There's the stuff you need. Then there's the stuff you want. And then there's the stuff you didn't even know you wanted, but you're out killing time at the mall with your friends, and now you're surrounded by cool-looking stuff and you're in grave danger of blowing your monthly budget on something you could probably live without. Put your credit card back in its holster, folks. I'm here to help.
- Make a Shopping List. Before you run your errands, make a list of everything you plan on buying. The rule is: you're not allowed to buy anything unless it's already on your list. It'll help keep your impulse shopping to a minimum.
- Only Bring the Cash You Need. You can't spend money you don't have. Before you go out, put a small amount of cash in your wallet to cover all the buying you plan on doing. If the cash runs out, your shopping spree's done for the day.
- Comparison Shop. Don't be a sucker when you see a price tag. For instance, if you want a new PlayStation game, don't buy it right away. Call around to the video game shops and wholesale retailers in your area to see who has the cheapest price, and check online at sites like Amazon and Deep Discount. If you've got an iPhone, you can do comparison shopping when you're out and about with the
Save Benjis app.
- When it Comes to Clothes, Just Buy the Basics. You'll get way more mileage out of a plain black sweater - even if it costs more - than an '80's-style hot pink one. Before you buy something, ask yourself how often you'll actually wear it. Chances are, you're better off with a smaller number of basic pieces that you can make unique every day with layering and accessories.
- Try Not to Shop Bored. The silliest purchases happen when you probably shouldn't have been shopping in the first place. If you and your friends are bored and looking for something to do, don't automatically run to the mall. Instead, find inspiration from this list of fun, free things to do with your friends.
- When in Doubt, Leave the Store. On the fence about whether or not to buy something? Put it down and leave the store. If you decide later that you really, really want it, then you can go back and buy it tomorrow. But chances are, you'll be happy you saved your money.
- Pick Your Shopping Friends Wisely. Not all shopping buddies are created equal. Some of them are shopaholics themselves and love it when you spend money 'cause it makes them feel better about their own purchases. Instead of hitting the mall with those friends, call up some friends who'll give you their honest opinions and won't pressure you into buying anything.
- Find Cheapo Deals Online. You can usually find good shopping deals online if you look hard enough. Get deals on your favorite brands by checking their sites frequently, and sign up for Shop It To Me to get shopping deals emailed to you.
- Before You Buy It, Make It. You can save a lot of money buy staying out of the shops and doing things yourself. Want some jean shorts? Turn a pair of old jeans into cutoffs. Want to decorate your room with some band posters? Draw, paint or collage one. Mom's birthday's coming up? Make her something instead of buying it.
- Don't Be Seduced By Sales. Novice shoppers will sometimes buy something they don't need just because it's super-cheap. Cheap or not, there's no use spending any amount of money on something you'll never use. Leave the store and come back only if you're sure you want it the next day. (If it's out of stock by then, the gods of fate have spoken to you.)
- Shop Out of Season. Bathing suits are cheaper in the winter and coats are cheaper in the summer. (Unless you live in Australia, of course.) Plan your big shopping trips a couple of months in advance to find some great deals. Just don't buy any super-trendy styles that'll look dated next year.
- Don't Be Afraid to Haggle. If you think you're getting a bad deal on something - because you've seen it cheaper elsewhere, or because the merchandise is flawed in some way - talk to the salesperson. It might make you nervous but if it could save you some cash, what's the harm? Here are some tips on how to be a great haggler.
- See if Your Parents Will Split It.. If there's a big-ticket item you've been saving up for - like a smart phone, or a pair of boots - your parents might be willing to split the cost with you 50/50 if you make a good case for it. Here's some advice on how to talk to your parents.
- Go Thrifting. Buying used is better for the environment and cheaper than buying new. Before you head anywhere else, check out your local thrift stores, vintage shops, used bookstores and CD exchanges. You can also thrift from home on sites like eBay and Etsy.
- Save Your Receipts. And don't remove clothing tags or take your new goodies out of the box until you're ready to use them. Give yourself lots of chances to change your mind even after you've made your purchases.