If you’re a budget buff, shopping can feel like a necessary evil. You have to buy clothes, but you don’t want to be bamboozled by the marked-up prices of cheaply made clothing. You have to buy birthday gifts, but you don’t want to sacrifice your savings to do it.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to shop in a way that doesn’t kill your budget. We’ve curated a list of shopping hacks so effective you’ll feel like you’re cheating the system. Use these four shopping secrets to stop wasting money and start shopping smarter.
Our favorite shopping hacks
TABLE OF CONTENTSC is for consignment
Bakery Outlet Stores
Ebates (Now Rackuten)
1. C is for consignment
The word “consignment” might bring visions of used crockpots and outdated clothing to your head, but in 2019 consignment shops are often just as high-end and on-trend as any major retailer.
Unlike thrift stores, consignment shops get their products by buying them from the original owner. This allows them to carefully curate their selections to match the styles and interests of their clientele.
Because stores are paying for items, unlike thrift stores whose inventory is donated, they are careful to only accept items that are clean and in good condition. You’ll be paying less than half the original price, while still investing in a quality piece.
Shopping consignment is an especially good option when shopping for babies and children. Kids grow so fast that it can feel pointless to pay full price for items they will outgrow in a matter of months.
Once Upon a Child is the largest national franchise specializing in reselling gently used kids’ clothing, shoes, and toys. From onesies to sleepers to strollers and pack-and-plays, Once Upon a Child has it all at half the price of a traditional retailer.
On top of their already low prices, they often run special deals like their “10 for 10” sale that allows you to buy ten onesies for $10. Interested in seeing for yourself? Find a store near you here.
The gist: opting for consignment can help you get what you need without blowing your budget. You can find current, gently used items for bargain prices, allowing you to shop smarter and save more.
2. Dirt Cheap
Dirt Cheap is a self-proclaimed “bargain hunter’s paradise,” and as someone lucky enough to live within 30 minutes of two of their locations, I can assure you they’re right.
Dirt Cheap’s buyers scour the country for liquidations, customer returns, overstocks, out of season goods, bankruptcies and closeouts from manufacturers, distributors and other retailers. They purchase in volume and get it for less, so you pay less.
Dirt Cheap’s merchandise is sold for thirty to ninety percent less than the original price, and additional discounts are taken at the register based on the “Deals of the Day”.
Dirt Cheap offers a benefit that differs from discounted retailers like thrift shops and consignment stores: their merchandise is not “pre-loved.” Dirt Cheap purchases items directly from manufacturers, distributors, and other retailers, meaning their items have never been previously owned or used. You may occasionally see a scratch, dent, or pull in the fabric of an item, but the merchandise at Dirt Cheap remains largely untouched.
At Dirt Cheap you will purchase brand new items at a “previously owned” price. Dirt Cheap offers men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, baby supplies, personal care items, furniture, electronics, home decor, office and school supplies, and even some non-perishable food.
The majority of the lamps and mirrors in our home are Target’s popular Project62 brand, but were purchased at Dirt Cheap for less than a fourth of the original price. We’ve also bought personal care products by Burt’s Bees, denim by Gap, and kitchen products by Hamilton Beach, all for unbelievably low prices.
In short, there’s a reason their URL is ilovedirtcheap.com. Use this link to find a store near you.
3. Bakery Outlet Stores
“Shopping” can feel like a four-letter word in the budgeting world, but there’s no way to escape it entirely. You need clothes to wear; you must have gas to power your car; you have to eat. Thankfully, there are all kinds of shopping hacks you can use to save money on necessities.
This shopping hack will teach you how to save money on that pantry staple we can’t go without: bread.
When bread doesn’t sell fast enough, supermarkets send it back to the bakery. Although most bread tastes perfectly fine at (or even a bit past) its best-by date, shoppers tend to avoid items with quickly approaching expiration dates.
After being sent back to the bakery, bread is distributed to bakery outlet stores. That’s all there is to it! Bakery outlets can sell bread for less because it’s been rejected by supermarkets, meaning you have an opportunity to stock your cabinets for less.
To be clear, bakery outlets aren’t selling old bread. They’re just selling bread with a shorter lifespan. Some items may be within a day or two of their best-by date, but many items still have four to six days on the clock.
Think: bagels, hamburger buns, multi-grain loaves, and tortillas. And, in true bargain store fashion, you never know what surprises you might find. The selection will vary from week to week, sometimes including sweet treats like mini donuts and Little Debbies.
4. Ebates (Now Rackuten)
Cashback programs can be confusing, and quite often they end up in the category “too good to be true” when you discover some fine print. But in the case of Ebates (now Rackuten), it really is as good as it sounds.
How it works
Rackuten is a free program that lets you earn cash back on your online purchases. They describe their model this way: “Stores pay us a commission for sending our members to their websites, and we share it with you.”
You can make purchases using the link on Rackuten’s website, or you can install their handy browser extension which will notify you when a website you’re on offers cash back via Rackuten. Just select “activate cash back,” shop, check out as usual, and voila! You’re making money.
How you get paid
Your purchases and cash back balances are tracked by Rackuten and recorded in your account. Payments run on a quarterly schedule. You’ll get four payments a year, either by PayPal or check (select which payment method you prefer when you create your account).
These payments will include all cashback for that quarter. For example, purchases posted between July 1 and September 30 will be included in a “Big Fat Check” sent on November 15.
If our family hadn’t experienced the benefits of Rackuten firsthand, I’d probably still be writing it off as some kind of marketing scam. But we made nearly $135 our first quarter using it (and by “using it” I mean pressing the “activate” button every time we were offered cashback), and we haven’t looked back since.
Creating an account with Rackuten and installing their browser extension might be the easiest shopping hack out there. Sign up now and start making money today.
Hopefully, you feel inspired to try some of these shopping hacks. They’ve changed the way my family shops, and our budget has been all the healthier because of them.
Nevertheless, we all know saving is only one side of the financial security coin. If you’re using all the spending hacks, your budget is as tight as it can go, and you’re still wondering why you can’t make progress with your financial goals, maybe it’s time to earn some extra income. Check out this article featuring 27 excellent ways to earn some extra money on the side.