15 Golden Rules to Save on Every Purchase

No need to pay retail. We’ve got a big list of ways to save on everything — and we do mean everything.

All told, the average American household spent $53,495 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the bulk of that money went for housing, we still spent more than $1,786 on apparel and services, $2,728 on entertainment, and another $2,787 on food away from home. Then there is that mystery category, “all other expenditures,” where we rang up, on average, $3,548.

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a little less?

Fortunately, there are a number of tried and true ways to save money on virtually everything you buy. In fact, we call them our 15 golden rules to super savings, and here they are.

1. Never buy new what you can buy used

To start, if you want to save money on everything you buy, you should never buy new. Well, nearly never buy new. You might possibly want to buy new underwear from time to time.

But for most everything else, let someone else take the depreciation hit. The average new car loses 11 percent of its value the moment it’s driven off the lot according to insurance site TrustedChoice.com. After five years, new vehicles typically lose about 63 percent of their value.

Cars might be the best-known example, but virtually everything depreciates over time. Jewelry, furniture, appliances, and even video games and movies can depreciate faster than you can say “impulse buy.” Check out Craigslist, eBay and Half.com for practically new items being sold for a song.

2. Save big with bulk purchases

Let’s say you use a lot of batteries. Why buy four batteries when you could buy 40? Buying in bulk can be an excellent way to lower your per-unit cost. Check out Amazon prices on Duracell AA batteries as an example. As of this writing, you can buy 10 for $8.35, get 20 for $10.10 or splurge on 40 for $14.70. (The 40-pack comes out to about 37 cents per battery compared to the 10-pack, at 83 cents per battery.) Plus, bigger packages come with free shipping. Bonus!

However, not every bulk buy is a steal. If you’re thinking about going the warehouse route, read this article on what to buy at warehouse stores before you start shopping.

3. Tame impulse buys with a list

It’s hard to put a number on how much impulse buying costs us each year, but 84 percent of confess to making a purchase on the fly, according to a 2016 CreditCards.com survey.

Tame the tendency to impulse buy by limiting yourself to what’s on your shopping list. Don’t think that list is only for groceries either. Create an ongoing list of planned purchases. When you notice your shoes are wearing thin, add shoes to the list. When you decide you need a bigger slow cooker, add that to the list.

Then when you are tempted to buy something on the spur of the moment, refer to your list. If it’s not there, remind yourself that you don’t need it and that money spent on impulse takes away cash that could be used to buy something you really want.

4. Remember that generics equal more green in your wallet

If you’re buying a brand name, you’re likely spending extra cash and may not be getting much in return.

Consumer Reports compared name-brand and store-brand grocery products and found that consumers can save anywhere from 30 to 52 percent by buying store brands. In addition, the study revealed that in blind tests, most items tied in terms of their taste and, in some instances, the store brand was actually preferred over the name brand.

Then there are generic drugs. The Food and Drug Administration says consumers can save 80 to 85 percent by buying generic prescriptions. No need to worry about their safety either because generic drugs must meet the same quality standards as brand names and must also include the same active ingredients in the same strength as their more expensive counterparts.

5. Negotiate for the lowest price

You’re missing out on great savings if the only time you negotiate is when you’re buying a new car or are at a yard sale. Read Stacy Johnson’s “Confessions of a Serial Haggler” for a rundown on the fine art of bargaining. Also check out this story offering tips for successful negotiation.

6. Stop being the early adopter

Always having the latest and greatest gadget might make you the cool kid in your circle of friends, but it’s also going to empty your wallet in a hurry. You’re paying top dollar for something you could probably get for significantly less a short year later.

Why do you need to upgrade anyway? Why buy a 50-inch TV when your 37-inch one works perfectly fine? The Internet exploded during the 2013 football season when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was photographed using a — gasp! — flip phone. Some people laughed, saying he was behind the times, but he’s a billionaire so, really, who’s getting the last laugh?

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  • tom mayer

    Think number one and number sever are truly horrible advice.
    Used does NOT always save $. Example: we bought an HP factory reman laptop. Thought we were saving 50% and that HP could be counted on to provide a functioning machine. Wrong. Adding up the various costs, not including aggravation, within 18 months of purchase we’d have been 25% to to the good with a new machine. At 36 months we threw the remanufactured machine away rather than throw more money at it.
    I would never again have a partner in any piece of machinery. Owned an airplane once with my best friend. After two years we were barely speaking to each other and dissolved the partnership. Main issues devolved around where, when and how much to spend on maintenance. Our ideas of what constituted legal and safe were very different.

  • pennyhammack

    I shop frequently on Amazon but you have to be really careful. For example on the AA batteries: several are listed with a unit cost, while others are listed with cost per ounce which is meaningless. Also they list many vendors that are not included in the Amazon Prime designation. Those vendors will charge shipping which, when included in the cost raises the cost per unit to more than you pay using a Amazon Prime vendor. Keep a hand calculator handy.

  • Ticobird

    I’d argue that the ability to buy a new car is much more comforting than buying a used automobile that you probably know so little about. After all, it is more than likely that the previous owner decided to switch for a negative reason other than providing the used car shopper a good deal.

    • Elizabeth Bennett

      I agree. The day I went out & bought a newer car, & got rid of my older Jeep, that I had sunk untold thousands and thousands in repairs in … was the smartest day of my life! I’ve only had to pay for oil changes in my newer car, whereas my older Jeep was literally in and out of the repair shop every other 3 or 4 month, at a pop of $500 to $800 / per visit. I just couldn’t afford the older car any longer. I suppose if you’re a mechanic and have access to cheap parts, then buying an old car makes sense. But for a single lady who doesn’t know the 1st thing about cars, I have to have a functioning car … that I can count on.

  • Smath56

    Buy used and pay cash!

  • jerrymandel

    1.Bargain on everything possible. 2. Your battery prices are silly high. Anyway, buy a battery charger and rechargeable batteries for big savings.

    • susandanielspi

      You’ll pay for it in the electric bill.

      • jerrymandel

        1. You can recharge alkaline AA and AAA batteries a number of times…as well as rechargeable batteries. The little charger from Frys’ Electronics is cheap. The electricity cost is negligable. It saves me a ton of money.

  • Amanda Lavorati

    Yes. We’ve had 2. Both needing repairs and the current one has a recall.

  • Georgia Wessling

    I love items 1, 5, 10 & 13. I will never buy a used car. I have had at least 6 used cars in the last 30 years and they were all great but 1. Two of them actually survived for 360k and 316k miles. I use a simple device – I keep a small notebook in my car and keep track of all my expenses listed under gas & oil and repairs & maintenance. If the 2nd group gets to an average of $125 per month for all the months I’ve had it, I trade it in or give it away. Hard to get a car anymore for payment of $125 mo.
    No. 5 is negotiate. I do that well at times. When I worked I had 4 wards to take care and bought Christmas gifts for over 100 people. Each year I would buy a different type container and fill it with candy & a silly toy. One example is when I went into Walgreen’s to buy a bunch of containers for the next years Christmas. They were the 6″ or so felt Christmas stockings. They were $1 each and went on sale Dec. 25 at 2 for $1. I asked a manager what they would charge if I bought all that were left. I got them for 3 for $1. Did that several times over the years. No. 10 The can’t miss deals – I got a call one time with a 50% off sale. The guy said he could send me info on it but I would miss the sale. The item sounded like it might be great and I said I would pay the whole price, if it were as good as he said. I kept him talking for over 5 minutes and (get this) he hung up on me. Ever had a seller do that? The last one, #13, I have used a lot. I’ve had 2 cc’s for 9-10 years. At first their rewards were great, but they still rate okay. I put everything I can buy on my cc’s. In all those years I have received over $5k in rewards and never paid the cc companies a cent. Right now I have almost $200 on one and almost $100 on the other. So, the $5k rewards are just a bonus. The real savings is in all the interest I have saved. I once was deep in cc debt and took 15 years to get out of it. Since that time, I have never carried a balance forward.

  • bigpinch

    I wrote the book on #8.

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