Financial expert Farnoosh Torabi fills you in on her best advice for navigating the racks.
1. Take a lap. Ever have buyer's remorse about an impulse purchase? Give yourself 30 minutes to decide before breaking out your wallet. Walk around the mall or grab some lunch and really think about whether it's worth the money. If you're worried the item will get snapped up while you're away, place it on hold at the register―stores usually give you 24 hours to decide.
2. Ask for a discount or free delivery. That's right. Ask. A store rarely offers anything outright for free, but you may be rewarded for speaking up. Just as the sales associate is about to ring up your purchase of $150 or more, ask whether she can offer a discount. After all, you may be helping her get a sizable commission.
3. Head for the refurbished bin. Many online merchants like Callaway Golf Company and Dell offer refurbished goods―items that have been returned and sometimes repaired―at discounts of 10 percent or more. Items are often practically perfect, but do give possible purchases a thorough once-over.
4. Hybrid shop. Use both brick and mortar stores and the Internet to nab the best deals. If you see an item you like in a store, make note of the make, the model, the size, and the price. Later scour the web for the product. You just may find it at a cheaper price.
Tip: Enter the store name on RetailMeNot, which lists coupon codes for 15,000 stores, to see if any discounts are available.
5. Shop on sites with free shipping and returns. Jot down a list of shopping web sites that offer free shipping and free returns and post it on your desktop bulletin board as a friendly reminder. Some sites to get you started: Zappos for shoes and Revolve Clothing for clothes and gear.
6. Get on stores' friends and family lists. Companies like Club Monaco, Kenneth Cole, J.Crew, and Banana Republic offer sales throughout the year for customers whose friends or family work at the store. If you don't qualify, kindly ask an associate if it's possible to get on the list.
7. Pay with cash. Merchants usually have to pay vexing processing fees each time a customer uses a credit card, so some businesses―like gas stations, spas, and small boutiques―are starting to offer discounts for cash-paying customers. If you don't see a sign advertising a discount, simply ask a sales associate whether the store offers a five or 10 percent discount for using cash.