8 easy bargain hunting tips for parents

Aug 12, 2008 at 1:49 p.m. ET

Everyone has one of those friends who is somehow on the inside track with all of the good deals. You know her -- she brings home twice as many groceries, but spends half as much as you did. Or, she gets high-quality children's clothing for what you pay for kids clothes at your local discount store. How does she do it?

Shopping for bargains - parents

Well, I'm one of those "friends," and I've learned a few tricks of the trade. While it's true that kids cost a lot to raise, they don't have to cost quite as much if you give a few of these simple but smart bargain hunting tips a try.


Warning: Bargain hunting does have the possibility of becoming an addiction. You may find yourself unwilling to ever pay full price for anything again!

Tip #1: Buy clothes the year ahead

This tip might not fly with your teenagers, but for little kids it is great. For instance, if your son is a 2T this winter, and you can reasonably guess that he'll be a 3T next winter, stock up. If you end up with items that you can't use that next season, then you have brand new merchandise that you can sell on eBay (and make quite a profit too!).


All of the main mall-type stores (Kohl's, Old Navy, Sears, Mervyns, Gymboree, JC Penney, etc.) do end of season clearances -- you just need to watch for them. During Old Navy's summer and winter clearances, prices often get down to only 97 cents to $2 per item, which is an unbeatable deal.


Gymboree has similar clearances on older lines in which you can pick up items for $5-$12. Pair this with coupons you get from signing up for their newsletter online and shopping during Gymbuck time (periodic offer where you spend $50 and they give you $25 Gymbuck dollars to use in the store at a later time) and you'll really make out!

Tip #2: Check online for the lowest price first

There are great Web sites available that help you to compare prices before you ever leave the house. If I'm doing some online shopping, I check out SheKnows Shopping or Google product search. I enter in a term like "Paper Mario game" or "etnies sneakers" and it shows me everywhere that those products are available, and where I can get it them the best price.


For lots more great ways to save when buying via the web, see our articles 41 ways shopping online is better than hitting the mall and Essential online shopping tips and tricks.

Tip #3: If you are not happy with something, speak up!

If something doesn't work properly, don't just give up and throw it out Be brave and complain -- nicely. I bought a potty chair from Fisher Price and had problems with it leaking. I called customer service and they were fantastic, and they immediately shipped me out a new one. I had problems with the new one too, unfortunately, and they ultimately sent me a refund.


In another instance, I bought a container of Breyers ice cream that turned out to be not as I expected. They sent me a coupon for a new carton of ice cream. Similarly, I had a Lean Cuisine meal that didn't end up looking anything like the picture on the box. They sent me a coupon for a new Lean Cuisine.


Some companies even go the extra mile. I had a bad vanilla creme from Fannie Mae candies last Valentine's Day, and they sent me an entire one-pound box to make it up to me! Contacting the companies is very easy -- most have websites and a "contact us" form that you can fill out in just a few moments.

Tip #4: Be smart with your coupons

Check through your online coupons and Sunday paper coupons before you go anywhere. Jenny Pape, a mom of three from Warrenville, Illinois, says, "I get anywhere from 2-10 copies of the coupons every Sunday by buying multiple (newspapers). For the $1.79, you get hundreds of dollars in coupons!"


And she really knows what she is doing with those cents-off vouchers. "I regularly match sale ads from the various stores with manufacturer and store coupons," she says, which allows her to stockpile cheap or free items.


"Recently, I went to Jewel [grocery store]. I bought 20 or so Butler GUM toothbrushes for [just the cost of] tax." How did she manage that? Pape explains, "The store puts these on sale for $1 quite often. There are always $1 off 1 coupons out -- makes for free toothbrushes. There have also been 'buy one get one free packages,' so two for free!" This is just one small example of how Jenny puts coupons to great use.


Personally, I never hit a store without first checking great sites like Points & Prizes, TheSavingDepot.com or Savingsmania.com for printable coupons. You can find anything from 25% off an item at Borders to $5 off of $25 at Toys R Us.


Get four more tips on the next page!


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