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

From deciding whether or not to put your name on that e-mail list to figuring out if free shipping is really worth it, this guide will have you saving money left and right without batting an eye.

Credit Card Rewards

When you make a serious commitment to smart shopping, having a credit card with a solid rewards program is key.  Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, recommends finding one that’s right for you by “[analyzing your] purchasing habits and [choosing] one that aligns with them.” If you fly enough to justify a frequent flyer card, that one may be right for you. But if you’re looking for more immediate rewards, a cash-back card may be the way to go.

The Chase Freedom card offers 5 percent cash back on a rotating set of categories including restaurants, certain department stores, gas stations and more, and you get 1 percent cash back on everything else. The Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express offers 6 percent cash back on supermarkets, 3 percent cash bag on gas and 1 percent on everything else,” says Schrage. When shopping the credit card market, be on the lookout for extra fees and fine print to make sure you’re getting the right card for you.

Cash & Carry

If you can’t trust yourself to spend responsibly with a credit card, abiding by a cash or debit only policy is probably best. Nicole Lapin, editor in chief at says, “you want to spend the money you already have,” rather than putting things on a credit card and wracking up debt. If this is difficult, Lapin suggests “[giving] yourself a shopping budget, a percentage of your paycheck each month, and take it out in cash to keep yourself from spending it once it’s gone.”

Need vs. Want

According to Schrage, knowing the difference between a perceived deal and an actual deal is of the utmost importance for smart shopping newbies. “For example, if you find a deal on yoga classes at 90 percent off, but have no real interest in it, you’re still wasting money.” Adding that “restraint is the main key,” when deciphering between wants and needs, Schrage reminds us that “once you become comfortable with deal-hunting, you’re going to find cheap prices on just about everything, but it’s important to stick to only what you need to buy.”


NEXT: Negotiating, Free Shipping and E-mail Lists