Avoid These 8 Stupid Shopping Mistakes

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Getty ImagesAvoiding these mistakes could save you tons of money.
By Geoff Williams

It doesn't matter how often you shop, or how careful you are to only buy the best things at the best prices. There are so many stores, so many deals and so many ways you can waste money that it's almost inevitable you're going to make some rookie shopping mistakes.

So with that in mind, keep these eight stupid shopping slip-ups in mind the next time you head to the stores.

1. Not looking for deals. This is an obvious mistake, but men apparently need reminding that looking for deals and doing a little comparison shopping can pay off. Y&R, an advertising agency with offices in 93 countries across the world, released a study of 8,000 dads and found that 59 percent of fathers feel that coupons make them look cheap, compared to 37 percent of mothers (and 49 percent of child-free men). These perceptions really end up costing male consumers. According to Y&R, fathers spent more than moms when back-to-school shopping in 2014 -- almost $250 more, on average.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-If you don't research what you're purchasing, you're basically leaving money on the table.%"If you don't research what you're purchasing, you're basically leaving money on the table," says Erin Konrad, a Los Angeles-based content writer with CouponPal.com.

Besides, you'll end up beating yourself up later if you don't do some comparison shopping, says Scott Hamula, a marketing communications professor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, and someone who loves to shop.

"We often look at the prices for something we bought after we bought it, so we can reassure ourselves that we didn't just make a blunder," Hamula says.

2. Assuming the final price is the final price. When it comes to online shopping, once you put something in your virtual shopping cart, remember: You're not done yet. It's time to look for an online coupon code. There are seemingly thousands of these sites, including RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com, Valpak.com, CouponCabin.com and CouponPal.com. If you don't feel like visiting them all or don't have time, you should at least go to a search engine and type in "coupon code" plus the business you're buying from. You probably won't save more than a few bucks, but that's at least worth several seconds of your time.

"Every little bit helps," Konrad says.

3. Not planning for shopping in advance. Many of us lurch from one week to the next, buying things as we realize we need them. Trae Bodge, the senior lifestyle editor of RetailMeNot.com, points out that we'd be much better off if we planned ahead for upcoming shopping expenses.

For instance? "Set aside money for birthday gifts and holiday shopping," Bodge says. "I even recommend putting away a little extra for when you want to splurge and get yourself a guilt-free gift."

In other words, when you budget, think about the type of shopping that you don't do regularly, but you almost certainly will do at some point.

4. Buying the wrong things in bulk. Bodge also says that while bulk shopping is popular, don't go overboard. Buying in bulk can be a waste of money if you don't know what you're doing.

"Some items, like spices, vegetables, liquid detergents, cooking oil and brown rice can go bad or become less effective before you go through them," Bodge says.

5. Ignoring loyalty programs. You know how grocery stores, drugstores and even some restaurants will offer loyalty programs, affording you discounts as you keep buying from them? You don't need anyone telling you it's a good idea to use them. So we won't do that. But Bodge does have a tip for anyone wary of carrying around all those loyalty cards on a key chain: "Use an app like Stocard," she recommends. "It holds all the info for you in one convenient place [on your mobile phone]."

6. Getting a store card and not paying attention to it. That store credit card is offering discounts galore and probably sending you coupons via email or through the postal service. If you're not occasionally using it, and especially if you're shopping without it, then you may want to ask yourself why you applied for the card in the first place.

On the other hand, with so many store credit cards offering high interest rates, which can get you in trouble if the card becomes a place to park revolving debt for months on end, you could say that getting the store credit card in the first place was a mistake.

Either way, pay attention to it.

7. Forgetting to send in rebates. As any experienced shopper knows, some products come with rebates. Pay $800 for a TV and send in your $100 rebate, and you'll get a check for $100.

"There's a lot of research that shows that overwhelmingly, people don't use rebates, and so the company actually gets the full retail price out of you, and it's just a wonderful win for them," Hamula says.

Hamula suggests that if you're going to buy a product with a rebate, don't put off sending it in. "Get home, fill it out. Nowadays, a lot of companies will let you do it online. But whatever you do, do it immediately," he says.

8. Looking too hard for a deal. First of all, if you overthink your purchase, you may never make it, which is just as well if you were going to buy something you don't really need, but if you're buying a car or some other necessity, why make this purchase more stressful than it needs to be? At some point, you have to make a decision.

But you can also get so focused on saving money that you forget about what you're buying, Hamula points out.

"I did this about a month ago. I purchased a decent but older model of a weed wacker and leaf blower, and I thought I'd be happy with it. But it's not all that high quality," says Hamula, who paid about $90 for his gadget instead of around $140 for a pricier model.

He predicts that within a year, he'll probably end up buying another, more expensive version of what he has, so that in the long run, he'll have ended up paying a combined total of at least $230 on the things.

It's one of the risks of being a little too clever for your own good when you're shopping. Sometimes when you buy something for a steal, you still come out feeling like you've been robbed.
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