Tips for Smarter Shopping in Bucks County

tips for smarter shopping in bucks county

We are all familiar with the struggles of recent inflation, as we see more and more of our hard-earned money go to pay for things that may have comfortably fit into our budget in years’ past. As inflation cools, it’s the perfect time to do a hard “reset” on our shopping habits, recalibrating our spending patterns, and finding ways to better live within our means.

With the cost of living just a bit higher than the national average, it may seem more difficult to keep up with your monthly spending needs in our region. However, there are many ways to reduce your expenses, from local cost-cutting hacks to minor lifestyle adjustments—that can result in big payoffs. In this blog, we’ll explore some of our best tips for cost-effective shopping in Bucks County, as well as ways to minimize excessive spending and interest charges, creating a new, nimbler budget. 


Smarter Grocery Shopping

With grocery and restaurant prices both rising 24% since 2020, food can be one of your biggest monthly expenditures. The upshot of this is that, by strategizing and creating some conscientious habits, it can also offer a big way to save on your monthly costs. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can do just that.

Create a Weekly Shopping Strategy

A little planning goes a long way: meal planning, trip planning, and of course, simply making a shopping list.

Meal Planning

When you plan ahead for meals, you can take advantage of three important financial benefits:

  1. Avoiding takeout and dining out. Putting some pre-planned—and easy!—meals on the calendar can help you avoid reaching for the car keys or takeout menus when dinner time arrives.
  2. Stretching meals farther: Plan certain meals each week that are great for reheating, then double the recipe so you have a quick meal down the line (or for tomorrow’s lunch).
  3. Incorporating frugal meals into the rotation: Choose several meals each week that utilize more affordable ingredients. Chili, pastas, stir fries, and casseroles—especially when meatless—contain less expensive ingredients, and are also great for leftovers!

Use apps like Mealime and Paprika can help you navigate meal planning and ingredient shopping, providing an easy way to choose meals and make shopping lists.

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Shopping Lists and Trip Planning

Meal planning is only one aspect of effective grocery planning. For all those other items, including weekly staples (like milk and eggs) and things you occasionally run out of (like spices and cleaning products) creating a list to tackle them when you’re out shopping can help you avoid additional trips to the grocery store—and stay on task while you’re there.

The more times you visit a grocery store, the more you’re going to spend—making additional impulse purchases or adding items to your list to make the trip feel worth it. As you develop your meal plans and shopping lists, keep in mind that these lists should fulfill all your weekly shopping needs, eliminating those extra trips. Not only will this reduce your grocery spending, it will also help you spend less on gas and give you a little breathing room in your schedule.


Take Advantage of Local and Seasonal Produce

In addition to weekly shopping habits, be mindful of your seasonal habits. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables in season and from local sources can reduce your out-of-pocket spending. Consider  switching to canned and frozen produce during colder months to save even more.

Here in Bucks County, we are fortunate to have many opportunities for purchasing locally and seasonally within our county and from neighboring communities. These include:

Another benefit of this tip is that it allows you to prioritize healthy, fresh eating habits. And leading a frugal, healthy life is one of our best tips for being a successful saver.


Use Membership Clubs to Buy in Bulk

Membership clubs might not be useful for weekly purchases, due to the scale of the purchases (and their associated prices!). But for items you consistently use, from cereal to toilet paper, planning a trip once every month or two to purchase them in bulk can be an effective cost saving strategy.

Locally, clubs like BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club provide opportunities to shop in bulk. You may also be able to take advantage of discounts on gas, prescriptions, and other services as part of your membership.

However, keep in mind there are a few tradeoffs to consider:

  • Membership fees: You’ll have to pay off that annual membership fee in your savings for it to be worth it.
  • Easy to overbuy: When you buy in bulk, it can be all-too easy to overbuy—and overspend. Certain purchases (like shelf-stable goods) may be better than others (like bakery products or fresh produce you won’t be able to finish).
  • Name brands over generic: Many membership stores offer name brands at a reduced price per unit. However, you may be able to save even more by simply buying the generic version at your regular grocery store or discount store (like Aldi), without having to buy such large quantities.


Utilize Couponing and Discount Apps

Technology can be a crucial companion for lowering your spending, with an abundance of apps designed to be used for both in-person and online shopping. From grocery shopping to holiday presents, apps and reward programs can help you save money by finding coupons for your purchase, offering rewards or cashback, or providing discounts for loyalty.

Options include:

  • Ibotta (App)
  • Rakuten (App)
  • Fetch Rewards (App)
  • Loyalty accounts to your local grocery store like Giant, Weis, and ACME may provide benefits through their app or email weekly fliers
  • Honey (Browser extension for online shopping)

Bucks County Alive also offers coupons for Bucks County shopping and services.


Avoid Impulse Purchases

We discussed avoiding impulse purchases while grocery shopping. But impulse buying can happen anytime, and anywhere. Whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee while on the go around town, adding extra items to your online shopping cart to get free shipping, or going for the premium package on your new car after a sales pitch, it can be easy for impulse buys to add up.

If you are an impulsive shopper (most of us are!), there are a few things to do to cut down on these excessive spending:

  • Set up a separate “splurge” account with a limited monthly allowance for discretionary spending, like online shopping.
  • Only use cash for in-person impulse purchases, like that latte at the Target Starbucks. Keep a set amount in your wallet—when it’s gone, it’s gone!
  • Know how to spot a sales come-on. “Frequently bought together” on Amazon that gets you to bundle products, free shipping or discounts when you purchase over a threshold amount, and certain loyalty rewards that offer store “cash” with limited use-value are all designed to get you to spend more.
  • For bigger purchases (say, anything over $30), follow the 24-hour rule. Leave the item in your online cart, go home and do more research, or use this time to think about the necessity of the purchase.   

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Buy Off-Season

Seasonal changes mean great discounts for off-season purchases. From post-holiday sales to end-of-season markdowns, buying ahead is one of the best ways to save money on new, essential items.

Sale times to watch out for:

  • Mid-winter sales of snow gear, coats, and other winter wear.
  • Spring clearances on cold weather clothing.
  • Late summer sales on swimsuits, summer clothes, camping gear, grills, mowers, and other outdoor equipment.
  • September sales on clothing (between “back-to-school” and winter holiday shopping).
  • After-holiday sales on everything from costumes and decorations to themed PJs.

Also note that some items, like toys and popular electronics, might have their price points lowered after winter holidays. To plan ahead for future gift-giving, you can track desired items and set price alerts using apps like Karma.

Lastly, on higher-end purchases, from vehicles to televisions and smartphones, you may be able to receive discounts or negotiate prices for floor models or last-season’s models. Do a little research to discover if changes from year-to-year are worth the extra money.


Take Advantage of Local Discount Stores

Membership clubs aren’t the only way to save money in Bucks County. There are many local stores, both chains and independently owned shops, that can offer discounted products for savvy shoppers.


  • Plato’s Closet, across from our Fairless Hills Branch, for quality used attire.
  • The Skechers Outlet in Warminster for shoes and accessories.
  • Philadelphia Mills Outlets, just a short drive from Lower Bucks, for general shopping.
  • For furniture and mattresses, the Raymour & Flanigan Outlet in Langhorne—close to both our Fairless Hills and Levittown Branches.
  • Macy’s Backstage at Oxford Valley Mall, for exclusive markdowns.
  • …as well as shops like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Gabe’s, peppered throughout the county. 


Plan for Larger Purchases

Lastly, one of the best ways to save big on your out-of-pocket expenses is to simply avoid buying on credit. When you set a budget, save for your purchase, and pay for it with money you saved—rather than with a loan or credit card—you can reduce the overall cost in several ways:

  1. There’s no interest or financing charges. Instead of paying fees and the accumulated interest of the life of your loan or credit card repayment, you only pay the upfront cost.
  2. You earn interest instead. For long-term savings goals, like purchasing a car, setting aside the funds in an interest-bearing savings account can end up making you money.
  3. Your budget is set. It’s harder to overspend or splurge on a more expensive purchase when you set your budget in advance.

Lastly, it’s important to also have an emergency savings fund, too. Having a separate emergency fund for unplanned expenses can help you reduce financing costs, and provide a financial cushion when facing the unexpected.

Looking for a cost-effective personal savings account in Bucks County? At The First, there are a variety of tailored options to choose from in addition to our traditional Statement Savings Account. These include our Holiday Club Savings for holiday shopping, Special Purpose Savings Account for specific savings goals, and Money Market Savings for the best interest rate. And when you set your account up for regular monthly or weekly transfers, it can be easier to grow your fund than you think!


Start Your Savings Journey with The First

Informed shopping choices and conscious planning are both important pieces of successful financial management. The First can be your partner, supporting you in your journey of creating a healthy budget—one that leaves plenty of room for your long-term financial plans. From helping you choose a savings strategy that fits your financial picture to pairing you with deposit accounts that make the most of your money, we strive to give you the tools you need to financially succeed.

Explore our personal banking services and resources, open a savings or checking account online today, or work with an account specialist at your local Bucks County branch to select the right Savings Account for your unique savings goals.