Is That Sale Price Really a Good Deal? Our Best Tips to Help You Save!

Budgeting, Shopping Tips

Is that sale price sticker a total score, or are you being duped into thinking you're getting a good deal? It can be hard to know! We'll show you how to determine a good deal from a terrible one so you're never fooled into paying full price again!

Two friends looking at a half-off sign in a store window from Fun Cheap or Free.

If you've been here for at least two seconds, you know we love a good deal… If the shoe fits, and it's on sale, buy it in every color! Right?! Well, hold on, sis, because we've got some bad news for you today. Those sales prices and stickers aren't always the best deal, or even a good one! GASP

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It's true! Just about everything seems to go on sale these days, meaning companies are getting creative (and a little tricky). They'll make you think you're getting a better deal than you really are! So now the question is, how do you really know when you're getting a good deal?

Well, don't panic, mama. We're here to help! Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping to make sure you're always paying the best price, whether on sale or not.


Woman looking into store window from Fun Cheap or Free.

Spoiler alert: Just because it has a bright orange CLEARANCE sticker on it, doesn't mean it's actually a great deal! We know, we know… what has the world come to?!

Stores know that as consumers, we expect (require, even) a deal or sales price on what we want to buy. Many stores often compensate for this by marking up their regular prices, often significantly over the manufacturer's MSRP. They do this so they can frequently drop them to the “sale” price and still get the price-point they want.

Trust us, you do NOT want to be duped into buying a blender on “sale” for $99, only to go home and find out it was listed for $99 on the manufacturer's website NOT on sale… Ya, that's a gut punch, Freebs. Been there, paid too much for that.


Here are some of the most common deceptive pricing tactics to look out for the next time you're shopping at your favorite retailer!

  • High-Low Pricing – This is when a store marks up their prices super high so they can regularly (or even always) offer a discounted price. This makes you think you're getting a deal when really, they are simply marking their items down to the manufacturer's regular price. We can probably all think of a store or two that deploy this method.
  • Decoy Pricing – This is when retailers display the more expensive items in the windows or racks at the front of the store. The point is, when you see the price of those items, it makes all the other items in the store seem like a really great deal… even when they aren't!
  • Open Wallet Pricing – This is when stores display smaller, cheap, and trendy “splurge” items right at the front of the store. These items are often irresistible and get your wallet open and primed for more shopping! Ehem, Dollar Spot!
  • Catch Phrases – “Limited Time Only!” “While Supplies Last!” Yeah, they've fooled us all… These phrases and others like them make us feel a sense of urgency to buy… and that's the point! Look past the catchy buzz words and investigate to see if the sale price is even worth it.

Knowing these common pricing tactics and strategies can arm you with the information you need to spot the fakers! Never fall victim to your favorite store's pricing tricks again.


Woman shopping online for shoes from Fun Cheap or Free.

While sale prices are sometimes a good deal, don't put all your trust into that brightly colored sticker. Here are a few things you can do to be sure you're not being duped.

  • Cross-Reference – Always check the manufacturer's MSRP on their website to see if the price you see is actually a sales price.
  • Know Your Stores – Some stores are notorious for deceptive pricing strategies and they are starting to gain a reputation for it. Avoid the sales at those stores because it's almost certainly not a truly good deal! Go to for an unbiased look and review of common store's pricing tactics.
  • Buy Directly From The Brand – If you see a sales price in-store that matches the manufacturer's regular price, buy from the manufacturer instead. Don't reward stores for their deceptive pricing strategies!

With these tips, you're sure to spot a bad deal before you buy!


Keep in mind that most stores do not let you stack coupons on top of a sales price. The good news? Coupons and discounts on regular priced items are often just as good of a deal if not better! We'll show you an example:

After striking out on the sales rack looking for a pair of kid jeans, we moved on to the regular-priced rack. Finally finding what we were looking for, we whipped out the phone, googled a coupon code, and found a coupon in a snap. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

We were able to take an extra 30% off the jeans since they weren't on sale, getting an even better deal than the sale price offered on the clearance rack. Score!

Pro Tip: Keep a calculator handy and compare the regular price plus the coupon discount with the sale price. Also, read the fine print on reward points, bonus bucks, and bounce-back rewards since sometimes they aren't usable on sale items either.


We've all fallen victim to this one… We see a wild deal on $.99 t-shirts and we go crazy grabbing as many as we can justify! The problem? Well, did you really need 20 t-shirts in a 4T size? Hmmm…

While the $.99 t-shirts may be a legit awesome deal, don't overbuy just because they are cheap! You will most likely never use that many anyway which means you're overspending! Womp, womp.

The moral of the story? Take advantage of a great deal, but don't go too crazy and buy more than you can possibly use! Think through what you need. While we're huge fans of buying ahead by even a year or two, if you don't like it, if you don't need it, or if your kids won't wear it… Don't buy it!

Now that you know the difference between a good sale price and a bad one, you're ready to hit the stores. Keep these tips and tricks in mind while you shop and be confident in your money-saving expertise, lady! You got this!

How to you feel about retailers' deceptive pricing strategies!? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

image with text that reads " how to know if a sale price is a good deal", from Fun Cheap or Free

Want more fun, cheap, and free tips and tricks? Check out these posts, too!

Happy deal finding!


  1. Kellie

    I love Children’s Place sales! At least once a week I get an email for free shipping and a coupon code for 25-30% off. Last week, I bought my 9 year old five new t shirts for $3.15 a piece and I didn’t even have to get out of my yoga pants to do it!

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Dang, sweet score!!

  2. Kelsey

    Another thing that is great about that store, is they literally always have some sort of coupon out. One day, I had left mine at home, since I hadn’t planned on being by one, and I didn’t have a signal on my phone, so I followed one of your rules about asking, and they let me use a coupon that wasn’t even out yet, and gave it to me to use for next time! I also got $10 off at Old Navy once just for asking if they had any coupons! Best feeling ever!


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