5 Shopping Hacks That Will Save You Money

More often than you might think, you don’t have to pay full price if you don’t want to.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Who among us doesn’t like saving money? We tend to lead lives that are busy or rushed, so there’s often little scope for building good budget-friendly practices.

So let us help you in this regard; here is a small collection of tips that can save you some money the next time you visit your local retailer -- on- and off-line.

1. Wait for off-season sales or discounts

Who in their right mind would buy a sailboat or gas grill in the middle of winter? A savvy bargain hunter, that’s who. Such goods can often be bought more cheaply when they’re not in the thick of their season.

The list of off-season deals is quite long. Some of these, like boats and grills in the winter, are intuitive, while some aren’t. Here are a few that wouldn’t necessarily leap immediately to mind:

Thrift store goods -- Spring is an excellent time to find the good stuff here. After all, that’s when many people launch spring cleaning initiatives to make their place less cluttered and more livable -- hence the need to offload personal possessions to outlets like thrift stores.

Refrigerators -- New fridge models are typically introduced in May, so a patient bargain hunter will wait for these debuts to stalk discounts on older models.

Furniture -- July is to furniture as May is to refrigerators. The new replaces the old at this point in the year, all the better to get deals in the stuff rotating out.

2. Shop in bulk

This is a classic way to get more product for fewer dollars. Bulk retailers are a long-established segment of Big Retail, and particularly if you live in a city there’s probably one within driving distance of your home.

It’s well worth even a longish trek to score oversized boxes of commonplace household items like paper towels, bath tissue, soap, etc. Many food products can also be bought this way -- load up on ingredients you cook with frequently, or on the go-to snacks your kids like to gobble.

Bulk buying should also help you cut down on the time and frequency you spend shopping overall. Goods bought in bulk, after all, last quite a bit longer between buys than their single-item versions.

3. Use your library card

You don’t necessarily need to shell out money for your entertainment and education. Most local libraries have, in addition to a collection of books, a smattering of films on various media, music collections, and periodicals.

You probably knew that already, but were you aware that some library cards also pack on a nice set of additional benefits? For example, my city of Los Angeles library card allows me to access all of the courses on professional skills training site Lynda.com, and provides access to classic film streaming service Kanopy.

So at the very least, owning a library card can cut down on what you’re currently spending on items such as newspaper/magazine subscriptions, books, music, on-demand video services, etc.

4. Opt for generic food and medicine

Famous brands rarely get that way merely by word of mouth. A known product often has a long development period and a hefty budget devoted to its marketing. These costs must be recouped in some way, and the easiest way to do this is to tack them on to the price.

This is especially true of name brand drugs, the development of which can take many years and eat through millions of dollars. This is why some top-shelf drugs relatively new to the market can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the consumer.

Fortunately for the afflicted, drug patents only last roughly 20 years; after that, other pharmaceutical companies are free to make and market the drug. As the research has already been done, production of the medication is far cheaper. This is reflected in the end-user price.

The dynamic isn’t quite as pronounced in the case of products like food, but there is still a price disparity that can sometimes be significant. So if you’re on a budget and generic alternatives are available for your comestibles and medication, you should strongly consider opting for them.

5. Beat dynamic pricing

Online retailers can adjust the price of an item depending not only on its popularity and availability, but such information as demographics and even the web surfing tendencies of a potential owner (most of us leave a long digital trail when we cruise the internet). This is known as dynamic pricing.

Frequent visits to websites in Hawaii, for example, might indicate to an air carrier that you very much want to visit the place and are willing to pay up for the privilege.

Why let the retailers pay themselves more? Here are several ways to beat dynamic pricing:

Switch browsers -- Boot up a browser you don’t use frequently and navigate to the good or service you’re considering. This can also work if you clear the cookies from your go-to browser.

Switch devices -- iPhone owners, for example, are considered to be relatively well-heeled. Try visiting the same page from a different device, or from a PC with a cookie-cleared browser.

Use a VPN -- Virtual private networks (VPNs) allow users to change their IP address, which reveals their location. Modifying the IP address to a less tony place (say, rural Iowa instead of Midtown Manhattan) could reduce the offered price.