America's bargain-hunting habits

What shoppers will and won't do to save a buck

Published: April 30, 2014 06:00 AM

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You might already be a pretty shopping-savvy saver, and we're not encouraging you to become a crazy-coupon lady, but there's no reason you can't save even more by checking out the lengths to which other bargain-hungry shoppers will (or won't) go for a great deal.

Americans will go to great lengths to save, according to a Consumer Reports National Research Center national survey in which we asked 1,021 women about their bargain-hunting habits. (The survey was conducted for ShopSmart magazine, the quick and easy guide from Consumer Reports.)

The percentage of women looking to save has increased in recent years: Today, 83 percent say they're a bargain shopper, up from 76 percent in 2011. And only 1 percent of women today say they aren't sure whether they are deal seekers.

Some other figures that jump out from the survey:

  • 23 percent sometimes buy things they don't need just because they're on sale, while 32 percent show great restraint and never make such purchases.
  • 36 percent feel guilty when they pay full price.
  • 47 percent share news of their great deal with family and close friends, 35 percent tell anyone who will listen, and 10 percent keep it to themselves.
  • 59 percent wait for a sale to buy what they want.
  • 77 percent rarely or never regret buying a sale item.
  • 80 percent say they'd look for a sale even if money were no object.

You'll find more details from the survey below, including inforamtion on coupons and haggling.

Where are you on the bargain-crazy spectrum? Share your thoughts in our best deals discussion.

How often do you haggle?

  • Frequently 13 percent
  • Sometimes 26 percent
  • Rarely 34 percent
  • Never 27 percent

Listen up non-hagglers: 89 percent of people who ask for a better deal end up getting one, according to another national survey we did.  

Coupon trends

Things have changed a lot in three years. Clipped and printed coupons are out, and smart-phone deals are in.

  • Smart phone coupon use up 118 percent: 24 percent said they use smart phone coupons now vs. only 11 percent in 2011.
  • Online coupon use down 24 percent: 39 percent use online coupons now vs. 51 percent in 2011.
  • Paper coupon use down 23 percent: 64 percent said they use paper coupons now vs. 83 percent in 2011.

What you do for a deal

  • 48 percent bought an item with a small scratch or other imperfection and asked for a discount.
  • 18 percent returned an item and rebought it at the same store to get a lower price.
  • 19 percent waited in line before a store opened to get a deal.
  • 13 percent bought clothes or shoes not in their size because they were a great deal.

Check our calendar of deals for when all sorts of products are on sale, and look chic on the cheap by using our guide to outlet stores and tips for finding first-rate deals at luxury consignment shops.

Editor's Note:

In December 2013, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a nationally representative phone survey to assess the bargain-hunting habits of 1,021 adult female U.S. consumers. Consumers were asked about their motivation for bargain shopping, techniques they use to get a great deal, and post-bargain shopping behavior. This article was adapted from the May 2014 issue of ShopSmart magazine.  

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