How can I save money while shopping? 6 easy tips to follow if you need to cut costs

After a year of sky-high prices, you might be looking for ways to stretch your budget.

Inflation has finally slowed, but prices remain high. If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you’ve likely noticed eye-popping prices for a carton of eggs, which have more than doubled over the past year.

And, if you’re like most folks, you’re worried about paying the bills amid spiking prices (or stretching your check to cover rent), let alone trying to save.

While these tips won’t likely pay off student debt, cover a mortgage down payment or fund your retirement, they can help you build up an emergency stash of cash.

Here’s where to start if you’re looking for ways to save some dollars when you shop.

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Make a list

Before you head to the store, take inventory of what you already have. Make a list of what you need (and stick to it) to avoid impulse purchases. You know, like the buy-one-, get-one “deal” on something you didn’t need one of, let alone two. 

“I always recommend going to the store with a list before you do anything else because your list is what’s going to keep you focused,” said Athena Valentine Lent, personal finance writer and author of the upcoming book Budgeting For Dummies. “It’s going to remind you and let you know exactly what you need to get.”

You can also keep a running list on your phone of items that are getting low with apps like TickTick or Notes.

“Let’s say you see a great deal or you’re shopping online and you noticed that the thing that you’ve kind of been meaning to buy is on clearance,” said Kristin McGrath, editor at RetailMeNot. “You’re not making impulse buys, you’re consulting a running list that you have of things that’s worth buying when it’s on sale.”

Frozen food, deals and memberships: How to save money on groceries by shopping strategically

Earn cash back

Cash back shopping, McGrath said, is a great alternative when prices are high and deals on a product you need, especially if it’s a big ticket item, are scarce.

When you use a cash back offer, you get back a percentage of what you spent – but only for a future purchase, unlike often under utilized coupons (both old-school paper and digital). More on those in a bit.  

Here are a few popular cash back apps:

  • Ibotta

  • Fetch Rewards

  • Rakuten

  • Receipt Hog

  • RetailMeNot

Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk is often cheaper per unit and can help reduce shopping trips. It can be particularly convenient when shopping for household products like paper towels and toilet paper, Valentine Lent said.

You can buy in bulk at stores like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Don’t have the space to store 30 rolls of toilet paper or 12 cans of soup? Consider enrolling in a subscription service for items you regularly need. Retailers like Amazon and Staples offer discounts on automatic deliveries.

Search for coupons and offers

Look for stores’ weekly ads to see what’s on sale and shop strategically, McGrath said.

If you’re shopping online, you can use browser extensions to compare prices and find coupon codes you can apply on your purchase.

“Right before you hit checkout, you can tell it to find all of the applicable deals for you and stack them in the best possible way so that you save the most,” McGrath said of RetailMeNot’s Deal Finder extension.

And make sure to look for free-shipping promo codes to avoid that extra cost when shopping online, McGrath said.

Retailers’ loyalty programs can also give you access to members-only coupons and promotions. Valentine Lent recommended signing up for loyalty programs at stores you already frequent.

Shop store brands

Store-brand foods are cheaper alternatives. And Consumer Reports found many store brands taste just as good as name brand items.

You can also save by buying at discount stores and grocers.

Wait (if you can)

The retail industry is seasonal. You can save some big bucks on clothing, for instance, if you wait until the end of a season, McGrath said.

Outdoor or patio decor will typically go on sale as summer turns into fall, and holiday decorations will be discounted after the season ends. You can also score deals on appliances and furniture during three-day weekends, McGrath said.

It’s not always possible to time your purchases, but “if you can’t afford to wait, wait till those strategic times,” McGrath said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 6 ways to save money shopping: Follow these tips to slash costs

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