EXPAT LIFE: Unless you were in a coma, you couldn’t fail to notice that the biggest sales day of the year, called Black Friday (Friday after Thanksgiving) has just passed. If you missed this major retail event, it’s tempting to feel like you just missed the last train home for the night. Do not despair! In the land of US retail, there are always opportunities to score a good deal somewhere. Here are 7 other ways you can save while shopping in the USA.
1. Buy during the biggest sales periods of the year
OK, it is hard to deny that the biggest sales period in the USA is usually Black Friday, although Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is also pretty important as a major sales day too. Unfortunately, these two days won’t come around now for another year. The good news is that you won’t have to wait that long, for a decent bargain. November is not the only time that sales are held in the USA. Other important sales times include end-of-season sales e.g. in July and August, when there are end-of-summer sales; in February and March, when there are end-of-winter sales; and from the day after Christmas to mid-January, when there are post-Christmas sales. Even before Christmas arrives, there are pre-Christmas sales.
In fact, some types of goods are better to buy at other times of the year instead of Black Friday. Christmas decorations for instance, are best bought just after Christmas, while toys are often on sale for much lower prices, closer to Christmas, than on Black Friday.
2. Use Coupons
Ahhhh, coupons! These would have to be one of America’s greatest innovations for shoppers. It seems Americans are coupon mad sometimes (just watch an episode of Extreme Couponing to see what I mean). But why wouldn’t you be, if this can knock 20% or 40% off the price? Coupons can be obtained in a number of ways, depending on the store. Stores like Michaels have them online, others like Macys send them out in the mail to loyal, registered shoppers. And then there are those advertised in catalogs and via aggregator websites that include Groupon, Shop At Home and Retail Me Not, just to name a few.
Coupons can be used for purchasing goods, services, and ‘experiences’, such as visiting museums, movies, amusement parks etc. Schools often have kid’s coupon books that are sold to parents for fund-raising which cover everything from food to fun outings.
3. Visit specialty low price stores
Aside from the discount mass merchandise stores such as Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart, there are several other types of retailers that provide opportunities to save on purchases. These include:
- Off-price sellers: stores that purchase brand name stock of apparel to sell at lower prices than other retailers. Examples include Burlington Coat Factory, and T.J. Maxx.
- Consignment and Thrift stores: Retailers of slightly used or second-hand apparel and goods. These types of stores have become far more common in recent times. Some very good buys can be obtained from consignment and thrift stores in towns with well-off populations.
- overstock.com: An online merchandise store that sells new and returned stock at lower prices than normal retailers.
4. Visit an Outlet Mall
An outlet store is one that specifically sells a manufacturer brand of apparel, shoes or other item. Typically these stores are known for lower priced goods than their retail sisters in suburban malls, as they feature either leftovers from another season or damaged clothes or items that just didn’t sell. Some people claim that the clothes here are made just for outlets, using lower quality material so the price can be kept low. Regardless, prices are lower and still worth visiting to see what bargains may be available. Outlet malls (shopping malls with large numbers of brand outlet stores), are located in several places in New Jersey. This includes Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth; Secaucus Outlets at Meadowlands, Bergen Town Center at Paramus; Jersey Shore Premium Outlets at Tinton Falls, Jackson Premium Outlets at Jackson, and Liberty Premium Outlets at Flemington, NJ.
5. Make Use of Store Discount Programs
There are a number of programs and offers you can get from stores that help save money or get bonus stuff:
- Discount or loyalty programs: Nearly all supermarkets and large retailers have discount or loyalty programs that you can join. Rewards range from discounts off current or future purchases, loyalty points, coupons and more.
- Using a store card – while some people may not be interested in getting another credit card of sorts, having a store card from Macy’s can get you another 20% discount on top of any sales discounts.
6. Visit a Yard Sale
A garage or yard sale (as they are called here), is a pretty common event in most towns. However, if you visit yard sales from relatively wealthy towns, you may find merchandise that has never been worn (tags still on) or only slightly used, and in good condition. This is also a great way to find some very nice pieces of furniture, if you visit the right type of yard sale. Not to sound too holier-than-thou, materialism is alive and well in Northern NJ, so curbside throwaways and yard sales are sometimes better value than anywhere else you could find.
7. Go to an American Flea Market
Flea markets are hugely popular across the US, and NJ has more than its fair share. Some specialize more in selling some types of materials than others, such as antiques, music, arts and crafts etc., so best to do a bit of research first on what flea markets are around and what type of goods they may sell. A popular venue in Northern Jersey is the New Meadowlands Flea Market, located in the parking area of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Open Saturdays and Special Event Days, this flea market is conveniently serviced by major roads and public transport routes. One of the best known flea market is Englishtown Flea Market, located at 90 Wilson Ave., Englishtown, northwest of Freehold in Central New Jersey. Open Saturdays and Sundays from 8am-4pm, this flea market offers produce, clothing and shoes, electronics, jewelry and furs, toys and collectibles.
Our state’s capital city, Trenton, has its own version titled “Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market”. Music is a popular theme at this one but other fun stuff is available too at this Southern Jersey-based market.
It is easy to see, when running through the list above why the US is so well-known for shopping- it’s not just the low prices but the massive number of different places, and formats where you can shop, and often at some type of discounted price. While this article does not claim to include every opportunity to save while shopping in the USA, it certainly provides a number of options for an expat to explore – many for the first time ever.