Avoiding retail prices is easier than you might think

Don't Pay Retail!

by Anne Katir

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Budget Girl here, coming to you from, well, face down on the floor of my local high-end retailer. It happens every time I look at a retail price. My breathing gets shallow, knees buckle, and down I go. But don't worry. After a few deep breaths and a wipe of my forehead with a discount coupon, I'm back on my game. I'm getting up and brushing off my Tommy Hilfiger jeans I got for $6 at the Goodwill Store. Oops! I said that a little too loud. The manager heard and looks really mad. The security guard heading this way looks even madder. Quick! Outside.

Now we can talk. That little incident proves my point. It's rare when anything good comes out of paying retail, but it's just as rare that you have to pay it! So let's leave the fancy prices to the folks who enjoy them, while you and I explore ways of avoiding retail prices.

These $100 athletic shoes that got me and my Tommies around the corner before the security guard could say "big prices" were just $53, new, delivered, and in perfect shape. A savings of nearly 50% by ordering on Amazon.com. Their selection includes items from books to makeup and washing machines to vegetable seeds.

Shop local small business retailers. When I needed a dishwasher, I looked online, found the sale prices that bigger stores were offering, called my independent appliance store, and asked if they could match it. They did. I saved $60. Also, if you're willing to buy smaller items in cases, some stores give discounts for buying in quantity. Call your local grocer or health food store and ask.

Consider joining Consumer Buying Clubs (CBCs). A CBC is a group of friends, neighbors and/or co-workers who join together and combine buying power. I have one through Frontier Natural Products Co-op. I called, got a catalogue, and passed it around to friends. We each order and then I combine the orders into one, phone it in via Frontier's 800 number, and we all get wholesale prices on supplements, toiletries, bulk foods, and kitchen and gift items. Frontier requires clubs to include five or more households and a one-time membership fee of $10 per group, not per household. On orders of $250 or more, shipping is free. These companies will tell you whether there's a club in your area you can join or if you'll need to start one:

Groupon.com keeps you posted on deals offered by your local businesses. Log onto their site, register for free, and daily deals will arrive in your email.

Save money on your favorite restaurants.
Buy $25 Certificates for $10!

RetailMeNot.com offers discounts and coupon codes for over 65,000 businesses. I frequently find codes to eliminate shipping charges, and often with additional discounts. Simply visit the site, type in the business or product name, and the coupons codes appear.

Big box stores, like Big Lots and Ocean State Job Lots, not only offer regular, everyday deals, but some provide rewards programs where you build up points per purchase that save you additional cash on future purchases. Ocean State Job Lots offers Internet coupons. Just register your email, and coupons arrive weekly.

Take rebates seriously. Save those receipts, send them in, and get money back. Additionally, Rite-Aid now has Free-bates, with refunds matching purchase price, rendering items virtually free. And they work. I bought $19.99 in products, sent in a simple form, and got a check for $19.99 in a few weeks. I paid for only tax and a stamp. And don't disregard rewards programs. The other day at the drugstore I witnessed a woman purchase $124 in goods and pay nothing by applying rewards points and programs.

Check out discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshall's. You'll find high-end clothing, bedding and housewares for a lot less.

Thrift stores are today's way to go for clothing, kitchen items, gifts and more. My like-new parka was $6. My kitchen is equipped with a crystal serving tray and salad set that had never been removed from their original boxes. I paid $3 each. Check thrift stores for everything.

If you've got a surplus or salvage store nearby, check in regularly. You never know what you'll find. They buy out stores that are going out of business. That means savings for you and me.

Don't discount yard sales (pun intended) and don't drive long distances for them. Gas prices can cancel out your savings. Always stop when you see one on your way. Otherwise, check the papers, make a route, carpool with friends, and split fuel costs.

Anne Katir is a frugal writer, organic master gardener and whole foods cook. She currently pinches pennies in a small town in Maine, where she's completing her first cookbook I'd Eat Better if It Were Easier!

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