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Money-saving experts share their genius strategies for nabbing the best prices — no matter where you shop.
Buy up the ‘returns.’
“Most warehouse stores have generous return policies, which means big savings for you. That’s because, rather than sending them back to the vendor or a liquidator, stores like Costco and Sam’s Club devote shelves (typically at the back of the store near the household or sporting goods sections) to gently used, returned items that can still be sold — at steep discounts!
You might even find brand-new products that simply have damaged packaging.” —Mary Potter Kenyon, author of Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, & the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession.
Check out price ‘carousels.’
“Amazon wants you to buy their product, so ones sold by others are less likely to appear in their search results. But you may find a cheaper version sold by a third party or the manufacturer in the carousel below the description on the product page. It will say something like, ‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’” —Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com
Slip in earbuds.
“Ever notice how you’ll be shopping and you hear songs you haven’t heard in forever? Those are meant to stir up nostalgia, which will make you happy and calm, as well as slow you down, so you’re more likely to wander — and spend about 29 percent more, according to studies. Slipping in your earbuds while you shop ensures you won’t be distracted and enticed to spend money on things you really don’t need.” —Janet Alvarez, money-saving expert at Wisebread.com
Learn the markdown days.
“Ask sales associates for the markdown schedule at their store. They’re usually happy to tell you since they would love for you to help clear out new markdowns. It’s an endless cycle: Stores always want to get rid of old merchandise to make room to display the new wares that are rotating in. For example, Kohl’s does markdowns every second and fourth Saturday, and JCPenney does theirs the first and third Friday of the month.” —Trae Bodge, shopping expert at TrueTrae.com
Cash in on expired coupons.
“Stores like JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s are known to accept expired coupons, and many cashiers will give the customer a working coupon if they present an expired one. Simply being polite and friendly can raise your chances of success substantially. Tip: When you receive a coupon, snap a photo of it in case you lose it. The sales associate usually only needs to key in the code to give you the deal, so having it on your phone can save you money.” —Kyle James
Shop the day before the sale.
“Hear about a weekend sale? Show up on Thursday night when many retailers actually start lowering prices. You’ll often find a better selection available before the busy weekend shopping crowd hits. Also, since everything about malls — the confusing layout, the fountains, the lack of clocks — is there to distract and disorient you so you stay longer and buy more, be strategic and only go to the stores you planned to stop at.” —Janet Alvarez
At big-box stores, circle strategically.
“Americans are right-dominant, so most customers will turn to the right when entering a store. Retailers know this, so they’ll put their most profitable, pricey and trendy items to the right to entice you. When shopping at a store like Target, head to the left, where you’ll find better deals, and check out the outside end caps—the end of the rows usually closest to the walls. That’s where you’ll find the best markdowns and closeouts.” —Julie Ramhold, money-saving analyst at DealNews.com
Get alerts for the lowest prices.
“Retailers fluctuate prices to maximize profits, a strategy known as dynamic pricing. They increase prices on an item when they expect large numbers of shoppers or less price-conscious shoppers — like before a holiday — and reduce prices on the same item during slow seasons or to appeal to more price-conscious shoppers. To always nab the lowest price, use a sale-tracking tool like Honey (JoinHoney.com).
Simply sign up on your computer, download the free toolbar, add your favorite sites, then click on items you want to track the price of. Honey will send an alert when the price drops to your desired amount so you can snap up a deal.” —Andrea Woroch, moneysaving expert at AndreaWoroch.com
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.