• US News & World Report

12 Shopping Tricks to Keep You Under Budget


Cutting down on expenses. Running a household can mean making frequent purchases: You're constantly replenishing supplies of everything from toothbrushes to socks. But there are also ways to put the brakes on the spending, or at least make sure you're getting the most out of every dollar. Here are a dozen shopping tricks from the pros, all of whom contribute to the US News Frugal Shopping blog.

1 - Time your shopping trips.

According to Noelle Buhidar, shopping expert at RetailMeNot, every season brings discounts. Sometimes those discounts are obvious, like back-to-school supplies in August, but other times they are more subtle, like the time between back-to-school and holiday shopping season, when plants and jeans tend to be on sale.

2 - Give experiences not things.

Gifts can eat up a significant chunk of household budgets, and Kerry Sherin, a marketing associate at Offers.com, suggests giving people experiences, purchased at a discount, to celebrate their next event. A spa coupon from Groupon or LivingSocial, for example, can be the perfect gift for a bride or new graduate.

3 - Be a cost-conscious romantic.

John Schmoll, founder of the Frugal Rules finance blog, says you don't have to buy a diamond ring or even restaurant meal to make your partner feel special. Instead, he suggests doing a chore for your loved one, giving the gift of some time alone (if you have kids) or simply offering a compliment or word of appreciation.

4 - Always use coupons.

Jon Lal, CEO of the website BeFrugal.com, warns that people often pay more than they need to because they forget to apply available coupons to their purchase. Whether you cut out printed ones or store digital versions in your phone, he suggests setting reminders and signing up for retailers' newsletters to help remind you to always nab the available discount.

5 - Celebrate with DIY decor.

Whether you're hosting a birthday party or decorating for an upcoming holiday, you don't have to spend a lot on setting the tone with decor. Instead, Kendal Perez, spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com, suggests ,making your own with a few crafty purchases. At Halloween, you can paint pumpkins in metallic hues, for example, or even collect pine cones and leaves from outside to display indoors.

6 - Limit liquids.

When you're out shopping or at a restaurant, consider forgoing the extra expense of a soda or other drinks and stick with water instead. That way, you can stay hydrated without adding $3 or more to your expenses, Lauren Greutman, founder of the website iamthatlady.com, suggests. On the same note, she recommends bringing your own snack or drink for long shopping marathons, too.

7 - Only shop by the list.

When you're in the checkout aisle, it's easy to be tempted to slip a few last-minute purchases into your cart. After all, that's what retailers are hoping you'll do. But exerting enough self-discipline to stick with your list can help keep your final purchase down.

8 - Be selective with subscription boxes.

Monthly subscription boxes for goodies from clothing to makeup are increasingly popular, and some of them can actually help you save money. Lal suggests that certain products you use regularly, such as razors and pantry items like coffee beans, can end up being cheaper when you buy them through the monthly subscription.

9 - Always shop your closet first.

Karen Cordaway, founder of MoneySavingEnthusiast.com, suggests getting organized and figuring out what you already have in your closet and pantry before making any new purchases. Otherwise, you might end up purchasing items you already have, which wastes space and money.

10- Use apps and websites to price compare.

Comparison tools such as RedLaser and PriceGrabber help you find the lowest price, which is especially important for big-ticket purchases like electronics. You can also use a browser add-on like InvisibleHand when shopping online to make sure you're getting the best deal.

11- Buy (slightly) damaged goods.

Laura Harders, founder

of the Beltway Bargain Mom website, suggests taking advantage of big markdowns on items that have already been opened and returned by other customers. The products might be slightly used or even damaged, but as long as they are still functional, you can get a great product at a super-low price.

12- Practice budget hacking.

If you're shopping for a recurring expense such as health insurance or cable, then Perez suggests applying a technique dubbed "budget hacking", which refers to trimming the fixed expenses in your life. Shopping around and even calling your provider and asking for a discount can help you nab the best deal.

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