Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living Happily on a Shoestring: A Comprehensive Guide to Recession Shopping

Photo by kwantakoon
by Christine Wilkinson

In case you are new to my column, I write about how to save money in today's economy while still living a happy life. My husband and I found ourselves in a dungeon of debt, but we're working diligently and steadily to fix that. Please visit my my blog for the full story.


Here is the Reader’s Digest version of what I have learned about cutting grocery costs (we have reduced our monthly grocery bills by well over 50 percent).

1. Always check the weekly specials.  Find the best deals from local stores and shop at more than one.

2. Use coupons. Duh. I feel so stupid that it took me until my forties to learn just how much money one can save by doing so. Coupons can be found:

a. the old fashioned way – in newspaper advertisements

3. Look for stores that are offering Coupon Doubles or Triples and shop there (!).

Retail Shopping

1. Before you go to any store, check its website to see if it is offering any specials or coupons. You’ll be amazed by how many great deals there are for you to print and bring with you (and here's a thought:  Print an extra to give to a stranger; it’s actually a lot of fun).

2. Shopping online can save you some serious cash!

a. See #1 above – always the first step.
b. Start by shopping through Fat Wallet. You will get a cash rebate for every purchase. This is truly a no-brainer.
c. Know the promotional/discount codes
    i. Fat Wallet also provides online codes
d. Save money on shipping. Just like promotional codes, there’s an abundance of free shipping codes out there, too. Never check out without checking in to see if your store is offering one.
e. Shop liquidators such as:
f. Electronics: Avoid brick and mortar stores. According to Consumer Reports magazine (December 2009), online stores provide far superior pricing than walk-in stores. The top ten rated sites are below. Again, you should still use a site like Fat Wallet to shop these, as you’ll save even more. As a personal anecdote, back when we were spending money like Rockefellers, we used to buy our LCD TV.  It felt a bit odd making such a big purchase online, but I had done my research, knew what model I wanted, and JR’s price was hundreds less than walk-in stores. The shipping was free and the TV is one of the loves of my life (even if we don’t have cable anymore). I still just like staring at it.

The 10 Top-Rated Sites for Electronics


Non-traditional Shopping to Save in Original Ways

1. Visit Craigslist to find the one closest to you. It’s a free service that allows you to buy and sell items. I love this site. You can find almost anything imaginable. I have used Craigslist to sell everything from the clothes my daughter has outgrown to a complete dining room set. I have never once had a bad experience either as a buyer or seller. I am, though, a bit of a safety nut so if I buy from someone else, I always bring someone with me to pick it up from the seller’s home.

2. EBay. Need I say more?

3. Here’s a new one for you: Goodwill. If you’re patient and a true bargain hunter, you can find mind-boggling deals here.

4. This is one of my personal favorites as I’m a bit of a greenie: Freecycle. “It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.” The way it works is you can either give away things for free or pick things up for free. It’s amazing.

5. Always check out before you go out to eat. This site sells discounted gift certificates to restaurants and can truly save you big dollars. Never again pay full price for a good meal!

6. Check out I live outside of Baltimore. Each day offers a huge discount on some random thing from a spa treatment to an all-day boat tours. It’s a fun way to get to know a city.

7. Consignment Shops: I’ve been a consigner for years, but it pays to choose your shop wisely.

8. Estate Sales:  Check out to find about sales near you.

I hope this comprehensive guide to recession shopping helps. I would be thrilled to hear about your success stories using these tips so please leave your comments below or email me at slogalongblog at

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