Secrets to Not Paying Full Price

By Alene Laney · October 18, 2022 · 11 minute read

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Secrets to Not Paying Full Price

Want to know how to never pay full price for anything? There are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you get a better deal on everything from a car to a big carton of cereal.

Saving money does more than put money back in your pocket. It can truly help you feel in control of your finances, which can, in turn, help motivate you to continue building good financial habits.

If you’re interested in becoming more conscious with how you’re spending money, be sure to take a look at these 15 tips. Even the savviest shoppers are always learning new ways to save money for optimizing spending and saving habits.

Common Retail Markups

Before delving into strategies for saving money off of retail, consider how much most items are marked up for sale. While there is no set or ideal number, many businesses charge 50% more than the actual cost of the item. So if it cost a company $50 to make a sweater, they would sell it for 50% more than that, or $75.

This means that, while not optimal for their financial goals, they could sell the garment for less than $75 and still be recouping their costs, plus a profit.

Some categories of products are known for having even higher markups. Consider these:

•   Mattresses, up 900%

•   Designer jeans, up to 500%

•   Furniture, up to 400%

•   Coffee to go, up to 300%

•   Diamonds, up to 100%

Places Where the Price Is Non-Negotiable

While there isn’t a rule about where you can and can’t negotiate, you are more likely to be able to get a better price at some locations than others. For instance, bargaining is more appropriate at:

•   Flea markets

•   Car dealerships

•   Small shops

It’s less likely to be effective at:

•   Luxury retailers

•   Chain stores

•   Malls

That said, some top-notch negotiators say they have scored discounts almost anywhere. Read on for tips to help you do the same.

15 Tips to Avoid Paying Full Price for Anything

Smart shoppers often get the latest and greatest – without having to pay full price for it. These genuinely helpful tips can help you save money on anything and everything so you know how to never pay full price for anything ever again.

1. Install Browser Extensions on Your Computer or Apps on Your Phone

There are a whole host of browser extensions and apps that can save you money with minimal effort on your part. You can see cash back options, rebates, price drops, and places where you can find an item for a lower price on another website. Some examples of boosting your money saving skills this way include:

•   The Honey Extension will automatically look for and apply digital coupons and promo codes when you’re shopping online.

•   Rakuten is a rebate extension that offers cash back, coupons, and deals at more than 3,500 stores.

•   CamelCamelCamel is an Amazon price tracker that alerts you when the price drops on an item you’ve been looking to buy.

•   Booklovers alert: The Library Extension works when you’re searching for a book to buy, such as on Amazon. It’ll allow you to check the online catalog of your local library so you can save some money by borrowing a book from the library instead of buying it online.

2. Find Rebates

You’ll find rebates from many manufacturers and retailers. Order new contact lens or an electric toothbrush, and you may get $25 or $50 back. Don’t let that piece of paper (which you may have to mail back in to get your reward) wind up in the trash.

Another popular source: Your power company likely offers some type of rebate for energy-efficient appliances, air conditioners, water heaters, smart thermostats, light fixtures, and more. For example, you may be able to find a $50 rebate for an energy efficient refrigerator. Pair that with a $50 credit for recycling your old one, and you have $100 off a new fridge. Just be sure to check with your power company to make sure your appliance meets the requirements and you send in the rebate on time.

3. Buy Used or Refurbished Products

Buying used consumer items can net you substantial savings — upwards of 90% off — and sometimes you can find these things for free. Essentials for babies and kids, clothing, and home decor can be found for a fraction of their original retail price. They’re often in great shape and there’s such an abundance of used items for sale that you can be picky with what used items you buy.

Where to look? Try the following:

•   Freecycle sites

•   Local thrift shops and flea markets

•   Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace

Buying discounted goods this way can be part of your financial freedom plan and help you find more money in your monthly budget.

4. Buy Items in the Offseason

You’ll score major discounts if you can buy things you need in the offseason. When a store is trying to make room for new inventory, you’ll see several price drops. Buying snow boots in March or swimsuits in September could save you 50% or more.

5. Redeem Credit Card Rewards for Travel, Gift Cards, and Merchandise

A great way to never pay full price on travel is to redeem credit card points for airfare, hotel stays, transportation, and other travel expenses. Some credit cards have partners (such as airlines and hotel chains) where you can transfer points and book directly with the travel provider. Other credit cards offer a simpler redemption based on the cash back rewards based on the value of what you book.

The benefit for redeeming points depends on which credit card you have, but many offer a tremendous value for the frugal traveler who never pays full price.

You may also be able to redeem cash back for gift cards. You may be surprised to see a 20% bonus for cash back you redeem for a gift card. To do a bit of the math, that means $40 in cash back becomes a $50 gift card for your favorite retailer.

Many credit cards also offer consumers the ability to use cash back or points to pay for purchases. You may have a card that offers you the ability to erase charges with the cash back you’ve earned after you receive your statement. You may see an option to pay for a purchase at checkout with your cash back or points (usually if you’re using a third-party site like PayPal). These can be a good way to avoid paying retail.

Recommended: 25 Ways to Cut Costs on a Road Trip

6. Use Coupons and Promo Codes

Not every shopper needs to be an extreme couponer to help them never pay full price. If you find something you want to buy online, for example, getting a discount may be as easy as searching online for a promo code.

Promo codes are essentially just digital coupons for the site you want to buy something from. They can help you avoid overspending money by reducing the cost of buying the product or service you need.

7. Learn the Pantry Principle

The pantry principle is when a shopper stockpiles goods bought at the lowest price. If a can of corn normally costs $1 and goes on sale for 50 cents, you buy in bulk to take advantage of that reduced price.You’ve cut your cost for corn in half for as long as you have the cans in your pantry.

The same idea can work with other non-perishable essentials. If you can buy, say, your favorite yoga pants or cleaning products on sale and in bulk, you’ll reduce your spending.

8. Shop at Warehouse Clubs and Outlet Stores

Warehouse clubs and outlet stores offer different ways to save money. Costco and Sam’s Club, for instance, focus on selling products in bulk, which can result in a decent amount of savings. Keep in mind, however, that not all products sold at a warehouse are cheaper than what you can find at other retailers, so just be sure to check your price, especially pre unit, whether that’s by the ounce or the liter. Also take advantage of discounts your membership may offer on health services, entertainment, tires and more.

Likewise, outlets can offer savings by selling overstock items from other retailers. You might find a pair of boots you’ve been coveting or a new armchair at a deep discount.

Recommended: 23 Tips on Saving Money Daily

9. Take Advantage of Birthday Deals at Certain Places

Want a free dessert? $10 off your meal? A surprise gift? Take advantage of special perks on your big day. Birthday deals abound, particularly at restaurants and certain retailers, like Sephora, Macy’s, and Petco, among others. To take advantage of a great birthday deal, you may need to sign up online in advance.

10. Look for Price Matching and Price Drop Refunds

If you’re about to make a significant purchase, do your research online first. You might find, for example, that one retailer is offering no delivery fees on refrigerators, but that they charge $75 more for the model you want than a competitor. You could see if they will match the price of the competitor in order to snag the best deal possible

Also, some retailers offer a price drop refund on items you previously purchased. This works by taking your receipt back to the retailer if the item you just bought went on sale shortly after your purchase (usually within two weeks, but the time can vary by each retailer’s policy).

Recommended: Compulsive or Impulsive Shopping: How to Combat It

11. Haggle With Sellers and Ask for Discounts

Sometimes, scoring a deal is as easy as asking for it. You can politely ask, “Is there any discount you can offer me for this?” or “Would it be possible to ask for a discount on this?” The best places to ask for a discount are the ones where there is some discretion at giving discounts, such as a seller on Facebook Marketplace, a retail manager, or even a hotel clerk.

Nevertheless, even a big-box salesperson can help you identify any current or upcoming discounts if you take a moment to inquire.

12. Wait for Sales

Eventually, most of the items you’re shopping for will go on sale, so it’s best to never pay full price for retailers that have frequent sales. Retailers will use any excuse to hold a sale. (Ever see an ad for a furniture store selling mattresses on Presidents Day?) The Gap, for instance, is known for having monthly sales with great discounts. After all, retailers know you’re more likely to spend money if you feel like you got a good deal.

13. Abandon Your Online Cart

This one is a little sneaky. Abandoning an online cart occurs when you add something to your online shopping cart but don’t actually complete your purchase. Nearly 70% of carts are abandoned by consumers. To help increase sales of abandoned shopping carts, retailers have some smart ways to get consumers to come back and finalize the purchase. Sometimes, the retailer will email you a coupon or entice you with another offer to get you to finish your purchase.

14. Sort From Low to High When Shopping

It’s common for websites to show their newest (and most expensive) products first, but if you sort your search to have the lowest-priced items shown first, you’ll likely find the things you need for less.

15. Subscribe to Email Lists or Newsletters

Many retailers offer a discount when you subscribe to their email list or newsletter for the first time. Retailers know that nearly 60% of their sales come from offering coupons or discounts. This means the discount they offer has to be good enough for a consumer to subscribe, so offering up your email could save you a bit of money.

These offers might be for 10% or more off, free shipping, or other deal sweeteners. And you can opt out of future emails whenever you like. Additionally, some retailers will offer these deals or increased savings if you allow them to text you with their latest news and sales.

The Takeaway

Paying less for items can mean you’re a smart shopper; it just plain feels good to know you’re saving money off of retail prices. If you have a few tricks up your sleeve, you’ll know how to never pay full price for anything ever again. Whether it means using a browser extension when shopping online, taking advantage of cash back offers, or tapping your negotiation skills, there are many ways to make sure you get the best possible price tag whenever you buy.

3 Money Tips

  1. When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a no fee bank account that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.
  2. When you feel the urge to buy something that isn’t in your budget, try the 30-day rule. Make a note of the item in your calendar for 30 days into the future. When the date rolls around, there’s a good chance the “gotta have it” feeling will have subsided.
  3. Signing up for your paycheck to be directly deposited in your bank account is a great way to help you pay your bills on time. After all, if your check is being deposited like clockwork, you can schedule bill payments ahead of time.
Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Is paying retail bad?

If you feel the price is fair, there’s nothing wrong with paying full retail price. In fact, studies have shown the more focused a person is on scoring a deal, the more likely they are to spend more money. If you’re also more conscious of what you buy, that’s more important than saving a few bucks on something that won’t last or doesn’t hold value.

Why are wholesale and outlet stores cheaper?

While not every item is going to be cheaper at wholesale and outlet stores, in general, you will find better prices shopping at stores that offer an alternative to full retail price. Wholesale stores can offer better prices by focusing on fewer products and selling inventory in bulk. Outlet stores often have better prices because they sell overstock items.

Should I pay retail if an item is limited?

The adage, “spend according to your values” can help you decide when to pay retail price. If you’re purposeful with spending your money, paying retail price on a limited item is a decision that may make sense for you.

Photo credit: iStock/Mongkol Akarasirithada

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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