I feel like we talk a lot about saving money on things you purchase, which is good. Everyone needs to buy things and there are lots of ways to save money on those things. But an important thing to consider is whether or not you need to buy something. This all goes back to the “needs vs wants” idea.
Instead of trying so hard to save money on everything (which is still a good idea), how about saving even more by just not buying everything? We live in an era of instant gratification. TV and movies are on-demand, music is downloadable, heck, you can now buy things right from your mobile phone. This makes it very easy to make a purchase without much thought. It’s too easy. Well, it can be just as easy to say “no”. Just go back to your needs vs. wants. Don’t go shopping unless you need something. A lot of us will shop as a recreational activity when there’s nothing else to do. For example…
“Hey, what are you up to today?”
“Not much, hanging around, catching up on the Fresh Prince”
“I love that show. Want to go to Target?”
“Well, I don’t really need anything but, yes. I would absolutely love to go to Target today and probably purchase something that I don’t need, and had no intention of buying a minute ago.”
Find something constructive to do! (Wow, I sound like my mother right now). I’m just saying that there are much better ways to spend your time than stumbling around at the mall, finding excuses to spend money. If the purchase doesn’t fulfill an immediate need, then it can be classified as a want, and can probably be put off. Think about the purchase before buying impulsively. Then you can take the time to save money for it, or decide that you don’t want or need the item.
Since all I’ve been preaching is a “don’t buy it” philosophy, it feels contradictory to do this next part. But I feel the need to mention some of the online tools that help us find good deals. I mean, it’s still helpful. Just remember your needs and wants. If you do need something, why not find a deal. Here we go…
Go to Groupon.com, select the nearest city from their menu, and it will offer you the opportunity to purchase something in your area at a deep discount. The deal is different every day. For example, a recent deal in Boston was a $35 gift certificate to a local wine store for $15. Another deal in Los Angeles was a $50 oil change and inspection for $15. Groupon offers deals in cities across the US, and even in some other countries. You can register your email and receive notifications of your local deal every day.
Similar to Groupon, LivingSocial allows you to select your location, and they will send you an email every day with a different discount offer for a local merchant. For example, a recent deal in Orlando was a $350 teeth-whitening session at a dental office for $150. LivingSocial is available in fewer cities than Groupon but, if it’s available to you, why not sign up for both? There are no obligations to either.
Woot offers a deal a day, but not on things like restaurants, services, or gift cards. They offer actual merchandise at discounted prices. On occasion, they also feature all-day “woot-offs” where they’ll offer several items over the course of the day. When one item sells out, they move on to the next one, and so on. Typical items include computers, electronics, and household goods.
* (The beauty of Groupon, LivingSocial, and Woot is that you’re not really shopping at these sites. You can just check them and wait until something you need pops up on the daily deal.)
CouponCabin allows you to search their site for coupons and coupon codes for just about every retail store and website you can think of. You can also sign up for a daily email to receive their best coupons.
Think of them as an online circular ad. You scan through the pages and select the coupons you like. Then click print to get them all and head to the store. This is most useful for things like groceries and household goods, but they do have coupons in several categories. Coupons.com also offers local coupons by zip code, coupon codes for online shopping, and they also offer to email their “deals of the day” to registered users.
Dealnews provides a listing of sales, coupons, and deals from across the web. They are broken up into categories like clothing, electronics, travel, food, toys, and more. Like the others, they also offer to email you the latest deals if you sign up.