While I love saving money wherever and whenever possible, I am horrible at going out of my way to do so. For instance, I generally fail at setting and sticking to budgets. I try to use coupons at the grocery store but there may be weeks or months when I forget they exist. Instead, I believe in moderation when it comes to pretty much everything, including attempting to save money.
If you're like me and you want to save a little bit of extra cash in the new year without too much effort, here are some easy and non-scary ways to attempt to do so. They don't require you to make any major lifestyle changes.
While I might be terrible about using coupons at the grocery store, one way that I try to keep food costs down is by planning out our meals ahead of time. I plan them out for the week, scour our pantry and refrigerator for items we may have on hand already and then purchase only those items that make it onto the list. By planning out our meals ahead of time we are not only cutting out impulse purchases at the grocery store but also eliminating the need to order delivery or carry-out on those nights we realize we don't have anything to make.
On a related note, I used to be a habitual purchaser of cookbooks but thanks to Pinterest, that habit is also a thing of the past. Whenever I am in need of a new recipe I usually do a quick search on Pinterest using the main ingredients that I have on hand and almost always find something delicious to try.
Many stores have made it even easier to save these days by introducing their own apps, such as the Target Cartwheel App and the Sears/Kmart Shop Your Way App. Both of these apps offer special discounts to shoppers that cannot be found anywhere else, so saving is as easy as opening the app and seeing what deals are available. You can even do this while standing in the checkout line!
Other apps, such as the Shopkick App, work at many stores. You can earn points by checking in at stores and making purchases, and then using those points to earn gift cards. My favorite app is actually the Key Ring app, which allows you to store your reward card numbers on your smartphone so you will never get stuck at the store without the card you need!
Shop During the Off-Season
There are times that we all just need things and head out to pick up whatever that may be. However, planning ahead can yield big savings in the long run. For instance, stores will begin clearing out their selection of winter clothing, outerwear and footwear toward the end of January and the prices will be cheap. At that point, you might be thinking about upcoming spring break trips or picking up items for summer, but the cheapest time to shop for those items will actually be in late summer. While it might seem counter-intuitive to shop ahead like this, shopping during the off-season can produce huge savings.
Likewise, this strategy also works if you are shopping for holiday gifts or seasonal decorations. The best time to shop for Christmas decorations is in the days following Christmas when the stores offer steep discounts in an effort to clear their shelves as quickly as possible. This theory holds true for almost any holiday and can be a great way to save provided you don't mind holding onto the items for an entire year.
Invest in Reusable Products
While the upfront cost may be a bit pricey, investing in reusable products can lead to big savings in the long run! For instance, do away with plastic water bottles and invest in a reusable water bottle. If you are worried about water quality consider also picking up a water filter of some kind. Switching to cloth napkins can cut down on paper waste and add some color to the dinner table. Upgrading to reusable products may take some time, but in the long run you can really cut down on expenses and even do some good for the environment.
While there are obviously more intense ways of saving money, I hope these tips will be useful if you're interested in saving a bit without undergoing too much of a lifestyle overhaul.
Lisa Koivu is the founder of ShopGirlDaily.com, a budget fashion and shopping blog for women who want to have the best for less.
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