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4 ways to shop smarter



Published: Sun, March 16, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

FROM CONSUMER REPORTS Æ

ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, recommends these ways to get inspired to shape up, save online and more:

Get fit and save. Here’s a smart way to save when you shop for fitness gear: Become a member of sports retailers’ “clubs.” Join REI’s club by paying a $20 one-time fee, and you get cash back annually on your purchases — usually 10 percent, according to the website. For Nike, membership is free and gets you free shipping, plus free returns on purchases of $75 or more. For Dick’s Sporting Goods, membership is free and nets you one point for every dollar spent; 300 points gets you a $10 credit. Clubs offer other perks, too. Get details on retailers’ websites.

Save on sports bras. These exercise essentials can be pricey, so consider shopping at an outlet, where you’ll find prices discounted up to 60 percent. You don’t have to go to an outlet mall, though; big brands have online outlets, too. Try Champion (championusa.com/workout-clothes/outlet), Hanes (onehanesplace.com) and REI sites (rei.com/outlet). When ShopSmart checked, it found sports bras starting at just $13.

Score free shipping. New programs make it easier than ever to get stuff sent to your house at no charge. American Express cardholders can get free two-day shipping from more than 80 participating retailers by signing up for a ShopRunner membership (usually $79 per year) at shoprunner.com/americanexpress. Cardholders who enroll in MasterCard’s new program can get reimbursed for express shipping charges up to $20; sign up at freeshippingbymastercard.com/join.

Haggle online. Better yet, get someone else to do it for you. A new website, Greentoe, negotiates discount prices for you. It works like the old Priceline model — you name your price, and Greentoe submits your offer to its retail partners. You can bid for appliances, baby items, home theater products, music gear and photo equipment. You buy directly from the retailers, saving 18 to 20 percent on average, says CEO and co-founder Joe Marrapodi. And your offer already includes sales tax and shipping, so the amount you bid is the amount you actually pay.

GET SPORTY

According to ShopSmart, this season’s new workout-wear styles are pretty enough to go from the gym to the grocery store, or even a casual dinner.

In addition to trendy colors and cute styles, you’ll find figure-flattering details in pants, T-shirts and sports bras that can make you look great while you’re getting in shape, says consulting stylist Zoey Washington.

A new pair of workout pants can lengthen and lift better than any pair of skinny jeans. And tops made of moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics are as figure-flattering as they are comfortable.

The secret? Beyond polyester and nylon, which allow for a lightweight, flattering fit, you’ll also find tops, pants and socks made of compression fabric that holds you in like a body shaper, thanks in part to new lines from Spanx and Miraclesuit.

Plus, workout-wear makers say that the compression-wear increases blood flow and supports muscles in a way that lets you have a longer sweat session and faster recovery, though the jury is still out on those claims and ShopSmart hasn’t tested them.

What matters most for fitness buffs is how the clothes make you feel.

“If the clothes fit well and look good, you will want to work out,” says exercise physiologist Mike Bracko, fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

2014 Consumers Union Inc.


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