What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?
Have you scored 50% off groceries or 80% off a new pair of jeans? Have you ever left the check-out lane with more money than you had when you came in?
Getting something for well below the retail price — well below what everyone else is going to pay for it — is a simple and exhilarating victory.
You deserve that extra pep in your step as you walk back through the parking lot.
But what did you have to do to earn that discount?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Put the scissors down. Sleep in. Relax. You’re still going to save money.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to use deal-stacking to get the best price every time you shop — no matter what you’re shopping for.
Let’s Define “Deal-Stacking”
It might sound like something straight out of an episode of Extreme Couponers, but deal-stacking is much simpler — and way less kooky — than you think.
Deal-stacking is simply applying multiple discounts to one item or purchase to successively drive down the price.
Picture a price tag. Then picture yourself placing a coupon on top of that price tag.
Now picture yourself placing a mail-in rebate on top of that coupon on top of that price tag.
Even lower price.
That’s what deal-stacking is: a little pile of deals and discounts you use to reduce the price of the things you buy.
Most of the time, though, you don’t have to actually clip coupons or fill out rebate forms. The best deals happen when you shop online.
Here’s How Good Deal-Stacking Can Be
Are you still afraid this is some kind of crazy couponing nightmare? Not convinced it’s worth your time?
Look at these examples:
- We used deal stacking to get a $10 Barbie for $4.39.
- We used it to make an awesome Old Navy sale even better, saving 48%.
- We used it to get a $35 dress at Target for $7.54.
With the tools we’ll give you below, you’ll be able to find deals like this in just a few minutes — without leaving your house.
This post is packed with information and resources, so we recommend bookmarking it to help you remember the steps each time you shop.
1. Make a List
Make a list every time you shop to prevent overspending on impulse buys.
Stores — in person and online — are designed to grab your attention as soon as you walk in the (virtual) door and direct it toward whatever you didn’t plan to buy.
If you’ve already made a budget, then you know how much you can afford to spend each time you head to the store. Creating a shopping list helps you stick to that budget and ignore distractions.
2. Compare Prices
In addition to knowing what you want, decide where to buy everything on your list. Planning ahead is key to getting the best deal.
Before choosing a store, use PriceGrabber.com to compare prices on the items on your list.
The site will allow you to see a list of online retailers that carry an item. Prices are side-by-side, so you can quickly pick out which has the best offer.
In addition to comparing prices for yourself, you can also add these browser extensions that help you find cheaper prices on the items you search for in Google or a retail site:
You can also receive a discount on items you buy regularly, like toilet paper, certain foods, diapers or beauty products, by purchasing on a schedule through a service like Amazon’s Subscribe & Save or a Target Subscription.
3. Find Deals
Finding the best deals can be tough if you don’t want to spend hours each day glued to your computer or grocery ads.
That’s why we love deal aggregators.
We also recommend subscribing via email to your favorite stores. You’ll be the first to know about sales and receive exclusive coupons and offers.
4. Look for Coupons
In addition to finding the best prices, you might be able to save even more by stacking coupons on top of deals.
Many coupons exclude items that are already discounted, or can’t be used with any other deals or specials. But you can often use a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon, for example.
It’s always worth checking! Make sure you read the fine print before you start shopping so you know which coupons are applicable.
Deal aggregators often list coupons and rebates you can stack on top of sales. And you can find your own coupons through these sites:
For online shopping, you can also install one (or more) of these browser extensions that will look for coupon codes before you check out:
5. Shop Online (No Matter What)
Whether you’re shopping for the week’s groceries, back-to-school clothes or just indulging, we recommend shopping online whenever possible.
Anytime you shop online, you can take advantage of cash-back sites.
That means you earn back some of the money you spend on every purchase — you’ll either earn direct cash or points to redeem for gift cards to top retailers.
Here are our favorite cash-back sites:
The CouponCabin Sidekick browser extension can also help alert you when there’s cash back available for your purchase.
As a bonus, you can “recycle” your savings by using the gift cards you earn through these sites on your next shopping “trip.” Earn more points from the money you spend, cash out for more gift cards … do you see how the savings start to stack up?
6. Pick Up In Store or Get Free Shipping
Don’t let shipping costs ruin all your hard work. An extra $5 or $10 to get everything to your door could negate everything you’ve just saved!
Often the best way to save money on shipping is to pick up your order in the store.
This also saves you from waiting a few days or weeks to have items delivered to your house.
For items like groceries that you’d normally buy at a nearby store, this is pretty simple. Just shop online, and select “pick up in store” under your shipping options.
Many stores offer pick-up for groceries within a few hours of your online order.
For other retail items, you’ll probably have to wait for standard delivery, even if you have them shipped to the store for free.
Here are a couple of tricks for getting free delivery to your home:
- We’ve rounded up 17 stores that offer free shipping — including some retail giants like Target, Dell and Nordstrom.
- If you buy individual small items on Amazon — lighter than 8 ounces, smaller than 9 x 6 x 2 inches and less than $10 — you can get free shipping, even without a Prime membership.
- If you’re not a Prime member but want free shipping on larger items from Amazon, use this trick.
7. Pay the Smart Way
Choose how you pay carefully. It could be a valuable decision.
Store Credit Cards
Whether you have a store credit card could factor into which store is the best deal for the items on your list. What kind of bonuses or rewards will you get if you pay with a store’s branded credit card?
Store credit cards face criticism for high interest rates and limited use, but here are three that may be worth picking up, according to Credit.com:
- Kohl’s Charge Card: You won’t collect points per purchase with this card, but you’ll get at least 12 coupons for discounts of 15-30% every year.
- Best Buy Credit Card: Choose between 5% cash back or promotional financing. Also receive free shipping on orders of $35 or more, plus exclusive discounts, special sales and members-only events.
- Walmart Credit Card: This is one of the easiest store credit cards to be approved for, and comes with perks like receiving a free monthly FICO score and cash withdrawals in store with no fees or interest. It can be useful if you’re working to build or fix your credit.
Discounted Gift Cards
Knowing your shopping habits and planning ahead can help you save money for lots of reasons. One of our favorites is it gives you time to get your hands on some discounted gift cards.
Visit Raise to purchase gift cards for stores you frequent.
Sellers typically unload cards they got as gifts or ones they’re not interested in anymore, so you’ll pay less than the value of the card — giving you an automatic discount on anything you buy with it!
CostShredder can help you find the sites offering the best deal on the gift cards you’re looking for.
Rewards Credit Card
Do you have a cash-back credit card? If you budget well and pay off your balance each month, these can be a smart way to earn rewards for things you’re going to buy anyway.
When considering your best payment method, a cash-back rewards credit card could offer the best deal by knocking money off your final price.
Or, it could pay off better in the long term, if you’re trying to save points for a trip or other bonuses, for example. That can be harder to factor into individual purchases, but don’t forget to consider its value.
For a win-win situation — getting the greatest discount possible and earning rewards on your purchase — buy discounted gift cards with your rewards credit card!
If you don’t already have a card, we recommend the Barclaycard CashForward™ World MasterCard®, because it offers 1.5% cash rewards on all purchases.
Some credit cards can be more attractive at different times throughout the year because of rotating bonuses.
With the Chase Freedom card, for example, you can earn 5% cash back on a lot of your holiday shopping between October 1 and December 31, if it falls in certain categories. Keep an eye out for these seasonal bonuses that can save you a ton of extra money!
If you have trouble keeping track, the Wallaby Browser Extension helps you earn the most rewards from your purchase by telling you which credit card to use for each transaction.
Stretch Your Money Further
When you pay with a credit or debit card, make your purchase do double duty by connecting the card with an auto-savings app — our favorite is Acorns.
When you make a purchase with a card connected to the app, Acorns will automatically round up to the next dollar and deposit the “digital change” into your Acorns account.
Then it invests the money into super-simple portfolios to help your money grow. It’s a cool way to make a little extra money while you shop — you probably won’t miss that loose change anyway, so why not put it to work?
8. Take a Picture of Your Receipt
One last step!
These apps are popular for the incredible savings they offer on groceries, but you can find deals on other retail items, as well.
Check for cash back on all your purchases, including online orders you have delivered, and remember to enter the items when they arrive.
Even if you don’t find a rebate for your particular items, you could still earn money just by taking a picture of your receipt with another cool app we’ve found.
Receipt Pal literally lets you earn rewards just for snapping a photo of your receipt — regardless of what you buy.
When you take a picture of a receipt, Receipt Pal will reward you with points you can redeem for gift cards. Your receipt data is used anonymously with others’ for market research.
You may have to wait as the app staggers in participants for their consumer panels. All you have to do is download the app and register with your email address, and you’ll be notified when it’s accepting new users.
Your Turn: Do you have more questions about deal stacking? Leave them in the comments!
Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which ThePennyHoarder.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We do not feature all available credit card offers or all credit card issuers.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.