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If you're not comparing retail prices online when you shop, you're missing out on savings.

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My friend Allie discovered a new way to save money last week while waiting to pay at a popular pet store chain. Ahead in line, an older gentleman was causing a ruckus about the dog food he bought, claiming the in-store price was higher than the price advertised on the chain’s website.

The frazzled cashier finally agreed to refund the difference. “Key!” he yelled out to a manager, who voided the transaction.

“I can’t believe they do that,” the customer told Allie. “They’re just hoping everyone’s too stupid to check.”

Of course, Allie was already on her smartphone, looking up cat kibble prices. When she approached the register, the cashier hoped to elicit sympathy for being dressed down by the penny-pincher who just departed. Instead, he faced yet another savvy shopper.

“Um, my cat food is actually $4 cheaper on your website,” Allie told him.

“Key!” the flustered clerk shouted over his shoulder. Apparently, price-matching customers aren’t the norm. Maybe the old guy had a point. Most people don’t check online prices before shopping.

When Allie got home, she looked up the cost of a clipboard she’d bought recently from an office supplies chain store. The clipboard was $5 cheaper on the store’s website, so she called about the difference. A store employee told her to bring in her receipt for a $5 refund. After that, the price matching was on.

When Allie shopped at the pet store a few days later, she looked up the cost of each item online first, showed the cashier the difference at checkout and saved $8. So, in one week, Allie saved $17. That may not seem like a lot of scratch to some people but it adds up, whether you’re saving money or piddling away cash, one bag of kitty litter at a time.

After Allie shared her strategy, I got curious about which retail stores match competitors’ or their own online prices. Here are some popular stores’ price matching policies, each containing rules and exclusions, so be sure to check out the full program.

You don’t have to limit your price-matching savings to in-store shopping, either. For online shopping, you can download Honey, a free browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera that automatically applies the best coupon code at checkout for thousands of stores, restaurants and travel sites.

Even better, when you shop on Amazon, Honey will put the best deals at the top of your search results, and if the app finds a better bargain while you’re shopping, a tag will appear by the price showing how much you’ll save if you buy it from a different seller.

Once you set up your Honey account, you’ll have a personalized feed, filled with daily coupons like 40 percent off, 30 percent off at Macy’s or JC Penney and the most recent “best deals” on Amazon. You can also search specific stores for bargains.

For example, I searched for Eddie Bauer and found coupons for 30 percent off, 50 percent off clearance items and free shipping. When I went directly to the Eddie Bauer site, a little green box with the number of discounts and codes appeared in the Honey “h” box on my toolbar with even more savings. When I checked the JC Penney website, 26 money-saving codes came up.

Honey works only on the browser on which it’s installed, so if you use more than one browser, be sure to install the app on all of them. Once Honey is installed, you’ll see a little white “h” in a square on your toolbar, which means Honey is ready to automatically plow through prices.

So, whether you whip out a smartphone while waiting in line at a big-box store or browse your laptop at home, be smart like the old guy who doesn’t waste money on foolishness like paying too much for an item that’s cheaper online.

Then spend your savings on paying down a credit card or dinner out in your new outfit that you snagged for a fraction of the regular price.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Hipp is a freelance writer based out of Missouri.

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