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Personal Finance: Shopping for Bargains Without a Pauper's Mentality

Updated on October 15, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

A Young Shopper Solves Transportation and Shopping Price Problems At Once.


We Have A Situation

Some people enjoy bargain shopping and the use of discount coupons, because it is fun for them. Others participate in these activities, because they save money they can use for other necessities, luxuries, and emergencies. Still others bargain shop because cannot afford retail prices in the grocery, clothing, and other stores. All of these categories of bargain shoppers can enjoy bargain hunting and even the last category need not descend into feelings of poverty.

One of the main methods of avoiding feeling a mark of poverty is to realize and accept that our country produces and imports some cheaply made goods at both low and high prices. Both are to be avoided. If consumers can resist Madison Avenue and media advertisements that entice, even trick them into attending to their products and spending money best used elsewhere, then they have a victory.

Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue | Source

Regardless, in the labor market, twice and many job seekers are looking at the existent job listings. This means that probably less than half will find jobs in the next few months and some jobs will go unfilled until the best-fitting candidates appear. Unless the remaining job candidates are independently wealthy, they probably need to cuts costs. Refraining from buying the most expensive brands of any goods is one way to do this.

I add to my opinion the witness that two women I have known nearly ran themselves into bankruptcy court, because they had always had to have "the best." They had to have it, but threw about 50% of it away.

This and other spendthrift type problems caused them to lose their houses in foreclosure. This can be avoided.

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Conspicuous Consumption

...[nicknamed Piggyus Visibilis] can become an illness and if unchecked, an obsession, or an addiction. I see it in TV cooking shows that urge consumers to buy expensive cuts of meat and other grocery items and to throw away all leftovers. I;ve even found a mystery novel series that includes recipes that call for the most expensive brand name ingredients sold.

Some viewers and readers comply and further (I've seen it), purchase the most expensive name-brand groceries and household products each week at the supermarket - whether they need them or not - take them home and toss out at least $100 of unopened brand-name products purchased the week before.

A few consumers, urged by constant advertising, seem to me to spend too much money, eat too much, waste too much, and accumulate too much credit card debt out of lack of awareness, boredom, a desire to make themselves look more prosperous than they are (image management), or an obsession/addiction.

I don't know about your reactions, but I've never experienced a "high" from shopping (or chocolate...or shoes) and I don't want to do so. At the same time, I believe it's fine to enjoy shopping, but not as a type of "drug."

Frugality can help a consumer to stay within a budget, have a small accumulation of on-hand savings for an emergency or a special occasion, and to be less dependent on the larger Retail Industry. This can lead to smart investments in the future out of the savings realized.


Less Flashy, More Bargains

My advice is to ignore most TV ads, but listen for grocery store commercials and ads that feature end-of-season clearance and other special sales sales. For instance, for the months of January and February, one chain diner here is giving away free 12-oz coffees and advertising the giveaway.

Choose stores that are having sales and once inside, examine the quality of merchandise in comparison to prices. For example, one local burger chain employee new on the job here felt that if french fries were cold, then one should give the customer extra fries to make up for it. Bad is bad. A completely rotten tomato priced at 5¢ is priced too high.

Look for quality compared to price. Use coupons, but be alert with them -- I've noticed that grocery coupons now often require you to purchase at least TWO of an item in order to receive a 35- or 50-cent discount (doubled by several supermarkets here). Coupons are not always as bargain-filled as we think. .

Be wary and alert in attending "sales."A few retailers still first mark merchandise up by double or triple, then discount it by 25% for the sale -- These items are still too expensive. If you are looking for a coat, for example, go online (eBay, Amazon, Target, Macy's Wal-Mart, others) and look at prices for a style similar to your liking and keep the prices in mind or jot them down and take them to the store with you.

If the prices you see in the store are two or tree times the prices you copied down, then I'd skip those "sales." I'd skip high end department stores altogether, except those that hold 75% or 80% off sales. Our local Sears stores hold these quarterly. Many shoppers have found bargains at Filenes and Marshalls, but I am not one of them.

Additional Regional Savings

You might find that some of your supermarkets offer "Triple Coupons"weeks from time to time. This may be the best time to take advantage of your coupons, especially if they require purchasing two to five items now, rather than one.

Coupon flyers and envelopes arrive in the mail and Sunday newspapers (you may be able to take coupons from the papers at the library - ask your librarian). Be alert to the coupons for goods and services and be aware of the general and usual price of these things before using the discounts.

Some optical stores run a promotion in which you can receive two pairs of eyeglasses for $99-- check the quality of frames used for this promotion and the price of eye exams before using the coupons. Then look at newspaper ads or call other companies and ask for their price ranges. Check out other coupons in the same manner.


Small Chain Opportunities

Smaller chain stores have both good products and inferior products.

Many more people in my area are shopping at Aldis, Dollar General, The Dollar Store, Save-a-Lot, and a local small chain called Marc's supermarket and discount store for lower-priced good-quality groceries. The 'dollar stores' are increasing the number of grocery items carried, at a range of qualities, so they are a growing option for savings.

This happened before, with the S.S. Kresge Company (five and dime stores) until they carried so many groceries that they became the discount stores K-Mart and Super-K with a supermarket. Then they began to decline in sales and variety of goods. Other similar smaller stores seem to be entering the same upswing cycle, so look for these in your town during the next decade. As they become larger, smaller companies likely will come in behind them to continue to the cycle.

These smaller stores carry a range of other merchandise in an array of qualities, so look around inside. They also offer weekly and end-of-season sales. As for Wal-Mart, their stock is nearly the same price as supermarkets in many grocery items in my area. I know that many people disagree with Wal-Mart policies on many issues, but the chain is more often including locally produced products and some healthier foods. But our Marc's sells more local goods and at good prices, so I like to go there.


Thrift Stores Have New Clothing Too

I know several upper middle class women that love to go to the thrift stores and find new upscale clothing and accessories that have never been worn. I see no need to feel depressed in going to a thrift store. If you look for new clothing or slightly used clothing, you can purchase bags full for the price of a single blouse at Macy's.

I am not trying to undermine the Retail Industry of America, but when you need to save money, you do not need to buy rags. (Note: retail sales and supervisor positions, along with inside and outside sales representative positions are increasing in many cities across the in the decade 2011 - 2020 -- In January 2011, they increased despite it being the after-seasonal market.)

Even our thrift stores have weekly sales and end-of-season closeouts. Several times, I have purchased expensive items for only $1.50 each or less. Sometimes thrift stores are part of a larger chain, like Ohio Thrift Stores in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and other Buckeye cities.

Watch for major community yard sale weekends.
Watch for major community yard sale weekends. | Source

Garage Sales - Look for a Certain Type

Some garage and yard sales are truly full of junk. At others, one can find even collectors' items. Look for springtime garage sales that incorporate several blocks of an upscale community, Sometimes these offer brand new items never used, at very inexpensive prices. They may also feature concessions stands and/or a cookout and live music or a local radio DJ. This can be a fun way to shop for bargains, without feeling blue about saving money. If you kinow of any such sales in your city, please feel free to list them in the Comments below.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS


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