How to Shop Smart – Tips to Finding the Best Deals and Saving Money
Yes – I love to shop! Now that I am a stay-at-home Mom I don’t have much money coming in like when I was working. I use a lot of my creative energy writing and finding ways to make and save money. Shopping for me is fun but spending money I don't have - isn't. So I have come up with creative ways to shop while spending only a fraction of what I used to spend. This requires more time and energy, of course, but I have found some quick and easy ways to manage my new hobby.
Through the years the ways of finding bargains and earning money for shopping has gotten quite intriguing. It is no longer just the simple bargain sites. It is now phone apps for coupons and rebates, rewards on websites as well as rebates for shopping.
I keep finding more and more ways to save. There are many apps and websites. A lot of them do the same things. Some are a complete waste of time. I have tested a number of them and am sharing my favorites with you.
Take Advantage of Bargain Websites and Newsletters
There are many out there but I have found Hip2Save.com to be my favorite so far. She lists deals for online stores and lets you know what the great buys are and when they are offering clearance sales and free shipping. She even gives example of purchases so you can decide whether you want to pursue them. It has been really helpful to me in finding some great shoe bargains and as well as the end of season clearance items I need for my son. With her newsletter I know just when to go online and buy the end of season clearance items and when to hit the stores. She also lets you know what coupon codes will work and the best ones to use as well as when they are also offering free shipping. This alone has saved me a ton of time and money.
For those of you who love "couponing" (I don’t but she takes all of the work out of it) you will love how she outlines all of the bargains and tells you all of the coupons to use and how to get them. She gives you examples of what items you can buy and what the final cost will be.
I learned from her site how to find bargains at Target. I had no idea they had online special coupons, Cartwheel discounts, or that they offered price match. Ugh…sometimes it can be hard work to get the bargains but it would be MUCH harder if I had to do it on my own without her tips!
Example of how Hip2Save shows you how to get a bargain
Get Money Back for Shopping - Get Rebates
If you shop online you MUST make sure you get a rebate of some sort. There are a few but my favorite and most reliable is Ebates. I have gotten decent checks every quarter just for buying online. You just have to remember to log into Ebates before you checkout.
You simply login and look up the store where you are shopping. They will show you the percentage rebate you will get as well as any active coupon codes and specials. You click on the icon and it connects you to the store through their link. The items you had previously will still be in your shopping cart. Complete your purchase and check out. Ebates will notify you of the rebate that you earned. They pay quarterly. You can opt to be paid by check or through PayPal.
Don't Overlook Thrift Stores
OMG… My perception of Thrift Stores was always Good Will. Ummm Good Will is stinky compared to the Thrift Stores I have found. I didn’t even know about most of them until I came upon this site - thethriftshopper.com. I love it because you can see how people have rated the stores so you know what to expect and which ones you want to find. I have been so spoiled by these outlandish prices that is hard to shop normal retail!
I found awesome fireman style rain boots for my son for $1. I snag toys of all kinds for $6 or less. I recently bought a giant bag of Hot Wheels for $8. There must have been 30 or 40 crammed in that bag. Some were unique with a lot of moving parts. I also buy all of the giant plastic toys – like the Fisher Price Wheelies Ramp for his cars. This cost me $4. It is listed on Amazon for $60!. Help! I can’t pass up bargains like these but REALLY how many toys can I cram in my house?
Another great place to check out is the Habit for Humanity Restore locations. They get furniture donations and sell them at great prices. My husband found some great office furniture for a small percentage of the price of buying new. I check it out every now and then and find that they carry some really nice things. You just have to have good timing or check frequently if you are looking for something specific. I recently bought a very cute baseball shelf for my son's room for $12.
Credit Card Offers
Credit cards like AMEX. Visa and Mastercard offer deals that give you a statement credit if you spend a certain amount at a particular store.
The one I am currently taking advantage of is AMEX Offers - amexoffers.com. You sign up with your credit card and watch for the offers. The one I currently have in my wallet is a $5 rebate with a $15 purchase at Walmart. Previously there were credits for BP gas and Exxon as well as Amazon. The good ones come around November and December for Holiday shopping. Last year we got a $25 credit with a $75 purchase on Amazon.
You simply select the offers you want and "apply" them to your card. There is a time expiration on the offers so you have to just make sure you make your purchase before that date. When you make your purchase you almost immediately get an email from AMEX telling you that you earned a statement credit.
Groupons/LivingSocial Discount Deals
These deals are hard to miss and even harder to pass up. They are especially awesome for discounts to play places for my son. I buy discounted tickets for the museums, indoor play areas and zoos. They make it easy for me to afford to take my son to different places to play without having to pay full price. That is just what I look for now but they have discounts for almost anything. Lately I have seen some bargains for the membership clubs – Costco, BJs and Sam’s which are hard to pass up.
Look for Rewards
Credit cards - My Chase card has a shopping area that if you shop through their site before you make an online purchase you can earn extra statement credit (points). I tend to favor Ebates over their shopping site but it is worth checking out.
Verizon - For the online bill paying savvy customer you may have noticed you were accumulating points. You can redeem these points on their website for various daily specials, to purchase some things at a discount and even enter sweepstakes. You have to be on the ball to take advantage of their Daily Deals as they tend to run out in the first few minutes. A new deal goes live every day at 2pm ET. I recently got a $10 Verizon gift card for free (using points – I have so many that it seems free to me). I applied it right to our bill so it was cash for us. I have missed a few good ones. They had a Target gift card for $5 (free with points) and a Starbucks $10 gift card but you had to pay $5.
I did peruse through the purses they had in their stores as I was looking for a certain kind of bag. I ended up finding a Vera Bradley (black collection) for $50. It sells for $70 everywhere else. I had to use points but, like I said, we have so many….
Banks - Yes! Even banks give you rewards. Beneficial calls them Bank Thanks. I have been ignoring them for a long time thinking that they could not be worth anything. One day I decided to check them out and to my surprise they were worth something! I cashed them in for a $50+ statement credit. Huh? I don’t really get it but I was thankful.
Download Coupon Apps on your Phone for Smart Local Shopping
Did you ever find yourself stuck in a store knowing that there is a coupon somewhere and you don’t have it with you? It is frustrating and disappointing. Well – there is an App for that! My favorite is GeoQpons. They list a number of stores and show you the current coupons that are out. You open the coupon and show it to the cashier when checking out and they scan it. Just like that.
No more pre-planning – just smart shopping. When shopping at stores like Michaels, Joanne Fabrics and the major department stores this App is a money and time saver!
Always Look for Coupon Codes when Shopping Online
This is a no-brainer for any savvy online shopper. You simply must look for an online coupon code before checking out of any store! Ebates makes it easy for you to check but you can simply do a Bing search and find them yourself. Sometimes it is a time waster as many of the sites mislead you into thinking that they have a coupon code when in fact they are expired or just the regular savings. Ebates takes the work out of that as they are usually up to date.
Buy Discounted Gift Cards – use giftcardgranny.com
If you know you want to buy something at Michaels or any other store (like H&M, JCPenney, etc) and you want to save money it is wise to purchase a discount gift card prior to shopping. Many of the cards on the site are refund credits that someone is selling. Some are 16% or even 26% off! You can also use coupons with the gift cards and earn double savings. They are also good for gift giving.
How it works
You search by store to see all of the different options and discounts for purchasing the gift cards. This site lists all of the sites in which you can buy the cards and lets you compare the discounts and amounts offered. They even list eBay items which may look extremely attractive but the bidding price generally goes up. Some are not worth it - like Target which is usually sold at about a 1% discount. You would do better using your Target card and saving 5%. Once you see the options listed check out the ones with the highest percentages first.
Giftcardgranny.com will take you to the site to buy the card. You just have to be sure you know what you are buying. Is it an email voucher (that is great if you are headed out to the stores immediately) or is it a gift card that is mailed to your house? Also be sure to see if there are shipping charges. It would be silly to paid to ship them.
I just recently discovered this website called Swagbucks .com. This is similar to Ebates but they give you points that you can cash in for gift cards. Many times the points (when translated to gift card dollars) are worth more than the percent cash rebates. You can also earn points in other ways. If you check your messages on the site daily they give you additional ways to earn more swagbucks. Today I earned 500 (good for a $5 Amazon gift card (450 bucks) for downloading an application on my phone. You can also earn a few swagbucks for clicking on coupons, doing simple surveys and answering poll questions. The points add up. If you have the time and like earning a little something this can be a rewarding site. Also Hip2Save newsletters will notify you when there are special codes available to redeem for more swagbucks. Fun stuff!
Grocery Rebate Apps for your Phone
There are a few apps that give you credits for buying certain items in the grocery stores. They will change a bit week to week. I take advantage of the credits for items I buy anyway so there is no extra spending on my part. You scan your grocery receipt and check off the items that you purchased that are available for a credit. They can be things like milk, eggs, bread, bananas, lemons, or apples. The credits will add up. When you get to $20 they send you a check or gift card.
I kind of like Checkout51 because it is simple and easy to scan your receipts. I also like it because they have new items each week (Thursday mornings). I may actually get to $20 in a few months.
Another app is Snap (by Google). I am not sure how I will ever get to $20 though as they don’t change their offers weekly like Checkout51. I guess I will eventually get to $20 so it doesn’t hurt to keep scanning my receipts.
One of the caveats with the credits you earn is that the receipts have to be current. You can't dig out receipts from weeks earlier. Your timing has to be right with your purchases to get the money credits and you have to check the app each week. I generally do this before going grocery shopping.
Use Bing as your Search Engine
Yes! I earn gift cards just for using Bing as my search engine. I do a lot of searching. I would say in 1 yr I have earned three $5 gift cards. That is not bad as I am not doing extra work – just browsing like I do normally. I think they have double points in November and December so if you are thinking of joining now is the time! You just need to have a Microsoft email account to sign in (like Hotmail). When you setup your profile you can have your email notifications go to your main account. Here is where you sign up
Special Discount Online Sites - Sale Events
Zulily is one site that has sale events in different categories and name brands. It focuses a lot on kids and moms but carries a lot of regular items as well. The shipping on these sites can be a turn-off as they generally charge $10 and there is no way around it. This site charges $5 and then allows you to buy things all weekend long with free shipping. So if you need or want 3 items you buy one of them and pay the shipping charge. You then buy the others with free shipping. If you bought them all at once the shipping would be $8 instead of only the $5.
I bought a shaper panty at 50% off (Yummie brand) and some Plum bars and fruit snacks for my son that were 70% off. The expiration date on the bars and fruit snacks were only a few months away so I couldn't really stock up even though the price was ridiculously cheap. The shipping was incredibly slow I remember but I did get everything I wanted and was happy with my purchases.
There are a number of them that you can subscribe to. Many feature expensive designer name brands selling at discount prices for a short period of time. They often sell out on popular items quickly. The shipping is generally $10 which can put a dent in the bargain that you find. Zulily is my favorite so far.
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