A mom’s job as juggler-in-chief covers everything from cook to tutor to chauffer and accountant. In fact, mothers make most key spending decisions from basic essentials like milk, to seasonal necessities like Little League uniforms and back-to-school supplies — so there’s no wonder why you need to be sharp with your bucks. These smart shopping tips will help you keep a handle on household expenses and put your cash to its best possible use.
Trim the Fat
Chances are, you’re currently paying for something you don’t use, so examine your bills closely to see what’s expendable, like that landline that never rings now that everyone has a cell phone. Other ways a savvy shopper saves: Check if your power provider offers incentives for installing energy-saving light bulbs, and don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you see an advertisement for lower rates from a competitor, call your provider and tell them. Your cable company, for example, may offer to “bundle” your services into a money-saving package.
Those supermarket labels that list the price per count are there for a reason — to help you get more bang for your buck. Do the math to determine when it’s more economical to buy two 16-ounce cans of tomato sauce rather than one 32-ounce can. And while that 12-pack of toilet paper has its appeal, six rolls with double the sheets per roll might be a better buy. Similarly, concentrated detergents may seem to cost more but typically do a lot more loads. If you see a product you know and like, a bulk buy is fine — as long as that mondo container will fit on your shelf. Not sure how it all adds up? Make use of the calculator on your smartphone.
Time is Money — and Gas
If finding a bargain takes lots of time and puts lots of miles on your car, is it really worth it? Probably not. Consider mapping out errands ahead of time so you don’t end up backtracking, another time-wasting gas-guzzler. And be sure to fill up at the least expensive station on your regular route, staying mindful that some stations charge more for using credit over cash.
Big Ticket Items
Many retailers and manufacturers offer rebates and payment plans to help offset the costs of a major purchase. Don’t see any special offers on your shopping excursion? Ask if there are incentives or a sale coming up, or be bold and see if they’ll throw in a new printer if you buy a desktop computer. A seasoned savvy shopper may also go the refurbished route, especially for computers, cameras or cell phones, which may even come with a warranty. You might also consider an electronics swap with a buddy who’s willing to trade his tablet for your digital camera. You can even sell obsolete items via an online auction site to help recoup costs.
Here are a few key pieces of advice for being a smart shopper at the supermarket: Never shop when hungry. Don’t automatically reach for two-for-one deals — check the pantry before you hit the store to be sure you don’t already have duplicates at home. Know general price ranges of items you use often, so when you see a “sale” sign, you know if it’s the real deal. Strawberries on special? Don’t bother if they don’t look ripe and juicy. Prices on staples like milk, eggs, flour and oil are generally competitive, so skip those items if the cost seems inflated. And do not wander the aisles after you’ve checked everything off the list — or you’ll wind up with lots more than you came for.
Before you shop the stores for a new outfit, shop your closet. Don’t buy items that are just like what you already own (do you really need another pair of black pants?) unless your garment is worn out or permanently stained. Donate duds, swap with friends or sell high-end items online, earning dollars you can factor into your new wardrobe budget. Once you rid your closet of clothes that don’t fit or haven’t been worn in a year or more, take stock of what you really need — then hit the mall!