Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2012
I don’t believe people who claim they never buy anything without a coupon – because I know that’s impossible. Coupons don’t exist for everything, and certain types of coupons are released a lot less often than others.
But what is possible is never paying retail.
For the past year now, I’ve maintained Money Talks News’ deals page and curated our deals posts, sifting through hundreds of deals a week. That job quickly made me realize: There are so many ways to avoid paying retail that it’s almost never necessary. So I started keeping an anti-retail list. I’m at 15 and counting. If you have more tips to add, I’d love to hear them…
Your Sunday newspaper is still one of the best places to find coupons, but it’s not the only place. Printable coupons can be found all over the Internet. I cherry-pick the best ones I see for our deals posts and pages, but you can find more by doing a Web search or checking the websites of your favorite brands.
2. Online codes
You should never buy anything online without first checking for what’s called a coupon code or promo code. These alphanumeric codes are the online version of a coupon. Instead of handing your coupon to the cashier, you enter the code at the online checkout. I post the best codes I find on our deals page, but you can also do a Web search for a product name plus the words “coupon code” or “promo code.”
I still find sales are one of the best ways to save. I cherry-pick the best deals I see for our deals posts and pages, but I also highly recommend regularly reading your local Sunday newspaper ads, which you can also find online for free at ShopLocal.com/sales.aspx.
4. Free stuff
I’m not a big fan of freebies, especially online freebies. Too often, they require you to do something in return or give up personal information, which hardly makes them “free.” But true freebies are out there. I recently scored a free reusable grocery bag from Target – which I’d told you about in my April 20 deals post – and you can find more legit freebies on our freebies page.
5. Deals of the day
Amazon.com is known for its steeply discounted Deal of the Day, but the trend is spreading. Lots of online stores – from Target and Walmart to Home Depot and Hotels.com – offer up one item each day at a bigger-than-usual discount, sometimes with free shipping thrown in. Stop by our deal-of-the-day page for a list of links to retail daily deals.
6. Cash-back websites
Online cash-back services like Ebates and Big Crumbs are a sure-fire way to shave at least a few percentage points off the price of just about any online purchase. Plus, the cash-back can often be combined with online sales and codes to maximize your savings. If you haven’t already signed up with one of these services, be sure to check out my recent article, How to Make Money With Rebate Websites.
7. Cash-back credit cards
8. Mail-in rebates
These aren’t as common as they used to be, but when I do see them, they’re usually significant savings – if you can remember to mail them back before the deadline. (I kicked myself for forgetting about the $100 rebate that came with my cell phone.) The other risk with mail-in rebates is that they can get lost in the mail, although I’ve never had a problem with that.
9. Amazon-like retailers
Who doesn’t love Amazon.com? They sell seemingly everything imaginable – and not only is pretty much everything sold for less than full retail, many of their prices are unbeatable. Buy.com and Overstock.com can be worthy competitors, though.
10. Wholesale clubs
Shopping at warehouses like Costco is perhaps the best way to save money on groceries. Other potential warehouse deals include everything from furniture and electronics to clothing and fine jewelry. If you don’t already belong to one, check out my article How to Pick the Best Wholesale Club.
11. Outlet stores
Consumer Reports says you can save an average of 38 percent at outlet stores, but it’s not always a deal. Some outlets stock lesser-quality versions of what their non-outlet stores sell. To get what you pay for, check out 5 Tips for Finding Outlet Store Deals before making a long trip to an outlet mall.
12. Dollar stores
Not everything at the dollar store is a bargain either. Before you buy something, you have to stop and think about whether you could find it for less money elsewhere. Still, it’s a great place to find everything from gift wrap to cleaning supplies at well below retail. And yes, we’ve done that story too: 10 Dollar Store Duds and 5 Dollar Store Deals
13. Yard sales
Yard sales and garage sales can be a great place to find all kinds of things for a fraction of their retail price – if you know what you’re doing. Money Talks News’ expert yard sale shopper, Angela Colley, recently shared some of the best yard sale-hopping tips I’ve ever read in 10 Ways to Save Time and Money at Garage Sales.
14. Secondhand stores
Thrift stores are another great place to find items like housewares and clothing for a fraction of their retail price. They can be hit-or-miss, however, so instead of making a trip just to go thrifting, plot nearby stores on a map and stop by when you’re in the area. And remember that upscale finds are more common in stores in upscale neighborhoods.
You have nothing to lose by asking for a lower price. In fact, Money Talks News founder and serial haggler Stacy Johnson says it’s “the easiest way to save money.” For haggling tips, check out last week’s article The Simplest Way to Save on Everything.