Whether shopping for the holiday gift season or picking up the basics from the local grocery store, using savvy shopping tactics is the key to landing great savings consistently. There’s no need to run out and get trampled trying to snag doorbuster sales on Black Friday or run yourself ragged with all the so-called “specials” that crop up as winter nears. The trick to shopping is the same as with most things in life: Go against the pack. By learning some basic rules of supply and demand, you can be a Jedi when it comes to saving money, and never need to stab some child over a Nerf gun or Lego set.
When you tire of the frenzy and are ready to consume like a real buyer, you’re ready to avail yourself of these 15 shopping tips, tricks, tactics, and find the traps to avoid.
This is a fairly simple concept, yet many people still believe a store when it says it has the lowest price on an item. The advantage to being a consumer in the digital age is retailers have to compete with every store online. Run a quick search for any item you plan to buy, or use browser extensions like InvisibleHand that automatically check all the big retailers for savings on items you’re looking at.
Buy For Value, Not Price
Sure, a dirt-cheap TV sounds like a steal, until the shoddy workmanship that went into making it causes it to fail in a few months, or leaves you with coloration problems that somehow manage to make Conan even whiter. There’s a difference between getting a low price and getting a bargain. Some off-brand deal is an accident waiting to happen, which will cause you to need to replace the busted item sooner, ultimately costing more. Get something good once, rather than snagging garbage again and again.
Avoid the Novelty Purchase
Remember when Samsung made the Note 7 and it turned out to be a bomb instead of a smartphone? That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you buy items that are brand new and untested. It’s nice to get stuff on release day, but flash fades and costs. Suckers buy into the hype and believe that they must have the screaming new item, rather than giving it time to prove its value. With technology, often picking up last year’s top model is a safer purchase, so long as it has proved reliable.
Don’t do the heavy lifting when shopping through your magic computer box. Add in browser extensions so that whenever you look or buy, it automatically alerts you of savings. For instance, CouponCabin Sidekick will help you get cash back on your purchases. Honey and Coupons at Checkout automatically look for any promo codes you can use, which means you don’t need to hunt them down yourself. The aforementioned InvisibleHand has your price matching covered, while you can use The Camelizer to track the price history of an item to see if it’s been offered for a lower price, telling you what the true bargain cost should be. Slap those into your favorite web interface and let the savings pile up.
Rack Up Rewards
Knowing how to leverage special reward programs allows you to get extras in the background every time you shop. Travelers who like to save will do well finding a credit card that lets them get miles when they spend money. Those who prefer cash back should get into purchasing programs that reward them for using particular retailers. Knowing what you’re signed up for is part of being a savvy shopper. This is highly personal, so don’t take whatever happens to cross your desk. Seek out what you want and use it to your advantage.
Become a Devoted Customer
Return customers are the bread and butter that most shops rely upon to build. It costs many times more money to get a new customer than keep an old one, so they want you to be happy. The same way that Amazon Prime members get access to sales early, many shoppers who have favorite stores are treated to special deals. Have an email address that collects those irritating notes about savings and bargains, then give it a look whenever you’re about to buy.
Go Off Season
Buy your winter clothes in the summer and the other way around, since that’s when suppliers are looking to unload their stock of stuff they can’t use. The best deals aren’t typically advertised, because no store actually wants to lose money. Get a nice single speed bike during the first snow of the year, and then right about beach season, go hunting for those skis you need. For big ticket electronics, wait until after all the holiday “sales” have faded from view to see some true savings.
Learn Price Codes
This is a simple trick that comes straight from the mouth of retail workers. Most prices end in a “9” or a “0.” The ones to watch are those that end in anything that isn’t one of those. Items that end in “8”, e.g. $104.98, or those that end in “7”, $199.97, have been discounted because they need to be moved. Anything ending in a “1”, e.g. $98.01, is hacked down to the bone, often near cost because a new item is going to be replacing it soon.
Another simple note about buying anything: Don’t get it when it’s in demand. While many companies will scream and shout about “Cyber Monday Bargains” and “Black Friday Deal Extravaganzas” those are mostly lies to get you into their clutches. Wait until after the fireworks have died down and see what shakes loose.
Know Your Needs
The biggest error shoppers make is overbuying. This is always a waste of money. When you get bullied into buying an extra set of pants to hit the “free” shipping, you’ve just got taken for a ride. Know exactly what you want and then find someone who will give it to you at a price you can live with. If one place is going to rip you off with exorbitant shipping costs, pay a little extra at a site that has free shipping on every order. You don’t save by spending more unless you need it.
This is a good bargaining maneuver whenever you’re buying anything. For online shopping, go to a site, fill up your cart, give them your email address, then leave without checking out. Many places will try to entice you to make the purchase by throwing you a little discount to lure you back. In this case, let them reel you in. It’s all part of the game.
Be Careful With Your Credit
Credit is a smart way to buy, so long as you pay it off before it gains interest. The second interest starts accruing on your credit card or that sneaky credit membership they “gave” you, you’re paying more for your purchase. Sometimes, you can pay two or three times the amount of the original purchase, all spread out over months so you don’t notice it. That’s money you’re giving away.
Stores that have salespeople on the floor are often authorized to kick you a discount or two. It never hurts to ask, especially if you’re ready to take your ball and go home. Online, use any chat boxes that pop up, asking if they can help. If you show interest in an exact product, for instance, a nice 60″ Vizio, and say it’s $100 out of your budget, you’d be surprised how quickly they’ll be able to allow a one-time sale. This is particularly true if you’re a loyal shopper with their store/website. If you think they don’t know, you’re kidding yourself.
Extended service warranties, added cables, maintenance plans, and other items that get thrown in at the end of a sale are almost 100% profit for the company and rarely give you anything you couldn’t get cheaper somewhere else. In the sales game, this is “pitching cheese” and it’s a ripoff. Get what you came for and get out or they’ll soak you for every red cent.
As to extended warranties: If you doubt the product that much, get something else.
Know Your Foe
Business is war, and sellers are the enemy. They want your money and don’t care how they get it. Don’t believe they are your friends, allies, or compatriots.
Your mission is to get a bargain, nothing else.