5 ways to become a smart shopper and save money

Bargain hunters must be smart about their shopping habits. Learn how to get the best deals and shop like a pro—read on for a few helpful tips.

5 ways to become a smart shopper and save money

1. Speak your mind

  • You needed to find out if the pair of jeans you admired on your friend were available in your size—but the store clerk was too engrossed in her cell-phone conversation to help you.
  • Don't handle the situation by vowing never to go to the store again. If you're steamed over any issue in a store—from an encounter with a rude or unhelpful salesperson to shoddy merchandise—use the situation to your advantage.
  • Store managers want their customers to return. So, they have a lot of leeway to give you a special offer when you're disgruntled or unsatisfied—to make you happy with the store again. Ask for a refund or a discount, store credit or some other type of incentive on your next purchase.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount

  • Similarly, forget about feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable when you call a company and threaten to take your business elsewhere if it won't offer you a discount. This call might be the best conversation the customer-service representative has had all day!
  • Many customer-service reps get bonuses for keeping customers who are thinking about leaving, says frugal-living advisor Jeffrey Strain. That's because it costs companies a lot of money to bring in new customers, and many are happy to offer a discount to keep you from cancelling the service.
  • So make that call—the company's representative should be happy to work with you to offer you a deal—and a few minutes on the phone can put hundreds of dollars back into your pocket.

3. Take advantage of loss leaders

  • Stores often advertise products at a super-low price just to bring you into the store. They may lose money on these loss leaders, but they'll make even more money because they're using the bargains to lure customers toward other items in the store that are marked up in price.
  • When you head into the store to buy one of these great bargains, just buy the loss leader, turn right around, pay for it and leave. When you buy other things, you're almost guaranteed to blow any money you've saved on the bargain.

4. Check out new apparel thoroughly

  • Clothing retailers are perfectly happy when you take home damaged goods and decide, later, that complaining is not worth the bother. But think about it: there's a good chance that some other customer has tried on the garment that you're thinking of buying.
  • Sometimes a hurrying shopper will get a foot caught in a hem and rip it. Some unscrupulous shoppers will even snip off the extra buttons from a garment while they're in the fitting room. So before you head for the cash register, check that a new garment's hems, extra buttons, fasteners and other details are intact and operating correctly.

5. Beware of "sales" bins

  • When you're cruising through a department store, you find all of the display racks in impeccable order—until you come across a bin of items dumped in a disheveled heap.
  • Your immediate thought is, "Oh boy, steeply discounted items!" That's just what the store manager wants you to think. Hold onto your wallet and check the prices carefully. An unkempt display does not necessarily mean a good deal.
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