Discount Grocery Stores: Are They Worth the Savings?

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Like most people, I’d rather not spend any more at the grocery store than I have to. Over the years, I’ve tried every trick in the book to save money on groceries. And the single best way I’ve found to cut my grocery bill is to shop at discount grocery stores. 

Discount grocers like Aldi and Lidl offer much lower prices than big chains like Walmart and Kroger — not just on a few products, but on nearly everything they sell. When I hit my local store, I save money on every single item on my shopping list with no extra effort.

Admittedly, discount grocery stores have their limitations. They offer a smaller selection of products than a regular grocery store, and their quality can be uncertain in some cases. Hours are often limited, and the atmosphere isn’t fancy. But the savings make it well worth it.

Types of Discount Grocery Stores

The term “discount grocery store” can refer to two types of store: salvage stores and limited-assortment stores. Both types of discount grocers offer low prices. However, their selections and the strategies they use to keep their prices low are quite different.

Salvage Stores

Salvage stores sell goods rejected or discarded by other grocery stores. They’re also known as surplus grocery stores, closeout grocery stores, bent-and-dent stores, or grocery outlet stores. Like outlet fashion stores, they sell products other stores can’t at significantly reduced prices.

Salvage Store Inventory

Salvage and outlet stores can get goods at a discount for various reasons. Their merchandise includes: 

  • Overstock. Sometimes, supermarkets find themselves with more of a product than they can sell. They sell them to a salvage retailer at a steeply reduced price to clear their shelves. The salvage store passes the savings on to its customers. 
  • Discontinued Goods. Grocery stores often need to unload merchandise they no longer want to carry. Some of these are out-of-season goods, such as Halloween candy in November. Others simply didn’t sell well.
  • Damaged Goods. Supermarket shoppers prefer food in perfect condition. Slightly damaged food, such as dented cans or ugly-looking veggies, tends to get left on the shelf. Grocers sell them to salvage stores for less fussy customers to buy.
  • Late-Dated Goods. Some of the wares on a salvage store’s shelves are approaching or even past their expiration dates. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe to eat. Their quality is no longer guaranteed, but they’re still safe and often still perfectly good.
  • Unsuccessful Products. Sometimes, a company like Kraft or General Mills tests a new product or new packaging for an existing one and finds it isn’t a hit. Rather than discard the unsuccessful products, they sell them to an outlet store.
  • Wreck Salvage. A few goods at salvage stores are literally salvaged. When a truck carrying groceries gets into an accident, goods often fall off. Salvage retailers reclaim the surviving items from these wrecks and put them on their shelves.

Because salvage stores sell items recovered from larger chains, most of their offerings are name-brand products. However, these rejected products sell at much lower prices than usual. 

The selections at salvage stores aren’t limited to food, either. You can also find wine and beer, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, and pet food. There are even some non-grocery products like garden supplies, office supplies, or clothing.

But the selection at these stores is a bit haphazard. It varies weekly based on what other retailers happen to discard. And a few products at salvage stores are unfit for consumption, such as half-rotted produce or severely dented cans.

In short, shopping at salvage stores is a bit like a treasure hunt. You can pick up some real gems, but you might have to dig through a lot of doubtful bargains to find them.

Examples of Salvage Stores

One sizable chain of salvage stores is Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. It has over 400 locations, mostly in the northwestern part of the United States. 

This chain’s offerings include fresh meat, produce, frozen foods, health and beauty products, and wines. These goods can be as much as 70% off their retail price. Items marked as “WOW deals” are particular bargains.

There are also many independent salvage stores located across the U.S. They’re especially common in Amish country. 

You can find stores near you by consulting the directory at Extreme Bargains or searching online for “discount grocer near me,” “outlet grocer near me,” or “salvage grocer near me.” 

There are also chain stores known as job-lot or liquidation stores that sell salvaged and overstock goods. They don’t specialize in groceries, but they usually have some food products for sale. One example is the Ocean State Job Lot in the Northeast.

While not identical to salvage stores, dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar General are similar. Their pricing model sets these stores apart, with most inventory priced at $1.

Dollar stores don’t focus on food, although most carry some grocery items. However, they often use the same methods as salvage grocery stores to score bargains on overstock and discontinued goods.

Limited-Assortment Grocery Stores

Limited-assortment grocers are just like regular grocery stores but with a smaller selection of products. Many of them offer just one brand and size for each product they sell. The stores are smaller and need fewer employees to stock the shelves. That helps keep prices down. 

Limited-assortment stores also keep prices low by cutting out extras. For example, they typically don’t have fresh bakery, deli, or floral sections. These no-frills stores often display products right in their shipping cartons so employees spend less time stocking shelves. 

If you shop at a limited-assortment store, expect to bag your own groceries. You must also bring your own bags or pay extra for bags at some stores.

Some chains even require customers to pay a $0.25 deposit to use a grocery cart. This small fee encourages shoppers to bring the carts back rather than leaving them in the parking lot. That way, the store doesn’t have to pay employees to collect them.

Limited-Assortment Store Inventory

Limited-assortment grocery stores tend to focus heavily on their own private-label store brands. At some stores, that’s practically every product on the shelf. 

In fact, some limited-assortment stores, such as Trader Joe’s, have built a bit of a cult following around their store brands. Devoted customers regularly visit these stores for products they can’t find anywhere else.

If you’re loyal to any name brands, you probably can’t do all your grocery shopping at limited-assortment stores. But it’s worth visiting them for staple foods that are often similar regardless of brand. Examples include flour, sugar, salt, vinegar, and cooking oil.

Examples of Limited-Assortment Stores

There are many limited-assortment grocery chains in the U.S. Major ones include:

  • Aldi. This German chain has more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. Its stores are small — about one-third the size of a traditional grocery store. It sells primarily store brands, including organic, gluten-free, and European specialty food items. 
  • Dollar General. This chain has over 17,000 stores in 46 states. Many of them are in small towns and rural areas with few other stores. Its fresh food options are limited, but it has great prices on staple foods, household goods, and non-food items like clothing.
  • Food4Less. Part of the Kroger family, this chain includes about 50 stores in Southern California, Illinois, Indiana, and Nevada. Its deeply discounted selections include produce, bakery, dairy, meat, and foreign foods.
  • Lidl. This European chain entered the U.S. in 2017. It now has over 150 stores along the East Coast, from New Jersey to South Carolina. It has higher-end goods than many discount grocers, including organic products, fresh-baked goods, and affordable wines.  
  • Save A Lot. There are over 1,000 Save A Lot locations in over 30 states, many in areas with few or no other stores. Its small, no-frills locations carry primarily store brands. But it gets high marks for its inexpensive meats and fresh produce.
  • Trader Joe’s. Loyal fans flock to Trader Joe’s for its high-quality store brands. Its specialties include wine, cheese, organic foods, and goodies like cookies and frozen dumplings. The chain has over 500 locations in 43 states.
  • WinCo. This employee-owned discount chain has over 100 bare-bones stores concentrated in the western U.S. Most stores are open 24/7. One notable feature of WinCo is its use of bulk bins like the ones at Whole Foods to cut down on packaging.

How to Save Money at Discount Grocery Stores

To get the most for your grocery dollar at discount stores, you have to shop strategically. Some grocery shopping strategies are the same for both salvage and limited-assortment stores. Others are more useful for one type of store or the other.

Check the Store Hours

Many salvage stores have limited store hours, which helps keep costs down. They’re only open on certain days or hours each day.

But it’s seriously annoying — and a big waste of gas and time if the store’s far away — to plan a special trip to a closed salvage store. So always check the store hours before you go.

Confirm Coupon Policies

One of the most popular ways to save money on groceries is clipping coupons. Unfortunately, that trick doesn’t always work at discount grocery stores. Most salvage stores and many limited-assortment stores refuse manufacturer coupons.

But at the few stores that take them, such as WinCo, the savings can be significant. 

For example, suppose you have a coupon for $1.50 off a 12-ounce bag of ground coffee. At a regular grocery store, that coffee might cost $8.49. That means your price with the coupon would be $6.99.

But at a discount grocery store, you might find that same bag of coffee for as little as $3.99. With your coupon, you’d pay only $2.49. That’s less than one-third the regular retail price.

To find out whether you can score bargains like this at your local discount store, check the store’s coupon policy. If you can’t find it on the store’s website, ask a cashier.

Even if a discount store doesn’t take manufacturer coupons, it may issue its own store coupons. For instance, you can sign up for the mailing list at Grocery Outlet to get deals such as $5 off any $25 purchase. Most limited-assortment stores also offer special deals to subscribers, though Aldi and Trader Joe’s do not.

Bring Cash

Few salvage stores accept credit cards, and some limited-assortment stores follow suit. That’s because credit card issuers charge merchants a fee to use their cards. 

Most stores pass these fees on to customers through higher prices. By refusing credit cards, discount stores can keep prices lower. 

Some stores are starting to relax their no-credit policies. For instance, on my most recent trip to Aldi, I was able to pay with my credit card instead of having to use cash. But to be on the safe side, bring cash or a debit card on your first visit to any new store.

Examine Containers Carefully

At salvage stores, it’s common to encounter food in damaged packaging, such as dented cans. In most cases, the food is still safe to eat. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s not dangerous to eat canned food if the dents are slight.

However, if a can has a deep dent — big enough to lay your finger in — leave it on the shelf. Deep dents can compromise the seal, letting bacteria in.

The same guidelines apply to rust. A little rust on the surface that rubs right off is no problem. However, heavy rust can create tiny holes that admit bacteria.

Food in torn or dented boxes is also safe as long as the plastic bag inside the box is intact. Boxed foods with no inner liner, such as pasta, are OK if the box is only dented. But if a box is torn open to expose the food, it’s best to leave it.

Examine Fresh Produce

Fresh produce at discount grocery stores is a mixed bag. On some trips to Aldi, I’ve failed to find a single bag of potatoes without at least one that was visibly rotten. On the other hand, the bagged Brussels sprouts and miniature avocados at Trader Joe’s have never let me down.

Since quality is hard to predict, it’s best to examine all produce carefully for signs of spoilage before you put it in your cart. In fact, that’s a good policy at most grocery stores. Even at big supermarkets, I often find a couple of mushy strawberries in a quart container.

Understand Expiration Dates

Food at salvage stores is often close to or even past the expiration date on the package. But that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat. Dates on food are there to assure food quality, not food safety. 

There are several different types of expiration dates, each with its own meaning:

  • Best if Used By means the flavor or quality of the food is best before the given date. Past this date, crackers might be a bit stale, or powdered milk might have an off-taste.
  • Sell-By dates tell stores how long to keep the product on their shelves. Food is still good up to this date and for several days after. For example, milk doesn’t go sour until five to seven days past its sell-by date.
  • Use-By dates tell consumers when the product will be at peak quality. They’re not an indication of safety for most products. The only product it’s unsafe to buy or use after its use-by date is baby formula.

Most products, including canned and frozen foods, are still safe after any of these expiration dates. The only time frozen food might be unsafe is if it has been thawed and refrozen. If the freezers at the store have puddles around them or don’t feel cold everywhere, pass them by.

There’s one non-food product on which dates are important: over-the-counter drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration, drugs degrade over time. Any medicine past its expiration date may be unsafe or ineffective.

Know How to Spot a Good Deal

Although discount grocery stores generally offer low prices, they’re not always the lowest possible. Sometimes, you can do better at a regular grocery store by buying store brands or stacking sales with coupons.

The best way to spot the true deals is to keep a grocery price book. It’s simply a record of the prices you typically pay for the grocery items you buy most often.

For instance, the page for peanut butter in my price book tells me that the best price I can usually get is $2.85 per pound at Costco. So if I go to a discount store and see peanut butter for only $2 per pound, I know it’s time to stock up.

Consider All Brands

Salvage stores have a wide variety of brands on the shelves. Some are familiar name brands you know and love, like Campbell’s or Coca-Cola. When you find these, you can take the opportunity to stock up on your favorites.

But these name brands aren’t always available. Often, they carry off-brands you’ve never heard of before, like Banquet mayonnaise or Finest refried beans.

Similarly, when you shop at limited-assortment stores, there are very few name-brand products for sale. Most of the offerings are store brands, though they don’t always have the store’s name.

For instance, Aldi calls its cereals Millville and its snack foods Clancy’s. Save A Lot names its store brands after former employees, like McDaniel’s coffee and Sunny’s cookies.

Don’t discount these brands just because they’re unfamiliar. Some of them are just as tasty as the name brands you’re used to. But you can’t be sure until you try them.

To be on the safe side, buy the smallest package the first time you try an unfamiliar brand. If you like it, you can stock up on it next time. And if not, you haven’t wasted much money.

Stock Up When Appropriate

Discount grocery stores are great places to stock up on goods you use a lot. Even if you can’t use something right away, it makes sense to buy plenty, especially at salvage stores. Their stock is ever-changing, so the product might not be there the next time you shop.

But stocking up only makes sense for nonperishable goods or those you know you can use before they go bad. There’s no point in buying six avocados if four of them are going to turn black before you eat them.

The best products to stock up on are canned foods, shelf-stable foods, and produce with a long shelf life. Potatoes, onions, and garlic can all last a long time if you store them in a cool, dry place. Frozen foods are also a good choice if you have a big enough freezer to store them all.


Final Word

If you don’t like the offerings at one local discount store, don’t let that put you off the idea altogether. Each discount grocery store is different. If you don’t like the store brands at Aldi, maybe you’ll prefer the ones at Save A Lot.

Also, remember that the selection at salvage stores changes frequently. If you didn’t find anything you liked at your local store the first time, it’s still worth going back to see if it has anything better next time.

Shopping at discount grocery stores requires an open mind. The brand names aren’t as familiar, and the packaging isn’t as pretty. But if you’re willing to take a little extra time, these stores offer a way to save money every time you grocery shop.

For more tips on saving at the grocery store, check out our shopping archive.

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Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

25 Tips to Save Money on Christmas Decorations This Year

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Dig Deeper

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For all its joy and cheer, Christmastime pulls us in many different directions — physically, emotionally, and financially. It can be tough to keep up with all the demands, including your holiday budget.

You can’t control the cost of perfect gifts for everyone on your list. You can’t control the unpredictable expenses that always seem to come with the season. But you can go out of your way to save money on Christmas decorations, leaving plenty left over to spread holiday cheer. There are plenty of ways to deck the halls in style for less. 

Ways to Save Money on Christmas Decorations

You can save money on holiday decorations with these tips for proper planning, smart sourcing, and strategic shopping. 

Plan Before You Go

Planning your holiday decor before you start shopping gives you more opportunities to think strategically and find savings. 

1. Start Planning Early

The further ahead you plan your holiday decorations, the more time you have to set up chances to save. 

You can shop around, buy just what you need, and avoid last-minute markups. You’re also more likely to find what you’re looking for instead of making do with whatever’s left on the shelves. 

If you wait until mid-December, you have to hastily buy what’s available without any research. And you’re often stuck at a specialty or big-box store just when they’ve marked up prices the most. 

2. Pick a Theme

What do you want your holiday decorations to look like this year? You have lots of options. 

You can go classic with a Dickens theme. Or focus on the religious meaning with a peaceful Nativity scene. Or perhaps your kids or grandkids are all about the latest Disney princess.

No matter what you decide, once you’ve settled on a theme, it narrows the types of decorations that make sense. It doesn’t matter how cute a novelty or bauble is. If it doesn’t fit the theme, it stays out of the cart.

3. Decide Where to Decorate

Themes and goals do little to help you save if you fill your cart with vaguely appropriate stuff you’re unsure how you plan to use. Go through your house and decide what kind of thing might go in each location. 

You don’t have to make final decisions yet. Just know what space you have available. 

That open spot on the side table might accommodate a wicker basket filled with clove-spiked oranges or a holiday-themed candy bowl. But a taper candle or nutcracker will be dwarfed by that space.

Take notes. Use online images to help you envision the final look. You can even take pictures of your home and use a graphics editor like Photoshop to create mock-ups. 

4. Set a Budget

Run the numbers for your holiday budget. Don’t forget to include what you’d like to spend on holiday gifts, travel, entertaining, and fun. From whatever’s left over, set a maximum amount to spend on decorations this year. 

Then remember the saying. “It’s called a budget because you don’t budge.” This budget is a promise to yourself, so keep that promise. 

5. Make a List

Going grocery shopping with a list can save you big on food bills. And the same applies to your Christmas decoration shopping. 

Once you have a plan and budget, write down the things you need and how much it’s likely to cost. Don’t forget to include related expenses like batteries and tea lights. 

If the things you want send you over budget, rethink each decoration. Put anything you decide to cut on a wish list. You may be able to get them if you get a fantastic deal or find an alternative before you go shopping.

Otherwise, once you’ve got your list under budget, stick to it to ensure you don’t overspend, no matter what cool upgrade shows up in your decor shopping journey. 

Think Before You Shop

You have a plan, but you’re not ready to shop yet. Before you head to the store, think about how you can get the most bang for your buck, how fancy your decorations need to be, and alternatives to buying brand-new decorations.

Every decoration you can save on or get for free is a decoration you can move from your wish list to the shopping list.

6. Embrace the Power of Showrooming

“Showrooming” is a term retailers use to describe going into a store to physically interact with a product only to buy it cheaper online. Retailers hate showrooming because it cuts into their profits. 

But for a consumer, showrooming is a fantastic opportunity. Many online listings fail to give a good enough sense of the size, colors, and quality of the product. The wait for shipping can mean receiving a disappointing decoration with little time to do anything about it. 

Don’t just walk away once you’ve settled on a product. Many big-box stores match Internet pricing if you can show them what’s available. But don’t just buy it, either. Wait until you’ve seen what’s out there.

7. Invest in Quality Where It Counts

Imagine you have to choose between a $120 door wreath and a $12 one. If the cheap one lasts just one year, and the expensive one lasts 10 years or more, the expensive wreath is the better choice. 

It’s better to buy just one or two quality things each year and amass a stellar collection over time than buy lots of cheap stuff you continuously replace. So aim to buy a few high-quality pieces each year instead of large collections of cheap baubles that will break or wear out. 

Your tree is one of the best examples. A quality artificial Christmas tree lasts 10 years or more and costs just two to three times as much as a live tree of a comparable size. That means it’s between three and five times as good a deal before you even consider the fire hazard or costs of watering and disposal.

That said, some things, such as fads and kids picks your children will outgrow, are better cheap and disposable. You can pick those up at the dollar store or a budget retailer. 

As you’re making your plan, decide what needs to be an investment piece and what you can cheap out on.

8. Opt for Multitaskers

Items that serve just one purpose are the bane of budget-conscious shopping. Decorative ones are the worst of the lot. They get used once each year and spend the rest of the time in storage. 

A Christmas tree is a must in most households. But consider forgoing the Santas, reindeer, and candy canes for more general decorations. For example:

  • Pine boughs and holly, which can stay up for most of winter
  • White lights instead of multicolored, which you can string outside all summer
  • Snowflake and winter art celebrating the weather more than the holiday

As you map out your Christmas decoration plan, incorporate as many of these elements as possible.

9. Shop Your Home First

Before you set foot in a store, go through your home. Pull out all the Christmas decorations, winter equipment, and general decorations. Look in your donations box and the toy trunks. 

You may find exactly what you need or things that are close enough. You may even find something that’s even better than you planned.

Depending on how established your household is, it can cut half or more of the items off your shopping list. As a bonus, it means you have fewer new things to find a home for when the season is over.

10. Shop Your Neighbors & Family

After you’ve run through the potential decorations in your home, check with people you know. Find out if they can lend you anything for this year’s plan and offer to return the favor.

Better yet, set up a neighborhood decoration swap. At a swap, participants meet to exchange their unwanted stuff for things they need without spending a dime. 

11. Team Up With Friends & Family

Warehouse clubs, retail supply outlets, and large online lots sell goods in bulk at a discount. During the season, you can find decorations like wreaths, tree baubles, and lights among those deals. 

The problem is you only need one household’s worth of decor. Buying the bulk package for everything you need won’t save you money.

Fortunately, nearly everyone you know probably wants or needs them too. So go in on the bulk purchase and split it. That helps you save on your purchase without ordering more than you need. 

Take this one step further by getting together with three to six other households. Plan several Christmas decoration themes you all like. You need the same number of themes as you have households. 

Avoid fads and pop culture phenomena. A “Frozen” Christmas theme may look dated in three to six years (or your kids may have lost interest). 

You each buy the decorations for one theme, then trade at the end of every season. That gives all participating households several years’ worth of Christmas decor for the cost of just one year’s supplies. 

Just ensure you set a budget range to ensure everyone feels they got their money’s worth each year. For example, every household should spend a minimum of $75 but no more than $100. You can also establish rules like avoiding tall pieces that don’t fit in every house.

12. DIY It

Before you buy anything, look into what you can make yourself. Homemade decorations ranging from popcorn strings to paper snowflakes to small wrapped boxes can save you a surprising amount of money over buying something comparable. 

Or come up with something unique. For example, string last year’s Christmas cards on twine for an attractive, meaningful garland you can update every year. 

You can turn the whole project into family time with the kids. Each age group has something to offer, and they can be proud of the finished product knowing they contributed.

But note that some DIY projects cost more than just buying the alternative. For example, you could easily copy that wine bottle message display you found on Etsy, but when you can’t buy in bulk like the original designer, the cost of supplies adds up fast. It’s cheaper to buy it from the Etsy shop.

Do your homework and choose homemade only when it saves money. 


Shop Smart

Knowing where to shop (and not shop), how to get discounts and earn rewards, and when and how to compare products can save you a lot if you take the time.

13. Start at the Thrift Store

Thrift shops can be an excellent source of clothing, books, games, and toys. But many also put out seasonal items when the time is right. Some might need some TLC, like a touch of paint or stitching up a tear. 

Even if you can’t find holiday decor, you might find some inexpensive supplies for a seasonal DIY. For example, pick up a well-loved doll or broken jack-in-the-box for your Isle of Misfit Toys display.

14. Shop the Dollar Store

While quality is essential for decor you need to last, the Christmas season often calls for stuff you can only use once, such as fake snow or tinsel strands. 

You can also find inexpensive candles, jars and vases, artificial flowers, and baskets to fill with holiday-themed baubles like pine cones and Christmas balls. Things like these should last for years if you take care of them. A creative mind can turn them into eye-catching decorations on a budget. 

While dollar store selection varies by retailer and location, many carry a surprising variety of Christmas-themed goodies for less than big-box retailers. For example, Target sells Christmas stockings for $5 and up, but my local Dollar Tree sells perfectly good ones for a buck. 

But if you need more than a few pieces, check other options for decoration sets. For instance, Target offers several packs of multiple decorations for $25 to $30. If that pack contains more than 25 or 30 individual pieces, you’d spend more replicating it at the dollar store.

15. Shop at the Craft Store

When you’re picking up supplies for your family night DIY, don’t overlook the craft store’s other finds.

In addition to craft supplies, you can often find Christmas-themed components that can serve as decorations. For example, you can nab scented or glittery pine cones, miniature reindeer and Santas, and assorted season-themed picture frames. And they tend to cost a fraction of what you’d pay for something similar in the Christmas aisle elsewhere. 

16. Be Careful at Big-Box Stores

Big-box stores like Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy can be a blessing or a curse for saving money on Christmas decorations. They carry some products at prices lower than other retailers but tend to mark up other items substantially. 

Their general profit model is to bring you in for a good deal. Then, once you’re inside, they bet on you noticing other things you want or need. And you pay more than you should because it’s convenient.

Stick to your list and only take advantage of the good deals when shopping at these locations. 

17. Avoid Specialty Stores

Local holiday pop-up stores appear every season in unused storefronts or holiday markets. 

They’re almost always far more expensive than big-box stores and the Internet. Sometimes, they have really neat, exclusive decor, but they’re rarely worth the extra cost. 

Closely related are the year-round specialty shops like Hallmark and Disney stores. Their price tags are similarly out of proportion with other options. 

18. Run Everything by Amazon

Amazon has immense buying power in multiple industries, meaning they can outprice almost all their competition on a multitude of products. 

So before you buy anything from another retailer, check to see if Amazon can do better. If they can and you can receive it in time, that’s the better choice. That’s especially true for Prime members, who get free shipping on almost everything on the site.

This plan is especially frugal if you have an Amazon rewards or Amazon Prime rewards credit card. Both cards offer cash back on every purchase. But stick to your budget and avoid a standing balance. 

19. Leverage Customer Loyalty Programs

If you have loyalty rewards cards at stores that sell Christmas supplies, now is the time to use them. For example, the Kohl’s rewards you racked up in November could get you discounts on mantel decorations or lights and garlands.

Run the numbers first. Stores with rewards programs typically have slightly higher prices than the competition. So ensure the savings provides a lower final price than you’d pay elsewhere.

20. Remember Shipping

When you shop online for decorations, don’t forget to account for shipping costs. A discounted online purchase can cost the same or more as an in-store buy after you cover the cost of transportation.

It’s crucial to keep an eye on shipping costs with large objects like inflatable yard decorations or an artificial tree. Shipping them costs the retailer real money, and they pass that cost on to you. 

If possible, stick to retailers that offer free shipping, like Amazon and Overstock. 

21. Don’t Skip Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are best known for deep discounts on high-ticket gifts. During these events, you can find good savings on decorations or related products like craft supplies, LED candles, and batteries.  

22. Learn to Love Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day is a popular Asian shopping holiday that falls on Nov. 11. Although it’s a newer phenomenon, it already dwarfs Black Friday in terms of overall dollars spent. Singles’ Day sales are only available from Asia-based retailers. So look closely at shipping costs and estimated shipping times to avoid nasty surprises.

23. Use Cash-Back Apps & Browser Extensions

Cash-back apps like Ibotta and Rakuten give you cash back on purchases made at member stores. It’s the equivalent of using a coupon at the register. These deals focus primarily on groceries and restaurants but include retailers who deal in holiday decor. So you can find deals if you look.

Each transaction is only worth a small amount, but the savings accumulate into a single larger periodic payment. Depending on the app you choose, you can receive it via a cash-transfer app like PayPal, check, or free gift card.

You can get similar results online from browser extensions like Capital One Shopping or Honey. These interact with your shopping cart, automatically scanning the Web for coupons to reduce your price for whatever you buy.

24. Pay With Cash-Back Credit Cards

Use cash-back credit cards to pay for all your Christmas purchases, including decorations. When you use one of these cards, a percentage of your purchase becomes a rewards credit on your account. 

Later, you can redeem those rewards to reduce the balance on your card or receive a cash payment or gift card. Some cards have other options, like airline miles.

When buying Christmas decorations with cash-back cards, use the one with the best rewards for your needs. 

For example, say you have two credit cards. The Capital One Quicksilver card offers 1.5% back on all purchases, while the Costco Anywhere Visa gives 1% cash back everywhere and 2% at Costco. So opt for the Quicksilver when you’re at most retailers, but switch to the Costco card when you’re in the warehouse store.

You can also look at reciprocal discounts from your credit card-associated frequent flyer plan. For example, American’s Simply Miles program offers discounts or extra miles for purchases at 30 retailers. Some of yours might give blanket discounts or other deals at shops where you want to buy your decor. 

But use caution. Spending too much on credit cards can saddle you with debt for months to come. The interest can cost more than the value of the rewards. Only spend what you can afford to pay back immediately, and pay off the balance as soon as possible. 

25. Stack Discounts

You can save even more by stacking discount opportunities. 

For example, you might look at Ibotta and find it has a 7% cash back offer at Michaels craft store for purchases of up to $100 in value. With that in mind, you find they have an inflatable snowman yard decoration for just over $100. 

After a little more research, you find a 20% off coupon on the Michaels website. Between that and the Ibotta deal, you’re at a total of 27% saved. 

But don’t stop there. At the register, pay with a 2%-cash-back credit card to get even more rewards. 

Discount stacking requires research and planning but can add up to hundreds of dollars unspent or returned to you over a holiday season.


Final Word

If you really want to save money, take this year off. Use what you have or leave your home undecorated. Take the money you would have spent on Christmas decor, and put it in a savings account until January.

With the holiday season in everybody’s rearview mirror, whatever stock stores still have goes on deep discount. You can pick up all your Christmas cheer for pennies on the dollar. It’s something you can do every year. Use January’s purchases at the end of the year, then buy upgrades in January.

You can’t use this strategy to save on Christmas decorations this year, but it’s a strong strategy for budget-friendly holidays for a lifetime. 

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Source: moneycrashers.com