New Comer > Shopping

Shop less often, but more at a time

People usually shop for grocery once every week (much less often than in China). Plan accordingly.

Use a shopping cart or basket

People usually take a shopping cart when entering the store, put stuff in the cart, check out all the items at once, and use the shopping cart to carry what they have bought to the car. If you don't have a car, you should try to ride with someone (a friend, housemate, etc.) for each shopping trip.

Look for bargains, but read carefully

Stores often have sales. The sale price can be 50% or more cheaper than the regular price. But you need to read the price label carefully, to make sure you are buying what you think you are. Check the brand name and the description on the price label. Pay special attention to the small prints on the price label.

Most stores have express checkout lanes, for people with fewer items (e.g. 10 items or less). Pay attention to this. If you meet the criteria, go for it, because it usually saves you time. Otherwise, stay away from it. You may get a dirty look if you try to check out 30 items at an express lane.

Take advantage of the good customer service

Most stores respect and serve their customers very well. At check-out, pay attention to the price of each item. If you realize that the item more expensive than you thought, check with the cashier to see if she has made a mistake. If not, just say "I'm sorry, but I don't want this any more." For items other than food, keep the receipt for at least the warranty period. Usually you can return items within 30 days (some store have even more generous returns policy on certain items). Be aware that certain items (such as computers, camcorders) have significant re-stocking charges even if you return on the same day of your purchase. Many stores have low price guarantee. This means that after the purchase, if you found a lower price for the same item elsewhere (other than clubs or Internet stores), the store would refund you the difference (sometimes even more than that).


Usually you pay state sales tax on items you buy, unless the store is in a state without a sales tax (such as Delaware). If you order from a store in a different state, you don't pay sales tax. This applies to on-line shopping too, in which case you probable need to pay for shipping and handling charges.

Shop for Used

You can buy used stuff in any of the following sales:

Moving sale - this happens when someone is moving out of the area. The good part is that the seller definitely needs to sell. Things can be very cheap. But you need to act quickly to get really good deals. Some people even give stuff away for free, or simply throw them away as trash.

Yard sale - also called garage sale. This often happens at people's yard or outside their garage. It can be just one family, several families, or a whole community. People want to get rid of some of the stuff they no longer need, and at the same time get a portion of its original value back.

Rummage sale - this is usually held by a church, where members donate their stuff, and the income from the sale will all go to the church. Things can be very cheap.


Items in a store are organized along rows of shelved. The space between two consecutive shelves is called an aisle (pronounced [ai-l]). They are marked by numbers (1, 2, 3 ...) or letters (A, B, C ...).
Coupon (pronounced [`ku:pang])
A coupon is a paper slip showing how much you can save for a particular purchase, usually with a bar code. At check-out, you give the coupon to the cashier, who then deduct the coupon amount from your total bill. Read the coupon carefully: brand, quantity, purchase date, etc. You may get coupons in the mail, in the newspaper (especially on Sundays), or even in the weekly ad available at the store entrance.
Rain check
If a store has something on sale, but it is out of stock when you tried to purchase it, they may issue you a rain check, which grants you the privilege of buying that item at the same sale price within a certain period of time.
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Related Information

Cheap food in US:
  Chicken thighs () are as low as $0.30 per pound.
  Pork fresh picnic () is as low as $0.70 per pound.
  Some fish can be as low as $1 per pound.
  Potatoes and onions are usually cheap.
  Bananas can be $0.30 per pound or less.
  McDonald's is a common place for inexpensive fast food. A full meal (with soda and French fries) is $3-4.
  Your local Korean store (if any) may have the best deals on fruits, oriental vegetabels, and fish.

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