When it comes to yard/garage sales, a savvy thriftster can have a heyday if they utilize proper timing and negotiation skills. See a large piece of furniture you fancy? If it is still available later in the day, they will likely sell it at a substantial discount rather than haul it back inside or to the local Goodwill. Silverware, pictures (with frames), tools, office supplies, and cast iron cookware all make good buys. But regardless of what you’re after, make sure to haggle to the last penny. A good negotiator isn’t afraid to ask for what they want. They are not aggressive, but instead assertive. They know the right questions to ask and allow the other party to dominate the conversation. Most importantly, though, a negotiator must approach the situation from a position of power. The person who wants it less will win the negotiation. This means that you must be prepared to walk away from the deal. If your counterparty sees your willingness to walk, they will likely concede to your requests.
When shopping, one should become familiar with the idiosyncratic price structures of the various local establishments. For example, if the price tag ends in 99 (i.e. 19.99), this usually indicates that the item is full/regularly priced. Every store is slightly different, so it pays to do a little due diligence. Sam’s Club, for instance, will display a c on the price tag for “clearance” items. Further, if you look at the product codes on the top right of the price tag, you will see a number. One means there is no discount; two means it is slightly discounted; seven means it is a one-time buy; and nine means it will be sent back to the manufacturer if it is not bought. Similarly, at Costco, any tag ending in an asterisk (*) means the product is a clearance item, and therefore substantially discounted. At Home Depot look out for green tags or those ending in six; at The Gap and Old Navy, look for the prices that end with a seven; and at Sears, the most discounted items end in 97.
Any half-decent cheapskate knows about dollar stores. But when shopping at dollar stores, a little forethought can go a long way. Some items like canned soup and soda-pop can be found cheaper at retail stores. Other items (pencils, Ziploc bags, and packages of gum to name a few) appear cheaper, but are more expensive when looked at from a per-package and/or size perspective. Although a bag of baby diapers may cost double at a supermarket, it may contain more than twice as many diapers. You should avoid batteries, light bulbs, and kitchen utensils, as their inferior quality diminishes their value. Pet food, toys, and oral items such as mouthwash and toothpaste may not have the highest safety standards, so they too should be eschewed.
Avoiding lemons will save you a bit of time, money, and hassle, but actively seeking diamonds in the rough will increase your savings immensely. Spices, greeting cards, and bread are good-value buys, as are best-selling books and reading glasses. Dollar store pregnancy tests are surprisingly accurate, and their dishes/glassware are phenomenally cheap. Cleaning supplies at dollar stores are a bargain, but avoid generic dish soaps that don’t clean and large trash bags that rip when overloaded.
Unless you’re a nudist, your clothing costs can surely be reduced. Yes you could learn to mend, sew, hem and stitch, but there are other tactics that can be just as beneficial. Saving money is easy if you don’t have to buy new clothing as often. Therefore, take care of the clothes you have. Always fold after washing and never over-stuff your drawers. Avoid unflattering creases and indentations along the shoulder, collar, and neck regions by using padded hangers. Although these satin or velvet hangers are slightly more expensive, they are an investment that will pay off tenfold. With regards to washing habits, always remove the plastic bags after dry cleaning (also spot clean in between dry cleans) and zip up all the zippers before washing. This will inhibit the metal teeth from grinding other articles as they tumble around in the washer and dryer.
For the frugal fashionistas out there who can’t live without high-end outfits, it pays to hunt around. Many stores put their most profitable items centrally on the main floor. Digging around and combing through racks at the peripheries will yield far better deals than the primary showcase area. It also pays to invest in accessories, to avoid trends, and to skip the factory outlets. Regarding the latter, you’ll find that, although they heavily mark down their merchandise, they arbitrarily inflate the “retail” price and then reduce it to give the illusion of a discount. Further, most of what you will find are the losers from last season (there’s a reason that poor fitting, oddly colored dress didn’t sell).
Before you buy anything (all you compulsive shoppers out there), count to three and think if you really need it. Shop for the life you have, not the life you think you might have a few years down the road. You don’t need a fur coat for your future winter cottage in Aspen. Also realize that cheap isn’t free. Just because an item is inexpensive doesn’t mean you should buy it for that reason alone.
A few sites to find reasonably priced, designer goods include Tradesy and Poshmark. It should also be noted that selling old clothes to finance the acquisition of new ones can help reduce closet clutter and diminish your clothing habit’s drain on your coin purse.
If you have some similarly sized friends, know that sharing is caring. Swap a few things here and there and you’ll both be winners. Also, when attending fancy events, renting a dress or tuxedo is a lot smarter than buying one and letting it sit, unused, for years in your closet.
When living the cheapskate lifestyle, being able to Do It Yourself will save you truck loads. Can’t afford to decorate your house? Make your own art. Photoshopped home pictures, magazine covers, postcards, and pressed flowers can all be framed and hung on walls or displayed on shelves. You can make collages, display collections or come up with endless other homemade decorations; you’re limited only by the extent of your own creativity. Shop at thrift stores and garage sales for picture frames (even old frames can be repurposed with a quick sanding and some paint/stain), then create a piece to fit inside. When it comes to art, the bolder the better. Buy a large canvas and splatter it haphazardly with colorful paints for an original piece of abstract expressionism. Tell your friends it’s an original Pollock, they’ll never know the difference. Finally, you can use air purifying house plants to both beautify and deodorize your home.
DIY AROUND THE HOUSE
Keeping with the DIY theme, you can also make your own drapes, cleaners, and beauty products. Regarding the former, you don’t have to be a master seamstress to create your own curtains. A simple search on Pinetrest will yield 101 different ways to make 1001 different drape verities. It can be as simple as throwing a blanket over a curtain rod.
When it comes to homemade cleaners, it all depends on what you are cleaning.
To make a glass cleaner for windows and mirrors, mix two cups of water with 1⁄2 cup white cider or vinegar, 1⁄4 cup rubbing alcohol, and two drops of essential orange oil. For rust stains on porcelain and enamel, mix half of a lemon with 1⁄2 cup of borax (a laundry booster that can be found in the detergent aisle). One half cup of sudsy ammonia mixed with a gallon of water can be used to clean greasy grills and oven hoods. If you have marble, granite, or natural stone countertops, rub them down with a few drops of mild, non-citrus, dishwashing liquid mixed with two cups of warm water. White vinegar or lemon juice with table salt works well on brass, while a simple solution of baking soda and water can be used as an all-purpose cleaner/deodorizer.
As well as cleaners, you can also make your own beauty products at home. Cosmetics, makeup, and skin care products can all be made using simple household ingredients. Rub your face with honey at night and a mixture of baking soda and water in the morning to keep your skin looking young and fresh. Crush and mix two tablespoons of zinc oxide, one tablespoon of arrowroot powder, one teaspoon of gold mica dust, one half teaspoon of natural clay powder, and one tablespoon of finely ground cocoa powder to create a natural, homemade foundation. Bronzers/blush, eye liners/shadows, and mascara can also be created using similar homemade recipes. Making your own beauty products will not only save you money, but you can also experiment with the ingredients and ratios to find a concoction that works best for you and your skin.
Another great way to save money while being artistic is to make your own gifts. Design a hand-drawn monogram mug, make some teacup candles, or create a few personalized Polaroid magnets. Search Google or YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of creative ideas and video tutorials tutorials. Whether it’s a front door wreath or a friendship bracelet, your gift will be appreciated because it comes from the one place that counts . . . your heart.