I used to think I was resourceful with money. Today, however, on a shopping trip with two girlfriends, I caught myself wondering if I was just plain cheap. Standing in the outlet for a high-end children’s clothing store, I was wincing at the thought of paying $12 for a new sweater for my son (original retail price: $35 USD). $12 would have been a great deal to me just a few years ago, but since I’ve recently become an aggressive saver, it now seemed like too much to pay.
Here are some of my tips for making the change from spender to saver:
- Buy second-hand. You can score amazing deals on name brand items if you buy them used. I buy lots of goods second-hand and save SO much money that way. I got a like-new, low mileage, previously owned car last year and saved about $10,000 off what it would have cost me had I purchased it new the year before. I also buy most of son’s clothing at second-hand stores, getting things like Ralph Lauren polos for $3 and Baby Gap jeans for $5.
- Buy discount. For those items you need (or prefer) new, hit up discount stores such as Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc. You can score some high-quality items at reduced prices – I just bought a necklace at Nordstrom Rack that retails for $250. The price I paid? $40.
- Buy real estate. That probably sounds crazy right now, but if you can afford it (and are stable in your job), now is actually a good time to buy. Interest rates are low, as are home prices, and the federal government is strongly considering increasing the first-time homeowners tax credit from the current $7500 to $15,000. Additionally, the government is considering turning this interest-free loan into a lump sum that would not need to be repaid. As in, free money.
- Buy in bulk. I don’t clip coupons, nor do I make a shopping list before I head to the store. Instead, I simply shop based on what’s at a good price when I go and stock up on items I know I’ll use. Try to avoid the multiple trips to the grocery store each week – you’ll spend more that way. Also, pay attention to the unit price of an item (usually listed in the corner of the price label) and buy it in whatever size it is the cheapest (but buy multiples of that size). The largest size is usually the cheapest, but not always. So check.
- Bring lunch and drink office coffee. This one has saved me nearly $3,000 per year. A morning latte ($3) and a sandwich for lunch ($7) doesn’t seem like a lot until you look at what it’s doing to your budget on a yearly basis. I switched to drinking coffee in the office (unlimited refills!) and bringing my lunch – anything from leftovers from the night before to macaroni and cheese with frozen edamame.