15 Golden Rules for Saving on Every Purchase

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a little less in 2020? Fortunately, it might be a lot easier than you think to keep a little more green in your wallet.

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

1. Never buy new what you can get used

To save money on everything you purchase, never buy new. Well, nearly never buy new. You might 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% 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% of their value but can still be in good condition.

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 and eBay 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 a package of four batteries when you could buy 20? 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 20 for less than $20.

Also, if you are buying perishables in bulk, make sure you can use them all before they go bad. Better yet, bring a friend or relative and split the purchase — and the savings.

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% of us confess to making a purchase on the fly, according to a 2016 CreditCards.com survey.

Tame the tendency to buy on impulse by limiting yourself to what’s on your shopping list. Also, 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.

When you are tempted to buy something on the spur of the moment, refer to your list. If the item is not there, remind yourself that you don’t need it.

4. Buy generic

If you’re buying a brand name, you might be spending extra cash without getting much in return.

Several years ago, Consumer Reports compared name-brand and store-brand grocery products. The study revealed that in blind tests, most items tied in terms of their taste. In some instances, the store brand was actually preferred over the name brand. And costs for store brands were much lower.

The Food and Drug Administration says consumers can save about 85% by buying generic prescription medications. 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. We give you tips on the fine art of bargaining in the story “13 Tips to Succeed in Any Negotiation.”

6. Stop being the early adopter

Always having the latest and greatest gadget first can make you the cool kid in your circle of friends. But it’s also going to empty your wallet in a hurry.

Why do you need to upgrade anyway? Is a 50-inch TV really going to make your life that much better than your 37-inch TV that works perfectly fine?

7. Make a habit of sharing purchases

Look for ways to share purchases with others. Maybe that means something as formal as creating a neighborhood co-op where families come together to make shared purchases on tools and other items you only use occasionally.

Or, it can be as simple as calling up a friend and asking whether she wants to go in on a purchase or rental of a particular item.

8. Consider whether you can make it or do it yourself

You can save a boatload of money if you do things yourself rather than paying someone else to do the job. From making your own laundry detergent to DIY home repairs, many of the things you purchase can be replaced by your own ingenuity or a little elbow grease.

9. Compare, compare, compare

Knowledge is power, and your money will have more buying power if you do a little research. Never make a purchase without first checking prices at other retailers and online.

To find the lowest price, check out websites such as:

10. Don’t let can’t-miss deals fool you

Slick salesmen and retailers might pressure you for an immediate sale, arguing that prices have never been so low.

They are toying with you, my friends. Like a cat plays with a mouse, they are trying to back you into a corner where you feel you can’t possibly say no. But competition is fierce, and the reality is that there will always be another sale.

Don’t buy unless you’ve done enough research to know the deal is good.

11. Try doing without

You might be inclined to run out and buy something as soon as the old version has worn out or breaks. Instead, wait a couple of days or even weeks before making a purchase.

You might do fine without the item, or discover you have another item that can work as an acceptable substitute.

12. Look for a coupon

Coupons are available for everything from groceries and auto repairs to online purchases.

If you dine out regularly, look into whether a coupon book or key card would be a good investment. These are often sold as fundraisers through schools and clubs, but you can also buy them online. You can also get coupons by signing up for the mailing lists of your favorite stores or agreeing to receive mobile alerts.

13. Reduce the final cost with online rewards

In addition to coupons, you can save money by taking advantage of online rebate programs. Our favorites are Rakuten and Swagbucks, but a simple web search will turn up many others.

You can also use rewards programs. You might not get savings upfront, but you can receive a nice check or other reward later.

14. Use a rewards credit card

Rewards credit cards provide overall savings on your purchase in the form of cash back or rewards points that can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards or travel.

The one caveat with rewards credit cards is to be aware of their interest rates. If you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, the amount of interest you end up paying can negate any rewards you receive.

If you don’t already have a card, you can stop by our Solutions Center and find a list of rewards credit cards.

15. Only pay cash

Finally, if you really want to save money on everything you’ll ever buy, only pay with cash. Research shows that using cash discourages people from spending, while using credit cards and gift certificates may encourage it.

In addition, spending cash keeps you accountable by ensuring that you only use the money you have on hand rather than basing your purchases on some vague notion of what might be available in your bank account or on your credit card.

Did we miss any great ways to save? Tell us your favorite money-saving method in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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