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I’m a bargain shopper at heart. When my parents divorced, my mom and I had to find ways to save as much as we could. During this time, I learned how to hunt for deals. My stepmom also encouraged me in my deal-finding, as she was a bargain shopper herself. She got out of debt this way, pinching her pennies until the final cent of her student loans were paid off.
There are a few things to avoid with bargain shopping, including buying something you don’t need just because it’s a super bargain, or spending outside of your budget. That’s not what you want when you’re looking for a deal.
The best deals are when that wishlist item and a great price collide. That’s our goal at Clark Deals: to help you find a great bargain on the things you really want and need. (We also find deals on one of Clark’s favorite things in the whole world – travel!)
I want to share with you some of my favorite personal deals over a year’s time. I love shopping for deals because it’s like a treasure hunt and your reward is your savings.
However, as a part of a sound financial plan, you always want to have a budget. And, if you’re in debt, you should prioritize needs over wants. (In my debt payoff journey, which I chronicle in my book, my husband and I sold items that were important to us, ate cheaply at home and kept our wants at bay so we could get the burden of debt off of our shoulders.)
Here are five ways I like to save money by bargain hunting, and how I saved $6,888.99 in a year (approximately October 2022 through September 2023) shopping for deals.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of each deal, I’d like to explain the breakdown. These five strategies encompass all the ways I save money when bargain shopping.
As you can see, I found a creative way to store my receipts! Some of them I didn’t include here, such as the receipt for a $1.50 Costco hot dog with a drink. There’s not really anything to compare that to. But it makes for an extremely cheap date night, so long as you don’t buy a $2,000 couch.
These are the five main ways I saved this year:
At Clark.com and ClarkDeals.com, it’s our mission to help you save more and spend less. That’s why warehouse club memberships that save you on everyday essentials are a big deal.
My personal favorite is BJ’s Wholesale, where my husband and I use our BJ’s One™ Mastercard® to save an extra 10 cents per gallon on gas. Most of the time, we find the gas at BJ’s to be cheaper than any other station around!
According to one of my most recent BJ’s receipts, we’ve saved $736.77 over the last 12 months. And, the warehouse club often has additional discounts on gas when you buy certain things. I’m not sure how they calculate this number, but I’ve come up with a figure on my own based on the items we regularly buy there compared to another nearby grocery store, Amazon or Walmart.
I’ve written about how we’ve saved money at BJ’s compared to other stores in the past, but for this article, I’m starting fresh. I’m picking seven items we regularly purchased at BJ’s this year. Then I’ll highlight how much we’ve saved with coupons because this is additional savings on top of the comparison savings. (Hint: It’s no small amount!)
Note that prices are subject to change and are valid at the time of publication.
My husband makes wraps he brings to work almost every day! This makes sliced lunch meat a staple in his routine. This is one thing we currently save a ton on at BJ’s. He buys about 1.5 pounds weekly, and what he buys costs $6.49 per pound at BJ’s. A comparable item at the grocery store near us costs $12.99 per pound. For this item, we save approximately $507.26 annually.
I try to buy organic whenever I can. I find there’s far less produce waste when I buy it frozen. We eat a ton of this vegetable (well actually about 104 pounds per year!) because it’s one my husband and I can agree on. Because we eat so much of it, we save about $182 annually buying it for $2.50 per pound at BJ’s, versus $4.25 per pound at our local grocery store.
I eat as vegan as possible, and these shakes help a ton! Though this particular item appears to be exclusive to BJ’s, comparing it to a similar item at Amazon with a similar amount of protein means we save approximately $678 annually on this item if I drink one per day. (This takes into account a cost of $1.67 per unit at BJ’s, versus $3.52 per unit at Amazon.)
These are another favorite for smoothies, and we don’t have to worry about them going bad. Compared to our nearby grocer, we can save about $60 annually, at a cost of $3.99 per pound at BJ’s versus $5.66 per pound at the local grocer.
My husband doesn’t drink soda or sweet tea anymore (and I have to give him a big shout-out for that!). To replace the soda craving, he’ll drink a seltzer water with lunch. He really likes the Polar brand, and we can find it at BJ’s for 37 cents per unit, compared to 54 cents at our local grocery store, unless there is a BOGO sale. In all over a year, we save about $62 on those.
This is not as big of a savings, but it’s something! Buying Arm & Hammer baking soda at BJ’s saves us $7.65 annually versus buying it at Walmart.
The savings on this item were nearly neck and neck, but every dollar counts. Whenever a coupon pops up for Scott, this would make it a clear winner at BJ’s. The 75 cents per roll at BJ’s versus 98 cents per roll at a store like Amazon make BJ’s the winner with about $23.85 in annual savings. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on from what the last few years have taught us, having a bulk stash of toilet paper is a great idea to be prepared for just about anything.
All in all, our approximate savings on these seven items annually is $1,520.91.
In addition to saving on essentials, we also save big on clothing at BJ’s, (and Costco clothing too!)
This year, we started late in the coupon game (and many things we buy don’t have coupons), but we still managed to add $117.22 in coupon savings. This is in addition to the savings compared to other stores without coupons, as well as the additional rewards we receive by being BJ’s cardholders. (We earn a $10 reward that automatically pops up at checkout for approximately every $333.90 spent.)
One caveat to BJ’s, however. I have found that the vitamins available at BJ’s are actually more expensive than at Amazon, even with a coupon. A few items are less at BJ’s only when BJ’s has a coupon. However, some over-the-counter medicines are cheaper. This is why it pays to comparison shop, especially for things you buy regularly. The additional rewards are another thing to consider, especially if you have a BJ’s credit card.
Aldi is a favorite place to shop to save money on groceries, too!
I love clearance sales. This is when I pick up fun items such as clothing or Christmas gifts. After Christmas, I went to Kohl’s and got $527 worth of items for $96. This included a cute shirt for just $1.43!
I also check the clearance section at Publix and have found big savings there too! The Publix buy one get one sales (BOGOs) are a great way to stock up. Over the past year or so, we’ve saved $136.14 with BOGO on Progresso soup!
Of course, we always have our eye on all the deals around the web at Clark Deals. Some of my favorites that I bought included a vacuum for $20 (saved $20), a dog frisbee for $4.77 (saved $10), and a coffee maker for $25 (saved $51 but bought two for Christmas gifts, so I saved $102!)
One deal I was super jazzed about was a Vera Bradley sale that happened in April. We posted about this sale over at Clark Deals. It was truly too amazing to pass up, and I ended up getting $1,169 worth of items for $283.50, plus tax, making my total $300.51. That made the 14 things I bought just $21.47 each! I gave away a bunch of items already for birthday gifts, but I’m still hanging on to a few for other birthdays and Christmas. I loved getting such nice bags for such a low price! For example, one bag was just $31.50 after the discount:
I also saved $100 on our pups’ medications through Chewy, in addition to a major sale on protein bars. It was such a good sale, I stocked up and bought enough protein bars to last six months! That was $281.92 in savings.
As one final example, we tried Factor Meals and saved $48.56 on a week’s worth of meals.
I won’t bore you with the other deals I picked up, but with the above sales and deals plus a bunch more, we saved $2,572.03 and spent $1,551.67.
Now, before you scold me for spending $1,551.67, I need to share with you how I got $1,597 in spending money. Read on for the next section about credit card rewards…
I’m a huge fan of credit card welcome bonus offers. Two years ago, I earned $4,000 in credit card rewards! The year before that, my husband and I booked an entire beach trip using a 5-night welcome bonus through a travel card. That would have cost us $1,400 if we had paid for it out of pocket!
Within the past year, I signed up for the Citi® Double Cash Card and received $399.49 thanks to a welcome bonus offer(that is no longer available). On top of that, I earned $529.42 from the 2% monthly cash back for a total of $928.91.
We also received $100 from a new bank account signup.
Then, I signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card and earned a $250 gift card! The above screenshot shows how we were able to use it to book a $208.35 hotel room. We’re still working on earning 50,000 in points for a future stay. Currently, this card is offering the ability to earn 3 free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
I also earned $718 in welcome bonuses with another card, but this offer is no longer available. However, you can get $750 toward travel with this credit card. And since these welcome bonuses change frequently we are always highlighting the best credit card welcome bonus offers at ClarkDeals.com.
All in all these cards plus the banking offer put $1,996.90 in our pocket!
An important note on credit cards: Remember to pay off your cards in full each month to reap the full benefits and avoid any headaches!
I have to be honest: I didn’t do as good of a job recording whenever I got a freebie. I also wasn’t very good at visiting Hallmark to get my free card every month! (You do still have to pay tax, so if you take advantage of this deal remember to bring change.)
Regardless, I still got at least $82.15 in free stuff. This was due to signing up for rewards programs at restaurants such as Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Smoothie King, Panda Express and others. We also took advantage of one free month of Apple TV.
But the bulk (get it?) of the savings came in due to free mulch we were able to take advantage of nearby. We would have spent approximately $47.64 on the same amount of mulch at The Home Depot.
Since Visible works on Verizon’s network, the closest comparison I can come up with is Verizon’s Unlimited Welcome plan for $50 per line for two lines, which would make our monthly cost $100 per month. My husband and I pay $25 each for our unlimited service with Visible, which includes a hotspot, so $50 total.
This means that for the year, we save $600 using Visible. We also love that there are no extra fees! And we tend to buy used iPhones because we don’t need the latest and greatest. We have had to make sure the phones we buy are compatible with Visible, however.
Bargain shopping is a fun hobby, but can also save you money in the long term. However, for it to truly save you money, you’ll want to stay within your budget and avoid buying things you don’t really want or need.
I hope this article has given you some ideas for ways to save! Share your favorite bargain-hunting stories in our Clark.com community.
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This post was last modified on October 12, 2023 8:00 am
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