If you want a well-stocked bank account but also love to shop, you've probably struggled with how to be a spender AND saver. These seem like two opposite goals!
Since I value my nest egg as much as my retail therapy, I'm happy to tell you it IS possible. You just need to follow a few simple rules and have the right tools. By the way, ALL of the resources listed below are FREE to download and use.
Spender and Saver Rules
My first rule is based on the advice of almost every personal finance expert – treat your savings like a bill and pay yourself! When I set up our family budget, I include savings as an expense.
I set up automatic withdrawals so that the deposits are made to my various savings and investment accounts without any effort (or remembering) on my part.
My second rule is to avoid paying full price whenever I can. Whether it's on groceries or a new car, I'm always looking for a discount.
One way I do this is to shop when I know I can find items on sale. I'm also a big fan of stores like Aldi, TJMaxx, and Ross where I can buy quality products at steeply discounted prices.
The third rule is to make your money work for you. Don't leave money sitting in your zero-interest checking account when you can be earning a higher return in a money market account or mutual fund.
Just as important, you should let your spending dollars do double duty whenever you can. THAT is going to be the secret that lets you enjoy occasional shopping trips without derailing your savings plan.
And I'm going to walk you through exactly how to do it so you can be a spender and saver too!
How to Save On In-Store Shopping
One way I make sure to snag savings (without spending hours clipping coupons) is to always register for store loyalty cards.
How to manage multiple loyalty cards
I store all of them in an app (it’s called Key Ring) on my phone so I don’t have to tote all of the cards around with me.
Making the most of your loyalty cards
You'll have to plan ahead and look for rebates BEFORE you shop, but selecting them is as easy as a finger tap. If you've linked your loyalty cards, the rebates will automatically be deposited into your account. Otherwise, you just need to upload a photo of your receipt.
SavingStar works at dozens of grocery stores. Your SavingStar savings can be paid out to your bank or via PayPal. You can also donate your savings to charity instead.
Ibotta works with over 300 stores, restaurants, movie theaters and pharmacies. Basically, you can earn cash back almost everywhere you spend money. You can withdraw your earnings with PayPal or Venmo. You can also redeem for featured gift cards instead.
Making the most of your credit cards with Upromise
Upromise savings can be linked to your savings account, student loans and 529 college savings plans. Since I have five kids to put through college, my savings go to our 529. Not interested in any of these options? Upromise will mail you a check instead if you prefer.
Automatic discount notifications from RetailMeNot
I also have the RetailMeNot app loaded on my phone. The app sends me notifications of nearby offers when I'm out shopping.
Earning and keeping the kids occupied at the same time with ShopKick
Another of my favorite saving strategies while shopping is to open up the ShopKick app and hand off my smartphone to one of the kids. They love completing the activities while we’re in the store and I love that they’re busy saving me money instead of bugging me to buy them everything!
How to Save on Online Shopping
I used to rely solely on RetailMeNot for saving on my online purchases. Before I would buy anything online, I’d check the site for a coupon code.
I still love RetailMeNot, but I don’t love having to try multiple coupon codes to find one that works. Until I discovered Honey, I didn’t have any other options though.
Honey is everything I love about RetailMeNot with the added convenience of loading automatically when I’m on a site. Plus, it tries all the coupon codes for me (no copying and pasting a dozen different codes to find one that works!).
Since Honey is an extension you add to your Chrome or Safari toolbar, you never have to remember to check for coupons again. When you’re on a site that Honey supports, it will automatically open and ask you if you want it to try available coupon codes.
Thank you to Jennifer, one of my readers, who told me Ebates also has an extension that helps you to earn cash back effortlessly. I used to use Ebates a long time ago when you would have to shop via their site in order to get the rebates (and I would always forget to start on their page). The bookmark bar button ensures you get credit for your online shopping without the hassle of clicking through to your stores from a different site!
Even MORE Ways to Save When You Shop
If you're really excited about the potential of saving money at the store and don't mind investing some time and effort into it, there are a few additional tools you might like.
Saving money at retail stores and restaurants
SnipSnap is a coupon binder for retail stores and restaurants that fits inside your phone. You can photograph coupons you receive in the mail or newspaper to create digital versions and share them with friends and family. You get access to their snipped coupons too.
It sorts the coupons by expiration date (no more irritated looks from the checkout clerk for trying to use a bunch of expired coupons). It also sends you reminders when you enter a store that you have a coupon for.
Saving money on groceries
For grocery shopping, Cellfire is one of the easiest apps to use. You just browse coupons you want to use and click to save them. You can link them to your loyalty card so they are automatically redeemed at checkout or you can have the checkout clerk scan your mobile coupons.
Another option is Checkout 51. You can scan for and select offers in the app. Then, you can shop at any store to purchase the items. Upload the receipt and your savings are credited to your account. Once you have $20 in your account, Checkout 51 mails you a check.
For those of you who use a virtual grocery list, Grocery iQ is another option. As long as your grocery store is one of the retail partners, you can search for and add coupons directly to your savings card.
Are you slightly fascinated by extreme couponers but unwilling to devote entire days to comparing circulars and matching coupons? Try Grocery Smarts. It only works for Target, Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid and Wal-Mart. But, it matches coupons and weekly sales for you, saving you tons of time.
Ready to Be a Spender and Saver?
I realize I just threw a LOT of information at you. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't jump into all of these at once.
You can start reaping savings from your shopping in under 10 minutes by doing just these two things:
These will set you up to start automatically saving money online and in-person with little to no future effort.