How to Bargain Shop

Four Methods:Finding SalesAltering Your RoutineShopping for ClothesShopping for Food

Finding a bargain while shopping can be a thrill, but it can be tricky. Finding sales items can be a challenge and you may stray from bargain prices if you shop in a bad mood. Try to find sales items ahead of time and shop according to a set schedule.

Method 1
Finding Sales

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    Familiarize yourself with retail prices. If you want to be able to find bargains, you should be able to recognize a good deal. Therefore, before you go out shopping for an item, spend some time learning the usual retail prices.
    • You can easily use the internet to do some research before going out shopping. For example, if you're looking for a coffee table for your living room, browse furniture store websites for products with the size and design you want. Try to get a sense of how much this item normally goes for. If coffee tables seem to cost $125 on average, a store offering a table for a discount rate of $115 isn't saving you all that much. If you find a coffee table on sale for $70, you know that's a good deal.[1]
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    Bargain hunt online. Browse sites like eBay or Craigslist. See if anyone's offering a used table for a discount rate. However, you should take some precautions when using sites like this. Assess the condition of the product before making a purchase and always meet people you contact online in public first.
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    Use coupons. Coupons are a classic means of bargain shopping. You can use traditional coupon cutting. Scan your local newspaper for coupons relevant to your shopping needs. Pocket any coupons you get at the register and use them later. You can also find somewhat nontraditional ways to enhance coupon discounts.
    • Stack coupons on top of in store sales. If a coupon does not say something like "whole price only," aim to use it when the item in question goes on sale. This way, you can double the savings.[2]
    • You can potentially stack coupons as well. You can use coupons from the store in addition to coupons issued by a specific company. Just check store policy first. Some stores may have rules against coupon stacking.[3]
    • Some stores match competitor's coupons. It may be to your advantage to ask. This can save you a trip when shopping.[4]
    • If a store is out of a sales item, you may be able to get a rain check. You can show a cashier you had the coupon for an item that's out of stock. The store can reserve the item for you and sell it to you when they restock at the discount price, even after your coupon has expired.[5]
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    Check weekly ads. If you subscribe to a local newspaper, ads usually come certain days of the week. These may contain coupons for food and other products. Make a habit of clipping coupons relevant to your shopping needs and then bringing them with you when you run to the store. For example, may you could always make a point of checking ads the day before you're going shopping.
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    Shop on Tuesday nights. It's fairly common for stores to mark down items on a Tuesday night. If you're looking to score sales, consider shopping in the late evening Tuesday. Sales items will be recently marked down and less likely to have sold out.[6]
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    Be on the lookout for special discounts. Many people don't realize how many specialized discounts stores offer. There may be discounts for those in the military, as well as college students and the elderly. There are also occupational discounts. For example, some stores may offer a 10% discount for teachers. Ask about special discounts when checking out. You may be surprised to find some apply to you.[7]
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    Follow your favorite stores on social media. Stores often post about upcoming sales and discounts on social media accounts. Following a variety of your favorite stores on Twitter and Facebook can help you spot sales early on.[8]
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    Learn sales cycles. While Tuesdays are common to mark down items, stores do have independent sales cycles. If possible, it's best to learn the specific sales cycles for your favorite stores. This way, you can plan to shop during times when you'll find the most discounts.
    • You might have to do some trial and error to figure out sales cycles. Try to take note of when sales items appear. If you notice your local Gap seems to suddenly have marked down items Thursday afternoons, they may transfer items to discount prices on Wednesday nights. This may be the optimal time to shop. If you have a friend that works in a store you frequent, try asking him if he knows the sales cycle.[9]
    • There are some general rules that can guide you as well. For example, many retailers move certain items to clearance or sale after six months. If you can hold out on buying that new set of curtains for a few months, it might be worth waiting to see if it moves to clearance.[10]
    • If you search for discounts at thrift stores, shop early in the week. Most people who donate to such stores do so on the weekend. Therefore, Mondays and Tuesdays are your best options for heading to thrift stores as there will be the most variety.[11]

Method 2
Altering Your Routine

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    Have a separate e-mail for coupons. When you're checking out, the cashier often asks for your e-mail. This is so the store can send you coupons and updates on sales. However, these e-mails often get lost in your regular e-mail. Create a separate e-mail address to give out at the register. Check this address when you're planning a shopping trip.
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    Make a list. It's a simple change, but sometimes making a list can help you bargain shop. Try to make a list of the items you actually need before going on a shopping trip. Then, stick to that list strictly. You may end up overspending on impulse purchases without a list. Whether you're grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or shopping for anything else, write out what you need ahead of time.[12]
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    Set a budget. You're more likely to seek out bargains if you have to find a discount. If you set a strict budget for yourself, and make sticking to it a priority, you'll end up buying cheaper items. This can also help prevent impulse buys.
    • It's fairly easy to make a budget. To start, write down your total monthly income. From there, subtract necessary expenses like cost of living and any monthly bills. The amount that you have left is how much you can reasonably spend on extras throughout the month.
    • From here, break down how you spend money into categories. Jot down things like food, entertainment, clothes, and so on. You can then choose a reasonable budget for how much you should aim to spend on each category.
    • Stick to your budget, even if it's hard at first. If you budget $200 a month for food, do not go over that budget. While ordering takeout after a stressful work day might seem tempting, if it's not in your budget it avoid it.[13]
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    Shop when you're in a good mood. Many people don't realize they'll be more adept at bargain hunting if they shop in the right mindset. Shopping when you're stressed or tired could lead you to make quick purchasing decisions instead of looking for the best price. Shopping when you're hungry could lead you to stocking up on cheap convenience food over something substantial. Make sure you're in a good mood before going shopping. If you're feeling stressed, tired, or hungry, take some time to unwind and eat before heading out the door.[14]
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    Set a timeframe for shopping. Oftentimes, simply setting a timeframe can make a big difference in your purchasing decisions. If you give yourself an endless amount of time at the supermarket, you're more likely to wander through the aisles browsing. Browsing can lead to impulsive and regrettable purchasing decisions. Set a timeframe for yourself and stick to it. Give yourself, say, an hour in the grocery store to grab your items and head out.[15]
    • However, one caveat is that you shouldn't limit your time too much. If you don't give yourself enough time to shop, you may start to feel stressed out or otherwise pressured. Remember, a bad mood can also lead to impulse buys. Time how long you would normally spend at the grocery store when sticking to your list. This will help you gauge what a reasonable timeframe is. Give yourself about that much time to shop as a rule.
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    Pay with cash. People tend to spend less money when they're paying in cash. You think less about how much money you're spending when you're paying with a card. Cash forces you to acknowledge how much you've spent. Withdraw money from your bank account before a shopping trip. Try to pay in cash as much as possible.[16]
    • Keep in mind paying with cash is not always possible. If you're going to be making a purchase well over $100, you may want to use your card. It can be dangerous to travel with that much cash on you.
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    Shop alone. Shopping with another person can be risky. You may talk one another into buying items you do not really need or want. With clothes shopping especially, a friend might love a particular blouse on you and convince you to buy it. You may regret this down the road if you felt lukewarm about the garment. If you want to bargain shop, it's best to head to the store alone.[17]
    • However, one exception is if you have a friend who's particularly good at finding discounts or using coupons. You may actually want to take a friend like this shopping a few times to get the hang of hunting for bargains.

Method 3
Shopping for Clothes

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    Shop at discount and sales stores. If you want to save money on clothes, look into discount or sales stores. At such stores, you can often find slightly damaged or out of season designer outfits sold at a discount rate.
    • There are many discount stores, like T.J Maxx and Marshall's, that offer discount prices on designer outfits. There are also a lot of online outlets that offer discounts on certain clothing items.[18]
    • Be careful when shopping online. You may dislike the way a certain clothing item looks on you after trying it one.
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    Shop off-season. If you plan ahead, you can save a lot of money by shopping off season. A swimsuit may be on sale in February, for example, if you live in a warm area. Be on the lookout for items you know you need. If it's finally spring, but you noticed your winter coat was getting a little shabby, keep your eyes peeled for discount coats during the early spring months.[19]
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    Buy secondhand clothes. Thrift stores and consignment stores are excellent means to find cheap clothing items. Oftentimes, high quality items are sold for incredibly low rates. You don't always find exactly what you're looking for at such stores as items are not sold in multiple styles and sizes. However, if you make a point of periodically checking your local thrift store you might find some low price clothing items you need.[20]
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    Choose quality items. Spending a little extra money now on quality might translate to saving in the longterm. If you're going to wear an item a lot, like a pair of pants for work, it might be worth it to spend an extra $10. Items made with higher quality materials are less likely to wear down. Therefore, they need to replaced less frequently. If you're going to be wearing an item a lot, go for a higher quality.
    • You should also strive to care for your best clothing items. Fold delicate clothing instead of hanging it and do not wash your nice clothes too often. You can stand to re-wear the same shirt a few times, especially if you weren't doing anything physically demanding that day.[21]
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    Ask for a discount. Sometimes, you can get a discount by simply asking. If you notice a zipper is broken, a shirt is slightly stained, or some other minor flaw, try asking for a discount at the register. Most companies are more interested in fostering positive relationships with customers than making an extra $5 or $10. If you ask for a discount, there's a good chance you'll get one.[22]

Method 4
Shopping for Food

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    Create a menu. One of the easiest ways to bargain shop for food is to simply make a menu for yourself each week. Then, try to stick to purchasing food items off your menu.
    • Include ingredients you'll need to make dinner each night. Try to keep it simple, like grilling up some chicken and vegetables.[23]
    • You should also plan for breakfast, lunches, and snacks. This way, you'll avoid the temptation to eat out for your lunch break.[24]
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    Plan meals around sales items. Incorporate sales items into your meal planning. If a particular item is on sale that week, consider making a meal with this item. Watch for ads in the local paper and online to see what will be offered for a discount price.
    • You can also look for substitutes that are on sale. For example, say you're making a soup that requires chicken broth. If vegetable broth is on sale, consider buying that and substituting it for chicken broth. Swap out ingredients for discounted items whenever possible.[25]
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    Buy certain items from dollar stores or drug stores. There are certain items you may be better of buying at dollar stores or drug stores. Milk, for example, is generally cheaper at a drug store or gas station than at a grocery store. Non-food items you may frequently purchase at the grocery store, like toilet paper and paper towels, can be bought for cheap at a dollar store.[26]
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    Buy certain sales items in bulk. If a non-perishable item goes on sale, buy it in bulk. If you see cereal is marked way down, for example, stock up on 10 boxes or so while you have the chance. If items will take awhile to expire, it makes sense to buy them in bulk when they're on sale rather than paying full price for a replacement in a week.[27]
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    Be careful with 10 for $10 sales. Many stores offer 10 for $10 sales, but be wary when you see items marked like this. This is often a trick to get you to spend unnecessarily. These sales are often not particularly good deals. If an item is normally 90 cents, a 10 for $10 sale isn't really a steal. When you incorporate sales tax on the original price, you're paying around the same amount.[28]


  • Be careful. When something is priced low, it may be of poor quality. Examine such items before making a purchase.

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Categories: Buying Wisely