In early august, Kate Middleton was photographed stocking up on food (and pushing her own cart, no less) at a grocery store in north Wales. This came on the heels of the wedding weekend of royal cousin Zara Phillips, at which Middleton repeated not one but two outfits from prior high-profile functions. Yes, the Duchess of Cambridge does spend money—the wardrobe tab for her North America tour was a rumored $40,000. Still, she shops selectively.
That’s precisely what Americans should be doing. Since the recession began, Americans have been spending half as much as they’ve been adding to their bank accounts. By comparison, in the year before the recession, growth in spending and savings were about equal. How can you keep your spending in check while satisfying your own inner royal? Here’s how to live like Middleton.
Expand your options. If you’re in the market for a Toyota Camry, the best thing you can do is throw a Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or, hey, while you’re at it, VW Passat into the mix. Being willing to consider multiple options puts you in the negotiator’s seat and allows you to shop for the best deals and incentives.
Think beyond the coupon. Combining coupons with other discount weapons makes them even more powerful. Industry watchers say there are now more printable coupons specifically for outlet stores—J. Crew and Coach are recent examples—which yield discounts on already lower prices. Refurbished gift cards are another way to save. Sites like plasticjungle.com allow consumers to unload gift cards they know they’re never going to use—and pick up ones they will at up to 20 percent off.
Reward yourself. Consider cash-back cards, which have gotten more lucrative recently, instead of frequent-flier rewards. The newly introduced Capital One Cash Card offers 1 percent back plus another 0.5 percent back for that year’s purchases on your anniversary as a cardholder. The recently revamped Blue Cash Card from American Express may be even better for you.
Finally, follow the French. French women don’t overbuy. They purchase the basics and wear them over and over again in a variety of combinations. This isn’t just a fashion tip. It can be applied to whatever is on your list. As long as you’re channeling Kate Middleton, take a few cues from Carla Bruni too.
With Maggie McGrath