person holding black android smartphone
Even though most of us don't carry cash and most places don't accept it, you should think of saving money like putting it away in your digital wallet. Photo by Emil Kalibradov @Unsplash

The DAO of Financial Fitness Part 2

Financial fitness part I covered how to get the best bang for your buck from services. Financial services Part II will cover goods and products and how to save money on commonly needed items. 

Here are common areas where you can save money easily on purchases.

But first…see if you have it

Bordeaux Dog Puppy – French Mastiff – Eight Weeks – Funny

This may seem like a no-brainer, but do you know how many possessions you are completely unaware of or forgotten about? Particularly in the case of items like back to school, office supplies, athletic equipment, food staples, cleaning supplies and kitchen tools you would be shocked at what you have forgotten about in your drawers. Exhibit A: I have about 4 salad mixing bowls and 3 pairs of tongs.

So this is the perfect time for your “fall cleaning”. Empty all those cabinets, drawers, closets, and organize your stuff. The ultimate guide, of course, is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Which I can summarize in a few words, 1) Take everything out and put it in the middle of the room 2) Throw out whatever does not “spark joy.”

The good news about this is you can do one room at a time so you can do one room on Saturday, one room the following weekend. It actually can be quite fun and if you can get the fam to divide and conquer you can get it done that much faster. Plus it’s fun to find things you forgot you bought, it’s like Christimas come early!

Online Shopping

woman sitting on brown wooden chair while using silver laptop computer in room
Photo by Brooke Cagle @ Unsplash

The number one reason online shopping can get so costly because there is a dopamine rush associate with clicking and buying. Unlike with in-person shopping, you have to wait for the product. This “anticipatory” dopamine rush can actually make online shopping quite addictive and lead you to buying things you don’t need. This is why I have the previous tip and the “make department stores great again” tip below.

Consider buying products from their original site rather than a third-party seller. You usually are able to sign up for their emails and texts and save a big discount, either 15% off, free shipping, or both. If you have more than one email address, you can get this deal more than once. If you hate getting emails constantly from manufacturers, here are two ways to solve it:

  • Create an email account JUST for purchases that way you never miss a deal and all of the shopping stuff is in one place. 
  • Sign up and then unsubscribe after the transaction

However, I would really recommend option A because you only would have to check the one account to see if there are any good deals. It’s like your own personal coupon book.

Join the rewards program

This isn’t the same as applying for the store credit card. This works really well for beauty product stores, like Sephora’s VIB Rouge or Ulta Platinum. You usually are able to earn multiples of points, get free products, and get early access to sales and the biggest savings. 

Know when excess inventory has to go. The end of the season is the BEST time to shop for all of the items you want for half the price. Whether it is work clothes or workout clothes the new lines brought in for next season will usually be a ridiculously high price but the price will drop when the excess inventory needs to be sold. So if you are just a little patient, you can save big. The most popular months for these types of sales are January (after Christmas shopping season), June (post -spring) , August (post-summer), and November (black Friday and Cyber Monday deals).

Rewards points programs are also available through several credit card companies, so be sure to consider that when you are choosing a credit card provider.

Make department stores great again

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Make the department store great again. And listen to Bill. Make the mall great again. Not just for your pocketbook, but for the environment.

For everyday needs like home goods, travel bags, and staples like socks you cannot beat how cheap department stores are now, especially since they are struggling. While the mall is almost a relic the fact that inflation may be happening is insulated by the need to sell to customers who actually show up.

Department stores, boutiques, makeup stores, workout gear stores, and home goods stores all have their unique benefits.In department stores they have large mirrors perfect for trying on clothes. There is no greater motivation for fitness than trying on clothes in a department store and coming out to look in the 3-way mirror. If this terrifies you, it shouldn’t. Everyone you know will see your clothes in 3-D, so that is how you should see them.

Also, the great thing about trying on a bunch of clothes is that you can leave behind all the ones you don’t want and don’t have to hassle with boxing up and making returns. Especially with items like clothes, shoes and makeup, you are more likely to find what fits you and looks good rather than ordering multiple items and sending them back. That may seem like it takes less time but it actually wastes a lot of time. Stores that do not have a product or something in your size are usually more than happy to order the right one for you.

people on market
Photo by Y K @Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to bargain

I feel like I have been bargaining since I was 6 years old. First, with my dad on how many My Little Ponies I could buy, and then later in life, for job salaries, houses, cars and luxury items. Maybe it was all the Little Pony practice, but I have always been a tough negotiator, at work and in life. The main key is this: Be very specific about what you want, before you go into the conversation. If people do not know the ask, they will steer a discussion to their own terms.

Now let’s apply these strategies to some everyday items.

Tip # 1 The Price is the Opening Offer

I always view the price tag as the opening offer, especially in high-end boutiques. The best advantage that you have in a physical store is that you can establish a rapport with the seller and a relationship of mutual loyalty and trust. The person selling you the merch is often the owner or someone with authority. A smile and a great conversation can go a long way. Taking an interest in their brand, history, and aesthetics is also a great way to connect on a personal level. Seriously, you never know what you can get if you ask. A lot of times I get discounts without even asking. Again, it is a game of trust, and the seller will often want yours just as much. I also regularly ask for samples and gift sets, and 9 times out of 10, I get them. Especially if you are a first time customer, you usually can get a discount because that is a technique to retain customer loyalty.

woman facing on white counter
A store owner will usually be more than happy to cut you a deal. Photo by Christiann Koepke @ Unsplash

Tip # 2 Don’t Look Desparate

Another method I used, I learned from shopping in Shanghai’s  Yatai Xinyang Fashion and Gift Market. Now don’t get me wrong, these are all designer knock-offs. The fact that the goods are fake is besides the point – if you don’t know how to bargain, you can end up WAY overpaying for designer clothing that actually looks pretty real. The main tip that I learned is to look unimpressed and use the “walk away” method. I used that to buy this very real looking and real feeling Hermes dress for 400 RMBs (around 58 US dollars). The original price was 1600 RMBs! Once I “walked away,” I got the price I wanted, and here we are:

I still have this dress 8 years later, and it still feels like one of a kind.

While it’s not as extreme in all markets, as businesspeople, we always negotiate. So negotiating is also totally fine whereever you shop. You don’t even have to do it directly – your body language and attitude can say a lot.

Did I mention this is also really important when you are negotiating the price of a car? Here are some tips on doing that.

Tip # 3: Do Your Research

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Photo by Angèle Kamp @Unsplash

Check and compare prices online. While you are in the store, and you see something you want to buy, check if you can get it cheaper online before you buy. If that’s the case, you can use that as yet another bargaining point or just pass on the store purchase. 

Same for when you are shopping online, you sholud always see if you can get it cheaper somewhere else, or if you can get a coupon code one site offers that another may not.

Tip # 4: Don’t feel pressure to get a store credit card

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Photo by Clay Banks @Unsplash

You know those collegs students who open up a bunch of credit cards and then go into debt? That’s who those store credit cards are for.

The option of store credit cards, with some exceptions for very high end brands, are not great. It is the salesperson’s job to pressure you into getting one. Usually saying you are in a rush will not deter them because they will say “this will only take a minute!” Why is it a bad idea – interest rates are ridiculous –  about 24% — well above the national average for credit cards in general, which is around 15%. Plus you usually don’t have the ability to earn miles or any benefits outside of shopping at that store, which you can get if you sign up for a separate loyalty program. My best comeback is a very graceful, “I’ll think about it!”

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