It’s important to save money when shopping for groceries, and there’s a lot of good advice out there on how to spend less when buying food. With the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s especially important to find ways to buy necessary items without leaving home.
Some people might think buying groceries online makes it harder to save money, but it can actually be easier to stay on budget when shopping remotely. Here are some reasons shopping from home can make you spend less:
You Spend Less If You Aren’t Browsing
Wandering the aisles of a grocery store puts you face-to-face with endless temptations, and every shelf can contain something you weren’t planning to buy but could end up in your card all the same.
Shopping from home makes it easier to stick to your list—sure, you’ll see ads and “related items” on the website, but it’s nothing like the hundreds of things you’ll find in every aisle of the supermarket. If you search for an item on your list, add it to your card and move on, you’ve quickly and made your purchase without having to walk past any products that aren’t on your budget.
More Resources: How to Avoid Overspending at the Grocery Store
You’ll Be Close to Your Pantry
A big problem with grocery shopping is buying things one already has on hand. If you don’t know what’s already in your kitchen, you’re likely to spend money on things you don’t need. Even if the item is something you’ll use eventually, you should only buy it when it’s part of your planned budget.
Shopping without a plan and stocking up unnecessarily just puts you in the hole financially. If you are shopping from home, you can look at your refrigerator and pantry and verify how much of everything you have in stock, and avoid buying unnecessary duplicates.
Alerts When Items Come in Stock or Go on Sale
Many retail apps and websites have features that can alert you if certain items come in stock or go on sale. This feature is especially great if you’re waiting for an item that is in short supply to come back in stock. If your smartphone alerts you that the store now has the item you need, you can add it to your cart and buy it on the spot without having to drive to the store to see if they’ve re-stocked that item first.
You can also set price alerts so that you don’t overspend on particular items. The store might have what you want on hand, but if the price is too high, set an alert and hold out for a better deal.
Easier to Comparison Shop
If you’re comparing prices from one store to another, you used to have to drive back and forth and keep track of what each store was charging. With online shopping, you can flip from one website to another and see what prices each store is asking.
Comparison shopping face-to-face can actually be a money-loser if you’re using gas and time to drive all over town. By shopping online, there’s no downside to shopping around for the best deal.
Shop on Your Own Schedule
Stores can be crowded and hectic, and your schedule might not leave you time to go when it’s most convenient. Instead of having to shop during the busiest times of day, you can log in remotely and do your shopping at any time.
When people go to the store during busy times, they might cut corners to get in and out of the store quickly. Maybe you’ll buy a more expensive item off of an endcap instead of navigating the aisle to find a cheaper version of the product. You might grab quick (and expensive) snacks from the checkout line instead of taking the time to shop for a better deal farther into the store. Avoiding the stress and crowds of shopping is a money-saver and a major reason to embrace online shopping for groceries.
Once you’ve committed to shopping online, and you’re ready to gain from the financial savings, privacy, and health benefits you’ll get, you’ll want to think about how to maximize your savings when shopping online:
Follow the Basic Grocery Shopping Advice
There are lots of basic tips for saving money when grocery shopping that will benefit you at home as much as they do in the store. Create a meal plan and shopping list. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Use coupons judiciously. Buy fresh foods when they’re in season, and don’t buy more than you can use. Buy generics to save money whenever you can.
None of those tips change just because you’re shopping online. All the things you’d do to save money at the grocery store, do them when shopping through an app or website.
Use a Credit Card That Gets You Rewards
Shopping with a credit card at the grocery store isn’t a great idea. We want people to only use credit cards if there is a plan to pay off the balance in full before the end of the month. If you carry a balance, you’ll incur interest charges that will wipe out any savings you may have gotten from smart shopping.
But when shopping online, you have to use some kind of card, whether it’s a credit card or debit card. So, make the most of it and use a card that comes with rewards. Definitely pay off the card right away, but since you’re having to provide payment info online, you might as well do it in a way that gets you cashback, reward points, or some other credit card rewards.
Download Individual Store Apps
Online retailers and grocers want you to use their apps whenever possible. They’re so keen on it that they’ll offer you bonuses to do so. Using a store’s dedicated app might get you a one-time discount, or free delivery, or some other perk.
As long as the retailer is willing to entice you in this way, we say let them—take advantage of that one-time discount and see how you like that store’s service. Just don’t commit to one store until you’ve tried multiple competitors. You might like the product from one store better than another, or the delivery options, or even the features of their app. Try each store’s app until you find the one that gives you everything you want.
Use social media to ask your friends and family which apps and retailers they use. You might learn about some new options that will net you with big discounts. Because the landscape of online shopping is always evolving, it’s better to seek out fresh information rather than rely on search results that might be outdated.
Don’t Pass Up Bonus Offers
While you’re using the stores’ apps to shop, make sure you don’t pass up any bonuses they offer. If you have a loyalty card, link it to your online account—this will help the store know what kinds of items you buy and offer you the right coupons and discounts.
Some people have privacy concerns about letting retailers track what they buy. That’s valid, but in the end, their true objective is to make you a loyal shopper for life. What they do with the information they gather is tailor the shopping experience to you, and give you what you want. If there’s anything you don’t want to be tracked, put that on a separate shopping list and buy that in-store sometime. But for online shopping, plan for everything to be tracked, and embrace it; it will net you discount offers you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Get Some Things Delivered on Schedule
There are many things you will be buying regularly, like kitty litter, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Set up recurring subscriptions to have those kinds of items delivered on a set schedule. You often get an extra discount for setting up a recurring subscription this way, and every item you have on subscription is something you don’t have to worry about when doing your regular shopping list.
You’ll want to be diligent about tracking these things—if you run out too soon, or end up with more than you need, you should adjust your delivery schedule so that there are no big gaps or overlaps for those items.
Set Reminders for Any Subscriptions
While you’re thinking about it, set a calendar reminder on your smartphone to let you know when your subscriptions are coming up. If you get an alert that you have a delivery soon, but you still have plenty of that item, you can delay or cancel that order before you end up with too much product on hand.
You might also find a better deal on a particular item, but forget to cancel that item from your regular subscription. Setting a calendar reminder will ensure you don’t renew any items you no longer need.
While you’re at it, do this for any kind of subscription you have. Whatever app or subscription service you pay for, set up an alert so you’re reminded every month before you are charged—you may decide in any given month to pause or cancel a subscription.
Be Careful About Really Heavy Items
We mentioned kitty litter in the last point, but this may not be something you want to have delivered if it costs extra. If you order large quantities, kitty litter is heavy and expensive to ship. With some online retailers, you lose free shipping options if you order certain heavy items.
The same might apply to cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, or anything else that is heavy or oversized. If your online retailer of choice doesn’t charge extra to ship heavy items, that’s great, but don’t assume anything until you’ve verified. If shipping costs extra or negates a discount you’d otherwise get, think twice about ordering bulky items online.
We know people shopping from home have no choice but to use plastic to pay, but we urge everyone to be careful and pay off their balances in full as fast as they can. Anyone who has trouble paying off their credit cards can contact us for help at any time.