How to Be a Frugal Shopper

Four Methods:Shopping for DealsBeing a Savvy BuyerSaving Money Over the LongtermCreating a Budget

Buying frugally can help you save for longterm goals, make the most out of the money you have, and build a savings that will help you out in emergencies and sustain you through retirement. When trying to shop frugally, you need to first determine your needs and wants. Then you'll need to shop the deals, compare costs, and take measures to save over the longterm (like buying products with lifetime guarantees).

Method 1
Shopping for Deals

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    Buy on clearance. This is especially true for seasonal products. If you want to save the most money, buy winter coats and boots in the spring and swimsuits and summer wear in the late fall or winter. Buy school products about a month or so after school has started, and holiday products just after the holiday. Other clearance should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Remember you’re not really saving money, if you’re buying a lot of things on clearance that you won’t use or don’t need.[1]
    • For instance, a great time to stock up on wrapping paper is just after Christmas.
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    Do your research. You can go to price comparison websites, and for common items such as video games or DVDs, you can go to sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble to see what they're selling for on there. There are sometimes big sales that come once or twice a year like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These are the times to research a good bit beforehand if you know you want a certain item for less.
    • Research what the products are going for online, and how much similar products are going for. Doing so will save you money when you don’t opt to buy the video game system that hasn’t been discounted enough to meet your budget, or when you can get one more cheaply online.[2]
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    Use internet sites. Oftentimes you’ll get a better deal on Craigslist, or other online classifieds, because many people just want to get rid of their stuff and don’t mind selling it for less than half its retail value. Overstock is also a great resource for finding cheaper products. Again you’ll need to do cost-comparison research before buying, but it can be worth your while to surf Craigslist or Amazon before buying a product in-store. This is especially true for bikes, appliances, furniture, and exercise equipment.[3]
    • Be careful of your safety when buying products on sites like Craigslist. Never meet a seller alone. Go during normal daylight hours. Avoid secluded areas.[4]
    • Don’t forget to browse the “free” section on Craigslist occasionally.
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    Go to yard sales. This is especially useful for saving money on furniture, tableware, and clothing. Often items will be even cheaper than they are on online classifieds, simply because people often want to get rid of their stuff. Try moving sales for the best prices on furniture and large appliances. Shop later in the day or the second day of the sale to get the lowest prices, but be aware that the selection will be smaller then.[5]
    • Be sure to check for damage, and if possible for electronics, ask if you can test it. For clothing, ask if you can try it on.
    • Typically, you can't return something to a yard sale if it doesn't work or you don't like. People aren't obligated to buy the product back from you.
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    Shop at thrift stores and flea markets. These stores often carry products at very reduced costs. They may not be as cheap as at a yard sale. Typically the clothing will cost more at a thrift store than at a yard sale, but furniture prices can be equivalent or even cheaper.[6]
    • If you really want to save money, avoid the boutique or “nicer” thrift shops, as they will often sell products at only a slightly discounted cost. However, if you’re looking for designer wear, these may still have the discounts you’re looking for.[7]
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    Collect and use coupons. Coupons are available everywhere from newspapers and magazines to downloadable ones online. However, be sure to only collect coupons for things that you need, you won’t save money if you use coupons to buy things that you wouldn’t normally use. You'll want to compare prices between brands before you assume a coupon saves money.[8]

Method 2
Being a Savvy Buyer

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    Use an online cost comparison tool. Simply type your query into a search engine such as Google or Pricegrabber, and look through the results. Using a cost comparison tool will allow you to see the prices for items at major retailers online. While it will give you a good sense of how much an item may cost online, it won’t let you know the possible lower costs that you get by trying offline options such as yard sales.[9]
    • Use an official cost tool for larger items such as cars. If you are unsure of the value of such an item, do not buy it without consulting a professional or official guide (such as Kelly Blue Book).[10]
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    Research major purchases. Avoid buying a product with the salespersons in the room, especially when you’re pressured to make a commitment now to get the best deal. These are often not the deals you hope they are, and the sales staff is hoping to leverage emotion over reason in order to get you to buy now. Consider the following before you buy:[11]
    • You’ll want to read reviews of products before you buy. This can include professional reviewers, as well as the reviews of fellow shoppers. This will help you get a sense of how durable and functional a product is. This is especially important for electronics, but can be useful for getting good deals on furniture and clothing as well.
    • Hidden costs can add substantially to a purchase’s overall cost. The most common example is buying a used car that turns out to be a lemon, and needs substantial repairs that weren’t included in the original price or description. But hidden costs can include medical costs if a product is defective or harmful, excessive fees for late payments, and finance charges.[12][13]
    • Some items require upkeep costs to work or retain their value. For instance, a printer will need toner or ink and paper to work.[14] This is a recurring cost that can affect the overall cost of using the product. Some pieces of furniture, motor vehicles, pianos, etc., will require certain care to make sure they work and retain their value. Make sure to investigate all of the necessary upkeep costs associated with a purchase to understand its true cost.[15][16][17][18]
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    Learn to negotiate. To negotiate a price, start with a figure much lower than you intend to pay, but don't be too ridiculous or people won't take the offer seriously. Then up your offer in reasonable increments in response to their counterargument. For instance, if you are haggling over a bike, and you offer $100 and they offer $500, going up to $175 is reasonable, but going up to $105 is not.[19]
    • Don't be too enthusiastic about an item, or the seller will know they can hike up the price.[20]
    • There are times and places where it's perfectly acceptable to haggle. The car lot is often one, but yard sales and other informal sales are great too. Though you can haggle almost anywhere if the situation is right (such as a going-out-of-business sale or if the product is damaged).[21]

Method 3
Saving Money Over the Longterm

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    Invest in products with lifetime guarantee. Certain companies place a lifetime guarantee on their products, which means that if they break, they’ll often replace them for free. This can be a real money saver in the long term. For instance if you buy a $300 coat with a life-time guarantee, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you would have spent replacing cheaper (or equivalently priced) coats without a lifetime guarantee. [22]
    • Before shelling out money on such a product, make sure the company is reliable—check the Better Business Bureau, read online reviews and articles, and check out the quality of the products for yourself (in-store, if possible).
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    Invest in the extended warranty. This may not be useful for all items, but a you may want the extra protection when you spill coffee on that new laptop. It is important to ask exactly what the warranty covers and what nullifies the warranty. This can save you thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs.[23]
    • For expensive gadgets and cars, the warranty is usually worth it. For products that are usually reliable within the original warranty, it's usually not worth it to buy the extended warranty.[24]
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    Wait longer to replace items when possible. You may be tempted by a shiny new television, but if it’s still working and still compatible with other electronics, it may not be worth the extra cost. It’s worth noting that some items need to be replaced more frequently and failing to do so can cost you more money. Replacing filters on air conditioners, tires on cars, and clogged valves on dishwashers can make them last longer, and help you save money by extending the lives of the products.[25]
    • Some things need to be replaced for health and safety reasons. A toothbrush should be replaced every three months, pillows every year, mattresses every 5 to 10 years, and fire extinguishers every 10 years.[26]
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    Buy in bulk when you can. Buying in bulk can be a great saver if you have enough storage space and you know you will be able to use the goods. If you can save a significant amount of money on bulk purchases of perishable items, it may be wise to split your purchase with another person or family. Some items that can really save you money if you buy in bulk: [27]
    • shampoo
    • toothbrushes
    • office supplies
    • alcohol
    • toilet paper

Method 4
Creating a Budget

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    Create a budget for essentials. This includes food, bills, transportation costs, etc. Write out all of your utilities, credit card and loan bills, and any recurring essential cost you know you need such as groceries or transportation costs. Subtract these from your monthly net income. Determine a monthly budget for these items that is workable with your income. For instance, if you make $2000/month, it may not be wise to spend 50% of your income on groceries, unless this is accounted for by a lower rent (less than 30%) or lower bills, etc. [28]
    • Remember that you’re budget needs to account for retirement and emergencies before determining a budget for “wants.”
    • If you are left with little for savings or discretionary spending, you may want to re-evaluate the more flexible costs such as groceries.
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    Add other items. While these items don’t fall under the heading of basic needs, they may be essential for your career, etc. These can include a wardrobe for work or interviews, a laptop or tools for your job, a cellphone that can receive emails, etc. While there can be a lot of ways to trim the budget for these items, such as comparison shopping and getting things on clearance, you’ll need to budget for them before setting the budget for your spending for pleasure.[29]
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    Do your research. Use online shopping comparisons such as Pricegrabber to determine what you should be paying for certain items. Look at the average rental and mortgage data for your neighborhood, and if you move, be sure to take that into consideration.[30]
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    Evaluate your needs. It's easy for something that is not necessary to feel like a need. However, to be frugal, you need to consider your needs in terms of the basic essential needs: food, water, shelter. Then, the needs that lead to procuring the basics: job (and its tools), transportation, etc. You then evaluate in terms of quality. You may need a car, but you don't need a brand new Maserati. A used Honda or Subaru will do the job just as well, assuming it's in good repair.[31][32]
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    Set a budget for wants. Nearly everyone has a wish list, whether it’s online, written down, or simply in their minds of things they’d like to buy if they had the money. However, these items often can wait, and should not be prioritized over the necessities. This can include video games, décor items, and certain gadgets. Even a “need” can become a “want” if you’re opting for a version of that “need” that is more expensive than you can afford (for example, spending more on a video game system than you make in a month).[33]
    • Make sure you stick to your budget. If you've created a list of needs and wants, and have determined how much you plan to spend on those needs and wants, then don't splurge. If you feel you need the occasional splurge, then put that in your budget. This way you can be frugal and build your savings.[34]


  • Be smart about your purchases and keep to your budget.

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Categories: Buying Wisely