Tag Archives: shopping tips

To get the best deals, track “buy prices” on your favorite items

When you see an item you like on sale, you may snatch it up and assume you’re getting a great deal. But one store’s sale price may be equal to or higher than the regular price at another retailer. To make sure you take advantage of the best deals on products you buy frequently, you need to determine their “buy prices.” This is the price at which you can take action and buy the item, knowing you’re getting it at its lowest cost.

For example, I’ve determined my buy price for Coca-Cola 12-packs is $2.50 each. This price is offered by CVS every so often in sales ads, and I’ve never found another store in my area that beats this price. When I see that sale at CVS, I stock up so I don’t run out of soda before the next sale rolls around. At Kroger, I know 99 cents per pound is the best price on bone-in, split chicken breasts, so I buy extra when this sale runs and store them in my chest freezer. This is a lower price than I could get at my local warehouse club.

Since costs can vary by geographic area, the best way to determine buy prices on your favorite items is to track them over a period of several weeks. This may seem like an overwhelming task, so start small. Pick three to five items you use often, and then note their prices when you see them in the stores where you normally shop and in sales ads. Follow the prices for at 6 to 8 weeks. Then, jot down the lowest price you’ve seen for each item in a small notebook you can carry with you when shopping. This will allow you to buy with confidence when you see store specials, or wait for a better price.

Over time, you can develop a substantial list of buy prices. Having them written down prevents you from guessing incorrectly about which prices are a good deal. I’ve tracked the buy prices for chicken, canned soup, pet supplies, ice cream, toiletries and more. A little homework can save you a lot of money in the long run.

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Filed under Saving money

Ebates: an easy way to get extra cash back when shopping online

One of my favorite ways to save money on online purchase is through Ebates, a website that gives you cash back on all purchases initiated through its website. When shopping, just go to Ebates, then use the search box or retail categories to find the store where you want to make a purchase. Click the link provided, and you’re done! Ebates sends you to your destination website and initiates a “tracking ticket” that automatically notifies Ebates of your purchase amount at the chosen store. Ebates converts a percentage of your purchase into a cash rebate, then sends your accumulated rebates to you on a quarterly basis. You can get your cash deposited into your PayPal account, request a check for your earnings or give the money to a charity or family member.

Cash back amounts range from 1 percent to 25 percent and are available at hundreds of stores and service providers, including Petsmart, Target, Kohl’s, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us, Shutterfly, Travelocity, Nordstrom, Teleflora, Crate and Barrel and Vera Bradley. Ebates also gives you coupon codes that can help you save more money on your purchase when entered on the retailer’s website.

Membership in Ebates is free. Just fill out the simple registration form, and start shopping. Right now, Ebates is offering you a free gift card for a major retailer just for signing up.

Keep a few tips in mind to make the most of your Ebates experiences:

    • Make your purchase only in the retailer window opened by Ebates. If you accidentally close it, go back to Ebates and link to the website again to open another tracking ticket. Unless you go through Ebates to get to your store’s website, you won’t earn any cash back.
    • Take advantage of Ebates for big purchases you would normally make in a local store. For example, when if you’re buying a new appliance, buy it through the Lowe’s, Sears or Home Depot website. Purchase a new computer from Best Buy, Dell, HP, OfficeMax and other retailers to rack up more bucks. You can earn substantial cash back on large purchase like these and still apply any discount coupons you have for the retailer.
  • Ebates offers special promotions that increase the percentage of cash back available at select retailers. If there’s an item you aren’t in a hurry to purchase, monitor the cash back percentage to get the most bang for your buck. The Web site also offers a “daily double” feature on its home page that double the cash back for a different retailer each day.

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Filed under Rewards programs, Saving money, Shopping tips

Buying a dining room table? Put it to the “plate test” first!

After owning the same, hand-me-down dining room table for my entire adult life, I recently had the opportunity to purchase a new one. My shopping excursion took me to several big-box furniture stores, where I noticed many tables on the showroom floor had scratches on their surfaces.

Finally, my husband and I settled on a table from Havertys called American Revival. We loved the beautiful inlay designs worked into the table’s cherry finish. At the store, I questioned the salesperson about the marks in the tabletop’s finish, but he assured me these were the result of decorative items being placed on the showroom table and moved around. He also noted the company’s policy to take any item back, for any reason, within three days of purchase.

After a couple weeks of waiting, the American Revival dining table arrived at our home. The first night we used it, we discovered that just setting our Fiesta plates down on the table caused marks to appear in the finish. We weren’t sliding or dragging the plates around, just setting them down. Plus, these plates have a smooth finish on the bottom.

The next night, despite the use of heavy potholders under hot pots and pans, heat-related marks also appeared in the finish. I quickly realized this was not the table for us. While I could have hidden the marks with a tablecloth, I found this idea unsatisfactory. I don’t see any point in buying a table with a beautiful finish if you have to hide it beneath tablecloths and placemats to prevent damage to the finish.

Havertys honored their “we’ll-take-it-back” pledge and picked up the table, issuing me a full refund. Then, I had to resume my search for a replacement. This time, I took advantage of a great suggestion from a salesperson at another store—I took one of my Fiesta plates with me to the stores and, with permission from each salesperson, set it down on the table and moved it around to see if it would leave any marks.

Take your plate to furniture stores to test the finish of tables.

In the end, we selected a table from Bassett to replace the one from Havertys. It passed the plate test, and our hope is that the special “Indurance” finish Bassett uses on its dining table tops will hold up better than the finish used on the Haverty’s table. We’ve had our Bassett table for two weeks now, and the finish looks great so far. As a bonus, you customize any dining table you buy at Bassett, so you get to select the top, legs and color combination you prefer.

My experience leads to these table-shopping tips:

  • Take along a plate to test the durability of the table’s finish for yourself (with the store’s permission).
  • Ask about the store’s return policy for items that don’t hold up to normal wear and tear.
  • Have someone go shopping with you to identify potential flaws before you buy.
  • Consider purchasing a product protection plan that can cover damage to the table for up to five years after your purchase.


Filed under Shopping tips