The 24 Best Shopping Tips From DealNews Experts

Here at DealNews, we're pros at shopping and finding the best prices. Check out our best advice for becoming a savvier consumer.
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DealNews began in 1997 as dealmac, with a focus on finding excellent offers on Apple products — and showing that you don't have to pay full price. CEO Dan de Grandpre says that while the DealNews offerings have changed, the mission hasn't. "We still get just as excited to discover an awesome deal as we did [24] years ago," he says.

To celebrate 24 years of bringing amazing deals to our readers, we're passing along smart shopping tips we've learned in our long tenure as deal experts. We asked our colleagues to give us their best shopping advice, and they did not disappoint! Check out our best shopping tips below.

The 24 Best Shopping Tips From Our Experts

1. Always Check for Coupons

No surprise, many DealNews employees swear by this online shopping tip. It's a short, sweet piece of shopping advice that's easy to remember no matter where you shop!

"Always check for a coupon code before you buy. Sometimes retailers automatically apply coupon codes during checkout, but not always. Before you hit the 'buy' button, look at the product listing and the site's homepage to make sure you didn't miss any applicable codes — and don't forget to check DealNews, too. Even a quick Google search for the retailer can turn up codes that work." -Katie Roberts, Blog Editor

'Before you hit the buy button, look at the product listing and the site's homepage to make sure you didn't miss any applicable codes.'

"Always, always, ALWAYS look for a coupon code. One Christmas I was making a family cookbook for all of my family members. I uploaded the book to the site, put in the number of copies I needed, and the total showed $815. I looked around for a coupon code, and my total after the code was $287." -Kris Hains, Senior Content Editor

"Always look for a coupon code before checkout." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

2. Seek Out Rewards Programs

Customer rewards programs are hugely popular, and if you return to certain retailers again and again, it's worth seeing if they have one.

"See if your favorite stores have a rewards program. It's always worth checking if the businesses you frequent have a rewards program of some kind. (In fact, we've done a roundup of the best ones!) These programs are often free to join and provide serious perks, from extra discounts to free birthday gifts." -Katie Roberts, Blog Editor

3. Know When to Meet Thresholds

Shoppers often find themselves needing to meet a threshold in order to apply a particular coupon. Maybe the offer is for $20 off $100, for instance. But how can you tell if it's worth your time — and money — to bulk up an order just to use a coupon?

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Online Coupons

"Make sure you do the math to make sure you still can't make the coupon work for you. For example, let's say you're looking at a $90 office chair. There's a $20 off coupon, but you have to spend $100. Darn. Not so much, though. You are further ahead putting $10 more in your cart to reach $100 and then applying the coupon code (which now reduces your cost to $80). So you ended up getting $10 more worth of stuff for $10 less than what you were originally going to pay for the chair alone." -Kris Hains, Senior Content Editor

4. Prep Your Mail-In Rebates ASAP

Some retailers enjoy utilizing mail-in rebates because they're actually hoping their customers will forget about this perk. If you do forget, then you've paid full price when you didn't have to. But by planning ahead and being organized, you can ensure you stay on top of your rebate game.

"If you're going to take advantage of online deals with mail-in rebates, print and fill out the rebate WHEN you place your order. I fill the rebate out, address the envelope, and put a copy of my receipt in the envelope. Then when the item arrives, I can quickly remove the UPC label, toss it in the envelope, and immediately mail it out. A good deal via rebate is only a good deal if you actually redeem the rebate." -Kris Hains, Senior Content Editor

5. Play the Waiting Game

Sometimes it pays to wait a little before placing an order. If you're interested in an item and there's no current discount, go ahead and act like you're going to buy it. However, don't go through with placing the order. The store might offer a discount in order to entice you to finish shopping.

'Some [retailers] will email you about the abandoned cart and offer a discount to return and make the purchase.'

"Register your email with the site, then add something you want to the shopping cart, and leave the site. Some will email you about the abandoned cart and offer a discount to return and make the purchase." -Keith Ford, Senior Web Developer

6. Make a Small Purchase First

If you're eyeing a retailer that has multiple items you want, consider making a small purchase first. While some stores offer modest discounts for first-time shoppers, others will entice you to return with a savings offer after your first purchase.

"Make an initial small purchase. Some sites will then provide you a discount for your next purchase." -Keith Ford, Senior Web Developer

7. Prioritize Your Shopping

One of the easiest ways to save is by prioritizing your shopping, whether you're considering wants, needs, or rare "treat yourself" items.

"I make a priority list. Kind of like needs, then wants, then wishes, basically. I always shop the needs first (and those are in priority order, too). Occasionally, if a want is a super killer deal, I will purchase it before a need, but it really has to be a great deal. Wishes are purchased as an occasional treat to myself, or say if I have been given a gift card and there are no pressing needs or wants." -India Irwin, Content Assistant

8. Buy Throughout the Year

It might seem counterintuitive to shop throughout the year. After all, why would you buy Christmas presents in July if it means you have to store them for another five months? But by shopping throughout the year, not only will your buying be less stressful, but you'll also be able to take advantage of deals as they pop up, instead of waiting until a specific time of year to look for them.

SEE ALSO: What to Buy Every Month of the Year in 2021

"My tip is to purchase presents for loved ones throughout the year. If a family member or friend mentions something they would love to have, and you know they would not buy it for themselves, I go ahead and buy it for them and put it back until their birthday or Christmas. It not only ensures you get something they want, but can help you get your Christmas shopping done over the months instead of incurring a huge spend right at Christmastime." -Katherine Bools, Account Executive

9. Nail the Details Early

If you only have a vague idea of what you're looking for, trying to find what you want at a good price can easily become overwhelming. That's why you should decide on the details first, and then start looking for deals.

"Find the specific item (and brand) you want to buy, and then find the least expensive place to buy it." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

10. Always Read the Reviews

This goes for almost anything you're considering purchasing, from refurbished electronics, to experiences, to meals at a new restaurant. Reading the reviews can help you know what to expect and figure out whether or not you want to take a risk.

"Always always always read the reviews. Throw out the highest and lowest ratings (especially on Tripadvisor)." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

11. Be Willing to Pay for Shipping

We're so conditioned to look for free shipping that shoppers are ready to meet the threshold to receive it — even if that doesn't make sense. For example, if the threshold is $50 and you're only buying $20 worth of items, it's better to pay the flat-rate shipping of $5 or whatever, rather than bulking up your order just to save on shipping.

'Don't be suckered by free shipping if you have to keep adding items to get to the minimum.'

"Don't be suckered by free shipping if you have to keep adding items to get to the minimum." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

12. Know Where to Buy

If you're shopping for items like dry goods, it can be tempting to just throw them onto your standard grocery order for delivery or pickup. However, that might not be the most cost-effective way to shop.

"If you're planning to [buy] lots of dry goods, Walmart shipping is free over $35 and lots of times next-day or 2-day shipping, so why pay for a membership? If you're doing delivery (like I still do), order your dry goods through someone like Walmart or Amazon as opposed to a grocery delivery service. They usually charge for shipping, and even when they don't (Whole Foods delivery is free with Prime), you still have to tip." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

13. Check the Unit Price

Prices that initially seem really great might not be as good as you think once you look closer. But that's exactly what you should do. Whatever you're purchasing, check the unit price — especially when you're at warehouse stores.

"When shopping for groceries, always look at the price per weight or per count. For instance, comparable oat milks may look similar, but one may be 8 cents per ounce and the other 6 cents. [And] bigger may be better. The exact same laundry detergent is priced 34 cents per load for a 50-ounce bottle or 17 cents per load for a 100-ounce bottle." -Tom Romero, Editorial Outreach

SEE ALSO: How to Use Online Grocery Delivery in 2021

"My shopping tip is to consider the quantity. Don't forget to compare the price per count/ounce/pound, etc., for different-sized containers. Usually the larger the container, the less it will cost per unit. BUT that is not always the case! A smaller size could be on sale, or the larger one is just priced higher per unit." -Sandy McHenry, Customer Interaction Specialist

14. Strike While the Iron Is Hot

We champion smart shopping here at DealNews, and sometimes that means holding off on a purchase unless you're absolutely sure you need it. But if you know you need or want an item, it's better to grab it while you can!

"Good deals (especially editors' choice deals) come and go SO FAST. Chances are, if you wait, you'll miss the deal. I once got a $600 set of Calphalon pans for just over $100. If I hadn't pulled the trigger when I did, a few hours later I would have paid $450 for the same set. The way to score the best deals is to strike when the iron is hot. On high-ticket items, my recommendation is to do your research ahead of time, so if a deal pops up, you know it's something you want to buy and you can buy with confidence." -Kris Hains, Senior Content Editor

15. Realize That Bigger Isn't Always Better

When checking the unit price of a product, it can be so tempting to buy the better deal, no matter how big the package is. But will you end up using all of the product?

'You won't be saving money in the long run if you are buying more than you really need.'

"Consider how much you actually need, even if the larger quantity is a better per-unit price. You spend a little more to get more of the product, but what if you aren't going to use all of it? Will it go to waste, or clutter up your house? You won't be saving money in the long run if you are buying more than you really need." -Sandy McHenry, Customer Interaction Specialist

16. Share Your Shopping Lists

Having one person shop for an entire household can be difficult, but sharing a shopping list is a great way to make sure you collaborate with your family and streamline your shopping trips.

"Make a digital grocery shopping list that all members of the household can access. There are apps that are great for this (AnyList, OurGroceries). Grocery shopping has become a daunting task for my household with three teenage/young adult daughters. Oftentimes I forget something (this one needs shampoo, the other ran out of coffee creamer, etc.), and I end up having to go back to the store again and again over the next few days. But with this app, everyone can add and remove to the list so that when it's time to shop, it's all in one place." -Maureen Castillo, Director of Retention

17. Always Compare Prices

Savvy consumers know this online shopping tip is a no-brainer, but some still forget to check. Whether you've decided to buy video games, electronics, or something as simple as books, it's always worth double-checking prices to make sure you aren't missing a deal.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate TV Buying Guide

"Compare prices before you buy. Oftentimes, a quick Google search will show which retailer is offering the lowest price for an item. Make sure you factor in shipping costs! Also include the model number in your search, if applicable, so you're comparing the exact same product." -Katie Roberts, Blog Editor

18. Implement a Cooling-Off Period (Sometimes)

Sometimes deals are so great it can be hard to pass them up. But if you're only buying an item because it's at an excellent price, and not because you want or need it, you may be hurting yourself in the long run.

"Implement a cooling-off period. Do you really need that item, or are you just wanting it because it's a great deal? If there's a chance buying it may just create more clutter for yourself, think it over for at least 24 hours (if it's not ending before then)." -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

"In pre-COVID times, I'd postpone frivolous purchases by photographing them in-store. If after a couple of days, it's still on my mind, then I'll go back for it. These days, I'll take a screenshot or text myself the URL and allow a little time to pass, as well." -Keira Lim, Associate VP of Performance Marketing

19. Set Up Alerts

When you're determined to get the best price, it can be hard to figure out when to purchase, especially if you're afraid of buying too soon. That's where alerts come in.

"Set up alerts on your favorite website. With DealNews you can set up alerts for any products you're looking for, and you'll be notified as soon as we post offers for that item." -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

"I'm also a big fan of setting alerts on CamelCamelCamel for items I'm considering on Amazon." -Keira Lim, Associate VP of Performance Marketing

20. Make a Black Friday Wish List

When Black Friday ads begin rolling out, start crafting your wish list. And if you aren't seeing items you're looking for in the ads, go ahead and note those on your wish list, as well, so that if they do pop up at the price you want, you can snap them up with confidence.

'Rather than risk missing out on something you really want, take the time beforehand to create a wish list with your desired price and retailer.'

"There are so many excellent deals around Black Friday, it can be overwhelming. Rather than risk missing out on something you really want, take the time beforehand to create a wish list with your desired price and retailer you want to shop at when the deals roll around." -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

21. Earn Cash Back When You Shop

You're shopping anyway, so you might as well get extra bang for your buck. Here at DealNews we believe that using sites like Rakuten can make shopping even better, as you can earn cash back at tons of popular stores.

It's not just cash-back apps and extensions like Rakuten either. Many credit cards offer cash-back perks, so if you have one of those, you can typically receive at least 1% cash back on all your purchases. That might not sound like much, but select categories usually earn more, anywhere from 2% to 3%, or as much as 5% in some cases.

"Be thoughtful about the credit card you choose. Reach for the one that offers the highest reward or cash back for retail purchases." -Keira Lim, Associate VP of Performance Marketing

22. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

There are lots of savvy ways to buy and shop with gift cards. Two of the best are to purchase discounted gift cards and look for bonus cards.

"One easy way to make your dollar go even further is to buy discounted gift cards to shop with. You can often get them from warehouse stores at less than face value, and then turn around and spend them like normal. However, keep an eye out around the winter holiday season, as often retailers and restaurants will offer bonus cards during that time. During those events, you can usually buy something like a $25 gift card and receive a $5 card for free, or buy a $50 card and receive a $10 card for free.

SEE ALSO: Your Guide to the Best Gift Card Deals

"Sometimes you'll even see unbeatable deals like 'buy a $75 or $100 gift card and receive a $25 gift card for free.' These are great ways to bulk up on funds for your favorite stores and get more for your money." -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

23. Stack Your Savings

Why score one discount when you can get two or more? That's the concept behind stacking offers, and it can save you a bundle.

"One of the best ways you can maximize your savings is by stacking offers. This won't always be possible, but often you should be able to use a coupon code to get extra savings on items that are already discounted. Combine that with a cash-back app and you'll save even more!" -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

24. Opt for In-Store Pickup

Tons of retailers offer curbside and/or in-store pickup, including Target, Walmart, and Kohl's. It may require a little extra effort compared to shipping an order, but comes with its own benefits.

"While shipping is convenient, sometimes you just don't want to pay — or wait — for the item to arrive. When you can, try to opt for in-store pickup. It's usually a free service, and you'll be able to receive your item sooner, too." -Julie Ramhold, Senior Blog Writer

Readers, what shopping tips do you swear by? Let us know in the comments below!

Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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1 comment
In regard to the shareable shopping list- I use Google Keep notes since you can share with someone that way as well.