This is a guest post from Halina Zakowicz of Your Money and Debt.
Like many of you, I'm always looking to save money on brand name items. Aside from drug prescriptions, generics have just never quite “done it” for me — the generic soda I bought went gone flat in hours, the generic toilet paper I've purchased has either shred in my hands or never come off the roll, and the generic snack items I've acquired either taste wrong or are just plain stale. Most of the store brands I've tried have also had one unfortunate problem or another.
Brand name items usually do cost more, though. So, how can you save money when you buy them? Here's what I do:
- Use manufacturer coupons. Last year, I signed up to receive the Sunday newspaper at my house. The Sunday paper typically includes 2-3 coupon inserts that are loaded with discounts on brand name items like Charmin, Johnsonville, Yoplait, etc. I cut out the coupons I think I'll use and give away the remaining coupons to other people.
- Use store coupons. My local stores like Copps and Target send out monthly coupon books to customers who sign up for their mailing lists. These coupons are usually not available in the store and offer substantial savings on brand name items.
- Print online coupons. Online coupon sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com offer many valuable coupons that are not available through any other coupon insert or source. In many cases, I have found myself using online-generated coupons far more often than the physical coupons I've received through my newspaper.
- Peruse online promo code sites. Sites like Tjoos, Buxr, Ebates, CouponSmarter, Savings.com, and RetailMeNot offer a dozens of promo codes that can be applied to online shopping sites during checkout. These promo codes give you a percent discount on your purchase, free shipping, free stuff, etc.
- Combine your online and in-store savings. Sites like CouponMom, The Krazy Coupon Lady, and Julie's Freebies alert you to where you can combine various manufacturer, store, and online coupons to either get your purchased item for free or at a severe discount. In some cases, you can even end up making money on the coupon item.
- Use online deal sites. Major shopping sites like Amazon and eBay offer discount plug-ins that alert you to deeply discounted brand name items. For example, WeLoveDeals is an Amazon-based plug-in that alerts you of amazing Amazon deals on a daily or even hourly basis.
- Shop after the holiday. Regardless of whether you are shopping online or in-store, you will find significant savings on brand name items if you shop right after a major holiday has ended. For example, I always buy designer Christmas stockings about two weeks after Christmas for 90% off of their original retail price. This year, I stocked up on about four sets of Paas Easter egg dye kits at 95% off of the retail price by buying them one week after Easter. I will save these dye kits for next Easter.
- Use group discount sites. Groupon and LivingSocial are wonderful online sites that offer brand name items that are discounted at 50% and more. Using Groupon, I recently purchased Okabashi sandals at 60% off their retail price. Today, I used Groupon to purchase two $40 gift certificates to Apple Wellness (a health and nutrition store) for only $19 each.
- Shop at discount retailers. Stores like T.J. Maxx and Filene's Basement sell designer fashion labels at huge discounts. I've seen labels like Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klein, Pacific Trade and Infantino on a regular basis at T.J. Maxx. At the Filene's Basement in downtown Chicago, I was able to find big name items like Coach purses, Dolce & Gabbana suits, Hugo Boss shirts, and Giorgio Armani suits and dresses. Keep in mind that such items will run $200-$500, but these prices are still a bargain when you consider that originally these clothing items were anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.
- Earn online gift cards. Online sites such as MyPoints and Recyclebank offer free and easy opportunities to earn points that can later be redeemed for gifts cards at top retailers like Macy's, Home Depot, and Target. There is no cost to joining these sites or earning points through them; in most cases, points are accrued by simply clicking on and reading emails. However, if you make any purchases through the sites, you also earn points.
It's been over a year now since I resolved to never again pay full-price on any brand name item. In this time, I've been able to find all kinds of great online and in-store deals by simply keeping “my ears peeled” and talking with friends who like to shop and save on brand name items too. It's certainly been a learning experience; however, I'm now at a point where I never buy an item outright, knowing there's a discount on it somewhere.
Patience and determination are the cornerstones of my bargain-hunting process, and so far they have paid off quite well, saving me thousands of dollars.
What are your favorite places to find discounts and coupons?
Author: April Dykman
As a freelance writer, editor, and blogger, April Dykman specialized in personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship topics. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes, MoneyBuilder, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker, and The Consumerist. Now she does direct response copywriting but, in her free time, April is a wannabe chef, a diehard Italophile, and a recovering yogi.