If you ask anyone what a perk of being affiliated with the military is, most people love the shopping discounts. However, after being able to only shop at the Exchange over the past 3 years, I came to the conclusion that to be truly frugal, the Exchange is not always the cheapest option. Don’t get me wrong, they do have some amazing sales! I bought three Dr. Brown bottles for only $1.00. Best purchase ever! But there are still some areas that will suck your bank account dry.
Accessories– We’re probably all familiar with that huge center area of every Exchange that has jewelry, makeup, perfume, and purses. Well consider that spot a huge red flag.
For example, a Michael Kors purse is $450 and is on sale for $200. Steal right? Sure! But not for the average military family. After doing research on these companies, I found out their target market is business women making six figures! Crazy. Now most military wives sport a couple of these expensive purses because they bought them cheaper, but isn’t the purpose of a sale to save money? If you didn’t go in there for a purse, don’t buy it. The Oakleys are a whopping 15% off. Steal maybe, frugal no. There are $15 options that will cover your eyes just the same. Again, nothing wrong with every now and then purchases but if you are being frugal, these items can’t be in your budget.
Toys– While in Japan, it became extremely obvious that some items could be found elsewhere for much cheaper. I would look online to compare prices and get a good idea of what the going rate is and that determined if I bought the item at the Exchange. But, if it is the summer in July special, then usually that stuff is worth it. Buy, buy, and buy!
Electronics– Black Friday sales are an exception, but if you avoid the impulse to purchase that massive large screen TV, you can find them cheaper at other stores. You will have to look around and compare ads, but isn’t that key to being frugal? I have seen savings of a few hundred dollars when it comes to certain TVs. Again, be wary of markup/markdown sales.
Workout equipment– Nine times out of ten, there is someone who thought they needed a nice piece of equipment that became a towel rack. You can find barely used home gym systems on your local yard sale sites.
Clothes– When it comes to clothes, you get what you pay for. However, justifying expensive clothing purchases due to small sales (10-15% off) is a money sucker. Stick to the clearance racks for the best savings.
The Exchange has a ton of high quality items but sometimes you really can’t afford them. Think towards the future though. If you scrimp and save money, you can afford the luxury items. Wait for the off season or buy an older model. Remember what Dave Ramsey says, “if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.”