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Having three young children of my own I know how expensive it can get to buy groceries and clothes.  My little ones are only 5 years old and younger, but I can already see the grocery bills going up and the clothing expenses starting to climb.  It didn’t take my wife and I long to start to figure out and take advantage of sale cycles and discounts wherever we could.  Here are 14 different ways to save a little money while shopping for groceries and other household products.

Pay attention to sale cycles

Knowing when things go on sale seems to be a divine skill to some people.  They just have this uncanny knack of knowing when to buy certain things and when they will go on sale again.  My wife has this ability and is always telling me not to buy this or that as there will be a better sale next week.  You can look up sale cycles online to get a general idea when certain items go on sale and then plan to purchase a small stockpile when the time is right.  Cold and flu medication typically goes on sale in January.  March is a good time to buy winter clothing and barbecues.  Patio furniture typically goes on sale in June, if you don’t mind last year’s model and summer clothes can be bought cheaply in September.  If you’re an online shopper, there are tons of price watching software programs that will alert you via email when something drops in price on your favourite site.  The technology is out there people – you just have to use it!

Buy in bulk, but don’t go overboard

You likely don’t need 50 tubes of toothpaste or 25 bottles of laundry soap, but having a backup or three is not bad idea.  It will stop those late night trips to the store to buy the item at full price and carry you over until the next big sale.

DIY staples

Homemade products can be fun and enjoyable to make if you enjoy that sort of thing.  Looking for a DIY recipe for oven cleaner?  The internet has that.  Want to make your own laundry detergent?  The internet has that too!  If you’re resourceful and industrious enough to tackle a DIY project like this the directions are out there for you to find.  Just make sure that the cost of the ingredients to make the product is not more expensive than just buying the product itself.  There’s nothing worse than spending $20 to make laundry soap when you could have just bought it for $11.99 on sale.

Use point cards and store rewards

Reward cards and point systems are everywhere.  Make sure there is no cost to join and that you are not signing up for a credit card by joining.  Once you have a card, flash it every time you make a purchase at the store.  A friend of mine used to laugh when I would use my points card – that is until I asked him how many points he received with his purchase.  A few points toward earning money are better than nothing!  Get creative and search the net for different store cards and incentive programs out there.  You’ll be surprised how many exist and how many are free to join.

You can also check out cash back incentives like Checkout 51.  It’s a Canadian based app that issues rebates for your purchases.  Each week the app sends out new offers, and if you purchase the item in question, credits your account when you submit a photo of your receipt.  Once you’ve earner $20 in rebates they will issue you a cheque to the address you have registered on the app.  It’s a pretty easy way to earn money while shopping for things you need anyway.

Look for free stuff

There are a lot of gimmicks out there and some places just want to collect your information to sell to another telemarketing company.  Create an email account for the sole purpose of signing up for free items and coupons.  This email account will fill up quickly with junk mail, but there will be some gems in the trash worth checking out.

Avoid buying New

An interesting money saving challenge you can try is to not buy anything new for one month.  Buy only second-hand items from clothes to furniture and everything in between.  Places like thrift stores and hock shops abound with deals on some really nice things.  There is no shame is saving some money and buying that tablet or slow cooker second hand.  Clean it well when you get home and enjoy something for a fraction of the retail price.  Children’s clothes are an especially good bargain at second hand stores.  Kids rarely have time to wear out clothes before they grow out of them which makes them a perfect purchase for your family.  It’ll take a little time to search the plethora of rows and bins in these stores, but the time spent will be worth it.  Shopping online your thing?  Check out mom groups on Facebook or Kijiji for people looking to make a little money on the side as well.  If you are a shrewd negotiator, you can often haggle for a better price.

Get Crafty

This one takes some patience and a little help but, if you are a crafty person, you can make simple everyday items that would normally cost $5-$10 a pop!  Get your kids to make birthday cards for grandma rather than buying them.  Have an “original gifts only” policy for exchanges between siblings and extended family.  I know I’d rather receive a cute crafty gift from my kids than another gift card or tie that I’m never going to wear.  Check out the local craft store and dollar store for cheap supplies and good ideas.  Again, the internet is full of cool ideas; you just have to look and not be afraid to try.

Get Creative with family outings

Going out as a family can get pretty expensive.  A couple of hours at the movies with pop and popcorn can cost over $100 and shopping trips to the mall can cost even more.  Find new and interesting places to go that are cheap- or even better, free.  Walk at the park.  Go swimming at the local beach.  Check out the library or local museum.  Have a cell phone?  Try Geo Caching in your area and get out into nature.  There are all kinds of cheap and fun ways to have a day out with the family that won’t break the bank.

Keep the thermostat under control

Keeping the heat at a lower setting can add much needed dollars to the monthly budget every month.  You’ll be surprised how much money can be saved by keeping the thermostat at 21 instead of 23 in the winter months.  An especially good time to turn down the heat is when you’re not home or sleeping.  The purchase of an inexpensive programmable thermostat can really pay off in the long run.  Have the heat kick on 20 minutes before you get home and turn down 20 minutes after you go to bed.  The savings will add up quickly.

Stop Paying for Phantom Power Use

Phantom power happens when things like phone chargers, toasters, or coffee makers are left plugged in all day and night.  Even though you are not using these items at the moment they are still sucking power from the house and costing you money.  Items like your TV, DVD player, or computer are constantly drawing energy from the grid even when they are turned off.  Does the appliance have a light on it somewhere that tells you it’s on or off?  That costs power!  There’s a reason the first thing people recommend you do before converting to solar power is to get rid of all your phantom power users.  It drains the batteries in no time at all.  Invest in power bars (or pick them up second hand) and turn them off when not using the appliance they are connected to.  Just be sure that the little light on the power bar is not still on when you turn it off or you will still be using phantom power.  If you’re unsure, just unplug the appliance.  If it’s not plugged in there is no way for it to use any power at all.

Learn to check your meter readings

Make sure you’re not being overcharged on your hydro bill each month by checking what the meter says vs. what they have reported.  The people reading the meter can mistakes!  Double check their work for your own piece of mind.  If your meter is reading less than what they have billed you for get it fixed ASAP.

Fix Cracks, leaks, and holes

If you’re already keeping the heat turned down you don’t want what you are conserving slipping out a cracked window or drafty door.  Buy window sealing kits at the hardware store and seal the windows from drafts.  Fashion a door jamb pillow to keep out under the door drafts and, if possible, plug any holes with insulation to keep the critters out as well as the cold air.

Don’t be shy to negotiate with the phone or cable people

Big savings can be found by a simple call to the cable or phone company to ask for a better rate or plan.  I’m a big fan of cutting cable out of my life and relying on the internet for my entertainment needs but, if having cable is what you want, haggle for a better price.  And don’t be afraid to threaten to leave the company and go somewhere else.  New customers get all kinds of perks and deals.  Take advantage and change companies often.  Why should only the new customers get the good deals?

Try these money saving tips and see how much you can bank at the end of the month.  It takes effort and a little patience, but when has anything worth doing been easy?  What are some of your tips for saving money on everyday items?