San Diego

Trying to Get the Most Out of Your Budget? Here's an Expert's Advice

NBC 7 Responds looked at changing shopping habits and how we can all maximize the worth of a dollar

NBC Universal, Inc.

Higher prices for nearly everything have families reinventing themselves when it comes to finances, with spending habits changing as people turn to discount stores to buy things they need.

Dollar Tree and Dollar General have reported seeing a big change in their customers. On their earnings call last month, the company said more people are paying with credit cards instead of cash and buying necessities, such as food, instead of novelty items.

"The increase of credit cards is a bit alarming," said Felipe Arevalo with the San Diego Financial Literacy Center. "That usually means peoples' budgets are stretched out past their limits."

Big Lots also saw a change, saying more high-income shoppers are coming through its doors in search of deals.

"I think with inflation today and people's budgets stretched to the limit, people are starting to go out and try and find ways to stretch their finances," Arevalo said. "Sometimes that means going to different places. Sometimes that means changes and adjustments."

While going to discount stores is one way to save money, what are some others to make sure you're making the best choices?

"First, come up with a budget," Arevalo said. "It's hard to know where you're spending too much if you don't. Then, go through it and look, and cut out anything that's not a necessity. Do you really need five streaming services?"

If you need new clothes, try second-hand. You can visit a local consignment shop or try online options like Poshmark and ThredUp.

"Now more than ever. it's important to be selective about where you're making your purchase," Arevalo said. "Take your time, look for stores you know are there but you might have avoided in the past."

Also, consider buying generic brands at places like the grocery store. They're often just as good as brand names but come at a discounted price. If you make a list and follow it, that can also help you avoid wandering the aisles and buying extra things.

And track all of your purchases. It will help answer the question of where your money went and show you the biggest drains on your account.

"Sometimes it's the small expenses we make every day that get people in trouble," Arevalo said. "How often do you say, 'It's only $5?' "

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