I think I am like most men in that shopping isn’t one of my favorite activities. If you are living out on your own, eventually you will need to get out there and buy some stuff. When you consider what it takes to be a good shopper (it’s a skill really), men are generally outmatched. Even my 13 year old niece already has well developed shopping skills because she has the interest and also because she works at it.
The tips I have here will help you to shop better, save time, eat better, all the while saving money without actually having to make the investment in time that a Pro would make. You can use these tips immediately. That’s why I call them Saving Tips for the Lazy Single Man.
These tips are culled from my own experience as a lazy single man. There are a mix of ideas here, some are typical recs that help you to lower costs. Others are not typical, because they help you to realize how you are wasting money on stuff after you buy it. For example, a lazy man is never going to return an item so these related tips fall into the category of ‘buy it right the first time’.
- Buy a George Forman Grill. The GFG (‘George’) is one of those inventions that makes you wonder how single men lived without it. It will save you from starving in your apartment. It can cook almost anything quickly and easily (burgers, chicken, fish), and it will make you look like a Pro. This will save you money so you don’t have to go out to eat everyday.
- Buy Generic/Sale Items. When you are at the supermarket, you can save money simply by choosing different products in the aisle (no coupons required). Consider the generic versions of products or competitor products that are on sale.
- Buy the Large Size. For many items, particularly groceries, you can get a price break simply by buying the larger size. The tag on the aisle will indicate the ‘price per quart’ or ‘price per pound’. Use the tag to decide.
- Buy Clothing Out of Season. To buy clothes frugally, buy them at the right time just when they are about to go out of season. For summer clothes, this is typically after July 4th. For winter clothing, this is usually after Christmas. If you go to the store at this time, the clothes will be on sale without requiring any planning or action on your part.
- Mine the Dollar Store. When you decide to clean the bathroom, you will need some cleaners. Or if you need a gift bag for your mother’s gift, the dollar store is a good place to get it cheaply. No sale required.
- Get a Grocery Store Card. Sign up for one of those savings cards at the grocery store. It will save you money at checkout without any action on your part when you flash it. You don’t want to be bothered with marketing mail, so give them your college room address. They don’t care. Really.
- Shop During the Week. Skilled shoppers know not only where to buy and how to buy but when to buy. Your time is valuable, you don’t want to spend the day fighting crowds and traffic particularly when you want to buy gifts during the holiday season. Go to the mall near the time it opens (yes, even on Saturday) and after work during the week. You will be surprised how quiet it is.
- Understand Store Types. There are different types of stores, know the difference to help steer you in the right direction. High Quality/Full Price (1), High Quality/Sale Price (2), Low Quality/Low Price (3), and High Quality/Outlets (4). So, if you are looking for a pair of Levi’s you are generally better off going to TJ Maxx or Burlington Coat Factory (2) versus Macy’s (1) or Walmart(3). You may also find them at a Levi’s Outlet (4), but be suspicious. My sources tell me that outlets don’t always have the best prices.
- Host a Football Party. Going to a bar to get food and drinks can get expensive. Pool with your friends to buy drinks and food and watch the game at home.
- Go Vintage. Here’s where you have one up on the women. At vintage and thrift shops you can find men’s clothing easily because men’s clothing doesn’t change that much over time, so it can still work today. While you are there, pick up that cheap nightstand that you need, too.
- Use Your Freezer. If you bought the bigger package of hamburgers to make on your George, freeze some of it. It will last longer instead of going bad in the refrigerator. Meat/Poultry lasts for only a few days in the refrigerator.
- Get a Doggy Bag. When eating out save your waste line and get a doggy bag for half of your meal. I know your mother told you to clear the plate, but the meals that you eat outside are too large. Put the leftovers in the frig and eat it for lunch the next day at work.
- Learn to Cook. To eat economically, your best option is to make food versus eating out or even buying ‘ready’ meals at the supermarket. It’s not as hard as it sounds, if you start out using your microwave. Start off by cooking sides to go along with your hamburger you cooked on the George. Buy canned beans, green beans, corn, etc and heat them up in the microwave. Instant mashed potatoes are not much harder, mix in water/butter, then microwave. Next, try chili, it’s easy: microwave tomato sauce, can of beans and a chili seasoning pack (optional: add meat cooked on George).
- Go All Black. I’ve at times almost missed my train to work because I couldn’t match a pair of dress socks. Make it easy on yourself, just buy all black plain socks, they work with anything and also with each other. No matter how many of them you lose, you’ll always be able to find a match.
- Iron It Out. Take a look at your closet. A good look. Why don’t you wear that one pair of slacks? With women, they know exactly why they haven’t worn those well laundered slacks sitting in the closet: they are waiting for that day someday in the future when they will get to the right size to wear them. Since your weight doesn’t change that much, your excuse is simpler: you are too lazy to iron the pants. Admit it. I have a pair of nice slacks I wore once new. And then a second time when I was forced to iron them because I had nothing else clean to wear. Save yourself some time and money, buy shirts and slacks that are ‘no-iron’! A pair of slacks you never wear is wasted money.
- Check Expiration Dates. Check the expiration dates on the food and medicine you buy. If you buy a good that is stale you will be too lazy to take it back, so it’s lost money. I once found a bag of pretzels that was expired for 6 months. It’s a good thing I checked the date.
- Get A Discount. Retailers understand that there are a segment of customers who will pay full price as well as a segment that is always seeking a discount. You may be surprised that most retailers, even the high end ones, will give you a discount simply by signing up for a discount program. (Read why I recommend that you don’t sign up for a store credit card just to get a discount). Ask if they have one, you can then save every time you buy at the store. For a time, I paid retail price for clothes at Brooks Brothers until I found out that they have a discount program that saved me 10%.
- Hang It Up. If you really want to impress your girlfriend, don’t buy an Infiniti G37, learn how to use a clothes line. If you don’t have a clothes line hang them up spaced in your closet. First, try those heavy bulky items like jeans, slacks, and shirts. If you took my advice and bought the ‘no-iron’ clothes, then you are done! This will save you some quarters with the dryer.
- Automate Your Bills. It’s entirely too much work to buy stamps, write a check and mail payments. Use a bill pay service to automate your bills. I discuss how to do this here.
- Finally, Contact Your Seer. Sometimes, you need to ask someone close to you where to shop. Yea, I know, this is like asking for directions on the road: you don’t want to do it. Try it. In my case I go to my sister who is an excellent shopper, a confirmed Pro with decades of experience. She was the one who told me about the Marburn shops where you can get all the linens (sheet, blankets, and those covers you put on the pillows that nobody uses) you will need for your apartment at great prices. I never would have found such a store on my own.