Here's what's been working for me:
- Buy store brands unless there's a noticeable difference in taste, quality, or convenience. For example, I regularly buy fat-free refried beans. The name brand was costing me $1.89 per can. The store brand has the same ingrediants and costs on only 85 cents for the same size can. That's more than 50% off. I also buy store brand pain killers (like ibuprofen), toilet paper, allergy medicine, etc. Consumer Reports just published a great article about store brands that's worth reading.
- Buying in bulk - but carefully. When a staple like peanut butter or chicken broth is on sale, I buy several containers (sometimes even a case) at a time. However, I don't buy big containers of anything that goes bad. It's no savings if I throw half of it away, and I don't want to eat stale crackers. I sometimes buy in bulk at Costco, but I check prices at regular stores first, to be sure the big package is really a good deal. I've been burned on this before.
- Choosing when and where to shop. I do read the Target weekly ad, and I shop there for some items that always seem to be cheaper there and regularly go on sale, like Diet Coke and cereal.
Overall, the most important aspect for me in terms of saving money has been knowing what things cost, so if I see a "deal" I know if it's really a deal or not, especially for the items I buy regularly.
What are your best tips for saving money on everyday purchases?