Saving for the Fall
I belong to a family of penny-pinchers, made even more so by difficult economic times. If there is anything that hard times have taught us, it is that we can survive on less with judicious planning and a lot of creativity. It may take a major attitude adjustment, but the payback in terms of a manageable budget and a little extra cash at the end of the month is well worth the effort.
Spend More at Discount Stores
I am not advocating spending more money. My family and I found that we can get more for our limited budget at discount chains like WalMart. Shoes and clothes for growing children need not be prestige-branded. WalMart apparel is comparable to many celebrity-backed designs that are selling for twice more. Considering that children wear out their gear quicker than they can outgrow them, buying the discount brands make sense.
Discounts Come in Many Forms
A discount by any name is still a discount. We clip coupons, and we try to stack them to compound the discounts whenever possible. We opt for the items with partial or full rebates, and we actually file the rebate, no matter how tedious the filing process may be. We scour the clearance shelves for heavily discounted items.
I am not above asking the store manager for an additional discount for flawed merchandise such as a missing button or a small rip on a dress that can be easily repaired. My biggest lesson so far is the non-standard discount. This involves store promotions where a $50 purchase entitles shoppers to a $10 discount on a $50 gift card. This is a 20 percent discount on whatever I choose to spend the gift card on.
Buying gas with a prepaid reloadable card from WalMart earns a discount off the posted price per gallon at the chain’s gas stations. Obtaining a prepaid card takes no more than a few minutes and you can to apply now at any WalMart store, have the cash handy and the card should be ready for use immediately.
Spend on Quality, not Name Brands
Contrary to what we used to believe, name brand does not guarantee quality. For that matter, a higher priced item may not be more durable and usable than a lower-priced item. Consider sneakers: They come in a variety of designs, colors, materials and celebrity endorsements. Prices can be as low as $10 and as high as a few hundred dollars.
It does not make economic sense to shell out a few hundred dollars for a pair of shoes if a comparable product is available at a much lower price. We lose the chance to brag by wearing cheaper shoes, but we gain credibility for being a better money manager.
The same principle holds for just about every item on back-to-school lists. Generic items without frills and fancy designs will save the same purpose as expensive items. Choosing store-branded notebooks and other supplies will result in substantial savings.
The family that saves together will have rainy day funds to spend together. The upside of teaching children about frugal practices is that it exposes them to money management rules that work while ensuring that they make sensible financial choices later in life.
**Photo thanks to Quinn.Anya**