Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Penny Saved....

The average woman spends 8 years shopping during her lifetime.

Most people when asked would say they prefer to save money while shopping, but admittedly most don't take the time to save as much as they could. For me, and countless others, discount shopping is like a sport. There are skills you need to have in order to be considered an MVP level player. In this game there are definite winners and, unfortunately, some paid-to-much losers.

Here are some tips to help make you a discount shopping MVP (Money Valuing Purchaser) this holiday season.....

1. Start gift shopping early.
Pay attention throughout the year to things people like and wish for, then when you you see that item go on sale, or receive a fabulous store coupon, you can get in there and scoop it up even if the event is weeks or months away. By allowing yourself a longer time span to shop, you increase your odds of finding the deep discounts that a small window of time seldom provides.

2. Seek out and USE retailer coupons.
Grocery stores aren't the only place accepting coupons these days, many retailers are using coupons to entice us into department stores as well. For example, the *much-loved* $10 off a $10 purchase coupon that I seem to get from JC Penney at least once a year. Anyone that can do basic math knows that equals FREE stuff! Retailers issue these coupons to get us into the shopping centers (usually during slower shopping seasons). They're betting if we come in to use the coupon (and you wouldn't believe how many people don't) we will spend much more than the small, token $10 promotional amount and they will be win. With me, however, it is a bet they usually lose. Because I begin my gift shopping early I am able to apply the "free money" toward a $10-12 gift item I've been watching for. I love crossing off an item on my list and placing a $2 or $3 paid amount next to it. I get the joy of giving more without spoiling my holiday budget!

If you have not been receiving these types of promotions, start paying attention when shopping in the stores you frequent, odds are they have a little sign by the register that tells you how to sign up for coupon mailings or texts. I prefer the text option (it's important to have unlimited texting on your phone plan) because I am rarely ever in a store without my phone, therefore, I always have the coupon with me (and the sign by the register serves as a great reminder to use it! )

3. Take advantage of online and socia media promotions.
It seems more and more everything we need is simply a "click" away on the internet...including coupons and savings opportunities! Social Media sources like Facebook have become amazing sales drivers. Manufacturers reach customers directly with their business "pages." By going to a company's page and clicking  the "Like" button you are accepting future sales announcements and coupons streaming into your status updates page. Today, for example, if you go to Fisher Price Toys' page and hit "Like" you will see a link to save 20% off an entire online order with them. Other retailers offer printable coupons for in-store purchases as well as from their websites.

Not a fan of social media? Don't have an account? You don't have to miss out. Retailers (and sometimes even shopping malls as well) are happy to send the same information to you via your e-mail account. Simply sign up for e-mail promotions in their store or on their website and you will begin receiving coupons right away, usually beginning with a large, incentive discount as a "thank you" for signing up. Don't skip filling in your birthday when prompted, often little "gift savings" are sent when your big day rolls around! My favorite part about receiving email coupons is that they wait in your inbox until you need them (no clutter to control). Simply enter the company name in your account's search bar when you're ready and the email they sent will pop scrolling and scrolling trying to recall what day it was sent. Just print and go!

Another great resource on the computer is being able to get sale notifications in advance. By signing up at sites like you will be sent periodic updates on what will be on sale the day after Thanksgiving. By getting this valuable information ahead of time you can have your Day-After shopping strategies all mapped out long before the turkey is ever thawed....let alone eaten!

4. Don't be afraid of discount retailers and thrift stores.
Before heading to the mall, I always try and hit my favorite discount retailers first. Stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross and Tuesday Morning all offer great, name brand labels at a heavily discounted price. Gone are the days of these stores offering only out-of-date, damaged, or factory seconds merchandise, more often it is simply a case of overstock or larger volume purchasing. For example, I recently purchased a Nike baseball hat for only $8 at TJ Maxx when the cheapest comparable hat found in or around the mall was $20!

At the mere mention of thrift store gift shopping many begin to shutter. But did you know that Goodwill receives donations from Target stores? Brand new, in-the-box items that that didn't manage to get sold on the clearance rack. (Note: these items are not returnable at Target stores. Barcodes are black marked to prevent such fraud.) Thrift shopping is not the same today as it was in years past; stores are cleaner, items are more organized, and more and more retailers are donating new, unused items that they don't have space to clearance out themselves.

5. Watch for Bounce Back Promotions.
Many retailers offer Store Bucks or gift cards when you purchase a certain dollar amount or specific items. Plan in advance to only buy the minimum amount necessary the first trip and returning another day to get the balance of your items using the promotional dollars. Last year I saved a ton shopping for my two daughters on separate's outfit was purchased on the gift card promotion day and the other's on a return visit using the bonus gift card I had earned. Taking advantage of store sales also in place, I saved a bundle overall! Stores offer these savings counting on the fact that shoppers, just wanting to get finished, will buy everything that first day. Pay close attention to the promotion's small print - some gift cards are not redeemable until after January 1...these are not as great of a deal, unless you get cash in your stocking on Christmas morning!

Other types of bounce back promotions are printed on your initial sales receipt in the form of coupons or survey discounts. Always ask to have your receipt handed to you rather than placed in the bag and take a moment to read it before stuffing it in to your pocket or purse. Free future spending money may just be included!

Enjoy the adventures of saving MORE money this holiday season.

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