25 Ways to Save Money at Retail Stores

By: Cheryl Maguire

My kids know me well. They have learned that if they want something they are more likely to get it if it’s on-sale or I have a coupon. Here are some other ways you can save next time you go shopping:

1. Ask for a Rain Check: If an item is on sale but sold out, ask for a rain check, which means you can still get the sale price when they have the item in stock even if the sale is over.

2. Say No to Extended Warranties. Stores earn huge profits from extended warranties since most of the time they are unnecessary. Even if you do need the warranty, often there are many restrictions to redeem it (i.e. you may have to mail the product and pay the shipping) that you may not be able to use it anyway.

3. Use the Price Checker: When there is a price checker available, always use it before purchasing products. This way you can catch any errors (i.e. if a sign states 50% off but the product rings up full price) or figure out your total cost before you buy.

4. Ask the Sales People: If something you want is out of stock and a rain check is not an option, ask the sales people when their shipment is arriving.

5. Ask if Available On-Line: If you are in the store and an item you want is unavailable, ask if the store will ship it to your house for free from their on-line store or from

6. Check the Internet Price: Before purchasing an expensive item at a retail store, check the Internet price. Stores such as Target have different Internet prices than their retail stores, but they will match their Internet prices if you ask.

7. Get on Stores’ Friends and Family Lists: Many companies offer sales for customers whose friends or family work at the store. Ask a sales person if it’s possible to get on the list.

8. Check your Receipt: Before leaving the store, always check the receipt to make sure the items are the correct price and the coupons were deducted.

9. Read the Fine Print: If you are signing a contract, using a rebate or any other transaction involving spending money, make sure you read and understand all the terms before purchasing the product. Often the fine print states restrictions which could mean you might not qualify for a rebate or earn money for a transaction. Also, make sure you understand the return and warranty policies.

10. Reverse the Charge: If you used your credit card to pay for an on-line purchase which you never received, contact your credit card company and ask to reverse the charge. You can also do this with in-store purchases if the company is not following through with their agreement, such as providing a rebate.

11. Read the Return Policy: Before purchasing an item, make sure you understand the store’s return policy. This can save you a lot of money if you need to return an item due to defect or if you change your mind and realize you don’t really need it or can’t really afford it.

12. Advertised Price Honored: Most stores will honor the advertised price, even if it was a mistake. If the pictured item is in stock ask either a sales person or manager to honor the advertised price.

13. Sometimes Free Isn’t Free: An item may be free after rebate but requires you to jump through hoops to get it, which requires your time and may prevent you from qualifying for the rebate. Also when a store or company advertises “free” there may be other restrictions involved, such as purchasing another product first in order to get the free item. Always read the fine print and ask about the requirements necessary to receive the free item or admission.

14. Avoid Purchasing Dry Clean only Clothes: Before purchasing clothes, look at the label to find out what the washing requirements are for the clothing. Dry cleaning clothes is expensive and time consuming instead purchase clothes you can wash.

15. Check Receipt for Surveys/Coupons: Receipts sometimes have surveys on them which can earn you a coupon for your next visit. Some receipts also have coupons on the back. Always look on the bottom and back of your receipts for additional savings.

16. Purchase Clothes off Season: At the end of each season, clothes are at bargain prices to make room for the new merchandise. For example, purchase your (or your child’s clothes) summer clothes for next year at the end of the summer this year.

17. Save your Receipts: You should save all your receipts for at least 3 months after you purchase items. You may need to return the item or use the warranty. If you used a credit card, you should also check to make sure the price on the credit card is the same as the receipt.

18. Wait for the Sale: Most items such as food, clothes, electronics or other products will go on sale within 2-3 weeks, so if you wait to buy it you can save money. You can ask the sales person if they know when the product may go on sale, or for expensive items, ask if the sales person will contact you when the item does go on sale. Also if you already purchased a product and it goes on sale within 2 weeks of purchasing it, ask the store if they will refund the difference.

19. Ask for a Discount: If you want to purchase an item, especially an expensive one, and want a discount for it, ask for one. You don’t need to give a reason for why you want the discount. Just say, “Is it possible to get a discount for this item?” The person may say no, or you may get your discount. Either way, it only takes seconds to ask. I’m shocked at how often this works, and sometimes the cashier will apply a coupon that I didn’t know about.

20. Arrive Early: If you arrive early to a sale, day at the beach, or other events you usually will avoid crowds and have your choice of the best items (for a sale). You also may be able to get free to less expensive parking.

21. Women Shop in Men’s Section: If you are shopping for t-shirts or other unisex items, shop in the men’s section. Often men’s clothes such as t-shirts are less expensive or even half the price of woman’s clothes.

22. Ask about Lifetime Guarantee: Some companies such as L.L. Bean offer a lifetime guarantee which means they will replace or repair your purchased item for the life of the item.

23. Use Competitors Coupons: Most stores will accept competitor’s coupons. If a store is closer to you or you like to shop in a particular store, ask if they accept competitor’s coupons. If the store is closer to your house than the competitor’s store, you will also save money on gas.

24. Use Patience: Before purchasing an item, wait at least a day or two and see if you really need/want it. Also, while you are waiting the item may go on-sale and you can compare prices at other stores.

25. Sign Up for Rewards Programs: Some stores offer free reward programs that allow you to earn discounts by accumulating points from spending money in the store. Always ask if the store offers a rewards program.

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