First, even if you aren't getting married, try a bridal expo. The "married lifestyle," complete with furniture and cookware, is big business at bridal expos. Exhibitors usually offer steep discounts, too. We heard from one consumer who saved 50% off on a mattress. Check the vendor list online before you go, and set up a junk email address to avoid getting unwanted offers.
If you are a college student, or live near one, student unions are a good place to find a deal. Go at the start of the semester to pick up discount booklets that local businesses hand out to students for local stores. Banks, cable providers and cellphone carriers often also have tables in the student union, offering new-customer enticements.
Another place to check for savings aer surplus auctions. Local governments, schools, airports, hospitals, and even the military host surplus auctions to get rid of supplies they can't use. In addition to specialized equipment, you'll find very cheap furniture, electronics, office supplies and other items. Look for listings in local papers, or call to see when one is scheduled. Goods are often grouped in multiple-item lots, and require payment in cash.
You can also try specialized conventions. Conventions and trade shows are stocked with exhibitors who target conventioneers with everything from boats and cars to computers, clothing and home goods. Competing companies have incentive to offer better pricing, and they frequently offer exclusive deals for attendees. Not all shows are open to the public, so check the registration process as well as the exhibitors list before showing up or paying the attendance fee.
And finally, the oldie but goodie, yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets can offer up lots of deals. Anyone who watches "Antiques Roadshow" knows they can often find great deals secondhand, but it's a tip worth reiterating. Shoppers have plenty of leverage to negotiate on finds. Plenty of sellers also offer regular sales to turn over inventory, same as big retail stores.
For more tips on unlikely places to find deals and other consumer advice, click here.
by Kelli Grant and Jenn Eaker