Are you ready to become a power shopper?
Unless you have someone else totally taking care of you - as if you are a child or helpless dependent, then you will have to do some shopping to keep alive. Maybe not as much as everyone else is doing, but you may have to do more than graze in your garden to stay alive. But look! Instead of fearing shopping as some necessary evil, you can face the situation, work out a plan and become an expert - a savvy shopper! One that finds the best resources and great deals, and you find good shipping and service too.
If you have already become a a very organized, hunter-gatherer, and have your favourite places for good deals you are already way ahead in this game. You may only want to check that you haven't missed any of these steps, or tips, to become a power shopper.
Power shoppers are not born into a caste system; you become a power shopper by learning good, thorough methods, and if you don't have a flawless memory, you will need to keep some records.
You can train yourself to become a power shopper too! Especially - shopping online just gets easier all the time.
Be ready to think of it as seriously as a job or a small business you own. You have to give some time to it, and be thorough. That means it may take some time, particularly, if by nature you are very spontaneous and impulsive. But if you are determined to learn and you keep at it, your style of shopping will shift more and more towards orderly savings and good buys. You'll get addicted to finding your great deals, and enjoy bragging to your family and friends.
Even if you say you don't like to carry around lists, I bet you carry some around in your head that you don't even notice. Whether your lists are on paper or in your head, - or even on your computer in a spreadsheet - it doesn't matter, as long as you get a good grasp of the things you need to buy. For yourself personally, for your home, for your family, what things do you need to buy at regular or semi-regular times? Divide these into sub-categories if you want to be more thorough.
Now ask yourself; how much can I afford to spend on each category per week, per month or per year? If you have big expenses like car insurance, a new bed, or even a car or house, how can you divide up the cost and spread it into your plan so you will have your payments ready on time? (Better yet, save up and pay up front for the big purchase).
Check your lists over a few days. Did you forget to work in school books? How about dental work?
Guess what. As you look over your lists you may realize that you have created a budget. It doesn't have to have hard lines drawn in cement. You can become a power shopper with a budget, just to create spending guidelines that allow you to have enough for everything important, and a margin for pleasures.
(Mind you, sometimes we have to do without the pleasures for a while until we've built up the income flow. If you need help with budgeting, you'll want to see my sister's book on personal budgeting and bookkeeping, The Color of Money).
This is where becoming a power shopper can turn into a game where you try to beat your budget. Research especially the big ticket items online (later you'll do it with the small stuff too), to see if you can find it somewhere for less than you had expected to spend. Every time you do, you'll enjoy a thrill of victory. "Yes! I've become a Power Shopper!"
Checking things out online, is really research you know. Don't try to research everything at once. Do it as needed, though at first it may feel like you are kills hours and hours. Unless you allow yourself to go off on tangents, browsing things you don't need, your research methods will get faster, and you'll be more confident.
* Check out your local stores' websites,
* Check out the big name brands,
* Look for discount sites and rebates and coupons.
* Compare features, prices,
* Compare even what other buyers think about the product once they got it. Did they have hassles at a particular store? Then you'll know to avoid that place.
* After a while you will develop a clear sense of what to buy, and where, - even when.
Want to do still better? Make yourself a hand-drawn chart or a computer spreadsheet to show when certain stores or chains have their best sales. For instance, many Department stores schedule their bedding and linens and housewares sales for January. Some places have 50-80- or even 90% off the week right after Christmas. When you find out about it, mark it on your chart. If you have things in your budget that you only need once a year and can wait until that sale season, hold off buying until then. I have worked out a monthly calendar of Deals by Seasons with some information from Consummer Reports that you might find helpful as you become a power shopper.
Some downtown shopping areas all go together for a big July Sidewalk sale when they drag lots of clothes and shoes out onto the street and slash prices. Maybe you already schedule a clothes buying spree for that time of year and watch for those sales.
Did you know that the online stores have their version of such sales too? Since online shopping puts a world market place at your fingertips, it may take a bit longer to discover these trends and mark them on your chart, so look at your chart as an ongoing project that you keep fine-tuning and improving.
Isn't it maddening to buy a digital camera because you spotted such a cute one, and then find the next week it is a loss leader in that same store, and it's going for 50% off? Ouch! That's why a power shopper uses restraint and doesn't do impulse buying for the most part. She plans ahead, and checks out all the options. And then sometimes just waits and watches patiently. (Like a cat staking out a hole in the wall).
(Here's where I should mention Daniel's book on Shopping for Free Groceries. Now that will help you become a power shopper for sure!).
Do your research in the weeks leading up to a major holiday on the calendar. Then, as the holiday creeps up, play closer attention at your favourite or designated shopping sites for those sales to be announced.
In fact, sometimes when you are dealing with a friendly, talkative sales assistant you'll hear hints about when their regular sales come up. That will happen mostly in an offline store. However, in the online world, if you can take time to follow the blogs or ezines of your favourite stores, you'll sometimes see the hints dropped there. Don't expect to remember these tips; write them into your chart! Such knowledge increases your power as you become a smart power shopper.
Use your cool, objective mind to discern the true difference between clearance, liquidation and seasonal sales. After a while you'll be your own best authority on them.
Sometimes you will discover that a certain area has some super-duper sales over a week or a month. Perhaps all the stores in a mall or community go together to draw in customers. When this is in a physical area you might plan a vacation so you can do some power shopping offline. Some time it will happen that you discover a similar trend or period of sales online. That might be a good time to take off some days, and without the costs of travel for a vacation, you can spend that time visiting shopping sites online, and comparing and doing some mega-power-shopping. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend every last cent to your name. Remember, you have those lists, or that budget to go by, and there will be other sales in the future. Become a power-shopper who is sensible, not a beserk spendthrift who is out of control.
Some people can always remember the regular price of almost anything. As I get older, this gets harder for me. So I have to jot these things down as I compare prices. Knowing the regular price helps us to recognize a truly good sale price when we see one. But you know, after a while we forget the great deals we snapped up. It pays to record them on some little chart or card we carry with us, or have on our computer, or cell-phone. Even when entering our purchases in our bookkeeping system, if we can jot into the memo area how much we saved, it will help us later to have proof we are a good power-shopper. So work up a system in the beginning before you get too set in your routines, to record how much you saved in your shopping online.
These numbers will help you when reasoning with others about the value of your purchases.
In your physical offline shopping world, you have likely a mental list of which store you visit one after the other when out on a shopping trip. The ones in the same area or mall will get visited the same day, right? Well, as an online power shopper, it is smart to make a list of bookmarks of your favourite stores. If you register as a shopper on those sites, they often let your bookmark your favourite items so that when logged in you can get to those with just a click or two. Organize these bookmarks and try to keep them updated. You can even divide them into categories in your bookmarks (Favourites), so that when you want to visit all your favourite electronics stores to do a quick comparison on one item, you can click on "Open All in Tabs" (this is in Firefox browser). Presto, then all those stores' sites open at once in a row of tabs. You can switch from one to the other as you check to see which ones are selling that item, and for what prices.
You can do the same with your main shopping bots or price comparison sites. Or, with all your favourite shoe stores. Whatever. At this stage you are streamlining your power shopping so that you can do it faster and faster!
You might think at first that you'll still have to run down to your local Sally Ann or Value Village to buy second-hand things. No. They are online too! This is where you learn to shop at eBay and other auction sites. This is completely different ball game in many ways. We'll use another page when we get into that.
I'd rather have someone else pay the big prices on new shoes, and to break them in for me. Then I go looking for them in the second-hand stores where the price is more at my budget range. But I need to learn to do this online at the auction sites; I'm not a very confident auction buyer.