When it comes to snagging a discount, there’s a best time to buy nearly everything at a lower price, but sometimes you can’t wait for an end-of-season sale or holiday promotion. This doesn’t mean you are stuck paying full price, though. There are several shopping strategies you can use any time of the year to get a better price.
“Never take a price at face value,” says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com, a personal finance blog. “Whether I’m shopping in-store or online, I always hold out hope that a lower price is available, whether I can find a coupon or cash-back offer or there is a better price elsewhere. Thanks to technology, it takes under a minute to find out.”
Follow these nine steps to ensure you get the lowest available price on almost everything you’re buying.
— Scrutinize prices.
— Know where to find coupons.
— Consider refurbished.
— Set sale alerts.
— Ask for a rain check.
— Speak to a store associate.
— Be social.
— Shop secondhand.
— Seek price adjustments.
[SEE: 10 Best Apps for Saving Money.]
Most people associate big-box stores like Amazon and Walmart with the low prices on most of their goods, but this shopping mindset can backfire. Because prices are constantly fluctuating at these retailers, you must compare deals daily to make sure you’re getting the best price.
Comparing prices both in-store and online is much easier these days thanks to various mobile and online tools. For instance, use the ShopSavvy price comparison app to get real-time prices for most products across both physical and online competitors. You can even use these findings to ask a store manager for a price match. When shopping online, download a savings tool like InvisibleHand to your browser, which will alert you with a pop-up notification if something you’re browsing at one site is sold at another retailer for less. Meanwhile, CamelCamelCamel.com, a site that analyzes historical pricing data on Amazon, allows you to verify if the current selling price is truly the lowest offer or if you should hold off for a bigger price drop.
Know Where to Find Coupons
Before you buy anything, spend a few moments running an online search with the retailer’s name and the term “coupon” or “promo code” to see if any deals pop up. “It takes a minute and can save you a lot of money,” says Jeanette Pavini, savings expert at www.JeanettePavini.com.
To find deals even quicker, use a deal hunting tool. For instance, the Honey browser extension automatically searches for and applies any available coupons to your online order every time you shop online. For in-store shopping, mobile coupon apps such as Coupon Sherpa or RetailMeNot aggregate deals by store name to help pinpoint savings faster. There are also store-branded apps like Target Circle that provide product-specific savings and cash-back rewards.
Whether you’re shopping for a new kitchen appliance, power tool or personal gadget, consider refurbished options to save money without sacrificing quality.
“Retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Decluttr.com sell refurbished items, like laptops, smart phones and tablets, and the prices are notably lower than if you purchased these devices new,” Bodge says.
Just make sure that any refurbished products you’re looking at come with a strong warranty in the event that you have an issue, Bodge recommends. For instance, Decluttr buys and refurbishes gently used devices and offers a free, 12-month limited warranty so you can feel confident with your buying decision, she adds.
Set Sale Alerts
Most people think they have to actively monitor sales to snag the best bargain, but that takes a lot of time and effort and could result in missed savings opportunities. That’s why Bodge recommends using a tool that does the work for you like slickdeals.net, a discount shopping site, by setting a sale alert. “When the item goes on sale, you will receive a notification with sale info for one or multiple retailers,” she says. The site also offers a browser extension that once installed will automatically alert you to opportunities to save as you browse online, Bodge adds.
[See: 12 Ways to Save Money Without Trying.]
Ask for a Rain Check
If something is on sale but out of stock, you aren’t out of luck. You can still score the low price by simply asking for a rain check, Pavini says. “This means the store will honor the lower price when the item is back in stock, even if the sale is over,” she says.
Speak to a Store Associate
If your bargain hunt is turning up nothing, turn to a store associate or online customer service representative who may be able to help you find additional savings.
“It never hurts to ask a sales associate if there is an available discount,” Bodge says. “They may be privy to a discount or promotion that you can take advantage of.”
Social media isn’t just a place to share pictures and status updates with friends and family — it’s also a great place to connect with brands and retailers that share exclusive deals and limited coupons to their followers and fans. Just follow, like or subscribe to your favorite stores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to uncover extra savings.
Before buying anything brand new, run a quick search online to see if you can find the same or similar item used so you pay a fraction of regular retail price. “A fantastic way to get great deals is to look for items second hand,” says Jennifer Zuklie, founder and CEO of the Swoondle Society, an online member marketplace for trading fashionable children’s clothing and accessories. “There are a proliferation of platforms that make secondhand shopping as easy as any other online shopping site.”
Get in the habit of checking local reselling marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp as well as online resale sites such as Poshmark, eBay and The RealReal. The Swoondle Society makes it even easier to save on kids’ clothing as you can swap items they’ve grown out of for like-new pieces in their current size.
[See: 8 Best Apps for Buying and Selling Used Stuff.]
Seek Price Adjustments
Don’t assume your savings stop at the time of checkout. In fact, one of the best ways to save money is actually after you make a purchase.
“Most larger stores have a price adjustment policy of typically seven to 14 days,” Pavini says. “This means if the item you buy goes down in price within that time frame, you get the difference back. Usually you only need to bring in the receipt to get the adjustment.”
Although this seems like an easy way to get money back, monitoring prices of items you’ve already purchased would take up a lot of time and effort. But tools like the Edison Mail’s Price Alert feature automatically monitors items you’ve purchased online by tracking digital receipts in your inbox and notifies you if any prices drops of more than $1. If you are eligible for a price adjustment, it will send you a pre-filled email template with details on how to painlessly request the refund.
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