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Kip Tips

5 Ways to Save Without Looking Like a Cheapskate

Shoppers don't have to sacrifice quality or appear as if you'll do anything for a discount if you use these strategies.

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I’m all for saving money. That’s the purpose of this column, after all. But I know that even most thrifty people don’t want to look like they are cheap. And it's not just about appearances. Doing anything to save a buck can backfire if you’re buying shoddy products solely because they cost the least. They won’t last, and you’ll have to buy more. That’s not saving money – it’s wasting money.

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So how do you save money without looking cheap – or actually being cheap? Try these five strategies:

Save at the supermarket without a giant stack of paper coupons. Surely, you’ve been stuck behind someone at the grocery checkout who is holding up the line as she fumbles to find all of her coupons. You know that you, too, should be taking advantage of coupons to save money, but you don’t want to be “that lady.” Good news: You don’t have to clip and collect paper coupons to use them. Many supermarkets’ Web sites and apps let you load coupons directly to your loyalty card. And some supermarket apps have personalized deals that can be claimed by linking your loyalty card to the app and clicking on the deals to add them to your card. Or you could use other strategies to keep the cost of groceries under control. Try these 10 ways to save without coupons.

Time purchases right to get discounts without haggling. Negotiating the price of a product or service often is a great way to get a discount. But if haggling makes you feel like a cheapskate, you can save money instead by timing your purchases right. The payoff from using this strategy will be especially big when you buy big-ticket items. For example, you can save 30% or more on laptop computers just by waiting until back-to-school sales in August and September to make a purchase. Learn more about the best times to buy big-ticket items.

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Buy high-quality used products instead of low-quality new ones. Low-quality products, even when brand new, often look cheap. Plus, if they aren’t well made, you’ll have to replace them often – which will erase any savings you might have scored. If higher quality products are out of your price range, though, consider buying pre-owned items to save 50% or more off the original retail price. See 12 Things to Buy Used to learn more about the benefits of purchasing pre-owned products. A good example is quality furniture, which can be purchased second-hand at estate sales and consignment shops. And here are eight things you should buy used for kids so you don’t have to sacrifice quality to save money.

Shop online. You don’t have to feel self-conscious about using coupons, comparing prices or buying only what’s on clearance when you shop online. Plus, the Internet often makes it easier to save money on your purchases. There are Web sites that can help you compare prices and find the best deals. There are sites you can use to find coupon codes to enter at checkout to score instant discounts. And there are even sites that allow you to earn cash back on purchases.

Use the right credit card. Don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not suggesting that you use a credit card as a status symbol. However, the right card can help you save money (as long as you’re not carrying a high balance from month to month). If you don’t want to wait for an item to be marked down and use your credit card to purchase it at full retail price, your card might pay you back the difference if it later goes on sale. For example, Citi cardholders who register purchases they make with their cards will receive the difference in price if Citi finds the same item for less within 60 days of purchase. Discover will refund the difference up to $500 if you find a lower price within 90 days; MasterCard will reimburse cardholders who find a lower price on an item within 60 days of purchase.