Welcome to my 5-part series: The Five W’s of How I Shop. As a former newspaper reporter, I often focused on the Five W’s of writing – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Since I often get asked about how I shop, and I’ve decided to share this series with you in the hopes that it will make you think about how you shop. Consider your own five W’s and it will help you become a better frugal shopper.
Where I Shop
I live in a rural area. How rural? I have a mile-long trek down a dirt road to my mailbox. My road is on the “second day” plow list during the winter. There are enough mosquitoes here in the summer to carry off a small dog! There’s no traffic, a bounty of raspberries every summer, and the most beautiful view out my windows. (My blog design reflects some of what I see every day!) I love living here, but the shopping leaves a lot to be desired.
While shopping has improved in my northern Minnesota area over the last few years, it still lacks some amenities. There is not one single store that doubles coupons here. We don’t have a CVS pharmacy or a Krogers. If I were to try to use a cell phone coupon, the cashiers wouldn’t know what to do with it!
When you live in a rural area, one of the challenges you face is the pull between the savings of the big box stores like Target and Walmart, and the lure of the smaller, locally owned stores. You know you can get something cheaper at the big box store, but the customer service is better at the local store. And if you don’t buy it at the local store, chances are that store will close, and then you’ll have one less shopping option in an already limited market. It puts some pressure on you as a shopper. I’ve learned that certain things are worth paying a little more money for at the local stores, and yet, I can still work the deals at the bigger stores. I’ve also found that the local stores are becoming more willing to price match the big box stores.
I live equal distance between two towns, so I have to plan my trips around which direction I plan to go. Since I live about 35 minutes from these towns, I try to do all the errands I can while I’m out to save on gas.
In addition to traditional stores, I also like to visit garage sales, consignment shops, thrift stores and estate sales. I’ve found some wonderful quality used items at a fraction of the regular price.
I also do a lot of shopping online. My favorite online store is Amazon.com, especially when I’m able to use Swagbucks, but what I love most about shopping online is the ability to comparison shop without having to drive to a ton of different places. I love that I can shop with my kids, without them trying to sneak things into my cart!
Living in a rural area makes you get more creative when it comes to shopping. When everyone shops at the same five stores in town, it can be a challenge to find a special gift or the perfect outfit. You find ways to accessorize and package things to make them special.
I’ve also found that if you don’t move fast on a clearance sale or a great coupon deal, the selection may be wiped out and you’ll miss out. I’ve ended up passing on a few good deals because I knew that if I went to the store at the end of the week when I had time, what I wanted to purchase would be gone.
While rural shopping has its challenges, I wouldn’t change where I live for the world. It’s a peaceful, relaxing community, and a great place to raise kids. Those kids are going to be really surprised when they get to see a real shopping mall!
Please share where you shop and check out my other posts in The Five W’s of How I Shop series.