Suzanne O’Connor’s Bargains LA

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Bargain Hunting for Dummies

Filed Under: Zannee's Tips

By Suzanne O'Connor

Okay, so maybe you’re new to bargain shopping…or maybe you’re a seasoned bargain shopper. Either way, there are so many well-known large sources that are one-stop sources for deals on variety quality goods. Marshall’s, Big Lots, Costco, Trader Joes, Ross Dress For Less, Nordstroms Rack, Loehmann’s, TJ Maxx to name a few. Saving money at these sources is a no brainer. But there is secret inside info that will help you discern what you’re looking at and how to get the biggest bang for your buck.

For instance, Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx claim to sell the same designer labels and goods that are sold at department stores. This is true to a certain extent. They buy designer and brand name overruns and remainders. These can be of the same quality as the goods sold to their regular stores or they can be slight seconds or irregulars. But they also buy special purchase product to fill out their inventory. Sometimes up to 60% of the store. In apparel this is often a much lower price point product that would never have been sold at the majors. So it’s not really a bargain, just a cheaper product. It’s up to you, the intrepid shopper to know what you’re looking at. Just because it appears to have a designer label on it, doesn’t mean at a lower price it’s a bargain.

Of these three, TJ Maxx has the better selection of designer apparel, Ross tends to have better deals and selection in household décor, and Marshall’s comes in a distant third.

Nordstroms Rack is guilty of buying special purchase product as well, but Nordstroms tags their products honestly and racks them appropriately. Their selection of special purchase usually compliments their stores and only a few times have I seen the quality drop significantly. Nordstroms Rack is an easy pop in a see what’s up shop experience. But use caution with the shoes; the deals can be difficult to walk away from.

Loehmann’s doesn’t seem to have as much special purchase product as the other three. They hang onto the quality and the upscale labels, but items sell quickly and selection can get spotty. Loehmann’s is my favorite cause it is the better treasure hunt. I shop the others but the best deals have come at Loehmann’s. I don’t always score, but when I do, it’s big! The high–end designer names here are abundant at savings of 40%-65%.  Do sign up for on the e-mail list at their site www.loehmanns.com I also never go in casually. Shopping here is only done when I am serious.

Big Lots is a “pop in” favorite. They have added larger food sections and at some locations a good selection of furniture. I favor the apparel racks and the home décor/housewares departments. The real closeout deals are mixed in with their regular and seasonal items.  Here you pounce on the closeout items. Dawdling will really cost ya. Big Lots selection is a mix of Walmart, 99 Cent Only and an upscale boutique. A good seasoned shopper will spot the deals in the mix here and nab ‘em. I avoid impulse buys by scanning their flyer, which is e-mailed to me twice a month. www.biglots.com

A Trader Joes I make sure I receive the Fearless Flyer via e-mail every time it comes out. www.traderjoes.com. This lists the specials coming in and helps me plan my trip in. Planning at both Costco and Trader Joes is important to stay on budget. You want to make a list a stick to it. Shop as you would your regular grocery store.  Both stores have tasting samples, which can throw you off your budget if you over indulge. So if you enjoy these samples, add a few extra dollars to your budget to allow for one or two extras.  Also both stores are truly dangerous stores if you shop hungry… That’s a major no no!

At both Costco and Trader Joes the way to stay on budget is to take cash only. It stops you from buying things you don’t need. But it also takes away the opportunistic buy…that unbelievable deal on an item you’ve just gotta have. I have walked away from many of those. Today I walked away from Earl and Diesel Jeans at $29.99 at Costco. Since they run upwards of $150 retail, I really passed on a great deal. Did I need them… nope. Did I want them …yep.

Of the two, Costco is the easiest for me to go berserk in.  The reason is the high quality they maintain. I am a sucker for quality for less. Great bakery goods, USDA choice meat, name brands in food with daily savings of 20%-70% on everything. Quality giftware including Waterford, Lladro and jewelry. Deals on Cd’s, books, computers and electronics too. It’s almost too much. Then there are the services they offer for a truly one stop bargain shopping experience…. Optometry, Prescription, Auto purchase services, good buys on tires. The way to really get the best from shopping at Costco is to:

  1. Shop regularly and often
  2. Use cash to limit your spending
  3. Use the Costco Coupons for weekly best buys
  4.  Split the large quantities with friends
  5. Avoid trying those tasty samples
  6. Make a list a stick to it.

Of course not pouncing when you see a deal can be painful, I advocate pouncing at least twice a year. After all, you don’t want to take all the fun out of shopping …do ya?

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