Times are tough and money is tight, so I have come up with a list of 5 concrete ways to never pay full price for anything, ever! These are tools, resources and tricks that we as a family use every day to save money. We are on a debt-free journey, and though we have paused payments on our student loans for the moment, we are still focused on spending as little money as possible and saving money for our baby boy. I hope these methods are helpful to you in your journey towards spending less!
1. Use a Cash Back App like Rakuten
Rakuten, formerly Ebates, is a completely free to use cash-back app. They have agreements with several stores to provide you with a certain percentage cash back on your purchase. The cash back amount changes periodically, and I have seen it as high as 10%. How does it work? Install the Rakuten plug-in. When you are on a site that works with Rakuten, the icon will flash, click on it. It will tell you how much cash back you can receive on your purchase. Click the ‘activate cash back’ button and continue with your shopping.
Rakuten will then know that you have made an eligible purchase and then the cash back will be added to your Rakuten account. After about every three months, you will receive a cash back check for all of the cash back you have earned during that period. It sounds silly at first, but in the five or so years that I have been using the service, I have a lifetime cash back balance of almost $1000 just buying the things I would have purchased anyway. If you apply for the Rakuten credit card, you get additional cash back for your purchase. Use my referral link to earn your first $10 on your purchase of $25 or more.
2. Use Discount Programs and Coupons
This one is easy. Use a coupon! Look for store coupons before you shop in-person, and check out sites like Retail Me Not for online discount codes to use before you check out. Groupon and LivingSocial are also sites you can use to save money on goods and services. They have deep discounts on everything. Get a discount on your next manicure, brow wax or facial, get a great price on a vacation package, and get an awesome discount on auto maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations. Those coupons also support your local businesses, so it helps everyone.
You can also check out AAA (“Triple A”). Not only is it an affordable roadside service starting at $60/year to help cover you in case a tire blows out or your car breaks down, a AAA card can get you discounts at hotels, theme parks, car rentals, and much more. You can cover multiple vehicles with one AAA membership as well, so you can get the full bang for your buck.
3. Go Thrift Store Shopping
I think there is an unfair stigma around purchasing second-hand. The fear that second-hand items are dirty, torn or stained at thrift stores is not true in the majority of cases. These items are gently used, sometimes completely unused, and sold at a very reasonable price. Goodwill is a great place to start for thrifting. It has multiple locations across the US and within some major cities so you can get a good selection. We live in Chicago, and the Goodwill in West Loop is amazing. I scored a basically brand new Michael Kors coat for $20! I am still so proud of that deal.
We also got the dining room table that we use everyday, complete with an extension leaf and four matching chairs for $15, as well as office supplies, accessories, books, clothing and home decor. If something looks a little bit outdated, you can always refinish and repaint it, or change up the hardware, and still come out paying less than buying something brand new from a big box furniture store.
ThredUp and Poshmark are also great ways to buy second-hand brand name clothing at a deeply discounted price. If you are still not digging the second-hand thing, check out the clearance racks at your favorite stores. I always check out Target’s clearance racks when I go. You can also shop at places like Burlington Coat Factory, Ross, Marshall’s or TJ Maxx to get clothing and home goods that are brand new at a discount. I love buying Christmas presents at Ross. You can save so much money and shop for everyone on your list in one place. So basically, I never walk into a department store and buy full-priced items. I don’t have that kind of money lying around.
4. Use Rewards Credit Cards
Credit cards with rewards are plus or minus. The rewards only make sense if you have the discipline to spend less than the cash you have in your bank account, and if you pay off your cards to zero at least every month, if not more frequently, to avoid the accumulating interest. But, if you can do that, there are great perks that can come with using a credit card. We tried to find rewards cards that have zero annual fees and provide cash back or rewards with very little hoops to jump through.
For example, we have an Amazon Prime credit card. We shop on Amazon Prime frequently and we have a Prime membership, so we thought it would be worthwhile to get cash back on our Amazon purchases. The cash back accumulates and appears at checkout as a credit towards a future purchase. It’s a little treat every once and a while to help reduce the cost of items we were already planning to purchase.
The one credit card that was absolutely worth it was our Southwest Airlines card. We were able to meet the requirements to earn a companion pass for an entire year. Mark and I did a lot of traveling that year, and he was able to fly for free with me on every trip. That saved us hundreds of dollars on airfare. I would say, do your research. Find a card that matches your lifestyle with low or no fees and pay off the card every month.
Negotiating is a little bit harder to do in a regular store where the prices are set by upper management. There isn’t much wiggle room to move on price. The one exception I can think of is negotiating the price of items that appear to be damaged. You can go up to customer service, as long as the price tag is attached, show them the damaged product and ask for a discount. Sometimes they give a discount, sometimes they don’t, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Where negotiating really comes into play is when working with a private seller. You can negotiate the price of a car, furniture, clothing, electronics and many other items when you work with a private seller, and score some pretty awesome deals. On some platforms, like Craigslist and OfferUp, you can even get things for free. We bought our Baby Jogger City Select stroller on OfferUp for $100, in very good condition, $200 off of list price. There are also lots of second hand baby clothes on those sites for a very reasonable price, which can be negotiated to an even better price.
When I negotiate, I start with the target price in my head so I know when to walk away. Once you have that number, start your first offer at a price lower than that number. If the seller wants to sell, they will give a counter offer and then you can counter that offer. Walk away if the seller won’t give you your bottom-line price (the first number you came up with). If they really need to sell, they won’t let you walk away. At that point, you can get the item for the price you wanted to pay, or less. Save some money!
Thanks so much for reading! Never pay full price again with these five tips. Comment below if there are any money-saving tips that you use everyday.