We're reader-supported and only partner with brands we trust. When you buy through links on our site we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date and time indicated and are subject to change.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to stay on budget in 2021 by skipping your latte, buying generics, or foregoing your family vacation.
I mean, those aren’t terrible ideas, but the most realistic way to stick to a budget is to spend less money on things you actually need instead of assuming you can go without them. And the key is knowing when and how to buy those things without paying full price.
Basically, you have to outsmart retailers.
Get started shopping smarter by Downloading the KCL app to find out about deals and to bookmark the pages I mention.
Start earning points for a free vacation in January.
I’ve flown my family to Disney for free and a year later stayed for 10 nights at a Hilton outside of Disney World. Totally free.
January is the time to sign up because you’ll have the most time to earn points toward free travel through programs like Southwest’s Companion Pass. The Companion Pass is a free ticket you can give someone for an entire year. But here’s the clincher — it’s good for “the rest of” whatever year you earn it in. So the sooner you earn it, the more “extra” months you’ll have that extra free ticket.
Plan to use the credit card to pay all your bills, and be sure to pay it off every month to avoid interest charges.
Here are a few credit cards with great sign-up bonuses:
Note: KCL doesn’t get any kickbacks for credit card sign-ups. We just genuinely think they’re a great way to get free and cheap travel.
Stack coupons with sales on groceries to create budget meals in February.
Because of the Super Bowl and National Canned Food Month, February sees some killer sales on snack foods like $0.50 per canister of Pringles (reg. $1.50/canister) and canned foods like soups, chilis and more. Stock up on snack items for kids’ lunches and canned foods for your pantry.
- Chex Mix
- Fruit Snacks
- Canned Chili
- S&W Beans
- Progresso Organic Soups
- Campbell’s Condensed Soups
Buy next year’s winter clothing in March.
March is when winter wear from brands like The North Face hit rock-bottom prices like $80 for a men’s puffer jacket (reg. $180).
Stock up on items you’ll need for backyard landscaping on a budget in April.
You can save up to 50% — no coupons needed — when you plan to shop in store the first or second week of April. Plants at 50% off are stock-up worthy.
Load up on in-season fruits and vegetables to eat healthy on a budget in May.
If you can stock up on fruit and veggies when they’re at the lowest prices of the year and you can make them last for months, you win at being frugal and eating healthy on a budget. Period.
The best way to do this is to combine a rebate offer from Ibotta with a store sale.
When you download Ibotta, you’ll see a ton of different offers like “$0.20 cash back when you buy any brand avocado” or “$0.25 back on tomatoes, any brand.” Select the offers you want to redeem, scan your receipt after you buy (or upload a picture of it), and you’ll get paid via PayPal.
Freeze produce you find cheaper in May like orchard fruit, berries and melon. Consider dehydrating anything you can’t freeze and use it in recipes for soup or as snacks the rest of the year.
Fill your freezer with dairy products in June.
June is National Dairy Month, and while it might seem like your freezer + dairy is a no-go, I promise it works. Just leave a little room in your milk container for expansion.
Walmart and CVS will be your best shot at low-priced milk. CVS is a surprising place to save on milk, but they often run ExtraBucks promotions like “Buy One, Get $1 in ExtraBucks.” So it’s like you’re getting a dollar off when you buy items included in the promotion.
Buy enough shampoo and conditioner to last all year in July.
Twice a year — January and July — Ulta offers half-price sales on spendy brands of shampoo and conditioner. It’s called the Jumbo Love Liter Sale and typically includes deep discounts on brands like TIGI, Matrix, Big Sexy, Paul Mitchell and more.
For example, you can get a liter of Matrix, Big Sexy and more for only $12.99 (reg. $33.99).
I buy enough to last all year.
Buy school supplies, but keep 70% of your cash in your wallet in August.
Get next year’s summer clothing and seasonal merchandise in September.
If you’re thinking about making a big purchase like a patio set or a barbeque, do it in September when you can get a charcoal grill for as low as $24.50.
Retailers are trying to clear out their summer merchandise to make more room for fall items, so look for deals at The Home Depot and Lowe’s as well as Walmart and Target. Dollar General has a yearly 70% off summer clearance event during September, too. Save on swim and summer toys during this time.
As for summer clothes, buy children’s clothing at The Children’s Place to save up to 80% when you time a sale with Place Cash (TCP’s loyalty program). (Grab any clothes you still need for the school year too!)
Stock up on fall decor and supplies to make Halloween costumes in October.
Smart shopping at Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric is all about the coupons. Never, ever buy anything without a 40%-off coupon. And these stores take each other’s coupons, so don’t worry about not having one that matches the store.
Get all your Christmas shopping done on Black Friday in November.
The week before Black Friday through Cyber Monday is prime time for saving money on everything on your Christmas shopping list.
Expect to save up to 60% on brands like Instant Pot, Ninja, LEGO, Nerf, Carter’s and Yankee Candle. For example, the week before Black Friday at Kohl’s in 2019, you could get an Instant Pot Duo Nova 6-qt. pressure cooker for $55, plus an extra $15.00 in Kohl’s Cash, thanks to a doorbuster sale price combined with a 15%-off promo code.
Aim for 50% savings on Hot Wheels, KitchenAid, FitBit, Disney and UGG boots. At Target, KitchenAid mixers were marked down to $185.72 (reg. $449.99) in 2019.
And settle for 30% savings on Xbox, PlayStation, Beats, and TOMS shoes. For example, at Kohl’s, because of the ability to earn Kohl’s Cash, you could get an Xbox One S Bundle (console, two controllers, headphones, and a game download) for $320 (sale price) + $105 in Kohl’s Cash. This would normally cost $459.99.
Follow KCL’s Black Friday Deals page once November hits, and we’ll help you shop the deals!
Set your family up with eyeglasses for the year in December.
With already much-lower prices than your local eyeglasses shop, you can get a pair of glasses with basic lenses at GlassesUSA for around $40 or less.
Plus, most people are looking for ways to use their flexible spending benefits, so why not plan to replace glasses in December?
TIP: Another important thing to do in December is stock up on Christmas clearance for next year. You can get up to 90% off Christmas wrapping paper and bows.