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Finding great bargains on clothes, groceries and more at retail stores

Updated on June 9, 2013

Discount shopping at retail stores

Finding great bargains on clothes, food and more at retail stores

Everyone likes a good bargain, but finding one these days in this economy is not always easy.

A 24 ounce jar of peanut butter that sold for $1.59 just two years ago is now a 16 ounce jar that sells for $3.69. On sale for $2.89, it’s still over a dollar what it used to be.

A box of crackers that used to sell for $1 at Wal-Mart now sells for $1.89, nearly doubling in a two year period. Cat food that once sold 4 for a $1 is now 68 cents per can. It can seem overwhelming to those who have not only not gotten a raise, but gotten a demotion or pay cut resulting in their making less money than they did when consumer goods were far cheaper.

A lot of stores put things on sale without advertising, but shopping around from store to store to find a bargain can actually backfire, no pun intended, when you factor in the wear and tear on your vehicle and the cost of petrol to run your engine.

Knowing what goes on sale when is a plus. If your grocery store puts the day old bread out at half price on Tuesday or the expiration date on the back of the yogurt says one week from that day, then you know it is probably going to go on sale shortly.

Knowing the people who work in each department can help as well as they are often more than willing to tell you that an item is about to be reduced or put on clearance.

A local running shoe store in Savannah puts their expensive running shoes on sale several times a year. Most of these shoes have been tried on in the store or did not sell as well as expected or are being phased out for a newer version or color and go for 50% off, but the more popular brands and sizes sell out so quickly that by the time you hear about the sale, it is already too late to go. Having a heads up by a store employee who can let you know before the sale begins can be your ticket to a cheap pair of shoes you might otherwise see on the feet of your faster friends who made it to the deal before you.

Like any sale, you need to be careful and ask yourself if you REALLY need what you are about to buy, says the women writing this article who has four bags of St. Patrick’s rice in her freezer that went on sale cheap after St. Patrick’s Day.

Some things will last and are good beyond their expiration dates and are worth buying in bulk, but some things will go bad or just sit there going unused, so don’t buy a deal just to be buying a deal unless you plan to share it with others who are less fortunate.

Here are a few tips to finding and purchasing bargain items and a few warnings to go along with it.

  1. Don’t be too hesitant about giving a store you frequent often, your home address or email. Often they will send you special deals that the general public does not know about. But if they get obtrusive, you can block them or go back to their site and reselect what types of notification you prefer they send or not send to you.
  2. Cut coupons and check sales flyers. If you do not get the daily newspaper you can bookmark the company’s website and check on their ads. Be sure you read the fine print on the coupons. For instance that $1 off a tube of toothpaste may only apply to the more expensive formula, not the cheaper formula. Others may only offer 25 cent off the purchase of three, when you only need one that will last you for six months.
  3. Sign up for a store credit card when they are having a sale and offering a ten dollar coupon or 20% off items. You do not have to use the credit cards, but getting a large percentage off a one time purchase is a good incentive to sign up for it. It will also get you on their mailing list for more rewards. Just be careful not to go overboard. Always check prices of the items on-line at other retail locations, otherwise you may be getting 20 percent off an item you can buy elsewhere for 75% off.
  4. Bargain the price down. If you are bold (I am not), you can often bargain the price down. While we often do this for big ticket items like houses and cars, we rarely employ this tactic with things like refrigerators, lawn mowers or patio furniture. Check around for cheaper prices of the same goods and then clip those prices and show them to the store you prefer to shop at to see if they will match the price.
  5. Shop off season for clothing. Why pay $350 for a new jacket in November when you can buy the same jacket for $25 in June? Most stores put their winter merchandise on clearance the month before summer begins. As the summer progresses, the prices are marked lower, but of course inventory will be more limited in size and color and if you wait too long the desired item may sell to someone else. Still, if you are simply looking for bargains, not specific items, this is the way to go.
  6. Shop at discount grocery stores or look for bargain bins and mark downs at the grocery store. This works well on items that are too expensive for most people to afford, like health food items where a frozen portabella burger patty may run $2 or more regular price, but go on sale for fifty cents a week before expiration. Watch out for extremely dented cans or discolored labels and ask if the store has a return policy for foods that are just too far gone to be edible as in the case of some nuts or dairy based products.

Some stores offer cards for $10 off an item in the store. Beware the fine print that limits you only to full cost items in certain departments which forces you to spend more and is not really a bargain. Instead, look for the card that offers $10 off anything in the store including sales merchandise.

On a recent trip to Kohl’s and JC Penney, the author was able to save over $100 on knee socks and sporting wear using two promotional ten dollar off cards and an additional 25% off sale items on items marked 80% off already.

Expect swim suits to go on sale near October and into November and if you really need to buy plastic eggs and grass for Easter, the time to buy is one to two weeks after Easter ends for the coming year when you will pay $1 for two bags of plastic eggs verses $5 for one bag.

While bargain shopping requires a lot of preplanning, label checking and some storage space, and may end up costing you more money for things you might never really use, you can often save hundreds a year on items you use every day.

Have patience and watch the expiration dates of coupons. When Crest toothpaste goes on sale for $1 and you have a coupon to get a $1 off, it is much better than paying $2.59 for the same tube of toothpaste because you waited until the very last moment and had to buy it full price!

While bargain shopping can be time consuming and can become addictive leading to hording and waste, if you put a little effort into it, it almost feels like the store is paying you to take away their unsold goods.

Buy off season for savings

Knowing when to buy is almost as important as where to buy.

For instance, when there is a drought or rough weather, you are more likely to find flowers and plants on sale.

Some nurseries may also discard old plants and containers and will give them to you.

Making friends with the shop owners and workers is one of the best ways to find out what is going on sale when.

Buying off season is also a great way to save up to 90 percent off goods, especially seasonal goods, holiday decorations and clothing.

Check out these bargains from retail stores!

Five pair of socks and one plush jacket for free from Kohl's with a $10 off anything card sent in the mail
Five pair of socks and one plush jacket for free from Kohl's with a $10 off anything card sent in the mail
Running tights, selling for $45 elsewhere, purchased on sale for $4.28  with $10 off coupon.
Running tights, selling for $45 elsewhere, purchased on sale for $4.28 with $10 off coupon.
They might as well be giving it away! Oh wait.. they did!
They might as well be giving it away! Oh wait.. they did!
When K-Mart employees forget to water plants in a drought, you come out the winner. 49 cents per plant and they all continued to bloom and thrive once they were taken care of properly. Wal-Mart was selling the same plants for 2.59 each.
When K-Mart employees forget to water plants in a drought, you come out the winner. 49 cents per plant and they all continued to bloom and thrive once they were taken care of properly. Wal-Mart was selling the same plants for 2.59 each.
Running tights for $7
Running tights for $7
Coupons are not just for groceries. Five plants for 49 cent each at K-Mart
Coupons are not just for groceries. Five plants for 49 cent each at K-Mart
Ninety percent off knee socks in June can't be beaten.
Ninety percent off knee socks in June can't be beaten.

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