En español | What do top consumer experts do to save money that you don't? I interviewed some of the country's leading bargain gurus to find out their favorite tricks and how they landed their best steals. Read on and stop missing out on potentially hundreds of dollars in extra savings every year!
Kyle James, Rather-be-shopping.com founder
Big Score: Damage Discount Back when his kids were younger, James bought a $550 air hockey table at Sports Authority for $80. “The box was damaged, and I talked my way to a great deal,” he says. “It was late in the day on Black Friday and the manager was very motivated to get rid of it.” More recently, James asked for a broken-box discount and got $50 knocked off the price of two low-flow toilets at Home Depot. Between that and mail-in rebates, he wound up buying the toilets, originally priced at $298 for the pair, for only $50 total.
Extra Tip: Bundle Up If you're buying multiple high-priced items, odds are the retailer will be open to giving you a break. When James was at a Best Buy looking to purchase a $799 Panasonic 55-inch HDTV and $80 Blu-ray disc player, he asked a salesperson if he could knock $100 off if he bought them both. The manager agreed to cut the tab by $75. “I was like, ‘Cool, done deal,’ “ says James. When asking for a volume discount, you can either leave the markdown up to the salesperson or make a suggestion. A good rule of thumb is 10 or 15 percent off — but do the math yourself and name a dollar amount so the salesperson doesn't have to think too hard. That can make the deal an easy “yes."
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Herb Weisbaum, The ConsumerMan and contributing editor, Checkbook.org
Big Score: Maintenance Meds A generic prescription of Weisbaum's went from about $10 for a 90-day refill to $120 because of a change in his Medicare Advantage insurance plan. But on GoodRx.com, a digital coupon brought the price down to $12, saving him $108 every three months. All he had to do was transfer his prescription to a different pharmacy, drive a few extra miles and bring the printed-out coupon with him. “Save money by not using your insurance? That's crazy!” says Weisbaum.
Extra Tip: A No-Haggle Car A Costco member in search of a new Toyota Camry Hybrid, Weisbaum went to a local car dealer that the warehouse chain indicated would give lower prices to Costco members. But when he showed up to buy the car, the salesman gave him the runaround. So Weisbaum, who had just started working for the consumer website Checkbook.org, tried CarBargains.org, the nonprofit's car-buying program. He got an itemized list of costs and details of the specific car he'd be buying, and when he went to pick it up, there was no haggling. He ended up paying $33,250, which was $3,000 below the sticker price and $1,000 below Costco's price. (He didn't have to pay the usual $225 fee for Checkbook's members.) “And it wasn't four hours of negotiating; I just picked up the car,” says Weisbaum.
Clark Howard, host of Clark.com and Clarkdeals.com and best-selling author
Big Score: Snazzy Suit Once, when a local dry cleaner was clearing out items left unclaimed by customers, Howard picked up a nice suit for $1. Most of the time, though, Howard scans the racks at thrift shops when he's looking for formalwear. It's easy to find suits in perfect condition there, he says; owners replace them when they gain or lose weight, and many men don't wear them often even while they still fit.
Extra Tip: Mark Your Calendar Time your buying to coincide with seasonal discounts. Howard loads up on office supplies every September during back-to-school sales, last year scoring pens for 2 cents each. His favorite deals are postholiday discounts; he once bought a 7-foot-tall wooden nutcracker, originally $250, for $90 at Sam's Club. He also got a discount on a Mazda Miata convertible when he bought it during winter, when buyers are scarce.
Trae Bodge, shopping expert at Truetrae
Big Score: Patience Pays Last year, Bodge picked up a $2,700 Samsung refrigerator for about $1,600. “I waited for Labor Day, when appliance deals are strong,” she says. On top of that, the store both installed the fridge and removed the old one for free.
Extra Tip: Stack Savings Bodge uses browser extensions to automate, and supercharge, her savings when shopping online. One of her favorites is by CouponCabin.com, which often offers both discounts and cash back on the same purchase. (Also check JoinHoney.com, Slickdeals.net and Rakuten.com for browser extensions; download them and they will pop up on your screen when you're shopping.) In late August, for example, Lululemon and UGG had savings of up to 70 percent off, with an additional 3 percent cash back.
Lisa Lee Freeman, cohost of the Hot Shopping Tips podcast, was founder and editor in chief of ShopSmart magazine from Consumer Reports and an investigative reporter for The Dr. Oz Show.