1. Look around
Don’t be afraid to look around. Especially for things you’ll be using for the whole semester like bedsheets or kitchenware, take a day to go around to all the relevant shops and see the types of products, deals and prices they have. Then, decide what you want; whether it be the cheapest blankets you can find, or the 1,000 thread count bed sheets (whatever floats your boat!). And if you’re too lazy for that, you can shop and compare most stores online from the comfort of your own room.
2. Value for money
The cheapest product is not necessarily the best – consider the specs, the quality, the nutritional value. What are you getting for your money, and is it worth it to spend a little more for a product that offers you extra? In terms of food it could be a good idea to start from the cheapest and work your way up until you find a product you’re satisfied with. To accurately compare prices look at the price per unit (eg. $1/100g) instead of the price of the whole product. Additionally, fresh produce, while more expensive, may deliver a lot more nutrition and satisfaction than canned or frozen.
3. Generic brands
Speaking of food, the cheapest products are almost always the generic or supermarket brands. And before you turn your nose up at me – they’re not all bad! Many generic brands actually use the same manufacturers as more famous food companies, but are able to sell them at lower prices by saving costs in packaging and advertising. So don’t knock it before you try it and look for generic products that work for you – yes, there will inevitably be that dodgy one, but by incorporating supermarket brands into your shopping you could be saving so much money. A lot of department stores also have their own brands for homewares and appliances, but mostly they’ll offer just the basic functions and don’t last as long – so if you’re looking for something fancier it’s probably worth it to invest in a more expensive branded product.
Most stores, supermarkets and restaurants release weekly, biweekly or monthly catalogues which outline their sales, deals and new products. This is a great opportunity to stock up on your favourite products, base your next few meals on or buy the thing you’ve been keeping an eye on. So before you throw away those catalogues make sure you give them a scan-through! Many catalogues are also available online at the store website.
5. Student discounts
You’re a student – you may have three assignments coming out of your ears and be backlogged in month-old lectures and life may suck but at least you’ve got student discounts! There are heaps of free programs and services you can join to receive a bunch of discounts and deals, as well as competitions and student advice – UNiDAYS is available in many countries, and StudentEdge is good if you’re in Australia. Many shops will also give you discounts in-store if you show them your student ID.
6. Other discounts
Some other ways to get discounts are coupons or vouchers – hoard those babies. Loyalty programs and cards are good if you’re planning to visit a store a lot (like buy 10 meals/drinks get 1 free, or get points for every transaction). It’s not a bad idea to follow freebie or bargain websites, such as OzBargain in Australia.
7. Secondhand items
Secondhand items are cheap because they’ve been used already, but they’re a good option for things that you need but don’t necessarily want to take back home with you. The university I went to exchange on had a great initiative where students moving out would donate things they didn’t want anymore (mostly kitchenware and bedding) and incoming students could grab them for free. Outgoing students also personally sell off their items – check study abroad, accommodation and buy/sell Facebook pages – and charity shops are another option.
8. Discount stores
In many cases discount retailers (like Kmart or Target) are actually cheaper than supermarkets for goods like homewares, household and kitchenware, so don’t leave these off your list of shops to visit! One-dollar shops also have good bargains, and wholesale retailers like Costco are very cost-efficient if you want to buy large quantities of products you’ll be using a lot.
9. Markets and specialty shops
Markets are a fun and (usually) cheap way to shop – you may have to go a little out of your way to find them, but many farmers markets are held weekly and offer fresher and cheaper produce than your average supermarket fare. General or specialty markets also sell more unique items like clothes, jewellery, art, antiques and food, and they’re always fun to browse even if you don’t buy anything. Other specialty shops like ethnic groceries are also usually cheaper and have a better range of products and brands for specific cuisines than supermarkets.
10. Return things
It always amazes me how willing people are to keep faulty products or items they’ve changed their mind about. I wonder why – to avoid potential awkwardness? They can’t be bothered? Customer service workers are scary? Either way, don’t be afraid to return things or complain about faulty items. In most cases you’ll get your money back (if you complain direct to the manufacturer they may even send you a complimentary gift card), so keep all your receipts, and don’t be so fast to take off the packaging about products you’re not sure about. Every store has a return policy (some don’t allow returns at all, so be careful while shopping) and most have a specific time frame they’ll let you return products in, no questions asked.
11. Get in the right headspace
It’s also important to go shopping when you’re in the right headspace. For example, never go shopping when you’re hungry or else you’ll end up overfilling your basket with food you don’t need (and will probably go off before you have a chance to eat them). Also, try to limit your spending if you’re particularly happy or sad and feel like some impulse buying. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a shopping list – not only to remember the things you want to buy, but to keep yourself grounded.
Got any more good tips to save money while shopping? Share them with us below!