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Shopping Tips


Big Ticket Items

The larger the dollar amount of your purchase, the more anxious stores and sales people are to make a deal with you. Always look around, compare prices, and leave your name and phone number when asked. Don't be in a rush, and you usually can save money.

Check the Middle of the Aisle

A lot of people walk into the store, and don't have the time, or want to walk down every aisle. Hence, they tend to buy items at the end or beginning of the row. Merchants will often place higher priced items near the end of the row. Be sure and check the middle of the row in each section for items with larger discounts.

Clearance Items

Every store has a clearance section that contains everything from dented to discontinued merchandise. These areas are often hard to find. Often they are in the back corners of the store, behind other merchandise. Be sure and find out where these areas are located in the store where you shop. Remember that Christmas rolls around every year- and you always need items for gifts. Also,

Controlling Spending

If you want to reign in your spending, the easiest way to do it is to think of items you want to buy in terms of time. Time is money...and money is time! Look at the price of the item. Then calculate how many hours of work it would take for you to buy it. Let's say you (or your spouse) have a job that pays $15 an hour. You are considering buying a picture for your home that costs $90. Is that picture worth working 6 hours to buy it? and that is not even calculating the net amount of money you receive. This little touch of reality is a really good way to avoid frivolous buying.

Disposable Products

Here's a "frugal index" for you. How many disposable products do you use? The more you use, the less frugal you are. Try and use the real thing when it comes to paper plates, razor blades, napkins, etc.

Dollar Stores

Make it a point to visit heavily discounted merchandise stores, such as The Dollar Store or Big Lots. on a regular basis. The good ones have merchandise that is constantly changing, depending on the deals they get. If you see an item you use with regularity, stock up - because you may never see it there again.


Be sure and check out Ebay when you want to make a purchase- even when it is a small thing like embroidery floss. You can usually get more for your money on Ebay. After Christmas if a good time to find a lot of items people received as gifts and don't want. I've found prices on items higher during present buying time, but lower after Christmas. Just be sure and check the feedback of the seller and follow all the safety rules of shopping on Ebay.

Garage Sales

Some people hit garage sales at the earliest time possible for the biggest selection of items. However, you will probably make the best deals at the end of the day. When a garage sale is almost over, many people are willing to almost give items away rather than not sell them. You may not have as much selection, but if there is anything you want, it will probably be cheaper.


If you go to a lot of weddings, think about coming up with one great present, that you can purchase several of when they go on sale. Every time my husband uses his cordless screw driver, a present from one of his sons,  he says  "This is the greatest present I ever got."

Lost Leader Sales

Be sure and take advantage of items heavily discounted at supermarkets and other stores- often called loss-leader items. They are heavily advertised, chosen to help you get into the store, and they often runs out of them. Most stores do, however, have a rain check policy. Most people don't want to bother, but take them time to fill out the form so you can buy the item at the reduced price when the store has the item in stock again. Some people even wait until the end of the sale and the items are gone so that they can pick them up later.

Newspaper Ads

One of the biggest ways to save money on shopping day is to plan your week around the items listed for sale in your store's circular, and the leftovers that you have in your refrigerator.

Non-Food Items

Try and buy only groceries at the supermarket. Schedule a monthly or quarterly trip to a store like Walmart or Costco to pick up household supplies. They are easily stored, and will be less expensive.

Price Books

Everyone should keep a price book of the items that they buy on a regular basis. By keeping a price book, you are able to verify if an item is really on sale. Buy a small spiral notebook and keep it in your purse. It is also a good idea to write down other information you often wish you had with you when shopping- like the sizes of clothes and shoes of family members, table sizes, replacement filter numbers, etc. Be prepared to save.

Price Stickers

Here is a way to safely remove stubborn price stickers from newly purchased items. Use a blow dryer. The heat from the blow dryer should melt the glue. If that doesn't work, try putting some baby oil on the sticker. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then see if it will rub off.


Be sure and keep the receipts, and I mean ALL receipts, of everything that you buy, for at least 3 months. The strangest items can give you problems, and you can't take them back without a receipt. It doesn't take much any more time to put your receipts in shoe box than in the trash. If you don't need them, you can just throw them away later. Should you need them, they are there, and you have saved money. Also, many stores have a policy that if an item goes on sale that you have purchased in the last 30 days, they will refund the price difference.

Replacing Broken Merchandise

Be sure and save the instruction sheets with phone numbers for the things you buy at hardware stores. If something breaks, (with us it was a ceiling fixture that fell down) call the manufacturer. They will often replace it for free. The hardware store will charge you money.


Do your research before you buy a big ticket item. Go to the library, and research brands in Consumer magazines. Select the item you want with the features, price point, and reliability that you also want. Then go home and call several stores that carry the model you want, and do a price comparison. Some stores will match any competitor's price, even from a store like Costco. In that case, buy your item from the store with the best service and reputation.


Make good use of Scotchguard to protect your fabrics. Buy a can, read the label, and see all the items you can protect with this spray. Many items you buy are already protected with this product. Less expensive items, like inexpensive sneakers, have not had it applied. Take the time to spray them, and they will last longer. If you apply it to items that will be washed, such as canvas shoes or pillow covers, remember that you must spray them again after they are washed.

Senior Citizen Discounts

If you are over 55, always ask at checkout counters if they offer a senior citizen discount. These discounts are often available, even if limited to one day of the week. It is embarrassing for tellers to ask if you are over 55, and most don't even bother.

Shopping Online

Do not be afraid to buy items online. You can find many items discounted on line, from pet products, to computers, books, and music. There are some things I buy online that I wouldn't dream of buying from a retail store. Two examples are books and music. I buy all my books at Amazon, and I buy them used or from a discount dealer. My kids often ask for books for Christmas or their birthdays, and they don't care if they are new or used. When I want some music, I download it from Walmart. Do your homework on this one and save money.

Store Discount Cards

Always sign up for store discount cards, not to be confused with credit cards.  You will be able to take advantage of store specials.  I carry most of the cards in my wallet, but a lot of stores will just plug in your phone # and your card will come up.

Thrift Stores

You will find the best bargains in thrift stores during the week. Weekend crowds snap them up. Most stores have regularly scheduled deliveries. Find out when they are and when the new merchandise is put out. Plan your shopping trips so that you hit these stores at those times.


If available, be sure and join a discount warehouse like Costco. When we first moved to Seattle, we were told we didn't belong to any organizations that would allow us to join. However, all we had to do was buy one share of stock, and we were allowed to join. Be sure and hold the stock certificate yourself. If a brokerage holds it for you, they will charge you a yearly fee- which will probably be more than the cost of the one share of stock.
One thing to keep in mind shopping at Costco- they often have sales that are not advertised. If you are making a big purchase, be sure and stop at the desk to see what is on sale.


Before heading off to the mall or a major retail store, check the websites of the stores where you plan to shop. See what is on sale, and look to see if they have any advertised specials or coupons you can print.

Address Books

Extend the life of your address book by writing the names in your address book in ink, but the addresses and phone numbers in pencil. Most of the names will stay the same. Only the phone numbers and addresses will change.

Aerosol Cans

You can get a little bit more product out of your hair spray and other aerosol cans by turning them upside down when they are nearly empty.


When you buy a major appliance- that you know is going to take a lot of energy to run, always check out the label as far as energy consumption. MOST Energy Star Appliances will save you money, but sometimes the difference is insignificant compared to the price. When it is practical, buy the appliance with the Energy Star sticker.


Spend a few dollars and buy a battery tester. There is always (or should be) life left in the batteries you take out of your smoke alarm. They can be used elsewhere. The same may hold true for other items. When the batteries no longer work in one item, test them to see if they still have life, and if so, see if they will work in another item. Whenever possible, think about using rechargeable batteries.


All thrift stores have a book section. and most people sell books at garage sales. There are so many uses for books, in addition to reading them. Look for books with nice pictures or lettering that you can use with craft projects, such as decoupage. You can copy designs for your own personal crafts, or just get inspired to make your own designs. Pictures of all types can be framed for art in your home. Colorful pictures are also great to wrap small presents.

Bottled Water

So many people buy bottled water because they think the water from their tap is not good drinking water. If you are going to go to the expense of buying bottled water, at least be sure of what you are doing. In our area it costs $15 to test your water for iron (usually caused by the breakdown of galvanized pipes). Every item that you check for is an additional expense, but it will be cost effective if you eliminate the need to drink bottled water. You can find environmental agencies in every city that will run these tests for you. Don't go to the expense of bottled water, when all you may need is a filter for your tap to make the water taste batter.


If you can find the room, try and save the good, boxes that are sent to you in the mail. It is hard to find boxes around town now, as most stores have machines that crush them. Boxes are very expensive at the UPS store. If you are moving and need lots of boxes, be sure and check Craig's list in your area. Lots of people who have just moved are looking to give away all their boxes, for free, if you will just pick them all up. You can also check with local moving companies. They may have some used boxes they will let you have for a minimal charge.


If you like beautiful china, think about buying it used. Find a pattern that you absolutely love, and then go online and register with "Replacement Patterns". They have discounted pieces of all the china ever made. My china is very old, but they send me regular emails telling me what pieces are available in my pattern. It does cost more to buy these special pieces, but this may be something that is worth the cost.

Exercise Equipment

Never buy new exercise equipment. You don't have to look very far to find people selling equipment they don't use. I've even seen a lot of it given away free on Craig's list. Exercise equipment takes up a lot of room, and when it is not used, it is quickly disposed of.


Here is a tip to save a little money on buying fabric. Look for a bolt that only has a small amount of fabric left on it. Even if you want the whole amount on the bolt, ask for less. If there is less than a yard left on the bolt after the amount you want, they may ask you if you want the rest of it as a remnant, at half price. 


When you go garage sale shopping, look closely at items that look new and are in their original packaging.  If you think they may make a good gift for someone, pick them up.

Home Office Supplies

Buy all of your home office supplies during the back to school sales. Paper, pencils, pens, markers, erasers, and many other items you use at home for your office and computer needs will be on sale.


Don't  pass up nice items like pretty chenille bedspreads or large linen tablecloths because of a few spots or holes.  If they are priced well, you can up the bedspreads to make pillows and bed skirts.  Tablecloths can be cut down into dish cloths, placemats, or table runners.


When you subscribe to a magazine, never sign up for automatic renewals. If you hold off renewing your subscription, they may send you an offer to subscribe again at a lower rate. Also, you may find a less expensive Introductory offer to the same magazine from another source. Even if it is from the magazine, you can call them, and they will probably do a price match for you.


In my opinion, one of the best buys at thrift stores are pictures. I don't buy them for the pictures.  I buy them for the frame, the mat, or the glass.  Wooden frames can be refinished, glass and mats in standard sizes can be mixed and matched.

Spray Bottles

When you can find spray bottles on sale, buy them. You will find a lot of uses for them that will save money. Most people use them to make their own cleaning solutions. They are also good to put anything into that you can spray instead of pouring from a bottle, like vegetable oil. You will always use less product this way. You can dilute almost all of the water based products you buy in the store, such as soaps and shampoo, and they will still be effective.


Tools make great presents for men- as most men seem to love their tools. Whether you are buying them as a present, or for yourself, try and buy them in sets. They are always cheaper in the long run when you spend the extra money to get a set with all the sizes; as opposed to buying them individually.


It saves money in the long run to buy the most expensive towels you can afford. They will last longer. Also, do not buy very light or very dark colors. The light colors will show stains, and the dark colors don't take bleach well. Sometimes, even without adding bleach, on inexpensive towels the color will come off of dark towels, leaving them with unsightly bare spots.


Goodwill, and other thrift stores, are great places to pick up toys. If a toy is till working by the time it hits the thrift stores, it is probably a well-made toy that will last. We have several toys we picked up, that have batteries and make sound, at least 6 years ago. Those toys are still working, and the batteries are haven't even been changed.


Think about pick up some netting or tulle when it goes on sale at your local craft or fabric store. It is one of those things that after you have it, you will wonder how you did without it.

It can be used as wrapping paper in a pinch, and looks great as the filler in gift bags.

It is also a great craft item with many things such as hair decorations or invitation.

It can be used to tie up party favors or potpourri, or added to floral arrangements.

It is used to embellish clothing and in quilting.

It can also serve as a strainer in certain situations.


Have you noticed that bottled water now comes in miniature bottles? Think about buying one of them for your purse. You won't be tempted to buy a drink when you get thirsty.


Your refrigerator is a high priced item in your home. Be sure and read your owner's manual and give it the maintenance it needs. If you have a hard time pulling it out it get behind it, think about getting some pads to place underneath the legs so that it will easily roll out. Most refrigerators need the coils cleaned - which are often in the back. You should be able to vacuum them with one of the attachments of your vacuum cleaner. Remember also that your refrigerator needs to breathe, so don't store things on top of it. Keep the dust off the coils, and the top clear- and it will run much more efficiently, saving you money.

Reset Buttons

Whenever an electrical motor stops working, whether it's the vacuum or the garage door opener, always check to see if there is a reset button. Many a repairman has been called to fix something that only needs resetting. It is both embarrassing and expensive.

Surge Protectors

Be sure and use a surge protector for ALL of your electronics. Your electronics are not only at risk for power surges, but they can be "fried during electrical storms by lightening. Remember, there is a difference between a power strip, which lets you plug in several plugs in one outlet, and a surge protector. Spend the extra few dollars and buy the surge protector to protect your high sensitive electronics, such as your televisions and computers.


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