jar full of coins

Guest Blog: Saving Tips From a Shopaholic


Blogger Biography: Liz is a native Texan and a stay-at-home mother of two. She and her family are still in the early stages of their Army adventure, but they have a deployment and a couple of duty stations under their belt. She is (mostly) loving the Army lifestyle and ready to see what lies on the road ahead!

I’m going to come right out and say it. Even as I write this, I feel a bit silly doling out financial advice. I am by no means a money expert. If left to my own devices, I can burn through a paycheck faster than you can say “storewide clearance.” In fact, practically every single money lesson I’ve ever learned has been learned the hard way. But hard-knocked or not, I have learned. Perhaps my mistakes can help teach you too.

Here are five simple tips to tame the shopaholic in us all:

1. Shop your own stuff first. Move after move, when I see those boxes strewn about the house, I am reminded of how much stuff I actually have. If you are anything like me, there are about five or six boxes that are never opened from point A to point B—or D. If you find yourself in want of something, start with what you’ve got. Unless you’ve taken a real inventory, you will never truly know what you need. I’m not saying that everything you’ll ever need will magically pop out of those boxes; occasionally, you will need to get inventive. But that is where our “military wife life” gives us a leg up. One of the perks of moving all the time means you have mentally and physically rearranged your furniture and décor about a bazillion different times, so this should come naturally to you. Sometimes, finding the perfect piece means that you simply repurpose what you already have. A nightstand can make a perfectly good end table. It doesn’t match the room? Break out the spray paint.  The same thing works for mealtime. Remember what your pantry looked like when you were five days out from clearing a house and you refused to do a big grocery store run? That’s when the iron chef in all of us comes out. I amazed myself with what I could do with five manicotti noodles and some buffalo sauce. (Sounds gross here, but I promise it was good!) Explore what you’ve got first, and you can save some big dough.

2. Know what you need. I used to be a list-free shopper. Thinking back on it now, I don’t know how I did that. But I do know I would wander the grocery store in search of food and come home with spaghetti sauce and no noodles. The magic of a list is that it not only keeps you from the frustration of forgetting those spaghetti noodles, but it also gives you a visual plan of what you are going to buy (and spend) before you even go shopping. On more than one occasion, the sheer length of my list has led me to cross off items that weren’t truly necessary and has saved me money.

3. Stick to the list! If it is not on your list, don’t buy it! If I had a nickel for every time I got sucked into that shiny dollar section near the checkout aisle, I would still be missing 95 cents of the dollar I spent and didn’t need to. Be wary of those impulse buys. Just like stores keep lighted, whirling candy sticks at the side of the checkout counter to lure children, they strategically place discount bins full of pretty junk for momma to peruse. Step away from the shiny things. Your wallet will thank you.

4. Be wary of sales. Sometimes sales don’t help you save. I love clearance sections too much. While I think that buying most things at regular price is foolish, I also know that shopping the clearance aisle haphazardly can be just as foolish. I don’t want to tell you how many times I have come home with four or five items I didn’t really need just because they “were such a great deal.” My favorite part of getting the receipt after shopping at any store is looking at the bottom where it says in big, bold letters “YOU SAVED $xxxxx ON THIS TRIP.” It briefly postpones the pang you feel when you look at the tiny printed section marked “Total” directly above it. I am not suggesting that you should pass on every deal you see. My point is that markdowns like these can make you lose your self-control and focus. Make the discounts work for you. Get one great deal on the one item you actually need and avoid stockpiling items there is no earthly way you can store, let alone use. Put frankly, if you buy something you wouldn’t necessarily buy just because it is discounted, you just wasted money instead of saving it. (I am still waiting on this lesson to sink in. The discount shopper in me is in denial!)

5. Shop around. The way I see it, the Internet can either be a blessing or a curse for the shopaholic. It can easily become the source of product overload or lust if you are shopping out of sheer boredom. However, it can also be a wonderful resource for researching big-ticket items before you buy them. When using the Internet for the latter purpose, take into consideration all of the following: Is there a military discount offered if you purchase in store? Are there deals available to help offset/eliminate the cost of shipping? Is the item tax-free? Is there a similar item available on post that would be tax-free? Are there any printable coupons/coupon codes online? Spending the extra time to research all of your options before you buy can save you bookoos at checkout time—and possibly earn you a little wiggle room in your wallet to score the item that caught your eye when you were shopping out of boredom. (Just saying.)

Happy shopping, everyone!

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