Maybe it’s true that “you get what you pay for” with certain products and services, but for many commodities and everyday needs, it’s easy to pay way too much. According to a recent Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans are spending more money now than they did a year ago — and most of those increased expenses are going toward groceries, household items and other essentials. But for some items, it just isn’t necessary to pay more. That’s because many items go on sale on predictable cycles, or coupons are regularly available to purchase them.
Smart shoppers pay attention to those items that are almost always available at a reduced price and wait until the price is low or stock up in advance. Here are five types of products for which you can always find a good deal.
Grocery stores typically run sales on paper goods such as paper towels and toilet paper during the first and third weeks of each month, says consumer and money saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Not only is the sale price decent, but you often can use manufacturer coupons for the name brands on top of the sale to save even more,” she says.
You can often find manufacturer coupons for these items (such as this $1 off Brawny coupon) on sites like CouponSherpa. Woroch recommends avoiding generic paper products “since the name brands use more fiber and are more absorbent, so you ultimately use less paper to clean,” she says. However, some warehouse club stores offer high-quality products of their own at better prices than other name brands. Woroch likes Costco’s Kirkland brand for paper goods.
Don’t just go on “auto-pilot” after your eye exam and order contact lenses directly from your optometrist. You can usually get a better deal, says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com saving expert. “Coupon codes for contact lenses are very common and most websites make it easy to order,” Pavini says. “You simply place the order and they will call your doctor to confirm the prescription is accurate.” Some sites to check out for lower-priced contact lenses include Walgreens.com and VisionDirect.
Be warned: If the site or store doesn't ask for proof of a prescription, that’s a red flag, Pavini says. Counterfeit contact lenses often pop up around Halloween when people are in the market for decorative lenses, she says.
With the lower prices available online, along with a coupon code, Pavini says she has saved more than 30 percent, along with free shipping. Some sites will give you an additional discount when you buy in bulk (typically a year's supply), Pavini adds.
Avoid paying full price for laundry detergent because you can always wash your clothes for less. Woroch recommends browsing prices among local retailers like Walmart, Target and warehouse club stores to find the lowest regular price for laundry detergent. Then wait for a sale on your favorite brand — or any brand, if you’re not picky and want to maximize savings. When the laundry detergent goes on sale, stock up.
In addition, you can opt for generic detergents or often find a coupon for many of the leading brands of laundry detergent, Woroch adds. For instance, CouponSherpa.com currently features more than 24 manufacturer coupons for Tide products. (And be careful not to use too much detergent per load. A Consumer Reports story reported that most people use twice the amount necessary, which can add up quickly.)
If you’re not picky about wine and don’t mind buying inexpensive bottles, prices can vary as much as $5 from one store to another. “The same exact bottle could have a regular marked price of $8.99 at one store and $13.99 at another,” Pavini says. Rather than paying full price, start comparing to find a store with low base prices. Also, Pavini recommends looking for a store that offers a discount when you buy in bulk. A typical discount could be an additional 10 percent off when you buy six bottles, she says.
Finally, wait for a sale, which is likely to happen during harvest season. (Keep in mind that harvest season in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and other Southern Hemisphere locales will not be during the American harvest season.) While the grapes harvested today might take months or years before they are on shelves, vineyards need to make room, so they bottle up older vintages and get them on shelves, often at a discount to you, Pavini says.
Wine also often goes on sale around the winter holidays, so stock up during November and December. In her area, for example, Pavini waits for Safeway's 30 percent off sale and buys several bottles.
Already low prices plus sale, plus an additional bulk discount, add up to big savings.
“Electronics have a rapid depreciation value, especially TVs,” Woroch says. “TV manufacturers are always releasing new models with slightly different features, so if you buy an older model you can typically find it on sale or have more power to negotiate if the electronic retailer is trying to push it off the floor to make room for new models.” In addition, watch for holiday weekend sales such as Labor Day. Black Friday and just before the Super Bowl are also among the best times to get a deal on TVs. “The more expensive the TV, the more profit margin the retailer has to play with so you should negotiate when possible and compare prices online, too,” Woroch says. While negotiating with a big box retailer may not be likely, local dealers selling the same brands may be more willing to haggle.
You can also score great deals on mobile phones. Many carriers offer a discount on a new phone when you sign up for a two-year contract, and most offer a discount on upgrades every two years when you extend your contract. If you lose or break your phone and don’t have insurance, consider buying a refurbished phone, Woroch says. Find refurbished phones (which have been returned, repaired if necessary, and reset to original specifications so should work as well as a new phone) through wireless carrier stores or wireless carrier websites. Woroch also recommends sites like Amazon.com or WirelessEmporium.com for refurbished phones.