Belleville News-Democrat 01/10/09 Belleville News-Democrat
TIPS: Learn the ways and shop like a pro by Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Paying full-price for something? Not in these tough economic times. Here are some tips to finding the best bargains, whether it's groceries, clothes or a pair of boots:

For the mall rat

BUY OFF SEASON: Purchase things like swimsuits and air conditioners in winter, and skis and winter coats in the summer, Helen Malan, online shopping expert for Shopzilla, said in an e-mail.

LIMIT ERRAND RUNNING: Not only does it save gas, by making fewer stops you're less likely to be tempted by impulse purchases, said Kim Danger, family savings expert for

ASK ABOUT DISCOUNTS: Many retailers have special discounts for working professionals, seniors and people who belong to certain organizations, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. Ask at the register.

KEEP THE RECEIPT: If you go back and see an item you recently purchased on sale, you may be able to get a price adjustment, said Danger.

CONSIDER LAYAWAY: It's a great way to shop early and avoid charging purchases, said Davis.

REBATES AND REWARDS: For free or at a minimal cost, you can get things like special discounts and cash back after spending a certain amount, said Danger.

For the clothes horse

CLEAN OUT THE CLOSET: There's nothing like purchasing something and realizing three months later you have the same item, said shopping expert Amy Blankenship Sewell.

SHOP FULL PRICE, BUT BUY ON SALE: When you're considering purchasing something on sale, ask yourself if you would buy the item if it was full price, said Sewell. If the answer is no, consider passing.

GIVE CLEARANCE A CHANCE: You may have to dig, but some items the store is practically giving away, said Karen Hoxmeier, founder and owner of

BEWARE OF THE PLASTIC: You may save 10 percent when you sign up, but Sewell warns that studies show people buy more from a store when they have the retailer's credit card.

SHOP SECONDHAND: You can find items for up to 90 percent off the original retail price.

For the hungry family

CHECK THE WEB: Go to store Web sites and sites like to see in-store specials. Online coupons tend to have a higher value than those you find in the paper, said Danger.

CONSIDER THE LITTLE GUY: Some of the best deals are at smaller markets, such as local vegetable stores and farmers markets, said Camp.

ASK THE BUTCHER: Large supermarkets need to move their highly perishable meat and fish and will generally give you large quantities at a deep discount, said Camp. Freeze what you don't need immediately.

CONSIDER THE DRUG STORE: Sometimes the drug store has cheaper cereal, milk and soda than the larger supermarket, said Sewell.

BUY FRUIT THAT'S IN SEASON: Hint -- it's the fruit that's on sale.

LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME: Besides sneaking things into the basket, they can distract you from being patient and figuring out what's the best deal, Sewell said.

LARGER DOESN'T MEAN BETTER: Read the price per pound or price per ounce, said Danger. A larger quantity may not be the better deal.