One of my goals this year was to cut back on frivolous spending – something I’ve been thinking but doing nothing about for a long time. After all, I’m a girl who loves shopping, be it online or at the mall, and the thought of not being able take part in my favorite past time in downright depressing.
However, I, like most of you, am not made of money, and as a person obligated to pay off loans and such, I think it is important to take better control of my well-earned resources. This is not only responsible but also a form of self-respect, so it’s important to me to give this task my finest efforts.
So are there ways to use my money responsibly, but also still enjoy shopping and the fun that entails? The answer is: Yes! In fact, down below are five of my tried-and-true ways to still enjoy spending without spending quite as much.
1. Unsubscribe from EVERYTHING
Hold up. Say what now?
This is the most tedious of my money-saving methods, for sure – but it is also the most important. Simple marketing strategies use the power of suggestion to sell products, which is, at the most basic level, putting an object in front of someone and hoping that they’ll want it enough to buy it.
I can think of plenty of times when I’m reading a book or watching a show and someone mentions food, and just like that, I’m ravenously hungry. The amount of times I’ve been at the movie theater and needed a soda simply because the people on the screen were drinking soda are uncountable. Sometimes just seeing an image of something (albeit an image of something which is extremely doctored up) is enough to spark a craving powerful enough that we have to have that thing right now.
An easy solution to this is to unsubscribe from every marketing team that has your email.
This is not a fun thing to do. Going through your email and social media accounts and taking their sometimes numerous steps (often numerous, because companies don’t want you to unsubscribe from their marketing emails) to get them out of your inbox can take time many of us don’t want to spend. But if you’re really serious about saving some dough, I recommend this vital step.
It stops you from receiving ads, of course – but what it really does is stop you from seeing things and wanting them on an impulse. It’s easier not to impulse shop when you’re not anywhere near a store, even an online one.
Although it’s good to stay connected to stores you visit often (see #2 for more on this topic) limiting these stores to ones with necessities will keep you from buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have. Trust me, if you suddenly have an urge to buy new shoes or designer coasters or whatever else you fancy, Amazon and other stores will still be there waiting with open arms.
2. Connect with stores which offer you necessities (and only necessities)
Big chain stores like Kroger and Costco often have apps and email lists for loyal customers, and while I usually shy away from letting big companies into my inbox, there are a few exceptions.
In all honesty, I live by Kroger’s Click List feature, because a.) it saves me a lot of time when I’m doing my grocery shopping, and b.) it limits my impulse shopping because I only buy what I know I need, not what I see in various isles as I’m going through the store. Again, the goal here is to limit contact with marketing strategies which play to our weaknesses, and using features which allow us to filter out everything we don’t necessarily need can help to keep us from buying them. Oftentimes just seeing something in the store will make us think that we need it, but how can we need something we don’t know about it?
Another good thing about connecting with places like supermarkets is that many of them, including the two listed above, offer rewards and discounts to loyal customers. My Kroger Plus Card gives me discounts on gas and in-store items, and points add up over time to give me other offers which I wouldn’t get at other stores. And you know what? They have a feature on their app which turns off notifications, so I only shop when I need to, and not when I feel the urge to shop on an impulse.
The best thing about this, however, is that when you get to know a store really well, from the website to the layout, you can begin to predict when sales will be and this can also help you plan your shopping. I do a lot of my holiday shopping after the holidays, because January is the season for cleaning out stock, and I can simply put a lot of decorations and cards and other non-perishable items away for the next year. Places like Target, too, (heaven forbid, Target – my ultimate weakness) have a routine markdown schedule which I have memorized. When I need something, I know I can go in on a certain day of the week and find exactly what I’m looking for in the clearance rack, because I shark those stores like a money-saving pro.
3. Create a Budget Plan and STICK TO IT
It always surprises me when I find out that people I know don’t have a budget plan. My biggest question is: how the heck do you know where your money is going? Without a budget, I feel as though I would go broke in about a week – so how do other people do it?
No matter your philosophies on budgeting, there is one overarching truth: your finances will be better when you have a budget. Period. However, there is a caveat here – they will only be better if you stick to your budget NO MATTER WHAT.
Many people don’t know how to budget, and that’s okay. In the beginning, I certainly didn’t. So I picked up a few books, watched a few seminars, took a few online classes, and got educated!
There is certainly a lot more for me to learn about the magical world of finance, and I do not claim to be an expert here. I speak only from experience. That being said, my budgeting philosophy is very straightforward: the simpler the better.
In determining my budget, the things I look to put into my budget are the things I value most. Out of every paycheck, I put money into savings, tithing, and various spending categories – you read that right – SPENDING CATEGORIES. Because shopping is important to me, I put it into my budget.
Oftentimes, I start budgeting for certain events months in advance. I’ll start my Christmas budget in January. Birthdays and spontaneous gifts get a little boost as well a couple weeks before the day. That way, when the time for shopping arrives, I have plenty of room to spend some money and not feel bad about it.
My favorite part of my birthday is my annual shopping trip with my best friend – the part where I say I buy things I don’t need with money I don’t have – but that’s no longer true. Because this trip is REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME, I make sure that it finds its way into my budget months in advance.
However, this doesn’t mean that I go spending willy nilly. I give myself a spending limit, and I make sure that I note this is my budget as soon as it is spent. The bottom line here is that I’m honest with myself about my finances, and I do my best to stick to the definitions I’ve created for myself.
My budgeting app, if you’re curious, is a completely free, wonderful app called bookipi and it allows me to create my budgets exactly as I have described above, as well as follow them with ease. I highly recommend this app for anyone who struggles with budgeting as I do.
4. Limit shopping to specific days of the week or for specific occasions
You’ve probably picked up on a theme by now: spending is okay, but with boundaries. As with budgeting, you also need to make sure that you don’t go blow your entire budget all at once, because you’ll need something to live on.
That being said, my method is to limit the days that I shop to a specific day of the week – mainly Sunday, unless something in my schedule goes horribly wrong – and I only go once a week. I try to get everything I need for the week in that single trip, saving money on gas for my car, as well as stopping me from having multiple entries in my budget for the same week in that same category.
Usually my Sunday shopping consists of groceries – I get weekly perishables, such as milk and eggs – but also follow a carefully constructed meal-prep plan, which I will share with you in a later blog post (yay!). I try to keep stock in my home of things that I’m going to need, and if I can stretch the use of my resources out until the appointed day, I do.
Another thing this does is help me to use the things I buy. Instead of wasting food because I didn’t know I had it, I’m able to use up things before they go bad, and it also makes my favorite day of the week, leftover day, interesting – because I can eat up anything that I didn’t finish before Sunday, when I go grocery shopping. This keeps my stomach happy as well as my wallet – and who doesn’t love that?
5. Use your resources wisely – there are more of them than you know
Finally, we come to the part where I discuss a very simple, very obvious technique, but one which is sadly overlooked by many people all the time. Of course we want to use our resources – that’s the point of this entire blog post – but what does this really mean?
For some of us, this means couponing. Not me. I don’t like couponing. I don’t like clutter from magazines and newspapers, and since I don’t get newspapers delivered to my home, I’d have to go out of my way to find them. This is extremely non-appealing to me, and I’m sure that there are plenty of others who can sympathize with me here.
Instead, I play to my strengths. What resources do I have readily available to help me save some dough? Well, part of that is my intellect – I’m a smart person who likes to plan and schedule and prep things in advance. This I can use to my advantage when planning shopping trips and grocery runs, as well as in other areas of my life.
I also love to utilize my smartphone, and though I discourage subscribing to emails and other forms of marketing bombardment, as stated before, I do encourage connecting with stores you visit often and downloading their apps. Discounts, discounts, discounts! (For more on this smartphone topic, see this post).
However, there are more ways than that to utilize your money-saving superpower, such as visiting new stores and comparing prices to favorite stores, trying store brands over name brands, and a million other resources which will appear to you if you simply keep your eyes open (and which, I think deserve yet another post). My efforts to save cash have manifested in three key philosophies, and which, if that’s the only part of this which you take away from this post, will help you immensely:
- Be aware of marketing strategies of stores and companies, and use these to your advantage.
- Avoid shopping without a plan at ALL COSTS. No planning = spending more $$ than you need to
- Be smart about your spending – don’t shop places simply because that’s where you’ve always gone, or because it’s where everyone else goes.
Hopefully, there are a few essential nuggets of wisdom which you’ve managed to take away from this post, and I hope that you are able to use these to your advantage in the future. Happy money-saving, everyon!
Did you enjoy this post? What other ways can help save money? I can’t wait to hear from you!