The 6 Shopping Mistakes Keeping You From a Great Deal


In today's digital retail world, there are plenty of clever ways to save money while shopping, including traditional coupons, price protection policies, or cash back apps. But unfortunately, many shoppers still make some big mistakes along the way — mistakes that result in them paying way more than they should, either online or in-store. Here are some of the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them in the future.

1. Failing to Compare Prices

If you're blindly making purchases without investigating price, you're clearly spending more than you should. With the advent of smart shopping apps like ShopSavvy and Quick Scan, there's no reason not to compare prices on significant purchases. These apps work by simply scanning the item's bar code, and within seconds, you'll know if the product is sold cheaper down the street or online. Get in the habit of using one of these apps regularly and you'll never overpay again.

2. Never Considering Price-Protection Policies

While Amazon recently axed their seven-day price protection policy, many popular retailers still offer it. This is important to know, as retailers are always trying to anticipate demand and thus are constantly changing their prices, especially online. Take advantage of the following retailers' price-protection policies.

  • Best Buy (15 days): For an in-store purchase, simply return with your receipt and head straight to customer service. For an online purchase, call them at 1-888-BESTBUY to request your price adjustment.
  • Costco (30 days): Hang onto your receipt and if you notice a lower price within 30 days, simply visit the customer relations desk and receive the difference. If for some reason you lose your receipt, you can always return the item (no receipt required) and rebuy at the lower price.
  • Dick's Sporting Goods (14 days): For in-store purchases, you must return to the store of original purchase, with receipt, to get your price adjustment. For online purchases, call them at 1-877-846-9997 to request a price adjustment.
  • Home Depot (14 days): Bring the item and receipt back to the store within 14 days if the price has been lowered. For online purchases, you can call customer service at 1-800-430-3376.
  • Kohl's (14 days): You'll need the original receipt to get a Kohl's price adjustment within 14 days or purchase. Items that don't qualify include clearance, BOGO, and Kohl's Cares merchandise.
  • Macy's (14 days): Simply bring back your receipt within 14 days for in-store purchases. For online orders, use this form to get your price adjustment.
  • Staples (14 days): Take your original receipt back to Staples within 14 days and get the lower price. For an online purchase, call them at 1-800-333-3330 to get your price adjustment.
  • Target (7 days): Bring your receipt in, within seven days, if the item you bought goes down in price. Clearance items are not eligible for price protection. Also, keep an eye out on competitor's pricing as Target will also price match the following retailers within seven days of your purchase: Amazon,,,, and
  • Wal-Mart (7 days): Wal-Mart will refund the difference if the price drops within seven days of your purchase. Exclusions include clearance, special buys, and value of the day products.

3. Buying the Wrong Items in Bulk

When it comes to buying items in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's, some items don't make the grade and should stay out of your shopping cart completely. Here are some to be aware of.

  • Brown rice: Due to the oil content in brown rice, it only lasts for three to six months on average, compared to an indefinite shelf life for white rice. Only buy what you can consume in a few months.
  • Condiments: Unless you eat hot dogs and hamburgers on a daily basis, you'll hardly ever use up all of the ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise before they go bad.
  • Cooking oils: They just don't have a very long shelf life, so only buy if you know you'll use them before their expiration date.
  • Nuts: Because they are loaded with oil, they tend to go rancid fairly quickly. Even when stored in an ideal temperature and humidity, they only last a couple of months.
  • Bleach: This one was a surprise to learn. Apparently bleach is only usable for three to six months; after that it starts to lose its effectiveness.
  • Baking powder: A big box of baking powder is often a bad buy, as you typically don't need much, and it only lasts for six to 12 months, depending on how you store it.
  • Beer: Many shoppers will stock up on beer for an upcoming party and overbuy, leaving them with a lot leftover. If you're not a beer drinker, be warned that most beers only have a shelf life of three to five months.

4. Assuming the Final Price Is What You Have to Pay

If you assume the price on the tag is what you're stuck paying, you're clearly doing it all wrong. You've failed to consider money-saving tools like coupons, cash back, and the idea of negotiating a lower price. Here is how to take advantage of each:

  • Coupons: When shopping in-store, arm your smartphone with the CouponSherpa and RetailMeNot apps. The combination of both will provide you with a plethora of coupons to thousands of stores which the cashier can simply scan when you're checking out.
  • Cash back: Use free apps like Ibotta and Checkout51 gather rebates at the grocery store on items you'll be buying anyway. You will be amazed how quickly your cash back rebates add up. (See also: Earn Thousands Per Year with These Cash Back Sites)
  • Negotiate: Always look for damaged packaging, floor models, and imperfect items and negotiate a deal. Often times they will already be marked down, but managers want them out of the store quickly. To accomplish this, they will often sweeten the deal for you by 10% — 20% if you politely ask.

5. Always Buying Brand New

If you have the mindset that "new is always better," you're making a big shopping blunder. If you can consider buying used when making big purchases like a new car, to small purchases like textbooks, furniture, tools, and exercise equipment, you'll save significant money. After all, it makes smart financial sense to let someone else take the depreciation hit. While Craigslist is the obvious place to start your search, don't forget about which helps you find garage sales in your local area. The site even offers a Google map to each garage sale and allows you to filter your search by specific keywords like "furniture," "baby clothes," or "golf clubs."

6. Stocking Up Because It's a "Deal"

Do you ever fight the temptation to stock up when you find a good deal, even if in the back of your mind you know you don't need more than one? It's an easy trap to fall into and it often leads to overspending. An easy way to remedy this problem is to stick to your shopping list, and budget, and know that buying excess "deals" often leads to excess waste.

What shopping mistakes have led you to overspend in the past?

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Guest's picture

One correction: beers *under 6% ABV* only last a few months. Higher gravity beers can be cellared just like wine - indeed, many benefit from 2-5 years of cellaring.

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