For some shopping is a hobby, others a chore, for me it's a challenge. If you're going to buy, how can you get exactly what you want and pay less for doing it?
Once you understand how shops try to sell and target us - you can turn it on its head and start to take advantage. So here I've compiled some of my favourite hidden shopping tricks, to give you an advantage.
1. Buy yourself 25% off gift cards. A new gift card marketplace lets people flog unwanted cards and e-vouchers, usually with 5%-25% off, eg, a £100 card for £75. So if you're due to spend in a store, buy one just before then use it, especially as it can usually be combined with sales & codes.
It's a new concept so feedback's limited, but what we have is good. Some retailers' conditions say cards can't be sold, so check, though biggies Argos and John Lewis say it's fine.
Extra tip: If you're planning a big spend at one of 50+ retailers (eg, Homebase, PC World) buy its gift card in Morrisons and you get 1p/litre off fuel per £10 spent. So £100 gets 10p off, £1,100ish gets a free tank. Full info, incl pros & cons, in Petrol gift-voucher trick.
2. Free 'Amazon delivery trick' tool. You used to get free delivery if you spent £10. Now it's a minimum of £20, but a handy tool provides a way round this; try the Free Amazon delivery tool.
3. Abandon online shopping baskets to tease 'em into giving you a code. Fail to finish a web order and shops often send codes to tempt you back, as Sarah found: "Something went wrong paying on Boohoo so I left it in the basket, next day I got a 15% voucher, so bought it for less". So try doing this deliberately to grab extra discounts. For the best chances see How to get abandoned basket discounts, incl 25 stores we hear do it.
4. Set the price you want to pay. Use a price drop service which searches 100s of stores and you can either ask it to email you when a price drops or when it drops to a price you're willing to pay. Last week we found a £99 Garmin sat-nav, and asked to be emailed when it dropped. Within days it came in at £79.
5. Revealed. The top-10 high street stores for haggling in. Don't think haggling is something only to try when buying used cars or in foreign bazaars. With chutzpah and charm it can work in big UK high street chains too.
Our latest poll on the best places to try has just closed, the Top 10 places to haggle on the high st reveals the winners plus full info on how to do it. Our own MSE Guy tried it: "I got £150 extra off a TV at Currys just by asking nicely, as it had a clearance sticker. Easy."
And I love a bit of haggling too, I even once used it to impress a date. It worked: she's now Mrs MoneySavingExpert.
6. Always check if there are codes before you buy. Use our Discount codes page to see if you can get a reduction.
7. Check store price-tags for hidden codes to reveal if items will be on sale. Store-tag scribbles can be a bargain hunter's treasure trove for hidden info, eg, B14 means it'll drop to £14. See Decipher store tags.
8. There is a way to haggle ONLINE. Shopping on the web is generally cheaper but the one frustration I always had was you can't haggle. That's changing and it's all about retailers offering live chat help. We tried and got 10% off Nike and £55 off a £779 Dell laptop. See How to haggle with online chats.
9. Check if that Amazon discount's really a bargain. Amazon prices move like a yo-yo, but the CamelCamelCamel tool tracks changes, eg, we found Kraken rum '25% off' at £24.65, but the tool showed it was £23 two months ago, so the deal ain't all that.
10. No code for the store you want? Get clever. Department stores or multi-brand shops may provide a workaround. For example, previously we found Clarks Orinoco boots, £60 at Clarks, no code, yet a 40%-off-everything Brantano code meant you got the boots for £36.
11. Bag hidden local eBay bargains. eBay sellers often specify items - from designer sofas to PS3s - as 'collection-only', which often results in fewer bids, so prices are lower. You can't search for 'em on eBay, so we built the Local eBay Deals Mapper (also iPhone & Android apps) to help you out. Chris tweeted: "Great local eBay pickup tool. Large Pets at Home rabbit hutch - RRP £180, got it for £40, like new." It doesn't currently always show 100% of results. We're working to fix it, but it mostly works well.
12. Find hidden Amazon 75%+ bargain basements. It's possible to manipulate URLs (web address) to build your own pages and search criteria, so we built the Amazon Discount Finder which does it focusing on Amazon's level of discount (though see point 9) to build you special pages, eg, beauty 70%+ off* and TV 25%+ off*.
13. Bag 5% off ALL shopping for three months. Cashback credit cards pay you when you spend on them. The Amex Everyday* (eligibility calc) is the top payer, giving a huge 5% for the first three mths (max £100) and up to 1.25% after. So if you've a big one-off purchase planned it's perfect.
Always repay it IN FULL each month or the cashback gain is dwarfed by the 22.9% rep APR interest. Stephen tweeted me: "Made £140 in 10 wks with cashback on my usual purchases with Amex card you mentioned, thanks". Full help: Cashback Cards.
14. Check if the price ends in 7, 8 or 1. If so it's often likely to be clearance stock, and that's a very valuable piece of knowledge in your haggling arsenal. As if it is in the clearance you can ask and see if they'll discount it further. See Crack clearance codes.
15. Play the John Lewis price promise to bag a free warranty. Buy electricals from John Lewis and you'll get a free 2-5-yr warranty; couple this with its 'never knowingly undersold' policy and get cunning.
It promises to match the price of an identical item you find cheaper at any retailer that has physical stores (not web-only). So find the cheapest price for what you want, then show proof (pic on yr phone) to John Lewis, get it to match the price and get the warranty too.
16. Can you get cashback on your web purchases? Cashback websites give you a cut of the money they make from referring traffic to e-tailers. So once you know where what you want is cheapest, see if a cashback site can give you extra money back. See our Top Cashback Sites guide for the right sites + pros & cons.
17. The 'Is Amazon Europe Cheaper?' tool. Oui, non, nein, ja. A cheeky tool compares prices across Amazon EU sites. Forumite deanos used it: "I bought a Philips sound system for £230 delivered from Amazon Germany. Was selling for £450 over here."
18. You've a right to change your mind online but NOT in store. Buy in store and legally you've only a right to return faulty goods (defined by the SAD FART rules). So buy the wrong colour, size, or just change your mind, and you've no rights (eg, if they offer a credit note, and say you need a receipt, actually that's generous).
However, buy online and for most goods you DO have a right to change your mind, as long as you let them know within 14 days and send it back within the next 14. See Online return rights.
19. Instantly compare prices across scores of stores. A shopbot, or shopping robot, compares a range of e-tailers in seconds to find the cheapest price. Our MegaShopBot instantly finds the right one for your item, be it games, tech or owt else.
These are just the start - also check out 15 Shopping Secrets and 43 Online Shopping Tips.