When shopping online or in-store, sometime you can get sucked into impulse buys or get distracted from your original purpose and go home with five things you didn’t intend to get and without the one thing you hoped to find. Try these tips to save time, money and energy when shopping and be a smart shopper!

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1. Always Plan! Planning is key – don’t impulse buy, know what you need and strategize. You’re likely to get better deals and save money every time if you have a plan.

2. Get Cozy With Your Favorite Brands: If you really like a brand, sign up for their emails and member rewards program and follow them on social media. You may get a lot of emails, but you’ll also get access to great deals. Most companies are likely to give the best deals to those who invest their energy in them – some brands even do Instagram-exclusive discount codes and giveaways.

For example, if you’re a Sephora Beauty Insider, you get weekly emails that include coupon codes for free shipping or a free sample with your purchase. And when you rack up points at Sephora, you get decent-sized samples to try out new things!

Stock photo from Pexels.

3. Ask For the Discount: See if you’re eligible for a discount in any way. If you’re a student, most stores have a discount of 10-20% off that isn’t advertised. If you’re a veteran, senior, or member of a certain insurance company, you may also be qualified for discounts. Do your research and know which discounts apply to you!

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4. Take Advantage of Price Comparison Tools: There are websites and browser extensions that will compare prices or find discounts for you while you shop online. Here are a few:

  • WikiBuy: You can get the best price in real time while shopping online based on the offers other users are finding.
  • Ebates: When activated, Ebates builds up cash back on certain sites, like Amazon, Macy’s and Club Monaco, then sends you the money via Paypal once a month. Ebates also tracks coupon codes for you to get you a good deal.
  • Honey: This extension automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout with a single click. The website also shows you the top deals each day.

5. Price Match: Always check multiple sites or stores when buying an item. You may be loyal to a certain company and trust their service, but maybe they charge a higher price for something. Never assume you have to settle. Contact their customer service department and ask if they match prices. Some companies don’t, but quite a few will if you can provide proof that the same item is available for a lower price at a rival store. If you can get the best price with a retailer you trust, it’s often worth the trouble.

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6. Stack Coupons and Discounts: Always ask if you can combine discounts and coupons. A lot of people assume they can’t stack coupons or get a student discount on top of an in-store sale. It’s always worth a shot!

7. Leave Them Wanting to Give You More: Create an account on a website, give them your email and leave the items you want to purchase in your cart for a few days. Go through the checkout process, and then leave it right before you click “Buy.” Often the store will email you a discount code to you because they really want you to complete your purchase.

(Remember to log into the website before doing this! You can’t get a discount email if they don’t know how to reach you.)

Stock photo from Pexels.

8. Know the Store Policies: First up, the return policy. Always read it before making a purchase. This is for both for stores and online, but especially online, because some companies will not pay return shipping if you don’t like an item. You have to decide if the gamble of buying online is worth paying the extra $7 to return it if it doesn’t work out.

Second, see if the store does price adjustments. If you buy something and it goes on sale in less than two weeks, some stores will credit you back the difference. Always know if your favorite stores have policies like this. This is usually more effective in-store – if you buy something online and it goes on sale, you’ll probably have to spend some time on the phone with customer service.

9. Shop Incognito: Websites can track you and always know if you’re a first time visitor or not. Incognito mode on the Chrome browser hides your location data, which usually defaults you to lower prices and gets you better deals. Clearing your cache and cookies also helps get rid of any data a site might have on you that would impact how you get charged. This is especially common on airline websites.

10. Pay Attention to Free Shipping: If you’re buying something from a website, know the threshold for free shipping and make sure you’ve included everything you want from that site for a while. You don’t want to end up doing two separate purchases and paying $5-10 shipping on each.