You can think of shopping as a sport. There are wins and losses, strategies, and tricks to give you an advantage. Maybe you’ve experienced that adrenaline rush you get when you scored an awesome purchase at an unbeatable deal, almost like scoring a goal with 2 seconds left on the quarter, no? I can’t be the only one. Shopping is fun-and being good at it is a valuable skill that can save you a lot of money and foster smart financial habits. As young adults, we’re not exactly rolling in the dough, but this is the time that we are young and free enough to experiment with new looks and styles. We’re so busy that we often just don’t have the time for going out shopping, dealing with traffic and parking, and wandering the mall. The convenience of online shopping is there at our fingertips when we have a free moment and when we’re on the go. Let me pass on some tips that I’ve learned over the years as to how to find the best deals and save money.
1) Never pay full price. There are some exceptions to this, like if the item is a gift. If you find something that you know your friend/boyfriend/roommate etc. would absolutely love and it’s full price, first do some research and see if you can get a deal, and if not get it anyway. There are some things that “never go on sale,” and maybe they won’t. Check out StudentRate.com to see if you can get cash back on your purchase, which is a convenient way to get a discount on items that are full price. The way it works is you sign up for free, find the deal (StudentRate has hundreds, but some very popular deals are Nordstrom, Forever21, ASOS), and click through which will bring you to the website that you want to shop at. StudentRate also offers promo codes, free shipping, etc. depending on the brand. If a deal has cash back, then the money will be deposited in your StudentRate account after the transaction has gone through (this can take effect immediately or a few weeks depending on the brand). This money can then be deposited to your PayPal account or sent to your home as a check.
2) Shop at the end of each season. Most of us forget to do this, because who feels like spending their money on a winter jacket when Summer is just around the corner? Or a bikini as soon as Fall hits? But markdowns are the steepest at the end of the season where companies are trying to get rid of inventory to make room for the in-season pieces. You may be thinking “But aren’t those items not going to be in style next year?” You should purchase only more classic styles at the end of a season, like a peacoat or riding boots, because they will be in style next year, as they have been in style for decades. For the more trendy styles like peplum tops or even seasonally popular colors like mint, I’d recommend that you buy them from more affordable across the line stores like LuLus, Necessary Clothing, and Boohoo, so that when the trend fades you won’t be kicking yourself.
3) Find and use promo codes. Simply Google “promo code,” “coupon,” or “discount” when shopping online to see if there are available deals. Some brands are known to use them so frequently that you may want to hold off until they are being offered, which may only be a week or two. Look on the website to see if there are any special offers for signing up, sometimes if you join their email list you will be given a first time shopper discount code. You can always unsubscribe from their emails after you use it. Shop online through StudentRate and get the discount and cash back. Many companies offer free shipping, but if a brand doesn’t you can always see if a friend wants to order with you, seriously! In college my roommate and I ordered stuff together, if you can save $10 bucks you should do it!
4) Check out flash sales and daily deals. Subscribe to sites like Groupon or Living Social for fun activities and more at a discount! Recently, my friends and I bought a waterfall rappelling Groupon on a whim and it turned out to be an amazing experience that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t seen it in an email and noticed what a great deal it was! Going on a whale watch cruise or going skydiving full-price can tip the scale of many 20-somethings’ budgets, but you may find a limited time only deal that works for you. Flash deal sites like RueLaLa and iDeeli offer designer and brand name items at a steep discount for a very limited amount of time to purchase (some last less than 24 hours). The items range from Fendi sunglasses to BCBG bags to bedding and sheets from W Hotels! How clutch would it be to have 5 star worthy sheets every night of the week?
5) Be aware of the return policy before you order. Some online stores do not offer returns on select items, usually sale or clearance, and this would be important to know if you are not certain that something will fit or be to your liking. It may be a great price, but if it doesn’t fit and you cannot return or exchange it then it can be a waste of money. You could try to sell it on eBay or something, but who has time for that? Some stores make you pay for return shipping which can be expensive if you have to ship back something heavy like shoes or if the brand is from overseas.
6) Utilize available options to save money. Check out mobile apps on your favorite stores to see if they give special discounts to their app users, like free shipping. Check out your favorite brands on Facebook to see if they have special deals for people who have “liked” their page: this can range from Facebook only special sales to letting you know of sales and promo codes that you can use in addition to StudentRate’s cash back deals! Use a search engine to compare prices, sometimes a retailer will have the item at a cheaper price point and sometimes the brand will, especially if they are having a semi-annual sale.
7) If you are a student, take advantage of student discounts. Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Best Buy, and other electronics/tech companies offer student discounts, some of them require that you actually be a student while others are much more lenient. If you are looking to purchase a laptop, TV, or other big-ticket items you should definitely seek out this option. StudentRate is full of discounts, some of them only eligible for current students but most are for anyone. Check out the brands, and look into local deals to see if you can get student discounts from places around you. Maybe you’re like most of us and paying full price on your cell phone bill (Verizon offers a student discount) or at the movies (look into when and where student discounts are offered) or at Subway, but you shouldn’t much longer! When you’re in college or grad school, saving a few bucks here and there can really make a difference.
8) Use credit, but do not spend money you do not have. Credit card debt is very dangerous, and I urge you to only get a credit card if you know that you can be fiscally responsible. If you’re have a steady income, then using credit instead of cash or debit can be very rewarding as there are many available credit card options that earn you benefits from cash back to earning miles for travel. If you are able to consistently pay your bills on time then there is no reason for you to forgo potential benefits (not to mention building credit) to pay with cash. Compare multiple options and read the fine print. Discover is one company that offers a student credit card that has no annual fee and gives you cash back.
I hope these tips were helpful to you, happy shopping!