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3 ways to save at stores that never have sales

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Discounts are probably the No. 1 strategy retailers use to draw customers. But there are some stores where you’ll never find a “% off” sign. But if you’re like me and can’t stand paying full price for anything, here are some secrets to saving at stores that never have sales.

Discounted gift cards

Make use of the time you’re standing in the checkout line by taking a few seconds to look through Raise’s app for a discounted gift card. It’s an online peer-to-peer marketplace where consumers can buy and sell unused gift cards. The average customer saves 11% using the app, but I’ve seen savings as much as 38%.

I needed a beauty blender so I decided to try the app at Sephora, where they only have sales twice a year. While standing in the checkout line, it took less than a minute to find a gift card for 8% off. Once I bought the e-card, I presented it to the cashier. The cashier had never checked anyone using Raise’s app, but she quickly figured it out and entered the correct numbers saying she was impressed with how easy it was. It all took about 2 minutes from finding and purchasing the card to checking out.

This is a game changer for deal-hunters like me who'd love any amount off at Lululemon, The North Face, foodies who want to save on their restaurant bill, and even movie-goers who want discounted tickets at AMC.

Education pricing

Just because you aren’t a student, doesn’t mean you can’t get a student discount. At stores like Apple -- which also doesn’t have sales -- this special pricing applies not only to students, but to parents buying for students of any age, teachers, faculty, and staff at all grade levels. If you’re shopping in-store, present a student ID, transcripts, or even loan statements to prove that your purchase is for educational purposes. Online, you simply have to answer a series of questions or enter a “.edu” email address at checkout. And this is a way to save at hundreds of other retailers like J. Crew, Sony, Madewell, Best Buy, GM, Adobe, Dell, Ann Taylor Loft, and more.

If an education discount doesn’t apply to you, Brent Shelton, FatWallet’s online shopping expert says to turn to authorized resellers like MacMall and Adorama. “The savvy deal hunters on FatWallet hold these sites in high regard for their great shipping/returns, smart customer service and additional savings from cash back and other rebates,” says Shelton.

Emails and referral bonuses

You can set up a dedicated shopping email account and use it for signup discounts and referral bonuses. Signing up for retailer email distribution lists can get you upwards of 30% off for a first-time purchase, and businesses offer generous referral bonuses for recommending their services to your friends. ThredUp’s referral program allows you to receive up to $580 in credits per year if your friends use the link you sent them to sign up and make purchases. On Raise, you get $5 when your friends spend $5 or more.

Share your discount secrets with me on Twitter or in the comments below.

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