Mrs. RB40’s Best Frugal Shopping Tip

best frugal shopping tipJust in time for last minute Christmas shopping! From the title of the article, you probably expect Mrs. RB40 to share her best frugal tip, but it’s actually me (Joe) who will be doing the sharing. Hopefully, I don’t have to spend the night on the couch when she reads this, but here goes.

If you have been following Retire By 40 for a while, you’d probably know that both Mr. and Mrs. RB40 are pretty frugal. Our families didn’t have much money when we were growing up and I guess the frugal habit stuck.

Mr. RB40 is Cheap

Okay, I admit that I am cheap. I’m just reluctant to spend money at all. I’ll drink coffee at home instead of dropping by Starbucks. I try to cook as often as I can and we’ll go out when we’re really tired of cooking. We eat out about once a week and I feel that’s a bit too much. We probably could go cheaper and go out once every 2 weeks or so. I guess I like hoarding money more than things or even experiences. Even when I spend money, my instinct is to go for the cheapest item. That’s actually not good and I’m trying to work on it.

Mrs. RB40 is no longer Cheap

Mrs. RB40 on the other hand is not cheap anymore. She used to be cheap when she was poor, but now she goes for quality. However, she still isn’t spending a lot of money. She is extremely picky and I think that is fantastic for our finance. She’d go clothes shopping for 2 hours and come home with one article of clothing or sometime nothing at all. She doesn’t get to go shopping that often either so her clothing expenditure is probably much lower than average. By being choosy, she slows down her rate of spending tremendously.

I think Mrs. RB40’s way of being frugal is much better than my way. I buy cheap clothes and they get worn out quickly. They don’t look nice after a while and I stop wearing them. I got a 720p TV when I probably should have gone for the 1080p. Actually, that was 7 years ago and 1080p were much more expensive then. In that case, it was probably the right decision. Anyway, now I think it’s better to buy quality so things will last longer. It’s still difficult for me to splurge on a nice item though.

Mrs. RB40’s take

I was home for a few days when Joe and Jr. were on a road trip.  It had been at least five months since I went clothes shopping (I wanted more work clothes).  I bought five new things, and when I told Joe how much I spent, he raised both eyebrows.

There are a lot of criteria I have in my head before I make a purchase. Price certainly is a factor, but it isn’t the only one.  Is being picky really a frugal tip?  I think a lot of items in stores these days are such crappy quality.  I’m not big on throwaway fashion; I like things to last. When I finally find something that I really like and can use, I’ll probably spend a little more and I’ll wear it all the time.   But it has to be near perfect.  The color has to be right (I keep a very basic palette).  The fabric has to feel right – not cheap, not flimsy, not too thick.  Washable would be nice without having to spend too much time ironing. It has to fit.  I’m short but not exactly skinny, so when something is just right lengthwise, it is too tight around the waist, or if it fits around the waist, whoever designed the item must have intended it for someone at least a foot taller.  Sure, I can get it tailored, but I do this only if I absolutely have to have the item.  The last time must have been a skirt about 4 years ago, and even the tailor had problems with the complicated pattern pieces!  It has to look polished when I leave the house in the morning and be comfortable enough to last for the day of dealing with difficult people.  With all these in mind, I often end up leaving stores empty handed.  Not this time, though!  Those clothes are on constant rotation in my closet.

Mr. RB40’s best Frugal shopping tip

Alright, I think we have time for my best frugal shopping tip. For people like me who tend to go for the cheapest item, the best thing to do is to delay the purchase. Don’t buy right away if you can help it. Go read some reviews and shop around on the internet. Usually, I’ll find a bad review that scares me off or find that I don’t really need that item right away. This works really well for electronics because the price tends to come down. A 1080p TV cost thousands of dollars seven years ago, but they were on sale for only a few hundred dollars on Black Friday. So that’s my best frugal shopping tip.

Well, what do you think? Do you like my tip or Mrs. RB40’s tip better? Of course, you can use both tips and spend even less money. What’s your best frugal shopping tip?

Photo credit: flickr by Benson Kua

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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21 thoughts on “Mrs. RB40’s Best Frugal Shopping Tip”

  1. I like your tip better in this case, Joe. My fashion rules are basically “if it doesn’t smell bad, isn’t too wrinkled, and doesn’t have holes in it, then it’s okay to wear in public”. You can guess how I shop for clothes. Inexpensive, easy to wash, iron-free, comfortable, inexpensive. I mentioned inexpensive twice on purpose. 🙂

    I’ve noticed a distinction between women and men while clothes shopping. Women might try on 20 things and buy nothing or maybe 1 item. Men can try on 4 things and buy 3 of them.

  2. I used to be an impulse buyer, which wasn’t always bad because I knew what I was getting but it was bad because I didn’t think much about what I was spending; lived on credit cards. Years later, with almost all my credit cards paid off (I have a business card) I’m not as quick to spending, which is a better thing because my first thought is whether or not I need it.

    I did have a major learning experience back in January though when the hotel I was staying at lost all my dress clothes that I stored there while I came home for the holiday (imagine that!) and had me to out and buy everything that was lost & give them the receipts for them. Having to buy two weeks of clothing, both pants and shirts, told me how much that stuff was and reinforced in my mind why I was reluctant to shop for clothes. At the same time I realized that the quality of materials and the fact that my new clothes actually felt better told me why I needed to loosen my wallet a little bit and at least go out to buy something new every 3 or 4 months.

    Still, I have to admit it makes me cringe… lol

  3. My buying habits are a lot like yours, Joe, but Mrs RB40 has a good approach too. Being frugal does not necessarily mean being cheap. Some things I’m learning are better to spend more on — new bed, shoes (good leather ones) and tools as an example.

    I’ve never really bought used clothing – but things like used cars, and even lightly used electronics can be OK. Used household goods can be a steal of a deal too (especially occasional use items, like a huge turkey roasting pan that is used maybe 2x/year). In fact, Just today, I needed an extra suitcase while on travel, one of mine lost a wheel. I travel a lot and the cheap suitcases just fall apart too quickly. I bought an expensive set once and one piece went missing within a few months … now I head over to the nearest goodwill store and pick up a second hand suitcase. I never pay more than about $20…. versus at least $80-$100 in the discount (WalMart, Target, Fred Meyer) store.

    I hate to shop in general, so, when I go..i go to buy. And i always think my time is more valuable than browsing through a shopping mall.

    one other tip — when purchasing goods , especially from small and locally owned place, offer to pay in cash and the price can be negotiated a bit. This is because local merchants usually have to eat the 3% credit card fees.

    For services, some prefer not to claim their work as income and prefer cash / no paper trail. I find most are willing to bring the total cost down when paying cash..especially if I suggest “no receipt required”…they quickly catch-on to my thinking and the price comes down or some extras tossed in.

    Happy Holidays.

    • Good idea with the luggage. Next time I will check Goodwill. I don’t think we’ll need a suitcase anytime soon, though.
      I haven’t had much luck paying with cash. I’ll try it for a more expensive item next time.

  4. When it comes to clothes shopping I’m pretty picky. I want it to fit right and look good, but I also want it to be cheap. I don’t go shopping very often and when I do I usually come home empty handed. I’m a stay at home mom now, so I don’t need to dress up anymore everyday, so I usually get by on pretty cheap casual clothes.

  5. For things that you will be using a lot and regularly it makes more sense to buy something good quality rather than cheap. A good quality product will mean the item will last longer and the average cost will be lower than having to replace a cheaper item regularly.

    Delaying the purchase has worked well for me too. I hate buying on impulse.

    • I’ll try to focus on quality more. At least I’ll avoid the cheapest items. Those just don’t last long at all. Maybe a step up would be okay without having to pay top price. Really high quality items just have too much premium.

  6. Delaying the purchase has worked well for me in curbing spending and getting the best deal. If I determine I need something I’ll compare specs and prices online but won’t make the purchase unless I sleep on it. This has kept me from buying items because they were on sale.

    • I usually sleep on it too. I hate those Black Friday counter. The deal will expire in 2 hours and you need to buy now! I usually pass unless we need it and it’s a really good deal.

  7. I try the thrift stores first. I have found many designer pieces this way, with the original store’s price tags still attached. I love getting complimented on my nice work outfits, knowing that I paid so little for them.

    • Mrs. RB40 goes to the thrift store once in a while. I gave up on them. I can never find anything there. I think the selection for guys are really limited.

  8. 7 years is a long waiting time for a purchase! Just kidding.

    I always do online comparisons. What I started doing a year or so ago was asking myself if it is really needed (or just wanted) and then think if I would rather put it in my investment/retirement accounts instead. I have really reduced my spending that way. I don’t think we will even keep our Amazon prime account when it comes up for renewal in a few months.

  9. I go review crazy as well (usually on Amazon) & then once I know I’m buying something I do a Google search + shopping and look for the best price. Once I find the best price I do a search for “(website name) + promo codes” and then see if I can get some additional money off via discounts or free shipping. You’d be amazed at how many websites offer promo codes! I don’t have the patience for going out shopping & rarely buy anything but food in actual brick & mortar stores.

    • I don’t have the patience for shopping either. In the past, we went shopping together and I’d be done in 10 minutes. Now, I let Mrs. RB40 go by herself.

  10. Mrs. RB40, I’m with you. Mid priced clothing has gotten so cheap looking. Can cashmere, wool and cotton t-shirts, sweaters, etc. get any thinner and flimsier? They look cheap! You need to look good on your job, so a working wardrobe is an investment for you. I always use a store coupon for shoes at my favorite stores. A sale plus a coupon can get you a great deal.

    Mr. RB40, great thoughts on your best frugal shopping tip. As I always tell my kid, there’s a lot of power in shopping around first. Be it a house, car, vacation, or even a doctor. Have saved thousands this way.

  11. My husband and I do a combination of your two approaches. We buy very few things and, we look for quality. Fortunately, Mr. Frugalwoods loves (seriously loves) to research everything and so he’ll figure out the best glass tupperware, hiking boots, electric blanket, etc and then go about finding either a deal on the best option or a cheaper analog.

    We definitely don’t automatically go for the cheapest option with all things, but, we also usually wait a long time (sometimes years, I’m not kidding 🙂 ) to buy things. I maintain a list of all of our “wants” and then we’ll review it over time.

    We’re also huge proponents of buying used. Most of our furniture, clothes, car, and household goods are used. It’s always cheaper than new and, you can often find great quality stuff!

    • I like to do research too. I used to do a lot of that at work. 🙂 Now I don’t have as much time and usually just check Amazon. Good idea to keep a list. Maybe we’ll try that.


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