NEW YORK (MainStreet) — What if I told you that there were secret deals most people missed out on? And what if I told you that you could start getting these deals at no cost to you, starting right now? It's not too good to be true, and there's no catch: these are some of the easiest ways to save money going. Read on to find out why you're throwing money away nearly every time that you shop.
Deal Websites You Didn't Know Existed
ShopAtHome.com, a website that allows you to get deals most people don't even know about in exchange for, wait for it... your email address. You don't need a credit card and best of all, you get cash back.
"The cash back thing is really what sets us apart," says Lesley Kennedy, senior managing editor of ShopatHome.com. The average monthly cash back check is $40, but if you use it the right way you can get hundreds, especially around the holidays. One small business owner earned tens of thousands by furnishing his entire business through the site. Not bad, right?
"I don't pay retail anymore," she says, adding that she's sure she's missed out on some bargains along the way. However, the savings offered through sites like hers are too good to pass up.
Extreme Couponing for the Extremely Lazy
You might think that to save a lot of money you need to be some kind of extreme couponer, obsessed with finding the perfect deal in the Sunday circular. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Kasey Trenum has written an entire book on the subject called Couponing for the Rest of Us: The Not-So-Extreme Guide to Saving More (Revell, 2013).
"People think it takes hours to save," she says. "That's craziness. No one has time for that." She spends one hour a week clipping coupons and saves at least $1,000 every month. How does she get so much with so little?
Online printable coupons are one way. Another is finding the local extreme couponer blog and cribbing notes from them, a tactic also recommended by Kennedy.
Trenum also believes in changing the way that you shop. Rather than just getting what you need for a week, you need to start getting into the sales cycles. "There's about a 10 to 12-week sales cycle," she explains, where items go from their lowest price to their highest. You want to become attuned to this and buy at the bottom of the cycle.
Sami Cone of TimeToSave.com adds that you don't even need to buy the paper to get the coupons, countering a common objection to couponing. "I go to recycling and ask for their papers," Cone said.
The Online Coupon Boom
Cone is a big advocate of online coupons, especially Valpak. A lot of people remember getting the Valpak in the mail, but few know that they can use Valpak in the here and now right on their phone without using any paper whatsoever. This is particularly convenient, as you can decide that you want to save on something while you're standing in line at the supermarket. Cone has used couponing to cut her family's grocery bills in half with a minimum of effort.
Thinking Outside the Coupon Box
There are a number of places where you can save money other than just shopping for groceries. The secondary market, for example, allows you to get electronics -- and just about everything else -- on the cheap.
Tom McElroy, vice president of ecommerce for Genco Marketplace, which owns NoBetterDeal.com, knows all about it. After all, Genco is one of the biggest companies in the secondary marketplace, where people can buy online returns, excess stock or liquidation merchandise at a fraction of the cost of retail.
All told, you can save as much as 70% off retail. "A lot of our products are refurbished," he says. "They go through rigorous inspections and are as good or better than new models."
It's not just electronics, however. You can get just about anything through the secondary market from designer clothes to Craftsman tools. A lot of getting the best deal is shopping seasonally, explains McElroy: Computers tend to be cheapest between back to school and Christmas, while televisions and other home entertainment product prices ebb after March Madness.
When dealing with a secondary marketplace seller, McElroy advises doing your homework. "Read up on them, including their Facebook page," he says. "See if they have a lot of positive comments." Above all, check the return policy so that if you do in the off chance get defective merchandise that you're not left holding the bag.
There are a number of ways to save with a minimum of effort. Smart shoppers should follow the lead of Lesley Kennedy and vow to never pay retail again.
--Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet