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My mom taught me how to save thousands a year with a simple shopping strategy

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When my mom started having kids, she left her job in the insurance industry to be a stay-at-home mom. She spent her time not only taking care of my brother and me but also managing the household.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from her over the years was the importance of keeping an eye on your budget and limiting your spending to what you could afford.

From an early age, I noticed that my mom never bought anything unless it was on sale. When I asked her about this, she said that buying things at full price was a guaranteed way to lose thousands of dollars a year. Even when there was an item that I really wanted, she reminded me that there was a good chance it’d go on sale one day soon. Usually, she was right.

Because of her, I got good at coupon clipping and installing different browser apps that could alert me to savings when I did any online shopping.

Over the years, this lesson has saved me thousands of dollars — here’s how.

1. I track the sales offered by different retailers

When it comes to clothing and accessories, my mom taught me to follow the 20% off rule. We normally won’t buy an item unless it’s at least 20% off. Since most retailers run sales weekly or monthly, there are a variety of ways that we keep an eye out for our favorite items to go on sale.

We subscribe to the retailer’s email notifications. While it can get annoying hearing from a store every day, often it’s the best way to find out about a mega sale it’s running. If you do this for a few months, you start to see a pattern. One retailer we love usually runs sales in the same order. It will start off offering 20% off everything on their website and then a week later offer 40% off. Every six weeks, it will do a 50% off offer for 24 hours. That’s when we make all of our purchases from that retailer.

2. I use browser extensions to get every coupon I can

We also hunt for savings using browser apps like Honey or GetJam, which show you coupon codes and links to other websites where the same item is on sale.

I’ll also check with my credit card companies to see if they are offering any discounts since some credit cards offer promo codes from merchants to cardholders. For example, my Capital One credit card has a shopping browser extension that shares available discounts with you when you shop online.

My CapitalOne business credit card also offers deals and discounts from a variety of vendors that I often use for my business needs.

3. I pay attention to a store’s policies

Often, retailers offer a discount code to first-time shoppers. Before we buy at a store for the first time, we’ll look on its website to see if it is offering a one-time discount code if we subscribe to its email communication.

In the past, we’ve even emailed customer service to ask companies if there are any active discount codes available, sales coming up, or if the company is open to price matching based on a competitor’s pricing. Sometimes, we get a no, but occasionally, companies will offer 20% off just for taking the time to reach out.

Some retailers even offer price adjustments for items bought in a 30- or 60-day time frame. We save all of our receipts, and if a sale pops up during that timeframe, we will reach out and ask for a price adjustment. This saves us hundreds of dollars a year. For example, I recently bought an item that was 20% off, and this week it was 50% off. I asked for a price adjustment and was able to get a $50 refund.

4. I avoid impulse shopping

Whenever I go shopping, I keep my mom’s lesson in the back of my head. It allows me to refrain from impulse shopping. Instead of grabbing an item while I’m in the store, I’ll take a picture of it and wait until it goes on sale.

Quite often, as the weeks pass, I find myself no longer interested in the item anyway. This has helped shape my shopping habits, because I rarely ever leave a store with an item in my hand. For online shopping, most items stay in the cart until the sale happens, and when it does, I reassess what I actually still want.

Last month, on my birthday, I walked into an expensive store and bought a sweatshirt at full price. This was one of the few times I’ve done this. I felt so guilty about this — it felt like I was wasting money. I absolutely was, because three weeks later, the sweatshirt went on sale for 30% off. Thankfully, I was able to go back to the store and ask for a price adjustment.

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