Resources for saving and information on the best deals are easily accessible to anyone capable of a simple web search. And yet shoppers often fail to maximize their savings and select the best value option.
If you find your consistently paying full retail prices, perhaps it's time to ask, what's keeping you from being a savvy shopper? Here are some possible answers to that question.
Old habits. If you've shopped for clothes or groceries or toiletries the same way for years, you've likely developed a method. The mere suggestion of a change in brand, from toilet paper to sugar, might make you feel uneasy.
From the time of day you shop to the way you organize your cart, there's a great deal of habit and routine involved in the process. While knowing what you want and need and how to get in and out as quickly as possible is great for expediting the process, it's not necessarily the best financial choice. Being overly committed to a certain brand or store or route can keep you from seeing deals, specials and alternate items and products that might provide a better value.
Even the savviest shoppers can miss out on savings opportunities if they remain too entrenched in their way of searching for deals. Just think of how couponing has evolved from the early 1990s to now. If you never adapted to the online world, or more recently, the smartphone and its many app offerings, think of all the savings strategies you'd be missing!
Limited time. Constraints on time leave less room for research, comparison shopping and bargain hunting. If you wait until the last minute or find yourself in a hurry, you're more likely to choose the item you know or the first thing that satisfies your purchase requirements rather than getting all of the information you need to make the best value assessment.
Tools like smartphone savings apps are a great way to save money while saving time. From checking gas prices with GasBuddy to grocery costs with MyGroceryDeals, these savings apps aggregate information in the palm of your hand so you can search for deals and comparison shop on the spot.
Limited energy. When you're exhausted or struggling to keep your kids from tearing apart the racks and shelves, your lack of energy will likely have you searching for an exit strategy rather than a deal. Shopping on your own time, if you have that luxury, is best for bargain hunting.
Limited information. Sometimes overspending stems from a simple lack of information or not knowing any better. Obviously research helps, as does a little investment of time in your financial education. Keeping your financial literacy skills sharp and up to date provides you a context and understanding of what constitutes a good deal. For example, knowing a bit about current interest rates and financing options will help you when shopping for a loan and negotiating with the car dealership or the bank.
Information overload. As helpful as it is to have as much information as possible, information overload can lead to purchase paralysis, or the inability to make a purchase for fear of not getting the best possible deal. For example, if you've done your research on average cross-country flight prices and checked all the discount airlines and aggregate flight sites on a daily basis, you might find yourself holding off again and again, anticipating a price drop or a new piece of information that will get you a better deal. That inability to go ahead and pull the trigger may cause to you miss the window of opportunity on securing the best price.
Limited resources. Sometimes it takes money to save money. For example, when shopping for a home, the more you can put down to start, the less you have to pay over the long run on your mortgage and interest.
Justifications. Our own justifications and excuses are often the biggest culprits of savvy shopping sabotage. Phrases like "I need," "I deserve," and "yeah, but..." should raise a red flag, even if you're just thinking them. These are all ways of justifying spending, and if you have to justify it, it's probably not the best buy. Of course, the occasional splurge here and there is understandable. But consistent justification of splurges can lead to a pattern of poor spending.
Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.
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