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?