If there is one thing I have learned in my years alive, it is how to survive as a consumer in a world driven by money. But how, you ask? The easy answer would be to amass money, and then proceed to not spend said money. But as you and I, and business know, that is certainly not possible. Because at some point, no matter how much I try, I will need to spend. Maybe it’s for food, maybe it’s for shelter, maybe it’s for that cool BB-8 robot you can control with your phone… I digress. Regardless, I have mastered the way of the smart shopper, and if you pay attention, you too can absorb my shopping prowess. I promise you, none of that insane extreme couponing garbage. Those people are just out of their minds.
Your first step is to consider what you have, what you need, and what you don’t need. This is a floating list, and one item doesn’t need to be locked into a category. Sure you don’t need a jet ski right now, but it’s half off and there’s twenty-four month financing, making this a smart investment. We’ll keep this in the maybe pile.
For the rest of those what you need, always keep an eye on sales. Weigh the cost of the sale against the dates. Sometimes an item can go on sale again, soon after you purchase it, for a greater discount. Now you’ve wasted money. This is bad. This certainly applies to food, where sales are constant. I’ve found buying Oreo cookies around the end of holidays to be beneficial. Normally a box would run you $4.50, but the seasonal flavors get discounted to $3.19 within a week after the holiday passes. This creates an opportunity, as you can stock up on the one flavor until the next sale. A healthy span of candy corn until peppermint should be good. (Although I do suggest stocking up on peppermint until Halloween again, as the winter through summer seasons lack appropriate flavored Oreo cookies.)
Next, do your shopping for most items at Goodwill. You can find all sorts of steals, and all of them deals! You might be thinking to yourself, “But I thought Goodwill is for the poor?” Wrong. That’s a lie you’ve taught yourself into believing. Where does it say that a nice middle class [you] can’t go and shop there? Avoid buying clothes there, though. There is a far better method for this. Do shop for electronics, as you can find not too old models on sale there for not too bad prices. (I assume the next time you read this will be on a next-to-nothing Kindle only two generations old!) Remember to set a budget before you leave, sometimes saving can cause you to splurge and that results in you losing your smart shopper status.
One of the best places to “shop” is your local dump. Not only is there plenty to find, the prices there are low, low, non-existent! Just take a look around and breathe in the smell of savings so low, you’ll wonder why anyone would just give these away. Now the key to the dump is finding doubles. Sometimes you’ll find a nice microwave that works, but has no door. Finding a suitable door might take some time, but time is nothing compared to the feeling of saving money and therefore, being a smart shopper. Watch out for rabid raccoons, though. They are thrifty by nature, and will attack to get the product you so desire.
My next piece of advice is the most involved, yet, the reward is worth it. It’s the Super Bowl, or if you’re any company that isn’t the NFL, the big game, and two teams are fighting to be champions. One will win, and the other will not get to wear their pre-made “WE ARE THE CHAMPS” shirts, but maybe you can. Forget fashion and forget any sense of identity and become known around town as the person who wears only one shirt declaring the wrong winner of Super Bowl [whatever number here]! All you need to do is create a real, but completely fake nonprofit disguised as one that donates those shirts to people in developing countries. All you need to do is follow the steps outlined by the National Council of Nonprofits. Soon after, you can roll around in your three-hundred plus shirts.
You just need to incorporate, that’s just $30 if you mail it in, otherwise it’s going to cost you $45 in person (not to mention the gas price, no thanks!). There is an optional $250-500 preclearance fee with another optional $350-500 expedited filing service. But again, why pay more when you can just wait. The current season is still in its infancy. You’ll then want to file for a tax-exemption status, that is a 501(c). This is the bigger kicker at a $400 IRS fee. (Think about how those shirts were going to sell at $30 a piece though.)
After all of that, you can kindly ask the NFL to support your newly founded charity, and before you know it, you have three-hundred shirts declaring the wrong winner of the Super Bowl.
You should now have a fairly clear idea on how to shop smart and save money in a world where business is number one. But I have my most important step left to give you. It is simple, and I ask you to not forget it.
Always remember to forget money saved is still money spent.
Originally written at San Francisco State University in 2016.