on good quality clothes. I am a big fan of Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, because they have designer clothing for a fraction of the retail price. If you have any outlets around you, that is another great place to find deals. The first place I go to in a clothing store is the sale rack. Check for signs, too. Some stores have signs above their sale racks stating that everything is an additional % off, which is always a plus

2. Shop online. This can get sticky because you aren’t able to try on the clothing that you want to purchase. Fortunately, most stores have very good customer service and return policies, and you can either mail back your purchase, or return it to a store that’s near you.

3. Sign up for a store’s mailing list. I’m sure nobody wants their inbox to get bombarded with more emails, but many stores send out coupon codes that you can use online, or coupons you can use in the store.

What are some tips that you follow to save money? We’d love to hear from you! Comment or email us at apositiveregard (at) gmail (dot) com

–Ariel

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