When I started this blog. I decided that I will write about things related to online shopping and in particular will talk about how to save money while shopping.
While shopping related events and news come and go, there are certain fundamental ideas that never get old. This blog post pretty much summarizes the principles that I try to follow in my quest to smart shopping.
Don’t buy what you don’t need
The temptation might be high but the most important principle of my bargain hunting philosophy is not to buy stuff I won’t use. There might be exceptions, and that is if you are sure it will make a good gift for someone you know, or if you are confident you can sell it for profit on eBay. The general rule however is that before you buy that flash drive for $5 after rebate, answer to yourself, why do you need 3-4-5 of these flash drives?
Buy used if it makes sense
Buying things used actually satisfies two sides of me, one I save money, two I give the thing second life. This is especially true of books and toys for kids which I never buy new. Half.com is where I usually end up buying books and garage sales is the main source of toys for my kids. I have previously discussed this subject and you might want to take a look at my list of things you should never buy new.
Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk
This of course doesn’t apply to everything however there is a certain class of things you can buy in bulk and save. Paying $$$ up front might look scary to some but don’t let your feelings confuse you — use the math. Here are some things I always buy in numbers:
- napkins, toilet paper, paper towels
- toothpaste, toothbrushes
- canned food
Go DIY whenever it works
Doing things yourself might not always be the best option (check out the oil change discussion in the comments to this post) but there are many cases when it can save you money and you might learn something useful in the process. In addition there might be some other side benefits you didn’t expect.
For example I resist to the temptation to hire someone to mow my yard grass. I feel I need that bit of workout (applies to snow shoveling too). Also, I found I can save a lot by replacing the printer toner instead of entire cartridge, somewhat around $100 savings per fill up.
Consider hidden costs
Use your brains and view your new gadget or utility from all perspectives. If you buy a printer look at the per print costs. If you buy a car, consider insurance, maintenance, repair, and gas costs. These can be huge factors affecting the cost of ownership/use. This is exactly why I replaced my ink jet printer with a laser one long time ago, and why I switched to CFL lights as soon as I moved into our home.
Don’t run after the latest and greatest
I am sure many of you enjoy owning that latest gadget. This however may be very costly and if you wait a few months, the price may well go down by 50% or more. This is the nature of marketing. People want new stuff and merchants play on their feelings by jacking up prices. Resist the urge and wait it out. Buy two gadgets for the price of one later, give one to your younger sister/brother as a gift, and enjoy the feeling of giving!
Search and compare
I never buy a more or less expensive thing without first visiting a few other stores to compare alternatives. For online shopping, use this list of price comparison sites as a reference. For off line, call FruCall, or just visit a few competitors. Don’t go overboard though and weigh what is more important to you, the opportunity to save, or the chance of wasting time and effort.
Don’t forget to haggle
Remember that prices on big-ticket items are almost always negotiable. While there are some things we all know about (car, house, furniture) there are other things that are less obvious (bed mattress, household electronics). Here are a few haggling tricks to get you started. Negotiate your new car price via email if haggling face to face is not your thing.
Use credit cards with cash back
Credit cards with a cash back option are the easiest way to save while shopping. They require minimum effort and savings can be up to 5% on top of any other discount you find. Credit cards have been one of my favorite money savings tools. Read this blog post for an overview of how I use them.
The only challenge with credit cards is to remember that all your savings will evaporate if you don’t pay your balance in full. Once you get that part right — just rip the benefits. For optimal credit card rewards, make sure your cards are tuned up.
Visit deal sites
Once in a while I entertain myself or my close ones to a gift. Gifts are twice more entertaining if I don’t have to pay for them my arm and leg. Free gifts are especially enjoying. Deal sites is what I use for my gifts. I usually give them a visit once every other day and see if anything really hot pops up. In addition to deal sites from my monthly list I can recommend deal aggregators (reviewed here and here).
Read my blog
This list will not be complete without a shameless plug like this. ;-) I have been noticing lately that I use my blog as a reference to all things I know about online shopping and bargain hunting (well, this is one of the reasons why I started it). To organize things a little bit, I have collected the most valuable pieces in the Links section for easy reference. For other things I just use blog search.
What is your shopping philosophy? Do you have some bargain hunting tips you would like to share?