Most of our personal frugality skills are concentrated on saving money on small items, mainly because the majority of the purchases that we make in our lives are small purchases. We buy groceries and clothing and hygiene products. There’s nothing wrong with saving on small item but a comprehensive frugal toolbox also has tools to help save money on more expensive items. If you can learn to save when buying cars, homes, appliances, large consumer electronics and even your college education then you can really reduce the amount of money that you waste over the course of your lifetime.

Photo: Newton Free Library

Here are seven of the best ways to save money on the most expensive things that you buy:

1. Get help from the government. There is a surprising amount of free money and great discounts available through the federal and state government. This can be invaluable when making a large purchase. Examples include:

  • Scholarships and grants. The most obvious way to use these tools is to pay for your college education with them. However, there are many other types of grants and scholarships as well such as research grants to fund a work project and scholarships to participate in a volunteer vacation.
  • Rebates. The government frequently offers rebates on certain types of products. For example, the purchase of renewable energy resource products such as an electric car or solar panels for the home may be something that you can get a rebate on. These items also have the potential to save you money over time.
  • Low-cost loans. If you can’t get the government to pay for your big purchases entirely then maybe you can get help from them to get the loan you need at the lowest cost. Educational loans and first time home-buyer programs are examples of this type of smart assistance.

2. Get assistance from private sources. In addition to getting help from the government, you can sometimes get aid from private resources such as non-profit organizations, educational institutions and wealthy benefactors. A typical example would be to get a private scholarship from a local business to assist you in paying for the price of private school tuition.

3. Use coupons, group buying sites and consumer rebates. The same tools that you can use to save money on small purchases can help you to save money on large items. Coupons for large items can be tough to find but they’re available especially in the area of consumer electronics. You’ll find that it’s easier to find rebates for these types of products (as well as other expensive purchases); make sure that you cash in on those rebates immediately after making the purchase. What you may find even more useful is group buying sites like Groupon that allow you to save as much as 50% or more on expensive products and services such as spa services and travel products.

4. Shop used. The cost of many large items is decreased when you opt to buy the items used. The best example of this is buying a slightly used car compared to buying a brand new car. Depreciation happens as soon as you leave the lot with a new car so you can get a “like new” car for a much lower price. Likewise, it is sometimes easy to find like new consumer electronics on sites like eBay and Amazon at a much lower-than-new price. In addition to using online sites, consider shopping at local auctions (such as police auctions) to secure great deals on expensive items.

5. Take your time. Patience is a virtue that can not be underestimated when it comes to saving money on big purchases. Take the time to shop around and buy the right item at the lowest cost. This applies to choosing the right affordable college, buying a home that you can truly afford and getting the smartphone that offers the best value.

6. Pay cash for your expensive items. This goes along with having patience since it means that you need to take the time to save up a large sum of money. People do buy cars, computers and even homes with cash. It’s the best way to go if you want to avoid wasting a lot of money on interest charges over the years.

7. Shop in the off season. Hold off on buying a home until you’re in a buyer’s market instead of a seller’s market; (that’s why now is a good time to invest in a home!) Purchase a used from a local dealer during the time when new vehicles are coming to market and old ones must be offloaded. Buy seasonal items like boats and new skis in the season following their typical use (so you’d buy boats in fall and skis in late spring). Apply for educational scholarships during the school year rather than right before the year begins. All of these efforts will save you money!

What is your number one tip for saving money on a pricey purchase? Share your answer in the comments!