Savings What Do Smart Shoppers Have in Common? Incredible Timing

by Michelle Gross | June 15, 2018

It wasn’t just a find – it was a find. A retails-for-$700-but-snatched-up-for-$25 find. A wardrobe-making style star, destined for wear after glorious wear — and for years to come. Left on the rack — like it was nothing!

The eagle-eyed consumers among us know that scoring great deals is more than shopping well-advertised sales or remembering to bring coupons. Shopping smart is a discipline whose practices must be honed over time. And these practices apply to any purchase from rugs to rings to real estate.

Expert shoppers browse constantly

What’s a surefire way to pay full price? Shop when you’re desperate. But if you’re constantly browsing and pricing in your favorite stores or online, you’ll become selective quickly. And when the right price hits, you’ll be ready to strike fast.

“The number one thing that I tell everybody is to pinpoint what you want early, so if it’s something you have your eye on, set up price alerts. You’ll get an email when the price drops, and a really great opportunity to score a deal,” says Michelle Madhok, online shopping expert and founder of the site

Frequent browsing also means you’ll be in an excellent position to evaluate remaining inventory. More inventory often translates to bigger and more frequent markdowns.

Patience can pay off, so if there’s plenty of an item left with a 20% discount, consider waiting. You could wind up paying 20% off the clearance price later. “Seasonal items, like bathing suits, will start to go on clearance near the end of the summer and the prices will typically decrease until the items are sold out,” smart shopping expert Trae Bodge observes.

However, more isn’t always more, warns consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “Don’t get in the habit of buying something just because it’s on sale, and beware of those buy-more-save-more deals,” she advises. “These types of promotions trick you into buying and spending more than you need. If you only need one t-shirt for instance, then only buy the one even if you’re aren’t getting the best deal. Ultimately, you will still spend far less and save your money.”

Pinpoint what you want early, so if it’s something you have your eye on, set up price alerts.
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Expert shoppers are patient…

If you’re like many consumers, then you probably know of certain brands or stores where you prefer to shop. Pay close attention and chances are you’ll find that the same promotions occur again and again, and multiple times per year.

Although deals can happen any time during the year, there are some best-kept secrets. “Jewelry retailers often experience a lull during summer because there aren’t many special celebrations,” Woroch observers. “You may find good sales on jewelry such as precious stones, watches and various gold pieces,” she adds.

Many consumers already look for technology deals on Black Friday, but a less-familiar — and less crowded — time to shop for tech is over the summer. You could find a great deal online, but don’t forget to check prices at local retailers, too. They may try to get in on Prime Day action with great deals on televisions, audio equipment, gaming devices and more.

And for deals throughout the year, Woroch follows her preferred retailers for staples.

“Old Navy and GAP are always running great sales site-wide online during the week. If I need to purchase new clothing for my daughter, I’ll hold off until I see this additional discount on the entire purchase and then I will only purchase items that are on sale or on clearance to save the most.”

…And they think outside the box

Found a great price and ready to whip out your wallet? Hold on, big spender. A little extra effort can go a long way, and you probably won’t be surprised that price-comparison shopping is a must.

“I really think everything has become a commodity, so I look at the sales and see what’s happening. I always gut check it with an online shopping search too,” Madhok says.

Another pro tip: “Stack” your deals and buy discounted gift cards online. According to Madhok, stacking a deal with gift cards is as easy as visiting a reseller such as — and that can pay off big.

“If I’m going to buy something big like a lawnmower or outdoor furniture, buying these discounted gift cards is a great way to stack a deal. It’s also good to look at the cashback deal on Ebates. If you use a gift card sometimes they’ll have double cash back,” she says.

Expert shoppers also aren’t afraid to explore pre-owned and gently-used options. Unearthing hidden gems at consignment stores and tag sales can yield huge bargains – especially on expensive goods such as furnishings, holiday decorations and lawn equipment.

For Madhok, it’s all about finding last season’s deals and online discounts. “I like to look for last season’s items and last season’s styles,” she says. Consider looking “on eBay for last season’s styles,” she adds, “those things are much less expensive.” Same goes for consignment companies like The RealReal. “I have all sorts of notifications set up that I check every morning. I’ve found deals on things like a dress that dropped from $500 to $70,” shares Madhok.

Like Madhok, Bodge also has her own method to maximize savings. “I use multiple ways to try to save, but I am not willing to do anything that requires a lot of time and effort,” Bodge says. “For ease of use and success rate, I use a combination of store loyalty apps or coupon apps and browser extensions.”

Many consumers already look for technology deals on Black Friday, but a less-familiar — and less crowded — time to shop for tech is over the summer.
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Expert shoppers are credit card power users

From cash back to points to airline miles, credit card benefits may help you stretch your budget. Don’t have a rewards credit card? Do your homework, because there are tons of options. And you could be missing out on an opportunity to save money.

Travel lovers and frequent flyers can consider applying for an airline miles credit card. If you prefer cash back rewards, consider applying for a cash back credit card. Another possible alternative is a points credit card, where you can earn points from everyday purchases to redeem for great rewards.

Savvy credit-card-using consumers also pay their balances owed on time, every time. That’s because late payments may result in added fees. They can also affect your credit score.

Expert shoppers know that sometimes you’ll pay full price 

Nothing drives a deal-motivated shopper crazier than having to pay full price, but sometimes it’s a necessity.

If you have to buy an air conditioner in June, you probably won’t get the best price. Need an artificial Christmas tree in early December? Same deal. But if you’ve practiced smart shopping habits, you may have tools at your disposal — even if you really don’t want to trade your hard-earned cash back or rewards balance for the new lawnmower you really need in May.

Finally, expert shoppers relax. They know that if they miss out on a deal, another one will come along soon. And that’s just one more reason to keep on shopping.

Michelle Gross

is a New Jersey-based travel, food and lifestyle reporter. Her work and photographs have appeared in Vogue, Travel+Leisure, USA Today and The San Francisco Chronicle.