Each month, an average American visits a shopping mall at least one time and spends an average of $241.20 (source). If you are going to spend about three grand a year on something, shouldn’t you walk in there with a few ways to save money? Personally, I try to avoid the mall at all costs, but sometimes, I end up there with friends or family. My favorite pastime is to challenge myself to leave the mall without spending a dime, but in some cases, I fail. For the times that you must brave the mall to make a purchase, here are my 20 best mall hacks to save money on just about anything.
The 20 best mall hacks
- Sign up for email lists. Start with the stores that you are planning to shop at, or the ones that you visit frequently. Also, make sure to join the email list of the mall itself. A lot of times, malls will have exclusive deals for joining their lists that you won’t find anywhere else. For most retail email lists, you will get a discount or coupon on your first purchase right after signing up.
- Shop at less busy times. If you walk into the mall on a weekend during the holiday season, stores don’t need your business. If you walk in on a slow weekday morning during the offseason, you are more likely to find deals or special offers. As a side bonus, you will have a much easier time finding parking and walking around in peace.
- Don’t get tricked by sales. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean that it’s what you need. Ask yourself if you would buy the item if it was not on sale and if the answer is no, put that little money trap back on the rack.
- Set your own price. Similar to the previous point, if you set your own price that you are willing to pay before you start shopping, you will be less likely to overspend. Make a list of what you need to buy. Then, figure out how much you want to pay for those items. Regardless of what stores want to charge, you will know what it should cost for you.
- Ask for price matching. This mall hack falls in the category of “it can’t hurt to ask.” Many stores do offer price matching, so check the item online before you buy it in store. If you can find it anywhere cheaper, but don’t want to wait for shipping, take your phone up to the register and see if they will honor the price.
- Sample an item first. For certain types of items like perfume, makeup, or any other consumables, you can usually get a free sample or pay far less for a sample or travel size. By using the product first before buying a large quantity, you can save yourself the cost of the item AND the extra space in your house that an unused product will take up.
- Go during sales. This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s still underrated. The personal rule I use for myself is to never pay retail for anything, but if you are not ready for that extreme, you can still hold off on certain items and get them when they are heavily discounted.
- Use rebate apps. These days, you can get cash back on pretty much any purchase that you make in a shopping mall. Check out apps like eBates, Shopkick, Ibotta, Receipt Hog, and RetailMeNot. Some of these apps will give you points for simply walking into a store or uploading your receipt. Those points then turn into cash back in your Paypal account or gift cards for additional shopping.
- Try everything on. You may not expect to find this on a list of shopping mall hacks, but it’s one of the most important ways to save money. I can’t tell you how many clothes have lived in my closet over the years simply because they didn’t quite fit right and I never got around to taking them back. Try everything on before you buy it and you’ll have far less wasted money sitting in your closet or Goodwill pile.
- Stay the same weight. This goes along with trying everything on for the same reason. If you have a bunch of clothes in your house that don’t fit you, you have wasted money. By staying the same weight, clothes will fit you for much longer. Plus, assuming that this is a weight that you are happy with, this will make you smile in more ways than one.
- Pay attention when you check out. Retail employees are humans, too. They make mistakes. Keep an eye on the register during checkout and take a quick look at your receipt before you leave a store. It’s easy to accidentally ring up the wrong price, or fail to use a promotion, so make sure that you are paying the right price before you take off.
- Don’t open store credit cards. This one should be self-explanatory. Whatever deal they are offering you, it’s not a good one. Those deals wouldn’t be offered if they didn’t end up making money for the store and credit card companies, so save yourself the risk and stick to your cash, or existing plastic. Better yet…
- Use cash. It’s easy to lose track of what you are spending when you are simply handing over a piece of plastic. When you hand over a $100 bill for your purchase, it makes it a little more real. The other benefit of shopping with cash is that you can take a set amount to the mall for what you need and you will never overspend, because, as they say, when the money is gone, it’s time to move on.
- Park near your destination store. How may times have you made a quick run to the mall “for one thing,” then ended up leaving three hours later? If you park on the opposite side of the mall and traverse the gauntlet of sales and shiny objects, it’s easy to get sucked in. Park next to the one store you are visiting, then get in and get out.
- Use student and military discounts. If you have a student or military ID, ask the store if they offer discounts. Even if they are not advertised, a lot of stores will take 10+% off of your purchase for serving our country or struggling through exams.
- Stick to the items that you had in mind. Shopping lists are lame. But they work.
- Sleep on it. If you are not 100% certain that you NEED to buy something, there is nothing wrong with leaving the store. Even if you walk the mall for thirty minutes, then decide, that’s better than making an impulse purchase. When you defer your purchase, you become immune to the psychological warfare that stores are using to get you to spend your money on the spot.
- Avoid kiosks. “I bought this at a kiosk at the mall ten years ago and it’s still in great shape. I use it every day,” said nobody ever. Whatever is catching your eye at a kiosk in the mall, you can probably find a cheaper and better one elsewhere, IF you actually need it.
- Shop alone. For many of us, this is less fun. However, you will spend less money and visit less stores if you make your trip the mall solo.
- Skip the mall altogether. The best mall hack? Avoid the mall. If you need to buy something, think of outlet stores, thrift shops, farmers markets, eCommerce sites, or other venues. Think of the mall as a last resort. Think of it as a destination for entertainment…not shopping.
Have any mall hacks of your own that you recommend? Leave them in the comments. Happy saving!