Smart shopping is essential to the frugal life. The truly frugal will try their hardest to get the very best deal they can on virtually everything, because they want to keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible. Like I always say, it’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep. I think that the “Shopping” section of the Home Management Guide deserves some extra time and effort, because you’ll refer to it often.
The most important item to keep in this section is your price book. If you haven’t started a price book yet, read my How to Keep a Price Book article. The price book, in my opinion, is an absolute necessity if you’re serious about getting control of your budget. It allows you to buy only the cheapest items at each store, and provides the information you’ll need to evaluate unadvertised sales and unexpected sources of goods, like garage sales and salvage stores. If making a price book seems like an insurmountable task, I suggest that you find some like-minded friends and make it a cooperative effort. You will all benefit tremendously.
Here’s what my “Shopping” section cover looks like:
-My master grocery list (see this article).
-A list of items that should be purchased at Aldi. I do my regular shopping at Wal-Mart because they’re generally the cheapest, but there are many items that are cheaper at Aldi. This list helps me remember which ones, without having to refer to my price book over and over.
-My Consumer Action Handbook. If you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend that you order one. This everyday guide to being a smart shopper is free from consumeraction.gov. It’s full of helpful tips about buying a car or home, preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint, and more. I’ve ordered one every year for the past 10 years, and I’ve referred to it often. It has a section with the names and addresses of corporate consumer contacts for major organizations, which I’ve found invaluable.
-Many shopping-related magazine articles that I’ve saved throughout the years.
-Charts of seasonal sales, so I know the best time to shop for bargains on particular items. These charts really help me save money by planning ahead. I found these in a book many years ago, but I’ve never seen anything just like them since. If you would like to add them to your HMG, here they are:
Groceries and Produce
February–South American grapes, citrus fruits
March–corned beef and cabbage, South American grapes, citrus fruits
May–Mexican food products, asparagus, strawberries
June–stone fruit, local onions, strawberries, pop, beer, potato chips, charcoal, paper plates, marshmallows, ketchup
July–melon, California grapes, strawberries, corn, iceberg lettuce, bell peppers, barbeque stuff
August–same as July, plus cucumbers
September–apples, pears, corn, squash
October–apples, squash, potatoes, yams
November/December–turkey, pumpkin, canned milk, powdered and brown sugar, cranberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, cream cheese, baking supplies, citrus fruits, bananas, onions
January–outerwear coats and jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, holiday fashions, linens, cookware
February–winter boots, spring raincoats, handbags, fine jewelry, perfume
March–spring raincoats, handbags, china, silverware
April–spring clothing, shoes
May–intimate apparel, summer shorts, sandals, athletic wear, sneakers
June–summer dresses, casual wear, swimwear, men’s clothes, ties and cologne
July–clearance sales on summer sportswear and shoes, preseason sales on fall clothes, beach towels, spring formal wear
August–summer clearance sales, school supplies, computers
September–kid’s back to school clothes and shoes, lined raincoats, handbags, backpacks, preseason sales on fall sportswear
October–leather jackets, fall suits and sweaters, winter coats, gloves, scarves, hats
November–fall/winter dresses, suits, sweaters, shoes and boots, gift sets
December–evening wear, winter sportswear, clearance sales on coats, holiday decorations, cards, gift wrap