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Did you know that it’s hip to be thrift? Millions of young families are able to squeeze more life out of their paychecks with these cool ways to save money.
Who said your life style choices have to be limited by the size of your paycheck? While young families may not always have control over the size of their paycheck, with some foresight and creativity, they can find ways to squeeze more life out of it. In fact, you will be joining nearly 70 percent of your fellow Americans who, since the economic downturn, have turned frugality into a national pastime. We’re now a nation of unabashed coupon clippers, thrift shoppers, and swap meet junkies who take pride in never paying retail for anything again. By learning the tricks of thrift, your family can live large on a family budget while saving what you need for important goals.
Shop Thrift Stores
If you haven’t been in a thrift store lately (or ever), be prepared to stand in line. Thrift stores, especially those located in or near affluent communities, are stocked with quality clothing. Young people flock to the blue jeans rack where they can find high-end brands at a small fraction of their retail cost. Men should check out the suit rack where $500 suits can be purchased for $50. And, women can have a field day scouring the racks of business wear, dresses, coats and sweaters. It’s the perfect place to load up on kid’s shirts, jeans and jackets. You’ll also find a big inventory of kitchen items if you’re in need of some cooking or serving accessories. Of course, everything is used (every now and then you can find items with their original price tag still attached), but, generally, the quality and condition are very good to excellent.
Saturday Swap Meets
Many of the large swap meets have taken on a carnival atmosphere drawing throngs of families who come as much for the fun and food as they do for the great stuff on sale. It’s the place to go when you’re looking for tools, kitchen accessories, t-shirts, and used DVDs or video games. The great thing about swap meets is you can haggle for everything; but don’t go overboard or else you may blow your budget. Avoid buying electronics and you shouldn’t buy any clothes unless you try them on. Go as early as possible to get good parking; plus, many vendors sell out by noon.
Have you told someone about something you bought only to hear, “I bought that on Craigslist for half the price!”? It’s true that just about anything you can buy in a store can be found on Craigslist. Craigslist stuff is mostly used, but it can range from “good condition” to “like new.” Things like higher-end bicycles, power tools, auto parts, furniture, and household items are in abundance on Craigslist and you can browse from your computer. When you find something you like, you will need to call or email the seller with questions and/or to arrange to see the item. With Craigslist, as it is with any private transaction, it is “buyers beware.” You should take every opportunity to carefully inspect the item, but once you pay (generally, cash only), don’t expect a refund if you don’t find it to your liking.
Coupons and Groupon
Everyone knows a coupon clipper, that person who walks around with a pouch full of coupons organized by category and then brags about the hundreds of dollars she saves for her time and effort. There’s no question there are substantial savings to be found in coupons, but things have changed since the days of the Sunday flier. Coupons have gone digital, and there is hardly an item or store you can think of that doesn’t have online coupons or discounts available. Websites such as Coupons.com and Retailmenot.com aggregate thousands of coupons and discount codes from retailers that can be downloaded or used for online shopping. For grocery coupons, you can just create your shopping list and search Coupon.com for coupons. The very best savings come from matching your coupons with in-store sales. Your total savings can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
For just about everything else you can imagine, sites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com offer a huge variety of coupons and discounts, up to 80 percent off, on restaurants, travel, electronics, household products, auto care, and local events. You should only use these sites when you actually need something (you can search by category, item and locale), because if you find yourself browsing the site, you may succumb to impulse purchases.
Turn Your Savings into Savings
Of course, the best part of a thrift mentality is the amount of savings that can accumulate over time. When you can actually see the monthly savings on your lifestyle needs translate directly to money in the bank, you’ll challenge yourself to find more savings. A couple hundred dollars saved each month for 15 to 20 years can fund a good portion of a college education. That’s not just thrift, that’s money smarts.