I’m a pretty frugal guy, so when I decide to spend money on something I want to ensure I’m getting a great deal on it. After I’ve done all my research and decided what I’m going to buy, the next step is figuring out how to get the best deal on whatever it is I’m buying. A lot of you may be saying “well, that’s easy – just check Amazon.com or Google it”, but it’s not that simple. There’s a big difference between buying things online and “offline”. To help with that, I’ve put together 6 of my favorite online shopping tips and 4 of my favorite “offline” shopping tips.
Online Shopping Tips
- Search – Use search engines to see what the general price range is. Make sure if you’re ordering a physical item that you include the cost of shipping (this is why I love Amazon Prime – free shipping!)
- Promotion Codes – Look for discount codes that can be applied (this is especially true for online orders) or other rebates that are available to you. Fatwallet.com, promocodes.com, or even Rather-Be-Shopping.com – who is bringing us our contest today (more details below).
- Price Matching – If you find a great deal from an unknown or unreliable merchant, see if a preferred merchant will match it – or even beat it. Some companies have a policy that they will beat all competitors prices by a certain percentage. My brother has used this method frequently in the past and ended up saving over $500 on a new guitar!!!
- Contact – Most (reputable) websites will give you information to call, email, or chat directly with someone. If it’s your first order, a large order, or some other special case – they may be inclined to give you a special discount. You never know if you don’t ask, and the worst thing that can happen is they’ll say no.
- Social Media – Besides just looking for regular promotion codes, take a look at the company’s social media profiles and see if they offer promotions, discounts, or other sales offers here. Dell Outlet consistently provides 10-25% discount codes (the only downside is that you have to buy a Dell…) through their Twitter account, but many other companies do the same thing – so don’t overlook this!
- Sign Up – I enjoy reading about new gadgets coming out, so I signed up to receive information about the Boxee last fall. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from them requesting my address so they could send me a free Boxee! Just by saying yes and signing up I received a $100 cloud-based dvr – for free! It’s not perfect, but since it was free, I think it’s amazing!
Ok, so what if you don’t have a computer and can’t shop online? Well, my biggest question is “how are you reading this blog post??”, but if you are a fan of old-fashioned shopping – or the items you are purchasing (furniture, home furnishings, etc) aren’t conducive to being purchased online without seeing/touching them first – then I can help with that too!
Offline Shopping Tips
- Negotiate – This is an easy one, but most of us never think to do it. If you are buying any moderately priced item, even in a retail/department store setting, there is typically room to negotiate the price. Some places – like furniture stores are easy targets, but even your local electronics store will work with you on the price if you are spending a significant chunk of change. The key is to be discreet about it, make a rational case, and be prepared to walk away. My parents recently bought a new house and all new appliances (fridge, range, dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, and dryer) from a large home improvement store. I helped out and we spent several days first online comparing and then going to different stores to find the best “package deal”. Once we had narrowed it down to two stores we went in to see the best deal each could put together for us. Once we had decided on the final store, we spoke to the manager about discounting the deal even further because we were purchasing every possible appliance and not buying the low end of anything. We ended up getting even more money off (I don’t remember how much – I think just an extra $100 at this point) that would have just been needlessly paid if we hadn’t negotiated for the discount!
- Be Flexible – If you want to save money, having flexibility on the item you buy, the time frame for buying it, and a lot of other factors can definitely help. In the Aspiring Blogger household, we almost never go to evening showings of new release movies in the theaters. Instead, we either wait until the movie goes to the smaller, second-run theater (where tickets are around $1.25 -$2.00 max) or we’ll go to the first showing of the day, which is about half price. This same principle applies to shopping, and especially to electronics, where they typically are discounted pretty quickly after they are released. Instead of buying the brand new 80 inch TV, you may settle for the 60 inch and save $1,500. Is it the exact same? No, but you’re now $1,500 closer to being financially independent – and that’s worth it to me!
- Be creative – Don’t just look at department stores, but think about other places that have things you might want. For example, I have a beautiful desk and credenza combo that looks like it cost upwards of $1,000. In reality, I paid $35 plus a few gallons of gas! How? Well, a local university was upgrading some office furniture and my wife happened to be on their campus at the right time. This was one of those lucky events, but you can seek them out and create your own luck to save money!
- Reach Out – Before you go out and buy something, ask around or post on Facebook to see if someone you know has what you need. You’d be surprised what people want to get rid of for cheap or will be willing to lend you. This can save you time, money, and hassle. In the last couple of months I’ve borrowed a jigsaw for doing some woodworking and a PS3 controller so my brother and I could play together. Each of these items would have cost less than $25, but I saved that money and have it available for other things – which I will enjoy much more.
Just because a tip was in the online or offline section doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work in the the other. You can negotiate online just like you can find promotions offline. I just put them in these categories to help break it up for you! Now that I’ve given you my best tips, go out and test them out the next time you make a big purchase.
Do you have any tips for saving money when you’re making purchases? Let me know in the comments below! And while you’re here, make sure to enter the contest below where you can win a $500 gift card!!! It’s free to enter and you can enter multiple times. Good luck!