6 Surprising Ways to Maximize Your Savings at Home Depot

There's no arguing the fact that Home Depot can be a great place to save money on hardware and building supplies. And having worked at Home Depot fairly recently, I have the inside scoop on how to best take advantage of the savings opportunities. Here are a few tips to maximize your savings. (See also: 8 IKEA Shopping Tricks)

1. Don't Ignore the Cents in the Price

I recently had a former Home Depot employee, who used to perform all of the price changes in his store, inform me of how their pricing system works. Use this information to determine what items are clearance price, and if they might go even cheaper.

Price Ending in .06

If you see an item with an ending price of .06, you know it's a clearance item. These price stickers will typically be printed on a yellow tag. The "6" means that after six weeks, if the item has not sold-out, the price will be lowered again. Look for a date printed on the price tag, as that indicates the date the tag was printed. If the date is close to six weeks ago, you know the item is about to get marked down again. If they still have plenty in stock, it's worth waiting in order to get it cheaper in the near future.

Price Ending in .03

Any price ending in .03 is a clearance item that has been marked down from .06. This means that after three weeks, the item will be removed from the store if not sold-out. Typically, when you see an item ending in .03, printed on a yellow tag, it's the rock-bottom price and your best opportunity for a deal. Again, examine the date on the price tag to determine how close the item is to being liquidated.

2. Negotiate the Price on Damaged Stuff

The Home Depot is notorious for slashing the price on any visible imperfections or damage on either the product's packaging, or the item itself. When I worked in the warehouse, we were actually given the authority to knock 15% off the price on damaged products without any managerial approval required. Use this insider information to your advantage, and look for items that have cosmetic damage. Then, ask an associate if a discount is available.

Your chances of success increase greatly if you're polite and ask in a conversational tone. Also, if the item is the last one on the shelf, and shows even the slightest evidence of damage or wear, your success rate will increase substantially as employees want to clear it out of the store, since they know they'll have trouble selling it at full price. As a general rule of thumb, I like to start by asking for a 25% discount, knowing that I will probably settle for 15% off.

3. Score a Deal on Products Wrongly Stocked

This tip is not for everyone, but I saw it work several times during my employment at Home Depot. The average store stocks thousands of products, and every once in a while, a product is put back in the wrong spot or simply mis-stocked by the overnight crew. If you notice that a product is incorrectly stocked, and has a lower shelf price tag then it should, you can politely ask for the lower price.

According to Consumer Reports, the store does not have to honor the lower price, but in many cases, Home Depot will give you the lower price if the price difference is not outrageous. I saw this work for a customer that found a $25 Purdy paint brush stocked with the $5 cheap brushes. The assistant manager immediately gave him the $20 discount rather than argue with the man and create a scene.

4. Buy "Oops" Paint for Cheap

The next time you need to paint a room, or even an entire house, always check the "oops" paint rack in the Home Depot paint department. You'll find it next to the paint mixing station and it's where they sell highly discounted paint that was either mistinted by the paint machine, or simply not the color the customer requested. Having worked in the paint department in my younger days, I can tell you that you'll find some amazing hidden gems. This is especially true if you're not picky about paint color and simply looking for something neutral. Examples include one-gallon cans of Behr paint for $5–$8, and five-gallon buckets of paint, which typically sell for $125, can often be had for under $50.

A word of caution: Always ask to see the actual paint color, and never trust the color swatch on top of the can. To foil customers trying to scam the system by intentionally rejecting a color so they can come back and buy it from the "oops" rack, employees will sometimes add bright colors to the cans and change the color intentionally. Make sure the color you think you're getting is the actual color.

5. Buy Paint on a Holiday Weekend

Sticking with the paint theme, another insider tip I learned while working in the paint department involves the rare days of the year when paint actually goes on sale. The best days of the year to buy paint are on holiday weekends when the weather is warm. These include Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekend. The discount is usually a $5 rebate on one-gallon cans and a $25 rebate on five-gallon buckets. These holiday sales are typically good for both major brands of paint (Behr and Glidden) that Home Depot stocks. So, if you're thinking of doing a large painting project in the near future, it may very well be worth the money to wait, and buy, on one of these sale weekends.

6. Buy a Gift Card for Less Than Face Value

If you have a large remodel or DIY project in your future plans, you should definitely consider buying a discounted Home Depot gift card and easily save 7%–10% off your purchases. This is done by taking advantage of websites like Gift Card Granny and Raise, which sell unwanted gift cards at less than face value. Typically, the higher the gift card balance, the larger the discount. For example, right now you can buy a $100 Home Depot gift card on Gift Card Granny for $90 with free delivery.

By knowing some of the inner-workings of Home Depot, you can definitely learn to save money — money that can easily be used to make your next DIY or home remodel project a little more affordable. Whether it's knowing how they price clearance items, or how willing they might be to negotiate the price of an item, it's all information you can use to become a smarter consumer.

How do you maximize your savings when shopping at Home Depot?

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Carey @ wiserdollar.com

Good tips! An additional strategy is to buy Lowe's coupons off Ebay. Home Depot will honor its competitor's coupons. So by spending $8 or $10 you can usually purchase several Lowe's 10% off coupons. This is especially helpful when buying appliances or more making pricey purchases. You can even increase savings by then paying with a Home Depot gift card purchased at a discount, as mentioned in the post.