Don’t rush your efforts to save money at your favorite stores — it’s important. After all, extra money in your pocket can be used for paying bills, padding your savings or having some fun. So, if you’re not trying to get the lowest price possible, you’re making a common shopping mistake that is affecting your bottom line.
GOBankingRates spoke with eight real people to get their best shopping secrets for cutting costs at your favorite stores so you can save money at Whole Foods, Walmart, Kohl’s and more. These savvy shoppers have the money-saving secrets you need.
Get a Store Card
“Over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours scouring coupon sites to find good deals,” said Amy White of the site Daily Successful Living. “It was super time-consuming and gradually I began to realize that the time wasn’t worth the money saved in most situations.”
“Recently I began using the Target RED Debit card and it has changed my world,” she said. “I’m able to get an instant 5 percent back, and they have tons and tons of deals.”
The smart shopper estimates that she saves about $30 to $50 per month by using the deals offered via her card, as well as preordering online and utilizing in-store pickup.
Related: Why I Stopped Extreme Couponing
Use a Cash-Back Website
Author and creator of The Money Master, Sandy Yong, said you should check out cash-back websites such as Shop.com. “[Shop.com] provides 2 to 50 percent cash back on major retailers including Walmart, Macy’s and Raise,” she said. “Sometimes they have triple cash-back deals during the holidays.”
With cash-back apps and sites like Dosh or Ebates, you can often earn cash back on purchases you made using a rewards credit card, allowing you to get even more of your money back.
Try Online Before Brick-and-Mortar
“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. Just make sure to avoid these items at Walmart.
Utilize a Price-Matching App
“I use Walmart’s app to save money every time I grocery shop,” said Cara Palmer, who offers smart money tips at CaraPalmer.com. “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.”
Buy Gift Cards
“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. But the savvy shopper doesn’t stick solely to grocery savings. “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.”
Try the ‘Kohl’s Drive-Thru’ Method
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.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle
Money pro, Barbara Friedberg, who runs investing site Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance and fintech site Robo-Advisor Pros, said, “My biggest shopping win ever came from a unique strategy. 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.”
Friedberg says not to be afraid to negotiate anything. “Retail stores, especially brick and mortar, are struggling due to the competition from online shopping,” she said. “If you want an item, but it’s out of your price range, take a stab at negotiating the price down.” After all, the worst they can do is say no.
Shop the Outside of the Store
“When shopping at Target, the best thing I do to save money is shop around the outside of the store,” said Brittany Kline, who runs the personal finance and lifestyle site The Savvy Couple with her husband Kelan. “All of the best clearance items are on the end caps. 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.”
Are you a frequent Target shopper? Read more secrets to saving money at Target.
More on Saving Money
- How to Save Money With the Walmart Savings Catcher
- Your Complete Price-Matching Guide: Target, Walmart, Best Buy and More
- 20 Items to Avoid at Walmart
- Watch: Groceries at Target vs. Walmart
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 8 Secrets Real People Use to Cut Costs at Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods and More Essential Stores