Bargains Galore

We’re frugal. What was once a hobby has become a survival skill in these tough economic times. The old Yankee art of the deal is alive and well in the 21st century, and we’re more than happy to share some tips for quality bargain hunting in sales-tax-free New Hampshire.The Bargain Department StoresFor bargain hunters, there is nothing like the department store model. From the outside, and sometimes even on the inside, it looks like a regular department store but it’s all about the surprise factor. You never really know what’s going to be there and never count on seeing the same thing on subsequent visits.Building #19
( – 420 Amherst St., Nashua and 859 Hanover St., Manchester
Building #19 (named for a warehouse in Hingham, Mass., where the chain was founded) sells insurance salvage, overstocks, irregulars and past-season items at rock-bottom prices. The bespectacled Jerry Ellis, the founder of the chain, appears in the store’s iconic cartoon fliers. Their motto: Good stuff cheap.Dollar Bill’s Discount World
( – 133 Rockingham Rd., Derry
Known for its wacky spokesman who sports dollar-bill pants and an umbrella hat draped with money streamers, this is a 50,000-square-foot warehouse-style store with similar salvage, irregular and overstock items as Building #19 – everything from Precious Moments figurines to Celtics clothing.Christmas Tree Shops
( – 41 Gusabel Ave., Nashua; 100 Durgin Ln., Portsmouth; 1584 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway and 92 Cluff Crossing Rd., Salem
Altogether now “Don’t you just love a bahgin?” Started on Cape Cod in 1970, the Christmas Tree Shops have become a destination for many. OK, we all know it’s not just about Christmas. Now owned by Bed Bath and Beyond, the stores offer great prices on non-perishable foods, seasonal items and tchotchkes galore.Ocean State Job Lot
( – 1328 Hooksett Rd., Hooksett; 12 John Stark Hwy., Newport; 583 Lancaster Rd., Northumberland; 895 Rte. 16, Ossipee; 32 Ames Plaza Ln., Walpole; 19 Wilton Rd., Peterborough; 1700 Woodbury Ave., Portsmouth and 176 Central St., Woodsville
Merchandise at these stores includes overstocks and packaging changes as well as items like gazebos, pet supplies and wooden easels. They offer coupons online.Five Below
( – 266 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua; 777 S. Willow St., Manchester and 45 Gosling Rd., Newington
No, these stores don’t sell items for polar regions, the name refers to the prices – everything costs $5 or less. These stores have a youthful, hip edge, with lots of items for teens and young adults including Wii and Apple accessories.Dollar Tree and Family Dollar Stores
(, – Throughout the state
So to be clear, everything in Dollar Tree stores costs a dollar – sometimes less, but never more. Dollar Tree stores sell a combination of products made by the company and a few that are surplus. On the other hand, Family Dollar Store prices vary.The Outlet MallsSettlers’ Green Outlet Village
( – Rte. 16, North Conway
While the more athletic members of your family hit the slopes, Olympic-level bargain shoppers hit the 60-something brand outlet stores and restaurants at one of the arguably more attractive outlet malls around. Don’t forget to check online for coupons and details on joining the VIP club for extra discounts. Settlers’ Green, with the White Mountains as a backdrop, has a nice courtyard, a kids’ playground and special events like the Annual Spring Break Party on March 18 with prizes like spring skiing tickets and merchandise and special discounts and coupons all day.Tanger Outlet
( – 120 Laconia Rd., Tilton
Even in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, you have to get out of the water every once in a while. That’s the time to head to the 50 brand name outlet stores at the Tanger Outlets in Tilton, where shopping with online and Tanger Club coupons is an art form of sorts.Guide to Best Bargain Shopping at Outlet MallsThere’s a method to smart outlet shopping. Outlet malls usually have a coupon book you can buy for $5 or get for free with AAA or AARP cards. Also, check the mall’s online site for additional coupons – most outlet malls offer them. And shop with a friend or two. Some of those coupons will offer discounts – like 20 percent off a purchase of $75 or more. Pool your items with a friend and figure out the bill later. Most times receipts are itemized with the discount price of each item listed. Finally, ask the clerks at the store for the best way to get a bargain. They know all the ins and outs of the coupons and multiple-item sales and they’re happy to share that with you. And don’t forget to check the back of the store first. That’s where the best clearance sales – often up to 70 percent off – are to be found.Consignment and Art Consignment StoresYou can’t talk about bargains without talking about consignment – that is, retail stores that stock and sell goods on behalf of others. The store gets a cut and so do the consigners. Usually consignment stores lower their prices the longer the items stay on the shelves. The big question is do you grab something when you see it or take the chance that it will be there when the prices get low enough for you? Like shopping thrift, consignment shopping is a great way to recycle.Consignment Gallery
( – 74 Rte. 101A, Amherst and 294 S. River Rd., Bedford
The signs here read “Yours to Discover” and that sums it all up. The Consignment Gallery stores are picky about what they take on to sell and that pays off for customers. Some of the best bargains can be found in the jewelry departments, which sell real gold and silver trinkets as well as vintage and costume for a fraction of their original prices. These stores are also great places to find high-quality, previously owned furnishings, glassware and even a little folk art if you’re lucky. If the merchandise doesn’t move, the prices get dropped so there are bargains within bargains to be had.Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery
( – 136 State St., Portsmouth
This is the main gallery for the 450 painters, sculptors, photographers and other fine artists who are members of the New Hampshire Art Association.The Manchester Artists Association Art Gallery
( – 1528 Elm St., Manchester
The gallery showcases oils, pastels, acrylics, photographs and other media drawn from juried works of the membership.OPUS
( – 194 South Main St., Manchester
OPUS (which stands for other people’s unique stuff) has a 3,700-square-foot showroom with furniture, clothing, jewelry, bath and home goods. The owner has an eye for the offbeat, funky and vintage chic.Shopaholics Boutique
( – 301 Central Ave., Dover and 110 State St., Portsmouth
This is the place for folks with fashion-forward taste and tight budgets. Look for designer togs and accessories on sale for a pittance compared to the original cost. We’ll name drop – Hollister, Juicy Couture and Abercrombie & Fitch. The Dover store is now a clearance center for SB, always half off the already-discounted prices.Mother & Child
( – 650 Amherst St., Nashua
This shop carries new items, too, but some real bargains can be found in the consignment clothes, toys and accessories for babies, toddlers, children and women.Eliza Weepeats
950 Elm St., Manchester
It specializes in women’s and children’s consignment clothes.For-Profit Donation StoresCharity thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army have been a part of the New Hampshire bargain-shopping scene for a long time, and they’re still a great place to find bargains and give to non-profit social agencies at the same time. But there are some newcomers to the thrift scene – for-profit thrift stores. In 2010, two for-profit thrift store chains came to New Hampshire for the first time – the Massachusetts-based Used Book Superstore and the Bellevue, Washington-based Savers. Both these stores get their inventory from donations and resell those wares that have been given to them. Both also have arrangements with local charities to whom they contribute a portion of profits in one way or another. Those who bring their used items to the stores get tax receipts for charitable donations.Used Book Superstore
( – 293 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua and 419 S. Broadway, Salem
This is a bargain bibliophile’s dream. All paperbacks are $1.99; hard covers, $2.99; children’s books, $1.29; and there are also bargain-basement prices on DVDs and CDs, books on tape and discs. The Retarded Adult Rehabilitation Association is the charitable partner for this store.Savers
( – 224 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua and 2064 Woodbury Ave., Portsmouth
This Washington State-based company operates 225 stores, making it the largest for-profit thrift store chain in North America. They opened their first stores in New Hampshire in 2010 – one in the former Circuit City building in Nashua and the other at Linens ‘n Things in Newington. Both primarily sell used clothes but also some furnishings and household goods. They partner with the Epilepsy Foundation of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, a spokesman for whom said that they are “more than thrilled” with the money they receive from the stores. In addition to tax receipts, those who bring their used items to the store also get a $3 coupon for the store.CouponsCoupons are the currency that can make the difference between a bargain and a steal. It still pays to scan the Sunday papers for coupons to clip, but the Internet has modernized the coupon-clipping process. And monster coupon sources like up the ante by offering incredible deals of 50 percent and more off of high-end products and services in major cities, just to help businesses attract new customers.Following that lead, features different coupons – some with startling savings – every day on food, services, fun and memberships in New Hampshire. Couptopia was founded just this year by a group of Granite Staters who loved the social-buying concept and wanted to make it available here. To firm up the local connection, they donate 5 percent of profits to area non-profits. They aren’t alone. is a subscription service offering discounts from 50 to 90 percent at restaurants, spas, for clothing and tickets to sporting events and offers coupons on everything from clothing to an oil change. On a recent visit to the site there were coupons for $10 off the purchase of $50 or more of merchandise at Famous Footwear stores in Keene, Manchester and Hampton; a free maternity gift pack at Motherhood; and 15 percent off a purchase at a Lindt Chocolate store.True Factory Outlets that Time ForgotOnce upon a time factory outlets sold goods at a discount at nearly every textile mill and manufactory in the state. Most of the on-site bargain outlets have disappeared with the country’s manufacturing base, but there are still bargains to be had.Company C
( – 102 Old Turnpike Rd., Concord
The company sells boldly colored rugs, bedding and other home décor items designed by Chris and Walter Chapin and manufactured throughout the world and retailed at L.L. Bean, Neiman Marcus and other upscale retailers. Company C’s outlet store on Old Turnpike Road has become a must-stop for obsessive home decorators.Dorr Mill Store
( – Rte. 11, Guild
The store has a devoted following for its hand-dyed cloth and other textiles and hook rug materials.North Country Smokehouse
( – 471 Sullivan St., Claremont
The Smokehouse has an international following over the Internet, but locals can check out the artisan cheeses and applewood smoked hams and sausages at the brick-and-mortar building.North Conway Five and Dime
2683 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway
This shop has offered penny candy, toys and decorations since the turn of the 20th century.McDonald’s Kitchenware Store
7 Factory St., Nashua
Think of a museum of mid-century domesticity where everything’s for sale, and that’s McDonald’s on Factory Street. Nashua natives have always known about this place but few others do. It’s crowded, dusty and glorious, selling everything from 1970s contact paper to French baguette pans.Old Country Store and Museum
101 Whittier Hwy., Moultonborough
The granddaddy of them all, the Old Country Store on the Whittier Highway has been in business since 1781. It’s still a great place to buy candy, toys, clothes and excellent souvenirs.AppsNeed a bargain? There are apps for that. Free apps, in fact. These free Smartphone applications are just some of those designed to make shopping easier and to save you money.The GPS-based Yowza!! application finds sales and discounts right near you. Cashiers redeem the Yowza!! barcode just like they would a paper coupon.The PriceGrabber app is designed to find the lowest price on millions of online stores and sellers. The application also helps you locate products, compare prices and read product reviews.FastMall guides you through the mall, turn by turn, to find specific shops, restaurants, elevators, wheelchair and stroller rental and, oh yeah, the bathroom without a GPS or WiFi. It will even help you find your car in the parking lot. Scan a product and if it’s available at the mall it will find it, then take you to the store selling it turn by turn for the best possible price.TheFind allows you to compare products and prices while you’re shopping.Key Ring is the app that’s supposed to eliminate the need to have all those reward cards hanging off your keychain. Barcode scanner technology makes a digital copy of your cards and stores them on your phone. The store clerk just has to scan the barcode from the screen.Barcode Reader takes a photo of a printed barcode, then displays the lowest possible prices in brick-and-mortar as well as online stores.ShopSavvy, another barcode-scanning app, helps consumers compare prices at the point of purchase.Membership ClubsOh, how I love Costco. Let me count the ways.There’s nothing pretty about membership fees, but with executive membership at $100 you get three-percent back on everything, and if you are a serious Costco shopper you make that back at the end of the year for a net fee of zero.I joined this club after Chef James Haller said the food was good. And he was right. I have been enjoying super fresh salmon (I look for packages packed that day) and fresh berries of all kinds. They even offer a tomato that tastes good in the winter. Occasionally you can find more exotic selections such as Meyer lemons or fresh figs in season. Do they have a full produce line? No, missing are fresh herbs, cauliflower and squash to name a few, but the five-pack of romaine for $3.99 lasts a month and who doesn’t need a big bag of spinach, it always cooks down to a small limp pile anyway.Pre-cooked food choices are good, too. Their roasted chickens are the best I have found ($4.99 each) and Costco makes the best chicken soup, chicken pot pies and chicken salad with the meat from the store-cooked birds. Lately, they have been offering a meaty fresh lobster salad for about $25 that would make about four super-generous lobster rolls. It’s always good to shop early in the day to take advantage of food-tasting stations. If nothing else, you can make a lunch of it.Beyond food there are best-selling books with a decent discount. Their selection of cookbooks includes those published by Cooks Illustrated, a great go-to resource for novice and experienced cooks.Our cats need Fancy Feast and although the cans at Costco aren’t much cheaper than at the grocery store, amazingly they are a better product with a higher protein percentage. This cube of cans must be produced just for Costco, as are many other packages.Electronics are usually a good price. Another big-box store may have a lower price on a single item, but the return policy is good at Costco and with something like cameras or cell phones they throw in a few extras like SD cards, cases or chargers.Clothing finds tend to be limited in style, but basic selections of name brands are available with a good discount. Their Kirkland brand suede boots are a fraction of the price of the popular Ugg brand. Looking for the Kirkland brand is key to saving. Their Kirkland coffee is roasted by Starbucks and is several dollars cheaper.Membership also allows you to shop and there you can find just about anything. They recently offered a whole de-boned pig, just one of many gourmet food options.Recently my husband shopped around for new insurance for the cars and house. In a surprise, Costco’s Ameriprise came back with the best offer, beating the gecko by a mile.Other bonuses include discounts in car rental, travel and business services.Looking back, I have purchased a snow thrower, sectional sofa, faucets, lighting, jeans, cameras, cell phones, toys and several pairs of prescription glasses. Next, who knows, maybe a car or kitchen cabinets. Long live Costco.
– Susan Laughlin

Categories: Arts & Shopping