Every day we hear more depressing news about the current global economic situation. More and more people are losing their jobs and their homes, and still the experts tell us there is worse to come. However, while governments concentrate on pouring billions, and even trillions, into the economy to save us from financial meltdown, there is much that we can be doing on an individual and much smaller level to put our own finances into order.
There are many simple, practical cost-saving measures that every household can adopt which can make a dramatic difference to the domestic finances without having a real impact on a family’s standard of living. Obvious measures include shopping in the sales, buying own-store products rather than branded goods, taking advantage of discounts and deals and borrowing rather than buying where at all possible. However, we can also take a more creative approach to saving money – for example, by asking for a discount where it has not been offered, or by planning ahead and buying strategically.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
In straitened times, many shop keepers would prefer a sale at a slightly lower price than no sale at all. This is a perfect time to hone your negotiation and bartering skills. Even if the price does not seem excessive, swallow your pride and ask for a discount. Always be polite, and never become confrontational or aggressive, even if the manager has to be called. Adopting a pleasant approach will make people want to help you and will increase your chances of success.
Other tactics you could use to secure that discount are:
1. The “Good cop/bad cop” routine. Tell the clerk that you will need to discuss it with your spouse because it is more money than you really wanted to pay. At this stage, the shop keeper will probably reduce the price rather than let you out of the shop without making the purchase.
2. Ask them to match the price you have seen in another store. The manager will usually readily agree to this, and may even add in a further discount as a gesture of goodwill.
3. Keep hold of all out-of-date coupons as these can sometimes be accepted up to 6 months after the have officially expired. It’s worth a chance, and you have nothing to lose!
4. Try to make a deal if a straight-forward discount is rejected. For example, offer a proportion of the money up front instead of paying in monthly installments, or try to negotiate an additional warranty or free batteries (or anything!) for the product if no discount is forthcoming.
A disciplined approach to shopping
The number one rule of saving money is only to buy things that you actually need and can use. It sounds obvious, but is actually very difficult to achieve. Who can say they have never bought an item of clothing simply because it was a ‘steal’, only for it to remain unworn in the back of the wardrobe for ever after? Don’t be a sales victim – make sure you win the shopping game. Buying things purely because they are reduced in price leads to overspending and a cluttered house. Reduce the temptation to impulse buy by setting a firm limit on your spending budget before you leave the house.
One great way to save time, money and last-minute panics, is to buy suitable presents when you see them at a good price and keep them for the appropriate occasion. Make a chart before you begin shopping and buy only what you need for each person. Not only will this help you keep track of what you have bought, but will also help you locate these carefully selected items when the appropriate occasion comes round. Keep the items in a special drawer or closet and enjoy the satisfaction of simply taking them out during the year as required.
The relief of avoiding those last minute panics (when you know you simply cannot leave the shop until you have bought something!), combined with the joy of knowing you have made real savings, makes this a great system to try.
These ideas, combined with more conventional cost-saving measures, can have a real and beneficial effect on the family finances. They also create the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing that, by using your brain, you have managed to save money where other people might have paid the full price.