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Buying like a boss: 5 shopping rules to get what you really want

Insider tips for making the most of your money.

This story is brought to you by Freedom Unlimited. Shopping like a boss means earning 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. That’s Always Earning. Learn more.

A few swipes on the phone, the promise of next-day shipping, and that one less errand you need to run: Let’s face it. While digital life can be wonderfully efficient, it can also end up costing more than you expect.

The same is true offline—if you’re in a rush, way too tired, or overwhelmed by an aisle of options, those five items in your cart seem innocent enough. Then you check the receipt.

Thankfully, savvy shopping is a skill that gets better with practice. For a smart take on how to get the most in-store and online, we turned to the experts for tips on spending wisely. That way you can put your savings towards life’s biggest milestones, like buying a new car or embarking on your dream vacation.

1. Shop around, literally

It might sound like familiar advice, but “price shopping is key,” says Adam Van Wie, CFP, chief operating officer of Van Wie Financial in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. While it may be a no-brainer for bigger purchases like cars or comparing electronics, it should also apply to household essentials and groceries.

“We have access to so much information online and there’s so much price transparency today, so it’s easy to see if you’re paying the right price for something,” he says.

Translation? Instead of shopping with convenience in mind, it can pay off to research the best deal.

2. Plan ahead for purchases

Allan Katz, CFP, president of Comprehensive Wealth Management Group on Staten Island, N.Y. believes in the power of a plan when shopping for groceries — and not just because it makes dinner prep less stressful.

“Make a list and stick to it,” says Katz. “If you run out of something, you put yourself in a situation like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to run to the store for milk.’ Nobody ever just runs in for milk! You always end up buying things that you don’t need.”

Staying focused on the week’s essentials and avoiding unnecessary purchases can also give you a good picture of your monthly spend, says Katz. It can also help you afford a night of indulgence—without the guilt.

3. Manage your inbox

Online shopping is one of the 21st century’s greatest luxuries. As digital consumers, signing up for email offers and coupons never hurts, but it can often lead to some serious impulse purchases, says Katie Brewer, a Dallas-based CFP and founder of planning service Your Richest Life.

Brewer suggests reducing the number of newsletters and promotions you receive and preventing them from ever landing in your inbox. “The next time an offer comes in,” she says, “Filter it so it goes into its own folder that bypasses you.”

She also recommends using apps and tools to keep your inbox organized and manageable, without being tempted by hundreds of online offers each day.

4. Buy fashion staples on sale

That cashmere sweater, black dress, and time-tested suit won’t be out of trend anytime soon so if you want to stock up on the classics, you might as well wait until they’re on sale.

“The style’s not going to change,” Katz says. “Why would you spend full retail when you know it’s going to be on clearance sooner or later?”

Most big department stores and specialty retailers advertise their sales regularly, says Katz, so it’s smart to hold out for major savings. That way, you can spend your savings on something a little more special, like a pair of earrings or a leather jacket.

5. Wait it out

No matter how enticing impulse buys can be, there is wisdom in waiting. The key to being a savvy shopper is resisting temptation in the moment.

Of course, holding back isn’t easy and, thanks to flexible return policies, we can get trapped. “A lot of us have a tendency to buy something and then decide if we want it,” says Brewer. “And that’s bad because as soon as something is sitting in your house, there’s going to be this big emotional hurdle for you to go return it.”

She and Adam Van Wie believe in waiting 24-hours to decide if you really want something. Brewer often snaps a picture of an item she likes on her phone and then thinks about it.

“If I really need it, I will buy it, but this technique is about giving yourself the time and space to get out of the emotional state of FOMO, which can be huge,” she explains.

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