How to SAVE when you SHOP

By Lauren Sharkey

Saving money is a difficult and challenging task – especially while you’re in school.  However, if you look carefully enough, you will find that there are tons of ways to save cash right in your own backyard.  Let’s start with your roommates!

Even though most Stony Brook students have their own meal plan, that doesn’t eliminate the need to go shopping.  Assorted drinks (i.e. bottled water, soda, Snapple, etc.), cleaning supplies, and other standard dorm necessities often warrant a trip to the store.

Some people invite their friends to tag along with them while they make a run to the store, but shopping is typically an individual activity.  But collaborating with your roommates can save you time, money, and headaches.  Here’s how:

shopping1

Step One:  Create a shopping list

Although each person has their own preferences for snacks, beverages and other items, there are certain items that everyone uses such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste.  Have a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly meeting and create a shopping list of things you need (link to differences between wants and needs).

Making a collaborative list eliminates two people purchasing the same thing.  Additionally, making a list removes the need for more than one trip to the store to be made.  This saves time and gas.

Step Two: Do your homework and shop around

A mistake many college students make is not taking the time to check prices in their immediate area.  While this can be time-consuming and sometimes a bit annoying, it’s definitely worth your while to do so.  Check your local paper to see which stores are offering coupons or running special promotions on items on your list.

You might also want to check Amazon.com or Target.  Many online retailers offer free shipping, low prices, and excellent customer service.  Shopping online can also save you money on gas.

Step Three:  Take a hint from your mom – and coupon!

Check online to see what’s on sale and if there are any coupons available.  Many stores like Stop and Shop and Target post their weekly deals online and you can sign up to be notified of sales via email.  In addition, if you know you definitely need toilet paper (or some other important item) check Charmin’s (or whoever you prefer) website to see if they offer any coupons.  These practices, along with signing up for a membership card (Stop and Shop’s and Walmart’s are both free) can save you some serious money.

Step Four: Split the cost

Splitting costs can be tricky if not done the right way.  The best way to split the cost of groceries and other shopping is to establish which items are for community use (i.e. toilet paper, bottled water, coffee, etc.).  Once community items are clearly defined, calculate the cost, and divide it equally among your roommates and yourself.

*It is important to divide costs equally and fairly.  If you’re cool with using Dial soap for $1.00 but your roommate needs a $7.99 bar of soap that makes their hands smell like a rose garden, perhaps offer to pick that specialty item up for them when they give you the money.

Step Five:  Come up with a schedule

To save on time, gas, and money, come up with a schedule for who does the shopping when.  Perhaps one person can go to one store while someone goes to another (if you have items that cannot be purchased all in one place).

Step Six:  Check yourself before you wreck yourself

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought paper towels, gone to my closet to put them away only to see that I have a bunch of paper towels left.  After you make a list, and before you leave for the store, take a quick look around and see if you definitely need everything on your list.  You might find that you already have that item, or remember something you missed when making the list.  At any rate, it’s always good to review.

Step Seven:  BRING YOUR LIST

There is no greater heartache than going to a store only to find that you forgot your shopping list.  And no matter how much you think you’ve memorized that bad boy, the truth is that when you return and your suitemates attack your bags, someone will say, “Where’s the (item you forgot)?”…you don’t want to be that guy.

While following these seven steps won’t magically make your groceries free, they can definitely lead to a significant decrease in the amount of money you have to shell out and, well, that’s always good 🙂

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