How to save at least 10 percent on everything you buy

By Maryalene LaPonsie/MoneyTalksNews

Coupons and sales make it simple to save big on your purchases, but what about those times when you need to buy something and a coupon or sale is nowhere to be found?

MoneyTalksNews finance expert Stacy Johnson lays out three simple steps that can help you save at least 10 percent off anything you could possibly need to buy.

Find a discounted gift card

The first savings step is to buy a gift card. But not any old gift card will do -- instead, you want to head to a website specializing in reselling gift cards at a discounted rate.

Here are some of the biggest sites in the reselling business:

These sites let individuals with unwanted gift cards unload them by selling them to others at a discount. While the sites advertise discounts as much as 35 percent, you're typically going to save less than 10 percent for most cards. (You can learn more about discounted cards in our article about saving every time you shop.)

Buy through a rebate site

Now, in some cases, you could save 10 percent by simply using a discounted gift card for every purchase.

However, we want to save you more: If you're buying online, make your purchase through a rebate site. These sites can often offer another 3 or 4 percent off your purchase. You'll pay the full amount upfront but receive the discount back in the form of a rebate.

These are some of the popular rebate sites:

Before shopping, take the time to check out the store availability and terms at rebate sites. Some sites send checks automatically every few months while others require you to request a payment once you hit a minimum amount in your account. In addition, participating retailers and rebate amounts can vary between sites. (We've got a whole article about rebate sites, so be sure to read that as well.)

Use a cash-back credit card

The final step to saving 10 percent or more is to use your cash-back or rewards credit card.

Depending on the card, you could save anywhere from 1 to 5 percent on your purchase. As with rebate sites, you'll pay the full price upfront but receive the cash back as a rebate or statement credit.

Of course, using your credit card comes with the caveat that you must pay off your balance when the bill arrives. Paying interest on a credit card is a sure way to negate your savings.