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32 Frugal Shopping Tips for the Smart Shopper

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Hey shopper, are you looking for frugal shopping tips to help you save money? The truth is, there’s savings available everywhere. More places than just your typical:

  • Sales
  • Clearance events
  • Coupons

Though these are great opportunities to save too (more on this down below). You just need to know where to look. Keep reading as we reveal these 32 awesome frugal shopping tips for the smart shopper. Here we go!

1. Shop Sales Smartly

This is a tactic my best childhood friend’s family did and I never quite understood it until I became an adult. They shopped often but they were super frugal.

Every time I turned around they were shopping!

I couldn’t figure out why my best friend’s mom would always preach about savings but always be shopping. I just didn’t get it. This is how she did it:

  • Shopping sales
  • Using coupons
  • Bulk stores

She used a mix of the strategies above to save a lot of money shopping on every trip.

Shopping the Sales

You will probably have to change your mindset with this one. You will stop shopping for what you need and start shopping for what’s on sale.

What?

Stop shopping for what you need.

Ok, let me explain. Because you will be shopping sales, you will be well stocked on needs that arise in the future. Here are some examples:

  • 80% off After Easter sale on Easter goods
  • Clearance sale on last season’s apparel
  • 90% sale on close to expiration food

Do you notice a trend here?

The sales are all on goods that have expired or close to expiring. These are some of the best deals to get. You might wonder why someone would want to buy Easter goods like Easter baskets, Easter decor, etc. after Easter, even at a huge discount when Easter has passed. It’s for the following year!

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you wait until the season ends, you can grab steep discounts for the following year.

This is the same with end of season sales like when Spring and Summer are starting, stores are trying to liquidate Winter apparel.

At Walmart, I got pants for $2 on their Winter clearance sale. Two bucks!

With food, just pay close attention to the expiration date, which can be an estimate. I know many families that buy stale baked goods like bread or cookies or buy close to expiration shelf stable products like snack cakes or other grocery items.

Using Coupons

Use coupons. This is a no-brainer. It saves you money and if you are shopping according to what’s on sale, you really are making it easier on yourself.

Here are some places to get coupons:

Use coupons, use store apps, and store coupons to save.

Bulk Stores

You might spend more on your grocery store but your grocery goods last a long time. Here are some bulk store statistics from my family:

  • We only buy trash bags twice a year
  • We only buy toilet paper once every other month
  • We get great deals on fresh produce
  • It’s not unusual for a bottle of medication to last us the whole year

Pretty incredible, right?

You get more product for less money. A jar of minced garlic at our local grocer is around $4.99. We get a much bigger jar at Costco for $3.99. A specialty cake at our grocer is easily $30 while at Costco we can get one (usually bigger) for under $20.

These are all awesome opportunities to save money. Check them out!

2. Use Apps

Apps are so critical to your frugal shopping trip. They help you save time and save money. Here are some favorites:

Ebates

Ebates is an app that helps you earn cashback on your online purchases. There are 2 ways to earn your cashback. You will be shopping with Ebates retail partners to earn cash back on purchases, applied right to your Ebates balance for you to claim for cash.

The Website

Head to Ebates.com and register for free. Then, shop your favorite retailers through the site. Once your checkout is complete, you’ll earn cashback!

The Browser Extension

Install the free browser extension on your computer and when you land on an Ebates partner retailer, you’ll get a popup showing you how much cashback is available. Click the “activate” option on the popup and once checkout is complete, you’ll have your cashback applied to your Ebates balance.

Easy!

They have a pretty nice referral program too so refer friends and family and you’ll both win! When I referred my sister, she got $10 and I got $25!

Ibotta

Ibotta helps you earn cashback on your grocery purchases. They are one of many apps that let you scan your receipt for cashback! They offer generous rebates on products, as high as $5 on all kinds of items including everyday essentials like milk and eggs.

Join for free then, redeem your $10 bonus!

Shopkick

This app is unique. You get paid when you walk into stores:

  1. Walk into stores
  2. Scan barcodes of select products
  3. Purchase with linked card
  4. Purchase and submit a receipt

For online purchases:

  1. Visit online stores
  2. View select products
  3. Make mobile purchases
  4. Watch videos

You earn on a rewards system called kicks and kicks can be exchanged for cash and gift cards.

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards also gives you cashback for scanning your receipt!

They have an easy three step process:

First, scan your receipt from any store. Then, earn points! Lastly, get rewards by redeeming your points.

Here are the top 10 free apps that pay you for scanning grocery receipts.

3. Bring Snacks and Water

You might wonder why this tip is on the list.

Shopping makes you hungry, especially food shopping. Avoid buying unnecessary extras or buying food and drink on the go by bringing your own snacks.

This is a staple habit in our household. Every time we leave the house, we always bring along these must haves:

  • Water bottle for each family member
  • Snacks

It takes no time at all to prepare some easy transport snacks like pretzels, fruit, trail mix or a power bar. Another tip is to make sure you leave the house full. You don’t have to be stuffed but you shouldn’t be hungry.

This is a big help. Nothing is worse than wandering the grocery aisles with a hunger rumbling stomach.

4. Buy in Bulk

We touched on this a bit up above. Buying in bulk saves money. It’s great for big batch meals, slow cooker meals, meal prep and freezer meals too.

What Foods to Target:

  • Meats
  • Produce
  • Anything on sale or in season that can be frozen for later

Although bulk stores usually come with a paid membership, the savings you get is worth it!

5. Buy In Season

Speaking of grocery shopping, when you do your grocery shopping trip, keep your eyes on open for what’s in season. It’s a great way to get fresh, delicious in-season produce for cheap. If you find a great sale, buy a lot and freeze extras for later.

6. Buy “The Catch” of the Day

Protein like meat and fish are often the most expensive items on your grocery list. Save money here by buying what’s in season.

Look for seasonal favorites or holiday deals for the 4th of July or other holidays.

This has become a tradition in our family. We love crab legs but they are expensive so we only buy them and cook at home a few times a year and the 4th of July is one of those times. The price drops down by 50% or more and we stock up!

7. Stay Off Junk Food

The healthy stuff like fruits, veggies, grains and other healthy foods are good for you and cheaper than processed junk food. If you must have a sweet treat, make it at home. Buying the ingredients and baking scratch made breads, cakes, and cookies is a lot more affordable and tastes better too!

8. Buy Off-Brand

The off-brand products are so similar to name brand. What’s great is that you can get nearly every product in an off-brand or store brand, like:

  • Medication
  • Toiletries
  • Beauty products
  • Boxed food like cereals or canned goods
  • Apparel

Make this a habit and watch your shopping bill shrink.

9. Do Receipt Surveys

Do you ever see those surveys that print on the bottom of your receipt? Your cashier might mention for you to complete it for a coupon or to be entered into a drawing or sweepstakes.

Do it!

You never know, you could win.

One of my friend’s mothers would always win those things all the time because she took every opportunity to do them.

10. Check the Bottom of Receipts

There are coupons there! When I was a struggling college kid, it was one of the ways my boyfriend and I enjoyed a cheap date, free icecream from a local chain ice cream shop from coupons printed on the bottom of my grocery receipt!

11. Get on Rewards Programs

Take advantage of this from every store that offers it to you. It’s free money.

Here’s how they work:

You get on the rewards program and accrue points for your purchases. Once you meet a specific number of points, you get a freebie like:

  • A store gift certificate
  • Free item
  • Cash back

Again, rewards programs are free. Make sure you are taking advantage of them.

The latest rewards program I joined is from our favorite local pizza place. I earn points on every order and when I accrue 125 points, free pizza!

Common places that have rewards programs include:

  • Retail stores
  • Department stores
  • Pharmacy
  • Restaurants
  • Bakery
  • Local shops

12. Buy Frozen

Save on produce by purchasing the frozen variety. They will last longer and so much cheaper. Stock up on frozen goods on sale too and don’t miss out on deals at big bulk stores.

13. Shop farmer’s markets

Get quality local produce and support local farmers. The prices are no comparison to grocery stores since you’re getting it straight from the source.

14. Shop with Cash

Have you ever tried shopping with only cash?

It’s a way of shopping that forces you to stay within your budget. Kind of like Dave Ramsey’s cash envelope system. You put out envelopes for each budget category like:

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Shopping
  • Gas

You spend your money for each budget category from the corresponding envelope. Simple.

At the end of the period, if you’re out of cash, your’e out! If you have some leftover, then you have extra money. It’s a great no-nonsense way to budget.

Sound interesting? Read more about the cash envelope system here.

15. Use Coupons

Coupons from your Sunday newspaper, coupons online, digital coupons, store coupons, use them all! You can even do coupon stacking where you combine coupons together for the most savings.

There are all kinds of strategies you can use to get great deals on your stuff.

Are you a beginner? You’ll love our beginner-friendly guide showing 15 couponing tips to try today!

16. Use Cashback Sites

Cashback sites are a secret savings weapon that a lot of folks don’t know about. Here’s how they work:

You register for the cashback site for free.

Then, shop through the site at a partner retailer and earn cash back.

That’s it!

This is really the only way you should shop online. It’s free money!

Here are some cashback sites to take a look at:

You can also get cashback from retailers. Take a look at these 5 TJ Maxx Cashback Hacks.

17. Shop Consignment

You can get some really incredible deals at consignment shops.

My mother in law has nearly a dozen grandkids. She saves money on birthdays and holidays by getting gently used clothes from consignment shops at a steal!

I went with her once and found $1 kids shirts and $2 jeans.

The clothes were in great condition and some were even brand new, tags on!

If you have a family with growing kids, consider shopping consignment. It can get expensive to shop for clothes 2-3 times a year because your children keep growing. Save your budget and try a consignment store.

18. Shop As-Is

This is a sneaky little online shopping trick that you probably haven’t heard of.

When you are shopping online, go to search and type “as is.” This will bring up a list of results for customer returns with steep discounts.

This might not work at every retailer but try it out at Overstock and Amazon.

19. Get Amazon Prime

Are you a big online shopper? Do you shop Amazon?

If you don’t have Prime, you are missing out big time.

Amazon Prime, at $99/year is totally worth it and, it pays for itself! Here are some perks you’ll get as a part of your Prime membership:

  • Free one-day and two-day shipping
  • Free music streaming service
  • Free video streaming service
  • Prime photos
  • Lightning deals

And there are even more perks!  Give it a try.

20. Mystery Shopping

Have you heard of mystery shopping?

It’s like getting paid to shop, literally. Actually, that’s exactly what it is!

Shoppers are given a list of tasks to do, products to buy, questions to ask, etc. And, they share their experience. They will report back their experience about:

  • The store
  • Staff that helped them
  • The cleanliness of the facility
  • And, more!

Mystery shoppers are compensated for this work. Compensation varies from company to company but it might be free product, compensation, or a combination of both!

If you love shopping, this opportunity might be right up your alley!

Check out these 18 mystery shopping companies that pay the most.

21. Negotiate

Did you know that you can negotiate the prices of a lot of goods?

This is especially true if you visit your local mall. Most of the retailers will let you haggle, like:

  • Jewelry stores
  • Kiosk stores
  • Mom and pop stores
  • Apparel shops

You can also negotiate your rent or mortgage payment, car payment, interest rate, utility and cable bill, and more.

Back when I had cable I used to call my cable company every 6 months to ask for a discount. Here’s how it all started:

When I first joined the cable company, I got a great deal. It was a promotion package that lasted 1 or 2 years. They did tell me that it was a special and the price would go up after the special expired, and I understood.

When the price increased, I wasn’t surprised and to be honest, it didn’t rise that much but I took that opportunity to call the cable company to ask if I could have my bill lowered. And, this is what started it all.

They lowered my bill for me on the same kind of deal, a special promotion that would expire in the future.

When it did expire, I would just call back again.

I did this every 6 months or so for years and I got a discount on my cable bill 100% of the time. I NEVER failed. It makes you think, doesn’t it? It doesn’t hurt to ask.

25. Online shop with store pickup

This is an easy option that saves you money on shipping and handling. Online shop and arrange for store pickup rather than delivery. Not only will you likely get your order faster, but you’ll also save money on shipping.

26. Sign up with Paribus for Automatic Cash Back

Join Paribus for free then, they’ll monitor your online purchases and notify you of a price drop, automatically. An easy way to get cashback put into your pocket.

There are more ways to save with Paribus too.

I recently had a late Amazon delivery. Paribus was tracking that purchase and alerted me that the delivery was late, along with sending me an email script to use in contacting Amazon.

I did.

The result? I got an apology for the late delivery and a $5 Amazon credit.

Not bad, eh?

27. Sign up for Coupon Offers with Multiple Emails

This is a sneaky money savings tactic that works!  Get extra coupon codes to use for more savings. You can get the same 30% off coupon and apply it to multiple online shopping purchases!

28. Get on the Discounted Gift Card Train

Have you heard of this? You can get some pretty incredible deals on gift cards on sites like this:

Have you ever gotten a gift you don’t want?

What do you do?

Sometimes you can regift. Other times, you might try to return it or sell it for cash. That is exactly what these users are doing with their gift cards on these gift card marketplaces.

As a shopper, you can get some awesome discounts on these gifts cards.

For example, you might get a Best Buy $20 gift card for $15.

Or, you might get a Walmart $50 gift card for $40.

So, you can see there is some opportunity to grab a deal on these gift cards.

There is actually a real market in this. There are gift card resellers that buy and sell gift cards for profit. It’s a whole business.

Give this a try to get a cool discount.

29. Stay on Top of Sales with Google Alerts

This one is so simple. Never miss a sale again.

Don’t you just want to pinch yourself when you miss a great sale? Sign up for Google Alerts and never miss a sale again!

30. Before you buy, check Groupon

I’ve been personally saved by this little hack, on more than one occasion.

Imagine you’re online, ready to make a purchase. What I did one time, by accident, was type the store name into Google. Then, popped a Groupon deal for that place.

It was actually a restaurant that our family was going to order takeout from. The Groupon deal was 2 for $15 which was such a steal, considering our bills are usually $30+. So, we saved a cool 50%, more probably, just by snagging the Groupon deal.

Groupon is great for a number of deals, especially ones like these:

  • Travel
  • Restaurant
  • Retail deals (ex. home goods, apparel, etc.)
  • Service-related (like nail salons, plumbing work, etc.)

Grab the app and don’t miss out on this opportunity to save!

31. Use a Cash Back Credit Card or Debit Card

Does your credit card offer cash back on select retailers? Does your bank debit card give cash back on your purchases?

If so, use those cards for your shopping so you can get free cash back.

My debit card partners with various retailers for cash back. I actually get a $.50/gallon discount on gas! My other debit card gives me a flat percentage cash back on all purchases and I earn around $20 to $40 cash back each month, because of it. It gets deposited right into my bank account.

Check your cards now and make sure you are getting all your benefits!

32. Get Free Money Every Year for Sharing Your Amazon Purchase History

Use ShopTracker and you can anonymously share your Amazon purchase history and they’ll pay you $36/year.  It’s so easy to get started:

  • Shop on Amazon
  • You must be 18+ years old
  • You must live in the U.S.
  • Windows 7-compatible PC or newer

Take a look at our full review of Shoptracker.

Final Thoughts

Thirty two frugal shopping tips for the smart and savvy shopper. Let’s recap:

  • Shop sales smartly
  • Use apps
  • Bring snacks and water
  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy in season
  • Buy “the catch” of the day
  • Stay off junk food
  • Buy off-brand
  • Do those receipt surveys
  • Check the bottom of your receipts
  • Join rewards programs
  • Shop Frozen
  • Buy from your local farmer’s market
  • Always use cash
  • Use Coupons
  • Shop Cashback sites
  • Shop at Consignment stores
  • Shop as-is
  • Get on Amazon Prime
  • Try mystery shopping for free stuff
  • Negotiate a lower price
  • Store pick up to save on shipping
  • Join Paribus for free
  • Get coupons sent to multiple emails
  • Get discounted gift cards
  • Sign up to Google Alerts for sales alerts
  • Check Groupon for the best deals
  • Use a cash back card for your purchases
  • Get paid to share your Amazon purchase history

Whew, there you go! Did we miss anything? Comment down below to share your tactics to saving money shopping.

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