If asked for ways to save money on purchases, several ideas would come to mind: clip coupons, buy on sale, use promotional codes, etc… you know, the usual stuff. Nothing glamorous, but they work.
However, if I were asked for the absolute best, the number one approach to saving money when buying stuff, I would say: planning/timing. And before you quit reading because you’re disappointed it’s not some magical, secret silver bullet, let me explain.
If you’re not in a hurry for something, you can wait till it goes on sale, correct? If there’s no rush, than waiting to use a coupon makes sense, right? The problem is, often times we don’t plan this out. We buy when we “need” something and so we’re forced to pay full-price because we have an impending “deadline.” We’ve all been there. Poor planning leads us to wait till the last minute, and the last minute rarely leads to savings. (Plus, at the last minute, there is often a poor selection). Here’s a personal example.
My wife and I recently did a surprise room makeover for our two girls who will be sharing a bedroom to free up a room for our baby due in August. We’d been stockpiling decor options for several weeks, but with the makeover just a week away, we were without good curtain options.
The only thing we could find were curtains from Pottery Barn Kids (which don’t come cheap I might add). Because of the time it takes to ship them (another added cost), we didn’t have time to try to find a means of discount (promotional codes, gift cards, coupons, wait for a sale, etc).
Had we done a better job of planning out this makeover, we could have found some cheaper ones we like from somewhere else, or perhaps tracked down some kind of discount. But because of the timing, we paid full price + shipping. (That was painful to type.)
Timing is one of the primary principles behind extreme couponers. Yes, they add coupons on top of sales, but they don’t wait until the need an item to buy it — they buy it when it’s the most beneficial financially and then they stockpile the items for when they need them.
Think about it. Plane tickets usually get more expensive when you wait until you need them. The same with hotels (sure, there are last-minute deals, but the selection and quality may not be up to your standards). If you’re buying a car because yours is on the brink of death and you need something stat, you won’t have the time to research for the best car for your situation.
And when is it most expensive to buy clothes? When they’re in season. You could have saved a bundle on a winter jacket in February if you were planning for next winter, but those savings are likely gone now.
This is why timing is everything. It affords you the opportunity to make a purchase without deadline pressures, gives you more selection to choose from, allows you to research discounted options, and — let’s face it — makes the process more enjoyable overall. (And, chances are, if you’re doing a good job of timing your purchases correctly, you’re probably also doing a good job budgeting for said purchase because you’re a good planner.)
Take my word for it: you never want to pay full price for curtains from Pottery Barn Kids. Plan better and carefully consider the timing of your purchases. I bet you’ll save money almost every time.
Matthew Pryor is in his 8th year with Sound Mind Investing, now serving as Director of Operations. He previously held the Development Director position for a crisis pregnancy center. He has also served on staff with Young Life in Virginia. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and three children.