America's Smartest Shopper

The Beginner's Guide to Smart Shopping

Let these financial and saving experts be your guide to a smart-shopping future

The Beginner’s Guide to Smart Shopping

The Ins and Outs of Negotiating

Now that so many stores (like Walmart, Target and Best Buy) have price-matching policies in place, there’s no excuse not to question every price tag. “Whether we’re talking about a car or raisin bran, there’s a low price something will sell for, when you know what that should be, when you’re cognizant of it, you’ll wait until something falls to a better price,” says Jean Chatzky, finance expert and editor for the TODAY show (whose new online series called Jean Chatzky’s Money School starts in March). The same is true when negotiating -- if you don’t look for a better price or ask for one, you won’t get a lower price.

While Schrage suggests, “your best opportunities [for negotiating price] are for larger purchases, even if you only get the tax taken off,” Chatzky thinks anything and everything is up for negotiation. “You can always ask ‘can you do better?’ those are my favorite words. It also helps to say ‘I was hoping for less,’ you don’t have to put a number on it.” Although, when you are price matching in store, having competitor’s prices with you (printed out or on your phone) is definitely a smart shopping strategy.

Free Shipping: Is It Worth It?

Finding free shipping isn’t difficult, but as Jana Francis, founder of, advises, “free shipping is never free.” Francis points out that the free shipping could be offered on a more expensive item, and a simple comparison search could help you find it at a lower price (shipping included!) elsewhere. When sites create a free shipping minimum on a site you regularly shop, one smart strategy is to sit on your virtual shopping card, adding things only as you need them, until you’ve reached that minimum. This also gives you the chance to watch prices and as you wait to fill your price, the prices could drop and save you even more money.

E-mail Lists: Pros and Cons

Just about every store and e-commerce site has an e-mail list that they send daily blasts out to. Joining these lists can make or break your smart shopping strategy. On the one hand, according to Schrage, they’re wonderfully helpful when you’re already looking for something specific to help you find the best deal.

But for smart shopping newbies, subscribing to a retailers e-mail distribution list could be detrimental to your savings plan. Chatzky recommends unsubscribing yourself from these e-mail lists, especially if you’re unable to resist the urge to shop the deals you’ve just learned about. Chatzky recommends a similar strategy for window-shopping, “if your drive home takes you past stores you can’t avoid going into, change your route. It’s about changing your life in order to break the habits.”

Photo Credit: Flickr/ powkey