It seems everyone says you need to save smarter and shop savvily, but that’s not easy to do if no one has ever shown you how. If you’re reading this and you just moved out on your own for the first time or you want to re-learn how to manage your finances, keep reading to learn how to save on major purchases and your everyday items like groceries.

Saving money on big purchases boils down to three things:

    • Shopping before you need the item
    • Comparison shopping for the item
    • Using coupons and discounts.

Within coupons and discounts, we’re lumping gift cards and store credit. Let’s look at the difference following these three guidelines makes.

Let’s say you want to buy a new air conditioner before the big heat wave hits. In scenario one, you flout the three guidelines by waiting until the day before the heat wave will begin to shop. You had been waiting on a sale but nowhere put on sale what you needed. When you went to the store from which you usually buy, the only models they had left cost hundreds more than you could afford. You didn’t know about coupons and had no gift cards, so you dipped into savings to buy an air conditioner, so you could remain healthy.

Forget scenario one and instead use scenario two. You see on the news while at your grandma’s that a heat wave will hit in two weeks. You grab your cell phone and open your favorite search engine – usually Bing or Google. You’ve used Bing since you realized that they pay you points you can trade for gift cards. You smartly wait until you want to buy something to cash out your Bing points, so you have the equivalent of $20 to $30 waiting on you.

You compare prices online and spot a great unit on Amazon. It’s about $100 more than you want to pay, so you visit the Amazon site to explore its coupons. Eureka! You find a $40 coupon on the air conditioner from a different seller. You cash out your Bing points for a $30 Amazon gift card, then head over to MyPoints to cash out there, too. That $20 gift card covers the difference between your budgeted price and the price for which the seller lists the air conditioner.

Using your family’s Prime account, you get free delivery and two- to three-day shipping. The air conditioner arrives, and you set it up with a week and a half to spare. You have time to learn all the settings and set them perfectly for your liking. You scan your purchase receipt in Fetch and earn a little bit of money back on your purchase. Since you used your credit card that pays you cash back, you earn back at least two percent of the purchase, too.

Signing Up For Loyalty Programs

Here’s a simple truth. If you sign up for honest, genuine loyalty programs online, you can earn money every time you spend money. Bing Points, MyPoints, and Fetch all operate loyalty programs. Bing pays you for every search you make using Bing and for answering a few trivia questions each day. MyPoints pays you when you shop and after you shop, while Fetch pays you back after you shop. When you join each program, you earn a set amount of points that convert to gift cards or cash once you meet a modest threshold.

Choose the Right Bank

Banks like Varo and Chime offer higher interest rates for savings accounts than traditional banks. Most individuals banking with Varo Bank, for instance, earn between two and five percent on their savings. If you contribute 20 percent of your monthly earnings to your savings account, that can quickly add up. That’s up to a nickel on every dollar you save annually. Joining one of these banks helps you earn money on the money you already have. You get paid to save your money, and that proves helpful when you need to purchase something big like an air conditioner.

Pick the Right Credit Card

Do you want another great way to save smarter on big purchases? Shop around for credit cards and only apply for cards that pay you cash back. Try Discover’s “It” card. Each month, it pays you back between two and five percent on every purchase you made using the card. It does not matter what you bought; you earn back at least two percent. Seasonally, the card offers a category that pays five percent on all purchases, such as gas or groceries. Discover It also offers a cumulative cash back at the end of the year, meaning it adds together every monthly cash back payment and pays it to you a second time – all at once.

Know Which Stores Offer On-Site Coupons

Two major retailers – Amazon and Walmart – offer coupons and specials on their websites. Amazon calls them coupons, but Walmart uses the term rollbacks. Also, Walmart offers an online clearance section. Make the most of your shopping by checking these online stores first.

Both retailers offer merchandise from a bevy of sellers, so once you find an item you like, check the link on Amazon that says, “available from other sellers.” Often, the listing that comes up in search results isn’t the lowest-priced listing of that item. On Walmart, scroll down the page to the area that reads, “Similar items you might like.” This area shows the same item in other colors, from other sellers, or items like it by other brands. Great deals lurk in both of these areas.

Check Out the Newest Mega Retailers

Consider shopping upstarts like Temu, the Chinese version of Amazon. It helps you save smarter by offering top-quality merchandise at shockingly low prices. Discover China’s top brands before they become all the rage in the U.S. A long-standing shopping platform, Alibaba also offers competitive prices. The caveat with these two websites is that it takes much longer for the merchandise to reach you because it genuinely comes from overseas. In the case of Temu, most orders must clear U.S. Customs before reaching the shopper who ordered them.

Choosing the Right Insurance Coverage

When you want a way to save smarter on insurance, bundle it together. Many individuals have auto insurance or home insurance, and some buy both. You can save money by purchasing your auto, home or renter’s, and life insurance from the same insurance agency. Regardless of which company from which you buy your insurance, you’ll typically earn a 10% to 15% discount by bundling. That translates to big savings since most auto insurance costs about $1,000 per year. Bunding could save you $100 to $150 a year.

Necessary Home Projects

When you need work done on your home, you can save smarter on it by using comparison websites like Angi, Thumbtack, and Home Advisor. Whether you need basement foundation services or roof repair, these home repair comparison sites let you create one project description, then send it to every contractor in your zip code. The ones with open capacity create a bid for your job. Those bids come to your email or the contractors phone you to set up a meeting to provide an estimate. You compare the bids and hire a reasonably priced contractor with experience.

Securing Local Resources

It may sound goofy but when you need to find a local service provider for something like heating oil deliveries or cords of wood, start on eBay. Long ago, the bidding platform added a local delivery option. Many services opened eBay stores to expand their sales. These sellers ship and deliver locally, so you can nab a great deal on propane, butane, or heating oil.

It also provides a terrific resource for car parts, especially when you need to replace a part on an older model vehicle. Quite a few auto salvage yards list parts on eBay. Also, check regional pull-a-part lots. Using your favorite search engine, search for “national pull-a-part lot” or the name of the region in which you reside, such as central Midwest and “a pull-a-part lot.” Most eBay sellers offer overnight or two-day delivery.

Addressing Emergency Issues

Save smarter on emergency home repairs by finding your emergency plumbers, electricians, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in advance of when you need them. When you move into a new home or to a new city, ask neighbors who they recommend among plumbers, electricians, and lawn maintenance services. Read each business’ website and their Google My Business reviews.

Look for a plumber that offers maintenance plans and emergency services. Research the services of each lawn maintenance firm, looking for one that offers seasonal services like snow shoveling and holiday light hanging and removal. The HVAC service provider you choose should offer maintenance plans that help keep your HVAC system in top shape.

Purchasing the maintenance plans typically helps you because you pre-pay for work that maintains your home. This lets you lock in the current price and avoid price hikes. Some maintenance plans come with partial parts coverage, so when something does break, you have coverage for it.

Finding the Right Help

Save smarter on copy machine repair and other unique repair needs by phoning a local, not a chain, provider. Here’s what we mean. If you need copier repair, phone a local copy shop, and ask if they offer repair service. If they don’t, ask who services their machines. It works the same way with espresso machines, computers, and essentially any gadget.

Making Changes with Remodeling

When you want to remodel your home, shop internationally, but hire locally. For example, the department store platform, Temu, offers a dizzying array of vinyl flooring at amazing prices. Order your materials from a store like theirs but hire a local vinyl flooring service to install the floors. Professionals in remodeling typically charge about the same price if they’re unionized. You can find the going rate for any type of service online, both the national median and your state’s median.

The materials cost more than the personnel to install them. By purchasing materials directly from the vendor of your choice, you cut out any markup that an installer service might charge. Whether you need flooring, wallboard, ceiling tiles, or appliances, you can save more money buying it on your own.

Finding the Best Deal

Comparison shopping provides a simple way to save smarter. Whether you want to shop at local mattress stores or online clothing stores, you can save big by starting with your favorite search engine. Bing and Google offer separate tabs for all results and shopping results but don’t head to shopping results immediately.

Here’s a secret. Both search engines accept sponsored placements for their shopping results. Start by looking at the main page that shows all of the results. Note the stores listed and any photos of products. Next, peruse the photos tab. Follow the links to photos of the product you want. You may have to click twice because many results come from Pinterest.

Now, head to the shopping tab. If you notice results missing, those stores probably don’t pay for placement. The shopping tab doesn’t always show you the best deals. Check the inventory of the websites you found on the main and photos tabs. You will usually find the best deals on these websites.

Considering Your Options for Infrequently Needed Services

When you need to save money on an occasional service, turn to your local newspaper. Many areas still print newspapers, although some dailies became weeklies. These newspapers offer a great resource for coupons and specials offered by companies such as your local water heater services, septic pumping services, sump pumping services, etc. When you need to shop and save smarter on local services, start with your local newspaper.

Exterior Protection Projects

One category of these occasional service providers Angi and Porch offer better savings options than newspapers. Roofers don’t typically offer printed coupons. They offer such a complex set of services and install multiple types of roofing that it would prove tough to encapsulate it all in one coupon.

Use the service platforms to find the top choices locally, then save smarter by visiting the website of each provider. Look for a page titled “specials” or “coupons” to start your savings comparison. Do the math on each service provider after obtaining a bid from them all. Figure out your final cost after applying their coupons or specials.

Some service providers offer no-interest or low-interest financing instead of coupons. Do the math here, too. A no-interest loan for roofing installation saves most people money since a new roof usually costs at least $15,000. That’s a price tag that most households turn to their credit cards to handle, so avoiding the interest a credit card charges translates to huge savings. Determine whether your cash-back credit card would pay you more money back than you would save in interest, and let that help you decide.

Updating Your Home

Also, start with sites like Thumbtack and Home Advisor when you need new windows and doors installed or your home requires garage door repair. These sites provide a quick list of local contractors. Check their websites for discounts. Also, try national companies, such as Precision Garage Door, which offers coupons and specials that apply to every location they serve.

Start Saving Smarter Today

You can save smarter and shop savvily. It takes time to price items and comparison shop, but the results of doing so and using the right purchasing method can save you big money. Why spend more than you have to spend to own the necessities of life and a few luxuries?

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