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5 Questions That Will Save You Money

Being your own financial advocate is vital when it comes to protecting your hard-earned money and making the most of what you have. Here are some savings tricks I've learned along the way, all the result of speaking up and asking the right questions.

Can I Get a Discount for Buying in Bulk?

Beyond Costco and Sam's Club, buying in bulk can be a quick way to save 10 or 15%, but you won't know unless you ask the store. I tried this out a couple winters ago at Best Buy, where I wanted to buy multiple DVDs. The clerk said if I bought 5, I could get a 10% discount. And no, there was no sign posting the deal - you had to ask.

Can I Trade In or Trade Up?

When it comes to kids and electronics, it can be very expensive to keep up with gaming habits. My friend's 3-year-old son progressed from the Leapster to the Nintendo DSi, and wanted to know what to do with all his old Leapster game. She asked a sales rep at Game Stop, who said she could trade in the unwanted games for store credit toward new games. The family now gets a $5 store credit for each Leapster game (new or used) they turn in, which they use toward new games for his DSi.

Did You Know [Competitor X] is Having a Sale?

That's right: Pit the competition against each other. I knew Saks was having a store-wide sale so I went into Nordstrom, to see if they were doing anything to compete. Turns out they were offering 30% off all designer handbags and shoes. It was not advertised, but if you asked, they had to tell you and honor the discount.

Would You Offer Special Deals for Us?

A year and a half ago my friend joined her local Moms Club; once she began to get to know the members, she posted a note on the group's message board about having the members cut deals for each other, and has saved considerable money. One mom, for example, is a hairstylist - she comes and cuts kids' hair in your home. She charges $10 per cut to the other mothers (vs. the $18 the chain stores charge) and my friend doesn't have to drag her kids to the store and wait in line. Plus she gets to support another mom from the club.

Can I Get a Discount?

Simply asking for a discount -- especially on an item that's a floor sample, the last in stock or slightly irregular or affected -- can be the easiest way to get a 10 or 15% discount off the retail price. Whether you're at a small retailer or national chain you shouldn't hesitate to ask for a lower price. The worse they'll say is no, but if the store really wants to make the sale, they'll likely compromise.

Photo courtesy Steve "PodcastSteve" Lubetkin's photostream on Flickr

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