Everyone loves saving money and it’s more important now than ever that we use our money wisely. Just because your on a tight budget does not mean you have to spend time cutting out coupons or cut out shopping. So forget about the coupons, forget about going to the department store, and forget about paying full price the next time you want a vacation. Now is the time to become a bargain hunter. It’s a fun way to shop that pays off in a really big way.

Here are my top 10 ways to bargain shop:

1. Freecycle. Why pay money for something if you can get it for FREE! Freecycle is an amazing free community resource for getting and receiving items. You find a local freecycle group in your own community and you sign up to receive emails. Local members put posts offering free stuff or asking for free stuff. According to their site ” The Freecycle Network(TM) is made up of 4,780 groups with 7,127,000 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them’s good people). Membership is free.” Some of the items I have received for FREE from freecycle are a wooden playground set that came with 2 swings and a spiral slide, a chest freezer, a couch, and various smaller things. I have also given away boxes of home-school books, clothing, desks, chairs, and a couch.

2. Garage Sales. If you have the time there is no better way to find great deals than at garage sales. I have been able to find some amazing deals this summer. My three year old son has all name brand clothes and they were all bought for 1.00 or less at garage sales. Ladies you can find all your work clothes, jewelery, shoes, and purses at garage sales. If your having a baby there is no better way to get all the baby equipment and baby clothes. You can find furniture for your house, kitchen items, baby things, clothes for your entire family, toys, sporting goods, and everything else you could possibly think of. This is by far a bargain hunters paradise. My most recent bargains were a living room rug for $10.00 which normally would sell for over $100.00 and 4 pairs of Aeropostale cargo shorts for my teenage son for 1.00 each. I go to an average of six garage sales per weekend during the summer. Check your local paper or Craigslist for ads or you can just take a drive and look for signs.

3. Thrift Stores. If you don’t have time for garage sales then thrift shopping is the next best thing. Check out the yellow pages and find your local thrift stores. Target donates a lot of clothing to our local charity thrift store which means I can get brand new clothing for my children at super cheap prices. I have bought shorts for my husband for 1.00, dresses for my girls for 1.99, and shoes for 2.50. You could buy all your dishes, glasses, and silverware at a thrift store for the price of one set of dishes at a department store. If you like reading why pay $5.99 for a paper back when you can buy it at the thrift Store for 99 cents. Just about everything you could want for yourself or your home can be found at a thrift store.

4. Craigslist. Craigslist is a free on line site that allows you to sell and buy from people in your local community. I have bought cloth diapers, a baby car seat, beds, bedding, a swimming pool, and other furniture all on Craigslist. I make it a habit of looking on Craigslist everyday after checking my email. Just make sure you are dealing with a local seller and use common sense when meeting to pay for and pick up your item.

5. eBay. I only use eBay in the winter when the garage sales are gone. If you are patient and disciplined you can find whatever you want for the price you want. I have done a lot of Christmas shopping on eBay! My favorite things to buy on eBay are electronics like cameras and accessories, dolls and doll clothes for my little girls, and of course clothing.

6. Store Brands. Every grocery store and places like Target have their own store brand products that are quite a bit cheaper than the name brand products. Most of the time the off brands are just as good but cost less. It may take some experimenting to find out which store brand products you like. For instance Target sells an off brand diaper that I think is comparable to the name brand but is $3.00 cheaper. I will buy their diapers but not their wipes. For me nothing can beat Huggies wipes so I stick with the name brand on wipes. I don’t like store brand macaroni and cheese but I will buy store brand frozen vegetables. Become your own product tester and find out which store brands meet your standards. You may be surprised at how many items you can save money on buy switching brands.

7. Dining Specials. Most restaurants these days have certain hours or days of the week where you can get a discount. More and more are offering “Kids Eat Free” days or half price appetizers during certain hours of the day. Write these specials down anytime you see them and pretty soon you’ll have a list of where to go on what day.

8. Priceline – priceline.com It really works! If you need a good deal on a hotel try out priceline’s name your price deal. You type in what area you need the hotel in, how many stars the hotel needs to have, and what type of amenities you require. I recently purchased two rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Paul, MN for 40.00 a night. There were no hidden fees or surprises. Yes, there was the normal tax but that was it. The bill was $98 dollars and change for the two rooms.

9. Travelocity – travelocity.com They have a special fare watcher email alert. You pick up to 10 destinations and they will send you an email letting you know anytime fares go on sale to those locations.

10. Travelzoo. They will send you an email with their top 20 picks of travel deals.

Once you have become a bargain hunter there is no going back. The adrenaline rush you feel when you have just saved yourself money whether it’s $1 or $100 is just too addicting. So go out there and have fun shopping without any guilt!

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