Minimalist Tips: Seven Strategies for Saving Money on Items You Need
Before My Person and I buy anything, we consider several questions to determine whether or not we really need the item.
- Do we have anything else that can do the same job or serve the same purpose?
- Do we really need this item or do we just want it?
- Is this the best price for this item?
- How many hours will either of us have to work to pay for this item?
- Is this an item we need for a long-term purpose or could we borrow this item for short-term use?
- Do we have to buy this item new or would a used version be fine?
And this strategy is great when we're considering appliances, clothes, entertainment options, and any number of other items for around the house. But we're going to need toilet paper. And soap. Toothpaste is always good.
And to buy these necessities, My Person and I have a few strategies that we employ to keep us focused.
1. We avoid going to stores and the mall.
I know this suggestion appears on many minimalism posts out there, but there's truth here. If I'm not at the mall, or Target or The Container Store, then I'm not looking at colorful displays with their clever product placement. I'm not being lured in by the enchanting music. I'm not putting myself in a position to be romanced by consumerism.
2. If we have to go to any store, we have a list.
We do not deviate from the list. Seriously. This rule is one that we enforce on ourselves because we recognize how much money can be wasted when you just shop and browse. We use Evernote to keep track of various shopping lists.
If we see something that we think may be useful that is not on our list, we'll take a picture of the item and place that picture in one of the shopping lists. We don't impulse buy.
3. For the stores we visit, we spend as little time in them as possible.
This strategy involves knowing the layout of our regular stores. Usually, I write our list in the order in which we'll move through the store. Then we're less tempted to wander down aisles that hold nothing we need.
If we're going to a less frequented store, we ask the greeter or another employee where the item is located. Target the aisle. Go straight there. Avoid everything else.
4. For Target, we compare their store price to their online price and we use the Cartwheel app.
While Target often has deals on free shipping for online orders, they also honor their online prices at the customer service counter. We have found any number of random items on sale for less online. Saline solution. Paper towels. Acetaminophen. We've even found toys and games we were purchasing as gifts for less online. We take the items to customer service, tell them that Target.com is selling the same items for lower prices. The representative may or may not look up the items to verify the pricing, but since we're being honest, we get the savings either way.
As we fill the cart, I scan every item with the Cartwheel app. I'm not inclined to search the entire Cartwheel app for every deal, but I am willing to keep the app open as we shop. My Person scans the item quickly. If there's a deal, great. I add it to my Cartwheel barcode. Since moving back to Tucson, we've made one trip to a SuperTarget. We saved $21.48 on MaraNatha Peanut Butter, Gevalia K-cups, Organic butter, and Listerine.
5. Since we use Amazon regularly, we pay for PRIME.
The $99 annual fee is well worth the price since Amazon and Amazon-backed vendors have competitive prices.
But here's the true deal. Amazon is constantly playing their delivery vendors against each other. They're logistics lunatics! And that works in our favor.
Since we buy any number of household goods from Amazon, their delivery system is bound to fail at certain points. If we were supposed to receive an item in two-days and nothing shows up, My Person writes a quick complaint email and our Prime membership is extended by a month. Generally, we pay the annual fee every 15-16 months.
If you're willing to take a few minutes to advocate for yourself, the fee for that PRIME membership seems much more reasonable.
6. We buy in bulk.
I'm not talking CostCo or Sam's Club. Those stores make me shudder. I'm not a fan of walking through such organized chaos. Just more temptation to buy stuff I don't need. And with Amazon PRIME, I don't need to pay extra membership fees for warehouse clubs.
But I do like to grab a deal. I shop around and compare prices a lot. When I see a deal, I buy in bulk. As minimalists, we have a decent amount of closet space. So if there's a great sale on products we use all the time, I'll buy a year's worth.
Sometimes more. Currently, My Person is kidding me about the trash can liners I bought on Amazon. Apparently, he thinks it will take us over a year to go through 270 liners. Okay. He's probably right. But I know exactly where the liner stash is housed and now I don't have to worry about that item for quite some time. We may have enough liners to make it through the zombie apocalypse!
7. We don't rush to use gift cards.
Since most gift cards no longer have expiration dates, we're in no hurry to spend that money. Okay, if someone gets us a gift card to Starbucks, that puppy will be used pronto! We are a pro-caffeinating couple.
But cards to Macy's? or REI? or iTunes? We double check that there's no expiration date, but then we save those cards. We don't feel compelled to visit Macy's just because we have $50 to spend there. We wait until one of us needs something and then we put the $50 card to good use.
We consider gift cards to be mini-savings accounts. And if you get a gift card for a store where you don't shop, swap with a friend. Or even a stranger. There are a few different websites that allow you to trade in gift cards you won't use. As a teacher, I've never had to use any of these sites. Typically, I can swap out oddball gift cards with colleagues.
Those are the big seven strategies we use to save money on those items that even minimalists have to purchase. What strategies do you use to save money on everyday supplies? Please share in the comments below.