Money

8 shopping hacks that will save you thousands of dollars

Saving money is easier than you may think.

"The world is filled with little bits of information that can save you money or make you money. There's hardly a single area of life that doesn't harbor money-saving secrets," writes Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue in his 2016 book, "Pogue's Basics: Money."

Utilizing just one of Pogue's tips could save you a couple hundred dollars a year. Try out a few and you could end the year with an extra thousand in your pocket.

Here are eight of Pogue's best shopping hacks.

Cash in on hefty discounts by paying attention to when you shop

When you shop is just as important as where you shop.

"In certain industries, the prices for products always drop at certain times of year, like clockwork," Pogue writes.

There are two times when you can expect significant price dips, he notes: When demand is highest, such as toys before Christmas or TVs before the Super Bowl, and when demand is lowest, such as with candy after Halloween or holiday decorations after Christmas.

If you time things correctly, you could save about $855 a year, Pogue estimates: "$855 = 5 percent savings on $17,000, the annual US family spending on clothing, entertainment, and other consumer goods."

Read more about the best time to buy just about everything, from electronics to gym memberships.

Mark Boster | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Use online resources to score discounts

Before you buy anything, head to retailmenot.com, Pogue says. It's essentially a massive collection of coupons that you can use in physical stores and online.

"You just search for the store you're shopping in or the thing you're about to buy," he explains. "You'd be amazed at how many times out of 100 there's a discount waiting for you."

There's also camelcamelcamel.com, which tracks prices of things sold just by Amazon. It lets you know when a price drops and also shows the price history for any item.

Finally, check out coupons.com, redplum.com, and smartsource.com, where you can scroll through hundreds of available coupons.

Get free two-day shipping plus a video and music library with Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime comes with an annual membership fee of $99 (or $10.99 a month), but "if you place more that a few orders a year from Amazon and watch just a few of the free movies, you'll make your money back," Pogue says.

Prime perks include: Prime video, Prime music, unlimited photo storage, a Kindle lending library, early access to special deals and sales, free two-day shipping, and free same-day shipping in big cities. Pogue estimates you could save over $700 a year if you're placing two orders a month, watching a movie a week, and reading a Kindle book a month.

"Overall, Prime is an excellent deal," the tech columnist says. However, he does warn that members "tend to wind up buying more stuff from Amazon, and more often, than they otherwise would have."

Pro tip: You can share your Prime account with another person cut the annual cost in half.

Boxes move along a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, California.
Getty Images
Boxes move along a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, California.

Price shop using apps to ensure you land the best deal

Sometimes shopping online can be tremendously cheaper than shopping in a physical store. Other times, the price differences are negligible.

Apps like PriceJump let you scan bar codes and compare prices from stores nearby and at thousands of online vendors.

"You aim your phone's camera at the bar code on the package and instantly, the app tells you how much that identical product would cost if you bought it from an online retailer," Pogue says. "If that blender on the shelf in front of you costs $90 less online, then it might be worth ordering it instead of bringing it home with you."

Read more about price-match apps out there that can help you find bargains.

Use a credit card that will pay you back

"If you're not using a cash-back card, you're making a big mistake," Pogue writes. "It's free money. … The best ones credit you with, for example, 2 percent of everything you buy — and 5 percent on certain kinds of spending, like restaurants or travel."

Pogue recommends checking out these no-fee cards that offer great rewards: Citi Double Cash, Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature, Chase Freedom, and Blue Cash Everyday.

Of course, if you open a new credit card, you'll want to make sure you pay more than the minimum balance on your cards each month. Interest rates vary depending on the card, but credit cards charge an average of 15% on unpaid balances.

Online shopping credit card
Roberto Westbrook | Getty Images

Find "refurbished" tech products for cheap

"Every computer manufacturer's website offers a listing of refurbished machines at huge discounts," Pogue explains. "You'll find special pages listing this equipment on the websites of Apple, Dell, HP, and so on."

The thing is, these computers aren't necessarily refurbished, the tech columnist says: "Usually, they were bought and then returned for some reason, sometimes without even being opened. For your willingness to buy something that's been shipped and returned, you're treated to substantial price cuts."

Install a programmable thermostat

"A manual, dumb thermostat wastes an insane amount of energy by heating or cooling your house when there's nobody in it," Pogue says. A programmable thermostat, on the other hand, "warms or cools the house only when you're there and saves money the rest of the time."

They cost as little as $20 and can save you up to $280 a year, Pogue estimates. Of course, the amount you'll save can vary drastically, depending on your utility costs, the type of heating or cooling system in your home, and the size and average temperature of your home.

Nest 3rd generation thermostat
Source: Nest
Nest 3rd generation thermostat

Buy your own cable modem

If you're using the modem your cable company gave you, you're throwing money away.

"The damage is about $10 a month, forever," Pogue says, of the renting option. "Buy your own cable modem for $100, return the one you've been renting, and boom: a $120-a-year savings."

Before you shop for your own modem, find out what kind of Internet service you have and buy one that will work with your cable company.

For more shopping hacks, check out "Pogue's Basics: Money."