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How to shop smart

Updated on August 27, 2016
Back from bargain shopping!
Back from bargain shopping! | Source

It's known as shopping

Whether we like it or not, we all need certain things in order to survive. In order to get most of those things, we end up having to shop for them. Some things we can get lucky and find on sale and others, well, they make the wallet cringe. It's bad enough we often have to fight the crowds at the supermarket and retail stores, let alone the money we have to hand over.

Sometimes it seems like we enter a battle of the quickest when going up and down the aisles. I'm talking about competing with other shoppers who are hunting for the same items we are. The holiday season is the worst time for this battle. There is just something about shopping that can bring out the worst in some of us.

Regardless of like or dislike, shopping is a necessity. We all need soap and trash bags at some point. Therefore, we hit the stores in search of what we need, at a price our budgets can hopefully handle.

This is where the fun can really begin for a bargain shopper. With so many choices available in every category imaginable, all you really need to decide is how much you want to pay for each item.

Bargain price, same cleaning power.
Bargain price, same cleaning power. | Source

Brand name vs. plain label

One of the very first things my mom taught me about shopping is the difference between a name brand and a plain label brand. Can you guess what the difference is? The answer is not much. In my twenty years of household shopping experience, I have tried numerous name brand products and their plain label counterparts.

At this point, I simply cannot justify paying more for name brands when plain label products do the job to my satisfaction. The added bonus with many plain label products is that I usually get a larger container, which lasts me longer. Why would I pay more to get less? I use the same amount of product each time, so that for me, is not a factor.

I can already hear some of you protesting that some plain label brands are "watered down" and don't work as good as brand names. I can't deny that some plain label products, like dish soap, may not be as thick as name brand products. However, consistency does not seem to have anything to do with how well the product works. As long as my dishes, clothes, etc. are clean I am a happy person.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using name brand products you trust. I use some myself. I do see a problem with spending extra money, that I often do not have, on name brands. I prefer to get more for my money. For example, I spend a dollar on my dish soap and it lasts me over a month (closer to two months) with everyday use. Why would I spend four dollars on a smaller container of dish soap that will only last a couple of weeks? I have experimented and found this to be true of most household cleaners.

Bath and beauty products on the other hand, are one of my exceptions. I prefer a certain brand of shampoo and body wash. These brands happen to be among the cheaper of name brands, but that is only a bonus for me. I will not compromise with my skin or hair due to sensitivity. The money I would save on bargain brands would be spent on allergy medicine! In this same category is laundry soap and fabric softener. I use certain cheaper name brands that do not cause allergic reactions.

Buying plain label products in some categories allows you buy other products in your preferred name brand, if necessary. You can often cut your shopping bill substantially simply by finding plain label products that work for you.

Source

Where to find those bargains

There are certainly no shortages in shopping options. The problem is, where can you find the best deals? Do you really have to bounce from store to store in order to find prices you can afford? No, you do not have to waste time and money store hopping. Below are some good places for bargain shopping.

Discount stores

Most big box stores fall into this category. Discount stores offer products at a lower price than other stores. You can often choose between name brands and store brands (usually cheaper). The nice thing is even the name brand products are cheaper than say at your super market.

Discount stores are often heralded for being one stop shopping convenience. Some even have grocery departments so you can literally get everything you need in one store. Convenience and low prices, that's what shopping is all about for some of us.

Dollar stores

These are possibly the best places to find hidden bargains. I love to shop my local dollar stores for good deals on household cleaners and anything else I can check off of my shopping list. You can often find some name brand items even cheaper than a discount store. Dollar stores are the kings of plain and store label products. This means you rack up the savings.

A word of caution about some dollar store items: some are cheaply made. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. For example coffee makers sold at dollar stores. Some may last a long time and some may not last you a month.

I had this experience once a few years ago. I bought a cheap, no frills coffee maker and it only lasted me a month. I am an avid coffee drinker and do not want to continuously be replacing makers. They never seem to go out unless you are in desperate need of that morning cup of coffee! The point is to be careful what you purchase at a dollar store.

Wholesale outlets

Grocery outlets are especially nice. With some, you do not get fancy labels or name brands or even a bag to carry them home in. What you do get is food at rock bottom prices. Basically these places cut out all of the frills and just sell food. Bring your own box or bags and let the savings begin!

Online

Yes, online shopping is not a new thing. However, it is becoming easier and more efficient. You can browse different retail websites and order what you want, whenever you want. The items are shipped to your door and voila! That's it. Some retailers even offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount.

Some online retailers offer free pickup at your local brick and mortar store. You place everything you want in the online shopping cart, pay for it and then pick the items up. This is nice because you don't have to walk up and down the aisles, stand in line to pay or wait for the items to be shipped.

Another nice thing about online shopping is that you can often get in on deals offered at low prices, exclusively online. These deals are not available in your local store. Deals like buy one get one free, discounts and items only sold online that are not carried by local stores.

Thrift and second hand shops

These are great places to find clothing, blankets, some small appliances, furniture and other household items. The neat thing about these gems is that you can often find items in nearly new condition. Another fun thing about wandering around second hand shops is that you can usually find some awesome vintage items, if you are into that sort of thing.

One piece of friendly advice about thrift and second hand shops: if you take things, donate things. Many of the items in these shops are donated and those kindhearted donations help the public that needs them. If you find yourself with items you don't want any more, please donate them.

Vacation photo
Vacation photo | Source

Money in the piggy bank

The money you can save by bargain shopping can make paying bills easier. It can also allow you to slowly save up for bigger things you need. You can also do like I do and put a little aside here and there in "Fun Fund". I can't sock away hundreds of dollars at a time to go on vacation or splurge on something nice for myself. I have to do it the old fashioned way and save a little at a time.

The saving may be slow going at times and may even become somewhat discouraging some months. However, after diligence and determination, the pay off is fabulous! I have saved for trips, concerts, electronics and even clothing. Shopping smart is just like putting money in the piggy bank.

© 2014 Tammy Cramblett

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    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi lauranap12. Thank you :)

    • lauranap12 profile image

      lauranap12 2 years ago from Vermont

      Great article! I think it was very well written.

    • profile image

      kim 2 years ago

      ok...

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hi Sylvia Leong. Thank you for your comments and giving some very good information. In the small town where I live, green living hasn't caught on. There isn't much available in the way of eco friendly...anything yet. I use plastic bags for my trash because I end up with so many of them. It is rather difficult to do certain things when you are limited on funds and resources. Ordering online isn't always an option for me. I really do appreciate the information and tips you have provided. I do agree with you and will look for ways to change what I can :)

    • aziasaaa profile image

      Azia 2 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      i've never given that much of a thought for dollar stores but now i will.

    • Sylvia Leong profile image

      Sylvia Leong 2 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      It’s important to understand that at every stage plastic is harmful. It’s brought out of the ground as oil, converting oil to plastic causes pollution, plastic packaging leaches estrogen into our food & then into the ground water while it spends 1000 years breaking down in the landfill. Countries are fighting wars over oil (although it’s usually disguised as another issue it’s really about oil).

      We owe it to ourselves & our children to find alternatives. For example, instead of the plastic bottle of body wash, buy a bar of mild soap packaged in paper or thin cardboard or even unpackaged (Lush doesn’t package their soap). If everyone made these little changes, it would make a huge difference.

      Apology for the rant, but this is a really important message.

      The Story of Stuff Project has done some really great little videos on making more environmentally conscious choices. Please enjoy!

      http://storyofstuff.org/

    • Sylvia Leong profile image

      Sylvia Leong 2 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

      Plastic shopping bags are incredibly harmful to the environment & to wildlife. California has now banned them completely. Stock up on both cloth shopping bags & net produce bags & store them in your car & in a space beside your front door. If you forget, go back out to your car & get them, or simply leave without shopping – you’ll only have to do this once & thereafter you’ll most likely remember.

      Everything comes in packaging – any of it can be used as a garbage bag. If it cannot be recycled, fill it with garbage before it becomes garbage itself. My husband & I use the packaging from bread, nuts, seeds, grains, flour, toilet paper, paper towels etc. as garbage bags.

    • chefmancave profile image

      Robert Loescher 2 years ago from Michigan

      Wow...a HOTD! Great job! I have one specific shopping tip for your readers. Try TJ Maxx stores. I always walk out of TJ Maxx with at least one great Kitchen Bargain. A $20 knife for $6 or a $15 bottle of Olive Oil for $5.

      Chef ManCave

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
      Author

      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hello aesta1. Thank you! Checking consumer reports is an excellent tip. I also read reviews of products before I decide to buy or not.

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hello mySuccess. Thank you :)

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
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      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hello drpennypincher. Thank you! Saving money is so very important these days.

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
      Author

      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hello Lee Hansen. Thank you! I agree with your tips as well. As for the plastic bags, I'm on the fence because I use them as trash bags.

    • Tammy Cramblett profile image
      Author

      Tammy Cramblett 2 years ago from United States

      Hello Millionaire Tips. Thank you! Name brands are definitely a treat in my household but we do indulge on occasion, like you said with a coupon or a really good sale.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 2 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on HOTD. These are good ideas on saving money. I too use store brands whenever possible, and save the name brands for products that don't have a good store brand alternative or when I have a big coupon.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 2 years ago from Vermont

      Good tips for saving money when you need to shop. I would also recommend using your own shopping bags instead of getting the plastic from the stores, shopping local whenever possible, bartering, church rummage sales and using coupons. Congrats on HOTD.

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      I am always interested in ways to save money, thanks for the tips!

    • mySuccess8 profile image

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      Great practical tips for making the savviest purchases, avoiding excess spending, and stretching the hard-earned money. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Smart shopping is the way to go even if you have the money. You want to get the maximum value for what you spend. I often consult Consumer Reports before I go shopping especially when I intend to buy a particular item. I realize that being in the U.S. with all the sales and discounts, it is very tempting to stock up or change appliances constantly. Your tips are really valuable. Congrats on the HOTD.