5 Ways to Save Money on Any Purchase

Man comparing prices while shopping
••• Predrag Vuckovic/iStock

By remaining focused on saving money with every purchase you make, you can train yourself to gradually cut spending and become more keenly aware of your budget.

Here are five ways you can save money when making everyday purchases:

Buy Used, Refurbished, or Older Models

Most people enjoy the shine of a new toy, but buying used items will always offer you a great discount. Purchasing an open-box TV or a refurbished laptop will cost you hundred of dollars less than a new one, and many of these refurbished or open-box items are almost brand new, complete with user manuals and manufacturer warranties.

When you want to buy a new pair of running shoes, consider that last year’s model might be $20 to $40 cheaper. Buying something older (whether it’s used or last season's) will always help your budget, and this is especially true in the realm of seasonal consumer goods.

Check for Promotions and Coupons

A popular solution for saving money on unavoidable purchases is to use coupons. Collecting coupons can be a time-consuming commitment, and most people don’t look forward to searching the Sunday paper (or the Internet) for discounts each week, but the small contributions that each coupon makes to your budget will accumulate over time.

Laura Wales, Lead Staff Writer at The Coupon Project, writes in her article, "The Complete Beginners Guide To Couponing":

"Before you clip a single coupon, you first need a primer on understanding a store’s sales cycles. Why? Because most of the time you’ll save a bunch by simply buying items when they’re on sale! Coupons are really just the icing on the cake in most circumstances."

Experienced coupon clippers also accelerate the search for savings by inviting brands to send discounts directly to their email inbox.

Create an email account (or smart folder within your main account) specifically for “junk” email. Sign up for the newsletters of your favorite stores and let their offers go directly to that folder or account.

The trick is to only check these emails when you need to make a purchase. If you don’t feel like signing up for newsletters, there are other ways to come by coupons.

  • Do a Google search for coupon codes before shopping online.
  • Check Groupon, LivingSocial, Honey, and other discount/deal sites to see if there’s a sale on anything you need.
  • Use convenient coupon apps for your smartphone.

Compare Prices and Use Price Matches

One of the best price-tracking applications you can use when regularly shopping Amazon is Camelcamelcamel. This useful tool links to your Amazon account to track the price of anything on your wishlist, and it sends you an email alert when an item drops into your price range.

There are many similar browser extensions and apps you can use to view the price history of an item, see where it’s on sale, and compare prices. This is especially helpful for shopping at retailers that offer price match guarantees. See something you want on Amazon but don't want to wait for it to ship? Use these apps to provide proof that an item you want is cheaper online, and many retailers will match the price for you.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Websites like Giftcards.com or Cardpool.com sell gift cards at discounted prices. People sell their unused gift cards to these sites, and the websites then resell the gift cards at a discount.

You might be able to find a $100 Target gift card for $90 or $85 through one of these outlets, and gift cards can sell for up to 35% under face value. If you're strategic about buying discounted cards for stores where you would ordinarily shop, it's a great way to trim your budget.

Daily-deal sites and warehouse retailers like Costco and Sam's Club also offer deals on gift cards, as well as extensive, concentrated monthly coupon books for their huge inventory of items.

Take Advantage of Cash-Back Opportunities

It's a great feeling when reward points with a credit card company or membership retailer become a bonus deposit into your bank account, and there are smart ways to earn cash back on big purchases. Both Amazon and Costco offer 5% back on all purchases when shopping with their credit card.

Shopping portals such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates) offer an easy option. Once you've created an account, you shop online via affiliate links. In return, you get a certain percentage of cash-back points with each purchase. Once you reach the threshold, you’ll be able to redeem your rewards for cash.

Another option is to use a site like Swagbucks to earn points toward gift cards. Again, once you have an account, completing certain activities (such as filling out a survey or performing a search) will reward you with points. You can then redeem those points for a gift card at a retailer of your choice.

Stack up Your Savings

When you're trying to put money away for travel or retirement, every little bit counts. It will take some time to incorporate money-saving shopping tips into your routine, but with a little bit of effort upfront, you can build passive, life-long habits for a healthier budget and bigger savings account.