by Kimberly A. Griffiths
With so many different types of sales running all the time, why would anyone ever pay retail? In most cases, with a little research, you may never have to pay retail again.
Buyers beware -- not all sales are created equally.
• % off sale price
Some sales offer substantial savings such as 50% off already reduced merchandise which is probably as deep a discount as you can get. It may take some time and patience once you're in the store, but these sales can really be wonderful when buying necessities such as back-to-school clothes and even for off-season holiday shopping.
• Buy one, get one 50% off
The buy one, get one 50% off is my least favorite sale. It is essentially a way for stores to move their merchandise without offering any great incentive to the shopper. It's just another way of saying get a 25% discount when you purchase two items. Unless you're shopping with a friend, family member, or neighbor who needs the same thing, it just isn't all that exciting of a sale. You rarely need to buy two of one thing. I would also group the buy two, get one free in this category - uneventful.
Lately I have noticed that grocery stores have pulled out all the stops to offer their products at a two-for-one deal. Almost every shelf is lined with a brightly colored sale sticker offering two-for-one. But again, more often than not, I only need one item not two! I can't speak for all the stores nationwide since they all have different policies, but in my case, I found that if you buy only one item instead of the two that they're pushing, the one item is half the price. For example, if orange juice is advertised as two for one at $4.00, one might be $2.00 - ask the cashier! If you find that the one item is indeed half the price, tell the cashier that you no longer want the second item. They will put the food back on the shelf. no worries.
Another marketing incentive is the buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) option. If you dine out with a spouse, colleagues, or a friend, consider eating out at restaurants offering a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. Truly, if you tend to eat out often, this could be a substantial monthly savings. Just commit for one week that you will not eat out unless you have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. ValPak
Search for restaurants by zip code, and ooo la la instant printable coupons for restaurants in your area! A word of caution, no matter how frugal you may be, I don't recommend using a coupon on a first date. Know the difference between a special event versus going out to lunch with a co-worker!
• Free After Rebate
Although the free after rebate takes a little work, this can also be quite a good deal. I notice these offers most often on small electronics. In fact, the modem I'm currently using was free after submitting a manufacturer's rebate. Sure, I had to wait 8 weeks for the check to come in the mail, but I'd rather spend 15 minutes on the front-end of the deal doing a little bit of work so that I can get my money back.
• Free Samples
One of the best ways to try out a product is when it is free! From laundry detergent to toothpaste, companies are anxious for you to try their product. If you live in a major city, free trial mints/gum, aspirin, soda, etc. are passed out on street corners from time to time. If you want to get more free stuff, try Start Sampling
• Online Sales
Whether you are researching to buy in a physical store or looking to buy online, always look for product coupons. Simply type in the product you are looking for and the word "coupon" into a search engine like yahoo, msn, google, or ask jeeves. For example, recently I decided to have a few personal photographs enlarged to place on a wall in my home. I did a search online for "photograph coupon" and found a 40% discount on my purchase at Kodak Gallery
The entire purchase took 2 minutes longer because I searched for a virtual coupon which saved me $20. Saving $20 in 2 minutes on something I was going to purchase anyway is exciting!
If you cannot find a coupon after doing a search, try using a shopbot, a comparison pricing tool, which finds the lowest price in their network for the product you are searching for. Some common shopbots include
• No Sale?
If a store isn't offering a sale, don't hesitate to ask the store manager if the price quoted is the best value they can offer. Once you ask the question, remain quiet and let the store manager respond. Don't look away, don't interrupt, just wait for his/her response. This approach takes practice, but you can save a lot of money by learning how to negotiate. You may flop the first few attempts but remember, you're the customer and you can always ask.
At an oil change garage or dry cleaners:
"I have a coupon for your competitor down the street, will you accept their coupon?" If the answer is yes, then ask "Do you offer any further discounts?"
"Do you have any discounts for new (or regular) customers?"
Speaking to your credit card company:
"I received a credit card offer from Bank X in the mail which offers a rate that is 1% lower than what I'm currently paying with no annual fee. I'm considering switching to this card unless you can offer the same or better deal. What terms can you offer me?"
"Since I'm buying more than one piece of furniture [on sale of course], can you arrange for free delivery for me?"
Almost every other type of face-to-face purchase:
Is this the best deal you can offer?
• In Summary
Spend a little time trying to save the hard earned money you worked for this week. Don't be so eager to spend it or give it away. And, don't buy something just because it's on sale - that's also not a wise choice. Spend money only on the things you need and preferably find these things on sale.
If you really want to see the difference in savings that you are making by shopping the sales, create a strategy. If you save 25% on your grocery bill or $12.00 by using a coupon, put the money you would have spent into a jar. The money you accumulate in a month's time will amaze you. Use the savings to pay off the credit card bill that you are paying off. Become a smart shopper by never paying retail - ever!
The author, Kimberly A. Griffiths, has been through the vicious cycle of debt herself, and provides a no-nonsense system to managing your money paycheck to paycheck. You customize the journal based on your pay schedule and learn the necessary tools for making ends meet. Find out more on her site