There's a fine line between being cheap and being frugal. Being cheap is being the friend that won't go to the free concert in the park because they may have to pay for parking. Being frugal is bringing bud light to the free concert because you know it is every bit as delicious as any double dry hopped IPA you try to sell us, and we will never be convinced otherwise. On this edition of frugal friday, we'd like to give you some advice on how to retain some frugality as you impulse buy something on payday.
1. Browser Extensions
There are a few good browser extensions out there that will compare prices for you while you shop. Looking at a lamp you must have at Target? WikiBuy will check dozens of other sites for that same lamp and alert you of a better price. Honey is another extension that will check for known coupon codes and apply them to your order at check out. Both of these tools will save you time and help stretch your dollar.
2. Shopping Portals
Shopping portals are the best. If you're not using one when you shop at popular retailers, you are throwing money away every time you shop online. We use CashBackMonitor religiously before making online purchases. CashBackMonitor will aggregate all of the shopping portals and compare the awards they are offering at the store you are searching for. In the example below, there are dozens of portals offering additional rewards at Macy's. You have your choice of cash back, airline/hotel rewards points, or bank points. Pick the currency that you value the most, login to your shopping portal, and then use the shopping portal to navigate to the online store you are looking for. It's a few additional clicks, there's no doubt about it, but it can also be an additional 10% or more in your wallet.
You can stack your portal and extension earning with credit card rewards. If you have a good credit score, and you are paying your bills in full each month, you're leaving money on the table if you aren't using a rewards credit card. These can net you an additional 1-5% cash back on your online purchase. If you are carrying a balance each month, we'd recommend a card that offers an introductory 0% for at least 15 months. Rewards and cash back cards generally have a 3-5% higher interest rate, which will kill any cash back you are earning.
4. Auto Invest
In addition to these tools you have at your disposal for saving on your purchases, we highly recommend using Acorns. Acorns will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest it for you. Acorns charges a $1 monthly fee for accounts under $5,000, and .25% yearly for accounts over $5,000. We sock away anywhere from $50 - $75 a month without even thinking about it each month. $12 a year isn't the cheapest management fee you'll find, but it was a great way to build some additional savings without thinking about it. The higher fee may be a necessary evil to get your savings started.
In conclusion, if you're going to shop online, use a browser extension, look for shopping portals to add to your cash back or rewards bank, and pay for your transaction with a cash back or rewards card. Using these methods it won't be hard to save 10% - 15% on many of the online purchases you'd be making anyway and that is just smart.