Saving money at your favorite stores means extra money in your pocket that can be used for paying bills, padding your savings or having some fun. If you’re not trying to get the lowest prices and best shopping deals possible, you’re making a common shopping mistake that is affecting your bottom line.
GOBankingRates spoke with money-saving experts and store insiders to get their best shopping secrets for scoring discounts at your favorite places to shop, so you can save money at Whole Foods, Walmart, Kohl’s and more. Find out their best money-saving shopping hacks.
Miguel A. Suro, a Florida attorney and personal finance blogger at The Rich Miser, uses several browser extensions when shopping on Amazon to save money.
“Use Camelcamelcamel and its Camelizer browser extension, which will tell you the price history of an item on Amazon so you can know whether it’s at a low price right now, and whether you can expect a price reduction in the future,” he said. “You can also set price drop alerts. Use the Honey browser extension to look for and apply available coupon codes. It can also tell you which Amazon seller has an item for the lowest price, and you can save an item and be alerted when it drops in price.”
Suro also recommended buying Amazon’s in-house brands, which tend to have low prices, choosing no-rush shipping to get discounts and selecting the “subscribe and save” option on frequently purchased items to save between 5 and 15 percent. He also said to consider opening an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to get 5 percent back on all Amazon purchases.
More Ways to Save: 23 Secret Ways to Save Money on Amazon
“Every day, Best Buy’s website posts new limited-time deals,” said Kristin McGrath, editor and shopping expert at Offers.com. “Watch the Deal of the Day section of its website for the latest. These deals can be a great way to save hundreds of dollars on big-ticket items, such as computers, TVs and speaker systems.”
McGrath also said that you can score deals at the Best Buy outlet store, which you can shop online or as a pop-up in some stores.
“There you’ll find clearance, open-box, refurbished and pre-owned computers, phones, appliances, tablets and more,” she said. “If you’re hesitant to buy pre-owned or open-box items, note that Best Buy has tested all its outlet items to make sure they work, and covers them with its limited warranty. By shopping outside the box in this way, you can save 30 to 50 percent.”
Splitting bulk items with friends and family is one of the best ways to pay less at Costco, said McGrath.
“Buying bulk makes sense financially only if you use everything you buy,” she said. “If family-sized doesn’t exactly fit your life, consider bringing along a friend or family member for your Costco run and splitting the cost — and the products.”
She also noted that some of the best discounts you can get at Costco are on travel.
“If your travel style leans towards all-inclusive resorts and vacation packages, Costco Travel bundles together the elements of a trip — flight, hotel, excursions, activities — and offers huge savings to its members,” she said. “Some of the limited-time travel deals can save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation.”
And there’s one discount even nonmembers can get.
“Shop prescription drugs at the Costco pharmacy,” said McGrath. “Prices are often lower, and you don’t have to be a Costco member.”
Getting a free CVS ExtraCare card can help you score shopping discounts at the pharmacy each time you make a purchase, said a CVS insider.
“As a member, you’ll receive personalized coupons and exclusive offers, and earn 2 percent back on nearly every dollar you spend, to be redeemed as quarterly ExtraBucks that are paid out four times a year, and are basically like free CVS cash you can spend on just about anything,” said the insider. “What’s more is that every ExtraBuck you earn is worth dollar-for-dollar, so you don’t have to collect or count points like other programs — if you earn $5 ExtraBucks Rewards, you know you have $5 to spend.”
The insider also recommended utilizing the coupons you get sent through email, receive on your receipts or access through the CVS Pharmacy app.
“Rewards members who use our app save, on average per year, three times more than customers who don’t,” the insider said.
In addition, the insider recommended signing up for the ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards club to earn up to $50 ExtraBucks.
“When you fill 10 prescriptions at CVS Pharmacy, you earn $5 ExtraBucks,” the insider said. “You also earn on flu shots and other services, too.”
If you make frequent beauty purchases, you can join the ExtraCare BeautyClub to save on these purchases.
“After enrollment, you’ll receive a 10 percent off beauty shopping pass,” said the insider. “Other benefits include a special offer for your birthday month and exclusive emails with more coupons.”
To get the best discounts at Home Depot, sign up for their emails and check the Home Depot website, said McGrath.
“Watch the Special Buy of the Day page,” she said. “This page features daily online-only deals that are available while supplies last for 24 hours. We’ve seen everything from freezers to hot tubs on this page, and the discounts are generally pretty deep — up to 50 percent off. Sign up for Home Depot’s email list to get alerts about the latest Special Buys. Being on the mailing list is a good move in general because signing up also gets you $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more.”
McGrath also said to take advantage of Home Depot’s tool and equipment rentals.
“If your project requires tools or equipment you’ll use only once, you can save money by renting it over buying it,” she said. “Borrow a cordless drill for a few hours for less than $20, or a drain cleaner for less than $30. If you’re an apartment dweller who doesn’t expect to do many home improvement projects in the future, renting items as you need them is a great way to avoid shelling out hundreds of dollars for tools you may never use again. Or, consider it a way to audition an item to make sure you like it before you buy it.”
Shopping the as-is section is the way to get great discounts at Ikea, said McGrath.
“Patience and luck are key here,” she said. “Because many items located in this area of the store are returns and floor models, you’ll want to carefully look over anything you buy for damage first.”
McGrath also said to shop for Ikea products on Amazon.
“Many Ikea items can be found on Amazon for up to half off,” she said. “If you are a Prime member, you can cut Ikea’s usual shipping time down to just two days by selecting Prime shipping at checkout.”
Self-described coupon hunter Liza Ray wrote on Quora that there are often J.C. Penney discount codes available online.
“There are lots of coupon websites out there where you can find the latest coupons and promo codes for J.C. Penney including Goodsearch, CouponPark, RetailMeNot, CouponCabin and more,” she said.
Stephanie Schill of personal finance site Wynning in Life has a unique secret for saving money at stores.
“I shop at Kohl’s department store frequently and have created something I call the ‘Kohl’s Drive-Thru,’” she said. “If you’re shopping in-store and log into Kohl’s Wi-Fi, the store will offer a promotion or deal exclusively for those using the app in [the] store. I found out that my local store [offers] free shipping on any order if you’re logged into the Kohl’s Wi-Fi and check out using the Kohl’s store app. So what I’ll do is shop the Kohl’s app from home. If I find an amazing deal I can’t live without and am too cheap to pay for shipping, I’ll drive to Kohl’s.”
Schill parks in the stall closest to the building so that she can use the store’s Wi-Fi from her car. “I’ll place my order on their app and drive away,” she said. “[I got] my amazing deal, I got free shipping and the order will arrive on my doorstep a few days later.”
Money-pro Barbara Friedberg, who runs investing site Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance and fintech site Robo-Advisor Pros, said you should try good old-fashioned haggling — even at a chain store like Kohl’s.
“My biggest shopping win ever came from a unique strategy,” she said. “I was shopping at Kohl’s and saw a beautiful white down comforter on sale that I had to have. The problem was that even on sale the $150 price was more than I wanted to spend. It was the final comforter on the floor, so I saw an opportunity to ‘help’ the store (and myself) get rid of this lone item. I sought out the manager, told him I was willing to pay $70 for the comforter and asked if we could work something out. After some back and forth, I negotiated the price to $80 and walked away with my prized down comforter.”
A Lowes insider noted that you can get a discount on every purchase when you use the store’s credit card.
“The Lowe’s Advantage Credit Card gives users 5 percent off eligible purchases and orders,” said the insider.
The insider also recommended checking Lowes.com for the rotating Deal of the Day.
Author and creator of The Money Master, Sandy Yong, said you should check out cash-back websites such as Shop.com before making a full-priced purchase at Macy’s.
“[Shop.com] provides 2 to 50 percent cash back on major retailers including Macy’s,” she said. “Sometimes they have triple cash-back deals during the holidays.”
Andrea Pflaumer, author of “Shopping for the Real You,” uses price alert websites to get the best deals at Nordstrom.
“For online shoppers, the two best price alert websites are Shoptagr, which tracks 1,100 online stores including Nordstrom, and Shopittome, which tracks most of the mid- to higher-end department stores and designer brands you love,” she said. “You can ‘heart’ specific items in your size, and [Shopittome will] let you know when they go on sale.”
If you prefer doing your shopping at the store, Pflaumer has another tip.
“The old school way and the one some of my clients swear by is to befriend a sales associate,” she said. “With the rise of online shopping and the shockingly quick demise of many brick-and-mortar department stores, sales associates are more than ever looking for loyal repeat customers. I have one client who developed a friendship with a Nordstrom salesperson over the years, who she could count on her to let her know immediately when one of her favorite brands or a specific item was about to go on sale. And confidentially, even put aside some things for her before they went on sale.”
You might not know it, but Starbucks card and mobile app users can get free refills of hot, iced or cold brew coffee, and hot or iced tea.
“You can go to the register to have a discounted refill if you have not left the store,” said , a former Starbucks barista, on Quora.
Clegg also recommended enrolling in Starbucks’ reward program to earn free drinks.
If you want to save money at Target, consider signing up for the store’s debit card.
“The Target RED Debit card has changed my world,” said Amy White of the site Daily Successful Living. “I’m able to get an instant 5 percent back, and they have tons and tons of deals.”
This smart shopper estimates that she saves about $30 to $50 per month by using the deals offered via her card, as well as pre-ordering online and utilizing in-store pickup.
Brittany Kline, who runs the personal finance and lifestyle site The Savvy Couple with her husband Kelan, said that browsing the outside of the aisles is where she finds her best deals.
“All of the best clearance items are on the end caps,” she said. “After I find the items on clearance, I scan them into Target’s app Cartwheel to save even more money. I never buy anything full price at Target.”
You can often find Walgreens coupons on the store’s social media pages, said expert shopper and coupon enthusiast Lyly Tran on Quora.
“The Walgreens Twitter page has the occasional Walgreens coupon to help you save money on your next in-store or online purchase,” she said. “Many of these coupons are exclusive to Twitter, which is really cool.”
You should always take advantage of Walmart shopping tricks to get the most bang for your buck.
“For goods other than food, like a coffee maker or bed sheets, I always browse Walmart online before visiting the closest store,” said Pauline Paquin of Reach Financial Independence. “Walmart now works with third-party vendors like Amazon does, so the selection is much bigger [online] and I tend to find better prices.” The store also offers free two-day shipping on qualified orders over $35.
Cara Palmer, who offers smart money tips at CaraPalmer.com, swears by the Walmart app.
“I use Walmart’s app to save money every time I grocery shop,” she said. “Walmart will match any lower prices at local grocery stores, and the app finds the lower prices and credits me the difference. I simply open the app and click on ‘services’ and then ‘Walmart Pay.’ I scan the QR code with my phone and pay for my groceries. When the checkout is complete, I click ‘submit receipt’ and I’m done. The app will search for lower prices and when it finds them, it credits them to my account. The next time I shop, the credit is applied to my new grocery bill automatically. I save between $1 and $5 almost every time I shop, even without coupons.”
“One of my best money-saving secrets is to buy gift cards for my favorite grocery stores when they go on sale,” said the creator of Personal Profitability, Eric Rosenberg.
You can save even more if you buy discounted Whole Foods gift cards with a credit card deal.
“With a recent deal from Amazon and American Express, I was able to buy $500 in gift cards at a 20 percent discount, plus 5 percent back in credit card rewards. That took me to Whole Foods ($200), Southwest Airlines ($200), Dominos ($50) and Lowe’s ($50) for what amounted to 25 percent off on everything I purchased,” he said.
Click through to read more about items that are worth paying more for.
More on Shopping
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- Your Complete Price-Matching Guide: Target, Walmart, Best Buy and More
- The Worst Things to Buy at Walmart and Target
- 16 Brilliant Ways to Get the Best Deals at the Grocery Store Every Time
Erica Corbin contributed to the reporting for this article.