Spend Less, Save More
The basics of saving money boil down to simple math: spend less than you make, and you will save more money. It is not hard to do on paper, but it is tough to do in reality. I have discussed in prior posts how I go about doing this through automation, intentionality, discipline, and making hard choices. But what I have not talked much about is how to save more money when making purchases.
Believe it or not, I do actually spend money! I am a spender by nature, and I have had to teach myself to be a saver. It is a constant struggle. Whether or not I am spending on wants or needs, my guiding principle is to spend the least amount possible while also not wasting too much time finding the best deal. I also believe in buying quality so that I do not have to buy it more than once. Buying the cheapest possible product may save you money at the moment, but it often costs more over time if you have to repair or replace that item constantly. Lastly, the process has to be easy. If it is too hard, it will take too much time and energy.
My 4 Shopping Principles
- Spend the least amount of money possible.
- Spend the least amount of time possible.
- Choose to spend more for quality.
- It has to be easy.
This phenomenon was a huge problem for me. My process used to look something like this. For example, let’s say I needed a new water bottle (I chose this because I just bought one). My first action would be to go to Amazon and scroll through about a thousand different water bottles, reading reviews, studying ratings, and comparing costs. Without choosing one, I would then open tabs at Target, Walmart, and all other stores I think may have water bottles and do the same thing on Amazon. This process of scrolling, reading, comparing could and would take hours sometimes.
Nothing was decided at the end of it, no purchase was made, and I would close the tabs and quit. Even worse is that I would do this same process multiple times for the same product. It could take me months to buy something as simple as a $15 water bottle. Not once did I consider the time or aggravation involved. My only thought was to get the best possible water bottle at the best possible price!
My process was paralyzing me. By overanalyzing every detail (price, reviews, ratings, etc..) and by having too many choices, the result was inaction. My approach lacked two important things: it was not easy, and I was not placing any value on my time. In the end, I would often get the product at a good price, and I was happy with the purchase.
The Easy Button(s)
Thank God there are smart people out there! Clearly, I was not the only one having the same problem. The solution was simple in theory, and I am sure much harder to execute (hence the smart people). But now that it exists, my shopping prayers have been answered. I can now choose a quality product and then quickly purchase that product with full confidence that I am getting it for a great price. The solution I am talking about is browser extensions.
If you do not know what I am talking about, don’t worry, I will explain. Browser extensions are not hard to use or install. Once you have them installed, they work automatically “behind the scenes” to do many of the things that I mentioned above that would take a lot of time and cause a lot of aggravation.
For shopping, there are many extensions out there today, and more are being added all of the time. Most of the extensions aim to get you the product you want at the best possible price. They go about in different ways, but the goal is largely the same. Some will find you the best price by scanning the web and telling you where to buy the item at. Others will search the web for coupon codes and then automatically apply them for you at checkout. Lastly, some extensions will give you cashback, rebates, or some other form of compensation for purchasing the item through their sites. Many extensions will do a combination of the things I just mentioned.
Before I tell you what extensions I use, let’s quickly tell you how to get them on your computer. It is actually effortless. I will provide links below for each extension. Click the link provided and follow the easy instructions (usually 1-2 clicks total). It will only take few seconds to do, they are safe for your computer, and there is no coding required. Some may ask you to create an account, but none that I use require sensitive personal information or credit card information. They are all free to use for the consumer and can easily save you a lot of money!
Extensions I Currently Use
Here are some of the extensions I most commonly use. I am listing them along with the features I find most useful. All of the extensions listed here have numerous features like watch lists, price drop alters, reward points, and more. Some of those are just too much time and effort for me. I mainly use the extensions to quickly find the best price and/or time to buy.
This is the extension I use the most and really helps me save a lot of money. Once installed, Honey is so easy to use. First, shop for the item you want. When viewing the item or once it is added to your cart, you will notice the orange honey icon near the item, or you will see a pop-up box asking if you want Honey to search and apply coupon codes. A few things are occurring at the same time. Honey is looking for the best possible price for this item and applying all available coupon codes to see if it can find you a discount. Additionally, Honey will give you a price history so you can see recent trends and determine the best time to buy.
Capital One Shopping is very similar to Honey. However, it also scans the web for the best price and coupon codes to apply to you. This extension also appears to have a relationship with eBay as it often will redirect you there for the best price. I often forget to check eBay, so I actually appreciate this. Like Honey, this is very easy to use. In fact, I typically use both Honey and Capital One Shopping concurrently and pick whichever one offers the best deal.
The Camelizer, or camelcamelcamel (great name), is different than the first two. This extension is specific to Amazon, and its focus is on price history. To use it, go to Amazon, find your product, and click the Camelizer icon in the toolbar. After clicking it, you will see a bar graph for that product that reflects price fluctuations over whatever timeline you select. I absolutely love this information for any item that I do not immediately need, especially larger purchases.
If I plan accordingly, I can use this extension to pick the perfect time to buy something. It is market timing for shopping! It also allows me to set price targets and alerts so that when an item reaches the price I want to purchase it at, I get an email letting me know it’s time to buy. This is very convenient, efficient, and easy. The camelizer has helped me save a lot of money over the years.
This extension is new to me, and I have only used it a few times. In many ways, it acts like Honey and Capital One Shopping, but I do not use it for that type of shopping. The best use for this extension is to find the best travel price. Just install the extension and let it run behind the scenes. If you are searching for a flight, the extension will search concurrently and alert you if there is a better price available. I have only used this 2-3 times at this point, so I do not have a lot to say except so far, I really like it.
One Popular Extension I Do Not Use And Why
Rakuten is very popular, and they spend a lot of money marketing to make sure they stay that way. I do not use it, and I have one reason why. Rakuten is a cashback extension, meaning that you earn cashback rewards when you buy products through them. This is similar to some cash-back credit cards in many ways. My issue is that I do not want to encourage myself to shop more. A rewards structure like this can gamify shopping and make me spend more to earn more cashback. Knowing my own psychology, I choose not to do this.
Never Pay Full Price
If you are paying full price, you are doing something wrong. With the technology available today, specifically the easy-to-use extensions listed above, there is no reason to pay full price. You can easily save a lot of money by spending a few minutes adding these extensions to your browser of choice. Once installed, they run in the background and do the work for you. I still have some work to do when it comes to finding a quality product quickly. But once I do, I have found an easy and time-efficient process for making a smart, confident purchase.
Have you used any of these extensions or others that you like? Please share your experiences in the comments below.