Remember that big blowout sale three years ago? The one where you wrestled the last discounted TV out of that old woman’s arms while your family looked on in horror? Sure, the cops might have been called and the store employees might have booed you, but that didn’t stop you from snagging that glorious 52-inch piece of electronic goodness. That’s because you, savvy shopper, know the thrill of getting a good deal.
Whether it’s on clothing, household goods or big-ticket items, saving even just a few bucks can be exhilarating. GOBankingRates spoke with real people who have received huge discounts and can testify to that feeling. Their personal stories of saving money prove that it’s possible to win big if you just have a little patience and luck — and if you understand when it’s the best time to buy.
A Captivating Photograph
Public speaker and author of “Build Your Dream Network,” Kelly Hoey, scored her best deal to date when she was in a giving mood.
“For $500, I picked up a photograph by an emerging American artist at a charity event. I bid on the image because I liked it and the cause, not putting any thought to investment value,” she said. “Ten years later, this artist’s work is commanding prices at auction of $35,000.”
Unique Thrift Store Finds
“My best clothing finds lately have been at thrift stores,” said Pauline Paquin, the blogger behind Reach Financial Independence. “I found a [normally] $200 pair of brand-new The North Face snow boots for $8 and some $70 pairs of jeans that fit perfectly for $3.”
Paquin said that she loves her unique finds, but loves the fact that she could resell them for a profit even more.
A Master's Degree
Financial coach Whitney Hansen said, “The best deal I’ve ever gotten was discounted tuition. I was going back to grad school and was stressed out about how I would pay for it. I discovered that by working for [the] university, I would get a reduced tuition cost.”
Hansen didn’t just get a few hundred dollars shaved off the total price of her degree. “My entire MBA cost me $472!” she said.
Luxe Travel Accommodations
Accommodations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, can be pretty inexpensive, but Chantell Collins and her boyfriend managed to get the price for their upcoming trip even lower — to just $5 a night.
The Adoration 4 Adventure blogger said, “We received a discount for renting for seven nights and had over $100 in credit from referring friends to Airbnb.” The pair will have an entire studio apartment to themselves for their stay.
Eric Rosenberg, creator of the website Personal Profitability, shared one of the more unconventional stories of saving money.
“A couple of years ago, I combined deals and coupons from American Express and Boxed to get a killer deal on paper towels,” he said. “I know paper towels are not that exciting, but getting $87.95 of products for $52.67 was incredibly fun. … I have not had to buy any since, but that big stash is finally starting to run low.”
A 7-Night Stay in Kauai
Natalie Richter, a program manager, attended a silent auction for the charitable organization Best Day Foundation. The group is comprised of neighborhood surfers who take children with special needs out to surf for the day. Richter believed in the charity’s purpose so much that she bid on a big-ticket item: a Hawaiian vacation. In the end, she actually walked away with an incredible deal.
“I got a seven-night stay at a three-bedroom house on the beach in Kauai for $1,200,” she said. “Split between six people, it came out to $200 apiece.”
Latifah Al-Hazza, co-owner of boutique travel company Femscape Sojourns, got a great deal on a pair of designer shoes. “I went to a sample clothing sale for a brand called Maje,” she said. “I wasn’t really expecting to find huge deals, just $50 or so off.”
But, Al-Hazza spotted something shocking. “I came across a pair of shoes that I had seen the previous winter for $600,” she said. “How much did I snag them for? $90!” Al-Hazza said this was her most memorable steal yet.
Personalized Christmas Cards
Healthy home authority Lisa Beres got a big discount over the holidays. “This past Christmas, my husband and I wanted to send a unique card that captured our personalities,” she said. Unfortunately, it can cost hundreds of dollars to have a personal photo shoot and get cards printed. So, Beres turned to a deals site for help.
“When I found a deal on Groupon for photo cards that included a personal photo shoot at J.C. Penney, plus 60 premium cards for only $24.99, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “These are our favorite cards to date, and the quality was fabulous.”
“I bought my house at the bottom of the market for $79,000,” said blogger Caroline Vencil. To make things even better, she had an appraisal done after the sale, and the house was valued at $135,000. “I got the best of an unfortunate selling situation, but I’m so glad that we bought the house with instant equity.”
An Authentic NFL Jersey
Vencil scored another killer deal during a trip to The Salvation Army, where she shops regularly. The store has half-off days on which you can score steep discounts. “Recently, I found an authentic NFL jersey — stitched numbers, current player, maybe [had] been worn once, but no stains or wear — for $10. [It came out to] $5 after the discount,” she said.
Vencil later found out that the jersey retails for $300. “Best $5 I ever spent,” she said.
A Business-Class Trip Around the World
“I’m all about getting the best possible deals using frequent flyer miles, so I can fly in style on the cheap,” said Nora Dunn, creator of travel blog The Professional Hobo. Dunn first started using frequent flyer miles in 2009, when she took a trip around the world in business class. Normally, Dunn explained, a ticket could cost $8,000, but she got the entire trip for $1,200.
“Since then, I’ve been committed to accumulating and spending frequent flyer miles creatively so that all my long-haul flights are in business class for less than the price of an equivalent economy ticket,” Dunn said. “Over the years, I’ve flown all over the world in business class for — almost — free.”
Culture and engagement lead Rowanne Caraig liked a tapestry at Urban Outfitters, but she wasn’t crazy about the price: $75. When Caraig ultimately decided to go for it, she got a surprise at the cash register.
“For some odd reason that I never ever questioned, when I went to purchase it, it rang up as $5,” she said. Later, Caraig checked the tapestry but found no clearance tag or other indicator of a markdown. “Must’ve been a mistake in their system,” she said. Still, Caraig took the 93 percent discount and ran with it.
Spaying a Cat
Nicole Diaz, a sales support specialist at West Corporation, adopted a cat and needed to get her fixed. Diaz shopped around and found a nonprofit that would do the procedure for $65. But that wasn’t all.
“I got a voucher from the city of Long Beach, California, that the SPCA gives out once a month for $30 off spaying,” she said. “And, at the time, because I was making under a certain amount of money, the nonprofit location took off another $30.” All told, Diaz paid just $5 for her cat, Belle, to get the necessary procedure.
A 2-Story Villa
“On my wedding day, I had booked only one standard room at a fancy resort for me and my bridesmaids to get ready in. It was all we could budget for,” said Kasia Bacon, a photography manager. “When we rolled up to the front desk, the guy behind the counter saw my entourage and my huge dress, looked at his computer screen, looked back up at my stressed-out face [and] all my gear and decided to be generous and put us in a larger, two-story villa for the same price as a standard double room.”
The standard room cost about $595 a night, but Bacon later checked the villa’s price and found it was $1,500 to $2,000. “He really made my day,” she said.
A Decorative Rug
“We recently moved to a new house, and we’re trying to furnish it as frugally, but stylishly, as possible,” said Laurie Sepulveda, creator of the blog The Three Year Experiment. Sepulveda has been scouring Facebook Marketplace for deals on furniture and decor. “One morning, someone had listed a Pottery Barn 8-by-11-foot rug, originally worth around $800, for $50,” she said.
Sepulveda arranged to pick it up from the seller’s house within the hour, and — just like that — she had a luxe piece that pulled her entire living room together. The blogger said that every time she looks at it, she can’t believe what a steal it was.
A Record Player and Accessories
On a whim, editorial associate Priscilla Aguilera bought a Technics record player and accessories for $50 at a garage sale. She, like the sellers, had no idea of its true value.
“I had a Technics T-shirt I bought from Urban Outfitters back in 2008, and I thought to myself, ‘Cool, it matches! I [have] to buy this cool turntable that matches my shirt,’” she said. “I told the people at the yard sale I’d be back with a car to pick it up, and when I came back, new shoppers were there telling the sellers that they shouldn’t have sold it to me because it was worth a lot more than $50. I was 16 or 17 years old at the time, and I think they didn’t want to see me cry by taking back their offer. I later Googled the price of it and found out it has a resale value of $500 to $1,000.”
Click through to read about real return policy horror stories — and how to make sure they won’t happen to you.
More on Saving Money on Shopping
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- Watch: Groceries at Target vs. Walmart
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