The Birth of the Bargain: 7 Ways to Shop Smart
There is a new show I love watch. It’s called Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven (you may know him as “Ari Gold” in Entourage). If you like Downton Abbey, you will love this show that takes place in the early 1900’s set in the famous department store “Selfridges” (still open today!). American Tycoon and pioneering retailer, Mr. Selfridge, relocates to London and opens the second largest department store (at that time). Known for his innovative, relentless marketing ideas and elaborate expressions, Mr. Selfridge completely changed the way people shopped in Britain.
Shopping as we know it today did not exist in London when Harry Selfridge first arrived. Rich people never “shopped.” Did you know that all merchandise – even clothing – used to be tucked away behind the counter and only the shop associate would be able to take out what you asked to for? This meant you needed to know what you were looking for before going to the store; there was no browsing, window shopping, or concept of “I’m just looking.”
Mr. Selfridge changed this along with many other things to make the shopping experience a past time, an adventure, and fun:
Selfridges added elaborate window displays, displays of merchandise in the store so shoppers could see all the options, touch, pick up, and truly browse what was available. So instead of going to a store knowing what you want, you could go to Selfridges and see what they have and decide what you want.
Another change Mr. Selfridge made was adding restrooms in the store. Now ladies could shop comfortably knowing there was a bathroom if needed. Just imagine going to the mall with no restrooms!
Mr. Selfridge was also known for the first ever “bargain basement;” he knew the power of a sale. Everyone likes to pay a little less.
Mr. Selfridge got it right. We get a small thrill when we find a way to pay less for an item than we normally would. These days, stores create numerous sales, discounts and promotions to entice us. Here are seven ways you can save even more money while shopping:
1. Use the store’s discount card or loyalty card
These days, every store has some sort of discount card or loyalty card. Usually all you have to do is use it or scan it at the register and any discounts or sales that apply to your purchases will be applied to your bill. Sometimes you may have to submit your email to sign up. Sure, the store is probably tracking your purchases to send you offers, but that inconvenience is absolutely worth all the savings.
2. Shop off season
If you buy this season’s hottest swimsuit, you are going to pay top dollar. But for most people, last season’s will work just fine, but that item is buried in the back of the store. You can save huge amounts of money by buying during the off-peak times. Buy your swimwear in February and your winter coats in July… but keep in mind, that some summer items go on sale around holidays like Memorial Day, too.
3. Plan ahead, waste less
According to a report last August by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American tosses about 25 percent of food and beverages purchased.
When it comes to food shopping, you can save countless dollars by planning your meals ahead of time (not only to get sales but to help reduce waste). This will help you maximize your ingredients or leftovers. For example, let’s say Monday’s recipe calls for half an onion. Now your goal is to come up with a recipe for Tuesday or Wednesday that calls for the other half so that onion isn’t wasted.
4. Comparison shop
When you decide to make a purchase of something substantial (I’m talking $50+ dollars), check out a few places online for the best deal. Usually Amazon or even Google Shopping will show you a list of retailers with prices to compare, so these are great places to start.
Stores frown on this, but it’s our job as shoppers to make sure we get the best deals. If you see something you want while you’re out, pull it up on your phone real quick to make sure you can’t get it cheaper online. Many stores will match the price of the product if you can prove it’s really for sale online at that price (even if it’s at another competing store!).
5. Google for coupons
Before making an online purchase, Google the name of the store or product name and “coupons.” Stores and brands are often generating coupons for their customers all the time. If you don’t follow them on social media or via email, you probably won’t know about those offers, but they are open to anyone. Even if you come across a 5% or $2 off coupon, it was worth the search.
There are now mega coupon sites like RetailMeNot and they even have a coupon app for your phone.
6. Don’t be afraid to haggle
Many people are too timid to try this, but it’s always worth a shot. A big box store or department store probably won’t care much for your bargaining, but smaller boutiques (where the associate is the owner or can make price decisions) might be interested. If you really aren’t willing to pay sticker price, offer to pay less and see where it takes you. Some store owners will take a few dollars less to make the sale.
Once I stopped in the Coach store at the mall and was just browsing. I fell in love with this purse and the manager gave me a special 25% off if I purchased it right then. So I did! Win-win. I got what I wanted for less and they made a sale. Never be afraid to ask for a deal.
7. Be wary of sales
Some people are easily seduced by sales. If something seems like a good deal, they just have to have it, even though they wouldn’t have bought it in any other circumstance. Be comfortable passing on a good deal if you don’t actually need the item.
Written by Wendy Krepak, Mom, Entrepreneur and Inventor of Card Cubby, Compact Coupon and Card Organizer
For years, Wendy was losing gift cards, discount cards, loyalty cards, and frequent buyer cards. They were often at home or lost in the depths of her purse. She knew there had to be a better way so she designed Card Cubby, an alphabetized system and was amazed at how easily it worked. Her own mini filing cabinet to replace her wallet. It’s Card Cubby, LLC's mission to provide stylish, quality and money saving items to its customers.
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