when sale prices AREN't better

In today's economy, it's pretty much expected that you'll be able to get something at a “sale” price. It seems like everything is always on sale any more! So, how do you know when you're REALLY getting a good deal, and when the “sale!” sticker could just be fooling you into THINKING you're getting a great deal?

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when shopping to make sure you're always paying the best price…whether from a sale sticker or not:

How to know when you're actually getting a good deal:

1. Don't assume sale prices are cheaper

Just because it has a bright orange CLEARANCE BLOWOUT BUY ME OR YOU'RE MISSING OUT ON SOMETHING AMAZING sticker on it, doesn't mean it's actually a great deal! Stores know that as consumers, we expect – require, even – a deal on what we want to buy. Stores often compensate for this by marking up their regular prices, so when it drops on “sale”, they are still getting the price-point they want. Likewise, just because it has a sale sticker on it, doesn't mean the price has really dropped enough to make it worth the purchase!

For example…

One day I went to The Children's Place in search for some jeans for my son. I have had great luck there in the past, especially at their outlet, for their clearance racks have clothes as low as $0.99. As I always do, I started in the back of the store before looking at anything else (that's where they keep clearance items, as explained in my “how to shop sales” post).

When sale prices AREN'T better

I found a pair of pants that I got excited about…

When sale prices AREN'T better

…until I saw the sticker. Notice anything disappointing?

When sale prices AREN'T better

That's right folks. This supposed rock-bottom clearance price is only $0.96 less than regular price. Also, $24 for baby pants?? Are you loco? (Please tell me any of you pay that much for baby pants…)

Defeated, I sulked away from the clearance rack and saw in all its shining glory…wait for it…a nearly identical pair on a nearby rack for…wait for it again…$10.

When sale prices AREN'T better

The solution?

Learn your prices. Keep your eyes up in the store, be sure to look around. While sale prices are often a good deal, don't put all confidence in that sticker. Compare. Soak in the cost of things. Shop around before buying anything – even if it's on sale.

2. Consider the coupons

One thing to note when shopping is that coupons canNOT typically be used on sale or clearance items. This can make an enormous difference at the register.

For example…

After not finding any good deals on jeans on the clearance rack, I moved to the regular priced items. Their jeans are regularly $10, which is a decent deal for toddler jeans (I usually try to stay with $7 or under for all kids clothes).

When sale prices AREN'T better

I whipped out my phone, searched through my filtered emails (see how HERE), and found a coupon in a snap.

when sale prices AREN'T better

I was able to take an extra 30% off the jeans since they weren't on sale, bringing them down to just $7 each.

The solution?

Keep a calculator handy (on your phone!) and do some math! Compare regular price + coupon discount, with sale price. Also, read the fine-print on reward points, bonus bucks, and bounce-back rewards for sometimes they aren't usable on sale items either.

3. Don't be sticker-blind.

I am hands-down GUILTY AS CHARGED for this one. If it's cheap, I won't buy one…I'll buy 3. Or more. (Just ask Bubba.) My motto in life is “If the shoe fits…and it's on sale buy it in every color.” So I constantly have to work on staying focused at the sale rack!

For example:

Sometimes when I do see a pile of shirts at The Children's Place for $0.99, I get sticker crazed and go buck wild, grabbing them like the building is caving in and those shirts are the only thing that will save us from impending death. Then I get home and realize that my kids don't actually need preemie “Santa's Little Helper” onesies…especially since my kids are 4 and 2 and 1…and it's March…

The solution?

Think through what you need. While I'm a huge fan of buying ahead by even a year or two (read about that HERE), if you don't like it, if you don't need it, or if your kids won't (or can't) wear it, don't buy it. Sigh.

My last tip? Bring a cute little buddy with you shopping. It just makes things way better.


If you keep those 3 things in mind while shopping, you'll be sure to find the best deal