It happens to even the most discerning shopper: You’re walking down the aisle at your favorite grocery store and you come across a deal that’s too good to pass up. Unfortunately, you have to. Why?
While there’s no denying that 300 extra-large juice boxes for 30 bucks is a steal (especially if you have 3 kids under the age of 13), $30 is a chunk of your grocery budget, and if you don’t put that in when you know what you can spend to go around, you have to throw something else off the list or keep going.
So what should you do when you have a lot of inventory to use eventually? Or when you find a big discount on something you can use now but don’t count on buying today?
The simple answer: plan ahead! Developing a keen awareness of the opportunities around you can help you pay for those opportunistic purchases when they present themselves.
Here’s a little more on how factoring sales and discounts into your financial planning will save you a ton of time.
One of the main things you can do to ensure you get the best price is work with a retail sales calendar.
Manufacturers and retailers offer discounts at certain times of the year for a variety of reasons, including:
- Pushing to sell the previous year’s model to make room for the new model
- Clearing shelves for new inventory in case of overstock or undersell
- After holidays and special events
Do a little research before you buy to determine when is the best time for the particular item you need, but remember this general tip: don’t buy items “in season.”
Most people don’t plan ahead and stores rely on this, leading to the ability to charge a premium for an item. If you discipline yourself to think about what you need ahead of time (like buying winter basics for next year when the weather starts to warm in early spring or buying swimwear in August or March, etc.), or wait until after the season has passed this year, you can see the register number has dropped dramatically.
Creative Card Member
Another very underutilized way to plan your purchases in advance (and program savings) is to use a retail store-issued card – and there are several different ways to do this.
Use a store credit card
This includes not only in-store credit cards for home purchases but also major credit cards that the store has partnered with. For these MasterCard and Visa (most common) cards, they are regular major credit cards, so you can use them anywhere, but because they are issued through or sponsored by your store, you can earn points to use at that store every time you swipe the card .
As with any credit card, if you spend within your means and can pay off the balance in full each month (basically, treat it like cash), you avoid the risk of going into debt for these thefts (and keep credit card companies from stealing from you in the first place). forms of finance charges, late fees, and dings on your credit report/score).
*Credit Tip: Set your own credit limit. While credit card companies will give you the maximum credit allowed based on your rating, these figures are often unconservative and a total that is too high can trick you into thinking you can spend more than you can actually afford. Stay in control of your own finances by reducing your comfort zone.
Join the store-only “gift” club
These programs make it very easy to earn points or credits every time you buy an item – points that are automatically converted to discounts and percentages the next time you visit the place.
Points accumulate quickly when you buy most of your stuff in that store and a dollar off or 5-10% off really comes in handy when you need an extra push at the checkout to complete your purchase.
Other simple things you can do to save include:
- Become a “VIP” member.: Often, all you have to do is give them your mailing address and/or email address, they give you a card, you swipe it and save it every time you shop – simple, right? You may have to fight unwanted spam, so consider using a dedicated email address for this program that is separate from your main account.
- Sign up for email notifications about special promotions: Vendors love getting previous customers back into the store, and these emails often contain valuable coupons. Office Depot and Staples are well known for finding significant savings through email discounts.
What are your savings secrets that lead to smarter spending?