6 Secrets to Shopping Savvy

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What’s the secret to saving dollars and pinching pennies? Never, ever pay full price for anything. Knowing how to save money in every situation, even when the odds are against you, is the ultimate key to financial success.

1. Always Use Manufacturer Coupons

If you receive or buy a Sunday newspaper, you know about the SmartSource and Proctor & Gamble inserts that are typically hiding inside. If you shop for brand name groceries, beauty products, toiletries, pet supplies, etc., these coupons are like cash in your pocket, and you should ALWAYS use these coupons to save money on each item!

In addition to the coupons you find in your Sunday paper, you should learn to utilize internet coupons from reputable websites like Coupons.com. These coupons can be used just like the newspaper versions. However, due to a surge in coupon fraud over the years, some stores will only accept 4 or less of the same coupon. Always check a store’s coupon policy; you can usually find it on their website. Often, stores like IGA or Giant Eagle will double the value of a coupon, up to $0.99 per coupon, maximizing your savings (Walmart and Target do not double coupons).

If you shop at stores like Save-A-Lot or Aldi, most of their products are generic brand, and coupons do not apply. However, if a new Aldi is opening in your neighborhood, Aldi will often mail out $5 off $25 store coupons to invite local residents to check out what they have to offer. If you’re lucky enough to find a few of these coupons, save them, they’re usually good for up to 4 weeks.

Some people take couponing to whole other level by organizing their coupons by name, category, or value in binders and envelopes. If you have a small budget to work with, you can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year by saving manufacturer coupons, combining them with sales, and store coupons. NOTE: Be mindful of expiration dates as a coupon is no longer valid after that date, and you will not be able to use it at checkout.

You can use manufacturer coupons just about anywhere the brand name products are being sold, including convenience stores, drugstores, dollar stores, and supermarkets. Unfortunately, discount stores like Big Lots, Gabriel Brothers, Burlington Coat Factory, etc. will not accept manufacturer coupons.

If you find that you don’t have a use or need for some coupons, you can always sell them in bulk on eBay. If you have multiple amounts of a specific coupon, you could sell them together and make a decent profit off of them. For example, if you have ten $1 Off Cool Whip coupons. Sell them for $3, you’ll earn cash on something you weren’t going to use anyway, and the buyer still saves 70%. Vice versa, you can always purchase coupons on eBay as well.

2. Always Use Department Store Coupons

Think you need to pay the full retail price of $79.99 for a pair of Sketchers? Think again. Whether you’ve planned your trip ahead of time, or you’re shopping in the heat of the moment, you can always save money in-store by utilizing department store coupons.

When you’re shopping spur-of-the-moment style, your smartphone is your secret savings weapon. Usually, you can find a printable coupon right on the home page of the website for the department store, like Kohl’s, Barnes & Noble, Ulta, Macy’s, or JcPenney’s. You don’t have to print a coupon (unless specified to do so) to redeem it – simply flash that coupon on your smartphone to the cashier so they can scan it, and wallah! Instant savings.

If you plan your trip ahead of time, sign up for emails and promotional offers for the store on their website (do this at least 3-5 days beforehand to see any result). Stores like Macy’s, JcPenney’s, and Kohl’s will mail out or email special coupons from time to time for their frequent shoppers. You can also print coupons you find on the department store’s website.

You can always find coupons on the front and back of flyers in your Sunday newspaper for your favorite store. Many stores offer a $10 off $25 purchase coupon that you can use in-store. Typically, you have to give the cashier the coupon at the end of the order. So, if you manage to score a few of these coupons, you could make multiple $25 in-store purchases between departments. Beware the beauty department in Macy’s as they do not accept ANY coupons! It’s possible to find an item or two for under $30 and use the $10 coupon to save 30-40% off your order. You could always sell any coupons you don’t need or use on eBay for a cool profit.

3. Buy and Use Discounted Gift Cards

In today’s world, you can buy and use gift cards with just about every major retailer or restaurant, online and in-store. Gift cards are used like cash or store credit, ranging from $15 up to $500 or more, and they can be used in conjunction with coupons. Unbeknownst to most, gift cards are often bought, sold, and traded online through several websites, like Raise.com, Cardpool.com, GiftCardZen.com, or CardCash.com, at discounted prices – up to 50% off! You can buy, sell, or trade physical cards, electronic gift cards, and even merchandise credit across the internet. To compare prices all at once, you can rely on CardBear.com, a website that tracks the percentage off for multiple websites so you can find the best deal quickly.

If you’re looking to sell your gift cards, Cardpool.com, GiftCardZen.com, and CardCash.com set the prices for you, while Raise.com allows the seller to set the price, so you can sell your gift card for as high or as little as you want. If you plan on spending $100, $200, $500 or so at a major retailer or restaurant, you should see how much you could save by buying a discounted gift card. For example, we decided to see how much a $25 gift card for Starbucks would cost at all four websites:

The percentage off varies from day to day, and gift cards are often sold at higher or lower prices depending on supply and demand. Typically, especially after the holidays, you’ll see gift cards being sold for lower prices (bigger discount) in the beginning of the year, and sold for higher prices (smaller discount) at the end of the year.

4. Shop Sales and Clearance Racks

To save the most money when shopping, try not to buy anything in that isn’t on sale or on clearance. When you buy something that is on sale, you’re saving money off the original retail price; even if it’s only a few dollars, it still adds up! Even if you shop the sale without coupons (GASP!), you’ll still be saving money off of the full retail price. Obviously, the best way to maximize your savings would be to shop the sale AND have your hands on a coupon.

If you want to save even more money, stick to clearance racks. In the clearance section of every store, you’ll find overstock, returns, broken, or oddball items that people just weren’t willing to buy in the time it was on a normal shelf. In a department store, you’ll typically find clothing that is out-of-season on a clearance rack, but in perfectly good condition! Out-of-Season shopping is a big no-no for hardcore fashionistas. For all of us regular folk, it’s the perfect time to score great clothing deals. The best time to buy winter apparel is in January, spring apparel in April, summer apparel in July, and fall apparel in October. If you manage to make it to a store in the middle of a “season change”, you can expect to save anywhere between 30% – 80% off the original retail price. Score!

5. Research Competitive Offers Before You Buy

Whether you’re looking to make a big purchase or a small purchase, always compare prices between retailers. If the FitBit Charge HR band is $249.99 at Best Buy, but only $199.99 on Amazon.com, you have more spending power – and a key to negotiating a lower price. Most retailers will honor and match prices for the same product being sold by their competitors – all you have to do is ask. You can even get away with checking prices on your smartphone in-store, and presenting the product listing to the cashier for a price match – that’s more money in your pocket and better feeling of success!

When you’re looking to make a huge purchase like a television or computer, and have some time before you need to buy, save yourself some hard earned cash by studying sale prices between retailers over the course of 2 months. Make a mental note of the highest price you have seen and the lowest price – then, when you’re ready to buy, you’ll know what price you should REALLY pay for an item.

6. Negotiate!

From small businesses to big box stores, everything can be negotiated in price. There’s quite a stigma around negotiating, but it’s still a valuable social skill that is practiced among millions people across the world. The key to negotiating is knowing what competitors offer. Let’s say that you know Walmart is offering a 55″ Sony LED 1080p TV for $469.99 this week, but it’s out of stock. You walk into Best Buy, and see they have the exact same model as Walmart, but they’re offering it for full retail value at $549.99. You CAN and SHOULD ask an employee or manager to match Walmart’s price. Chances are, they will, especially if it is in a printed advertisement. Most companies will even match Amazon or Tiger Direct, if you ask nicely!

You can negotiate the price you pay on furniture, car insurance, plumbing services, cable packages, etc. You might even be able to negotiate restaurant prices or  Anything you know that a business has previously offered a discount or sale on, you can negotiate the price! Say your favorite local bakery marks their breakfast pastries down 50% every Friday afternoon, but you would like to buy a few dozen to share at the office holiday party on Tuesday. Ask the bakery to match their Friday afternoon pricing as you are buying in bulk, and you’re a frequent customer. There’s always profit to be made in a large sale, and there’s always money to be saved! It’s doubtful that a business will turn down the chance to make money, even if their profit margins are slightly adjusted to please a customer.

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